I should have stuck to my original policy, previously announced here. That policy was, I will not reply to any message coming from an Earthlink.com address. Twice in the last two days, I've had reminders of the wisdom of that course, through this sequence of events:

1) A reader on Earthlink writes me a message;
2) I reply;
3) Earthlink's spam filter immediately bounces back with a message like the ones at the bottom of this item, asking me to prove my bona fides before my reply is allowed to burden the inbox of the person who wrote to me in the first place. If I click on the "prove yourself" links, I am asked to go through the rigamarole shown below -- all for the privilege of answering an unsolicited email:


As explained earlier, I don't like this challenge-response system in general. If you want to use it, fine. (To the best of my knowledge, any Earthlink user has the option to disable it.) But don't use it -- and then write to people out of the blue and expect them to prove themselves in order to reply.

In the long run, I will try to jigger my system to work in a similar fashion: If it sees anything coming from an Earthlink address, it will send an automatic challenge message asking for detailed proof that the Earthlink email is not spam. Until I get that fine-tuned, I'm tempted to route all Earthlink mail straight to my own spam folder. But probably I'll just go back to the old "no reply" policy. (Mail from many other domains also gets the "no reply" treatment, but just for volume/chaos reasons. Nothing personal!) Too many bad apples have spoiled the Earthlink barrel for me.

The two messages that got my back up, are below. Again, I received each of them after replying to someone who wrote me with a question. I have taken out info that could identify the senders -- although, hell, why not leave it in, knowing that the spam filter will block incoming traffic. Other wisdom on this topic here and here -- it's especially worth checking out the comment stream for the second one.

I apologize for this automatic reply to your email.

To control spam, I now allow incoming messages only from senders I have approved beforehand. If you would like to be added to my list of approved senders, please fill out the short request form (see link below). Once I approve you, I will receive your original message in my inbox. You do not need to resend your message. I apologize for this one-time inconvenience.

Click the link below to fill out the request: https://webmail.pas.earthlink.net/wam/addme?a=xxxx@earthlink.net&id=1XXXXX4k1


This is an automatic reply from mXXX@earthlink.net.

Please click below to get past my spamfilter. I will respond to you promptly. Thank you. -- MXXX

Click the link below to fill out the request: