Sunday, April 27, 2008

Boxbe anti spam filter – a cure worse than the plague

To all my friends who received annoying marketing email messages from a miserable Silicon Valley internet startup called Boxbe: I beg your pardon.

After I signed up to Boxbe, more than 500 of my email contacts received annoying invitations, saying "I'm using Boxbe to screen my email and I've added you to my approved Guest List. Can you take a minute to make sure your contacts can reach me?". Many people have received this message already six times. Now I get emails back from buddies saying "could you please stop spamming me and my girlfriend? Boxbe sucks!".

All this happens only because I once hit the "invite friends" button at Boxbe. But have hit it only once and it was only by chance.

There is no reason for Boxbe to flood my friends with unsolicitated email messages. Most of them are Germans and don't even understand what Boxbe is. To them a Boxbe invitation is the same as an email from a Viagra pharmacy. My 73 years old aunt Gerda forwards all Boxbe messages to me and prays that I can take away this plague from her. My mum does the same. I then click the link at "If you would prefer not to receive any further invitations from Boxbe members, click here" and hope that helps.

What upsets me most: I was already aware that something like this could happen. The Canadian blogger Alec Saunders had published it under the title "Boxbe’s spam. A fatal mistake for them and me". Therefore I only "approved" my friends' email addresses at Boxbe and never "invited". Unfortunately one time I mixed it up and that's how it all started.

I have contacted now the Boxbe tech support ( as well as Boxbe Product Manager Randy Stewart ( to stop these annoying invitations. Boxbe, you can't sell yourself as an anti spam solution by being a spammer yourself!

If it wasn't for these stupid marketing messages, Boxbe would be one of the greatest solutions to keep up with the information overflow. It could keep my inbox clean from emails which are worse than Viagra spam: unsolicitated press releases and stupid advertsising messages. A doorkeeper for emails.

My problem is, that German law requires me to post a working email address in the contact section of my website. Another annoying fact is that PR agencies seem to sell my email address which I use for journalistic work. Therefore I get tons of messages to these addresses. Most of them are filtered as spam by an automatic solution. Only once a week I have to check for false positives, but the anti spam filter nearly never goes wrong.

But then there are marketing messages like the one I got from Dow Chemicals two days ago. Something is wrong with some crop, they said, and only pesticides from Dow can help, supposedly. WTF? Where did Dow get my email address from and why do they send this message? I am no peasant and as a journalist I am only interested in technology stuff, mostly when it's related to VoIP or mobile communications.

Boxbe would have put this message from Dow under a quarantine. Since it didn't come from an authorized contact, it would have had to wait at Boxbe before it could enter my real inbox. Messages from authorized contacts would go straight to my email inbox and are shown on my cell phone. All other messages have to wait in the outer office. Once a day Boxbe sends a summary of all these waiting messages and you can kill or authorize them with one click. Users of Yahoo Mail, Gmail or Outlook can have it even more comfortable.

"With Boxbe, your inbox is no longer a free-for-all", is the company's claim and I like this idea very much. By using the tool wisely and combining Boxbe with other technologies, your inbox would not only be free of spam about Viagra or penis enhancement. But you could also have a great fence against unrelated messages which slip through the spam filter but are unwanted anyway.

If only it wasn't for Boxbe's stupid bulk invitations!

I hope they will stop now. I have the feeling that Boxbe only sends them out when I make a change in my settings. Hopefully that's true! In this case I could give it another try.

In an other blog I found this alleviating comment from Boxbe: said...

Just a point of clarification here. We're not planning on sending invitations every week to users. Rather, if multiple Boxbe users invite the same person, we'll only send a maximum of two to that person in a given week.

Ideally, if multiple Boxbe users want to invite someone, we need to figure out how to send that person one invite from all those people combined.

We're still pretty new at the invite game, but hopefully we can work all the kinks out sooner rather than later.

Randy Stewart
Boxbe Product Manager

Hope that helps.

1 comment:

  1. Markus -

    My profuse apologies to you for sending so many invitations on your behalf. We're pretty new to using an invitation system on our site and clearly we erred on the on the side of being too aggressive.

    Just to explain a bit about what happened to you: Currently, we send a follow up email two days after the initial invitation goes out. I would imagine that the people who have reported 6 invitations may have had multiple email addresses in your address book and as a result, received multiple invitations and follow ups. If this is not the case, let me know.

    In regards to the invites we send out, during registration, we coupled adding contacts and sending invitations to streamline the process. The idea was to make registration have fewer steps overall. Even though the page said that we were going to send out invitations, clearly we caused some confusion.

    We separated adding contacts and sending invitations on the site last Tuesday.

    Additionally, no email address will receive more than 2 invites from Boxbe in a given week and

    We hope that these changes will make the site experience overall for others.

    Again, we're really sorry for any distress we may have caused.

    Randy Stewart
    Boxbe Product Manager


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