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02/14/2005 Archived Entry: "An idea too far"

I heard an engineering story once about how several useful innovations, coupled together, can create ridiculous unintended consequences. (The original story involved a flow-restricting showerhead, a temperature regulator, and a high-efficiency water heater.) Well, now I have my own story.

Good idea: our web host watches for computers sending large numbers of email viruses, and blocks email from them. Good idea: our web host has an excellent spam filter. Good idea: mail forwarding allows us to have "public" and "private" email addresses. Good idea: I can forward Wendy's public email address (at ifeminists.net) to the web host with the excellent spam filter.

Bzzzzzt. An idea too far. That public email address gets lots of viral emails, as well as lots of spam, from all over the place. By forwarding that email, we convince our web host that one computer (the forwarder) is sending lots of viruses. Zap! Onto the blacklist with it. This blocks all email from Wendy's public address.

Fortunately this happened yesterday, a light email day. I've redirected Wendy's public address so the email is flowing again, but now the spam is flowing again too. That's life on the Internet.     —brad

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