fighting spam. saving the world. dealing with postfix.

postfix users are heroesI realized something after the past few days. Amongst the many types of geeks, I’m assuming that the Postfix geek has to be the stressed of all, due to the following facts:

  • It involves dealing with people’s mail. People don’t like people messing with their mail. Non-techies’d automatically assume you’re messing (aka reading) their email, and that just gives them the creeps.
  • Trying to filter spam, viruses, etc. requires tweaking settings on a global (read: everyone who uses it) scale for the best feedback as to whether your changes are worth it or even working at all. You can set up a development server for testing, but you’re never absolutely sure about getting real-world results on one. Likely even if you’ve tried it on beta for awhile, something’ll come up and bite you in the ass when you roll it out to real-world use. And besides who has the time and hardware to spare especially in small offices?
  • The combination of both the above makes for dynamite. Make a mistake, and the users will let up a howl. They’ll start wondering if they’ve missed any mail because of your spam or virus filters. They’ll start wondering if their email has been read. Delinquent employees will suddenly have an excuse not to work as ‘their email’s been screwed up (by you).’. The bosses – usually the most clueless of all – will start to wonder about your credibility. And of course they’ll wonder if you read their mail.

Is it any wonder that the Postix main.cf file (means main configuration I assume) starts out with the warning:

NOTE – CHANGE NO MORE THAN 2-3 PARAMETERS AT A TIME, AND TEST IF
# POSTFIX STILL WORKS AFTER EVERY CHANGE.

and the Postfix home page starts out with a quote:

All programmers are optimists — Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.

Surely not very reassuring in comparison with other geeky pursuits.

The solution I believe, lies in your relationship with said emailing users. Non-techies use abstract factors such as ‘reputation’, ‘perception of ability’, ‘authority’ and such to take the place of your true credentials in sizing you up, and if you don’t amount to anything in those terms, then their confidence in you will waver.

The solution is to show them that you know what you’re doing. Not a false perception mind you, just that you’re trying this out, it may or may not work, and you’ll pull it out ASAP if it doesn’t. You have to communicate constantly, telling them what you did, expect the following changes and so on. Otherwise, if you’re just sulking in a dark corner typing strange commands on a terminal while even stranger things are happening to their email, they might as well think they’re dealing with a hostile alien.

At any rate, forge on I do, because it’s just so darn interesting, at a geek level of the highest scale. A battle against spam and viruses whilst maintaining a happy emailing user base is the Utopic office environment in every mail sysad’s dream.

Also, almost all mail sysads seem to have their own unique way of battling spam, (otherwise why isn’t there just one universal email system that you just press on and that’s it?). This means however crazy your solution might be, since the title of ‘completely spam-and-virus-free email solution’ is forever up for grabs, you might even get it.

As for me, I just wanna limit spam for the moment. I emailed the local mailing list, let’s see what they come up with.

3 Replies to “fighting spam. saving the world. dealing with postfix.”

  1. happy new year this could be spam, if you’re not into Jason Mraz. hehe.
    Just want to share that he’s coming back to Manila on Jan 20-21. Ticketnet has the tickets. Bring your SO, this could be a good date concert. Hihi.

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