By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Gmail and its discontents

It must be the season of technical difficulties.

I use Gmail for everything. I’ve set it up to pull in my Northeastern e-mail, and I have an alias that allows me to send mail via Gmail as if it were coming from my Northeastern address. Gmail isn’t perfect, but it’s better than anything else.

Today, though, I sent an e-mail to a colleague at Northeastern. It never arrived. I tried again. No luck. Finally, I sent the same message using my Gmail address. Bingo — she got it immediately.

What I had run into, I strongly suspect, was a hyperactive spam filter at her end. The filter saw that my incoming e-mail address did not match the underlying Gmail information in the header and flagged it as spam. (The theory is that I must have been faking my outgoing e-mail address, and so therefore was up to no good.) I’ve run into this very occasionally before, but not quite so directly.

Now, of course, I’m wondering how many other e-mails I’ve sent to people at Northeastern that never arrived. I’ve contacted the IT folks to see if there might be a solution that doesn’t force me either to stop using my NU address (unprofessional) or abandon Gmail for NU business (undesirable). But I’m not holding out a whole lot of hope.

Any thoughts?

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6 Comments

  1. Ari Herzog

    There’s no easy solution. The alias concept (one email address as sender and a different as reply-to sender) can lead to recipient spam; but some corporate networks also treat gmail and other webmail systems as spam.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Ari: At least for the moment, I’ve re-activated Apple Mail and am using smtp.gmail.com as my outgoing mail server. Will that help, or is it the same issue?I can use NU’s SMTP server, but only on campus.Still, I would hate to give up Gmail, or even to have to use it differently from the way I do now.

  3. Brad

    I can use NU’s SMTP server, but only on campus.What about a VPN? I have to think NU provides VPN access for professors…it effectively “puts your computer on campus” whenever you’re connected to it.

  4. NewsHound

    I suspect there is no successful, full time solution. I have run into this myself. Uninvited emails are constantly being evaluated to sort out for spam and the Spammers are constantly trying to outsmart the filters. It is sort of like the junk that arrives through the U. S. Postal service in envelopes marked “Important” or “Urgent” sometimes in a brown envelope marked Department of Treasury.”

  5. mike_b1

    Dan, I don’t think there’s a perfect solution at this time. I think at times you may be trying to solve a problem that just isn’t solvable.

  6. Chris Rich

    Much of this is due to a back alley battle between bloated clumsy microsoft and google. Many of the entities that toss g mail tend to be old 90’s web architecture with a microsoft foundation. I have a yahoo back up ‘garbage’ account that I use when trying to reach the older legacy entities.

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