From September 2005 to June 2006 a team of thirteen scholars at the The University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Communication explored how new and maturing networking technologies are transforming the way in which we interact with content, media sources, other individuals and groups, and the world that surrounds us.

This site documents the process and the results.

Is Email Broken?

I can no longer send email to my friends at AOL because, according to AOL, the server is on has also been used to send spam. Since a nonprofit group, the LA Forum is on the same server, members who are on AOL don't get their emails anymore either. The problem is that AOL's policies on what constitutes spam are ludicrous. No doubt AOL users get spam, but my ISPs terms of service are strict. users have a nice big button tempting them by saying "Mark as Spam" over their list of emails. The problem is that clueless users simply look at all of their email, get overwhelmed by the tempting ads for penis enhancement, Nigerian 419 scams, and so forth, hit select all and then "Mark as Spam" to delete the entire bunch. When enough AOL users do this, the site is blacklisted by IP, not by originating server. Then of course there are the people who sign up to mailing lists (such as the LA Forum's) and then want off but are too lazy to read the instructions at the bottom of the email message in order to figure out how to unsubscribe and just hit "Mark as Spam" to get the emails banned from their account. Same effect. Heck, if I just bcc 20 people and one of them is from AOL, I'll be blocked for a day since that's not acceptable, even if I'm doing it to send out a party invite. If I enter in what AOL considers a malformed URL—or even respond back to a message with a malformed URL-the same thing will happen. Some of them persist in sending me email from their AOL. I've given up trying to respond back to them. The next stage may just be to have set up an auto-responder to tell people that I won't read their email and to get a real email address.

Then again, this morning a friend with SBC sent me an email (an my netpublics account) that had bounced back from Why? Because the ISP has put in spamcop and his smtp server is considered blocked.

Spam blocking is becoming more of a problem for me than spam. Perhaps all this will be solved soon, but email seems more and more broken, heading down the route of Gopher or Usenet and other dead media. I asked Mimi Ito about this since she knows everything about such matters (or at least seems to me) and she responded: "Ours will be the last generation to use email." Sites like and instant messaging will defeat email once and for all in her analysis.

But what happens when IM spam and IM spam blockers rear their ugly heads?

Submitted by kvarnelis on December 8, 2005 - 3:02am