Yesterday, I suggested we organize a Day Without Email where we'd all shut off our SMTP servers for a day. We wouldn't send any email out, and no email would come in. (But messages to us wouldn't get lost because the senders' servers would keep retrying till we turned our SMTP servers back on tomorrow).

So what if, like 99.99% of people in the world, you can't shut down your mail server because you're not a mail server administrator? I'm a little torn.

This morning, it occurred to me that you could set up an auto-response (like an "out of office" message) saying something like "I'm participating in the Day Without Email to hilight the serious weakenesses of our current email delivery system that make spam such a problem. Since I can't shut my mail server down, I'm simply not going to read my email for a day. For more information about the Day Without Email, please visit ...".

Then it occurred to me that doing this would generate huge amounts of auto-reponse email, possibly including some nasty mail loops. So maybe its not such a good idea.

Then it occurred to me that all the auto-response email and mail loops would help hilight one of the big problems of SMTP -- all the messages auto-generated in response to other messages. So maybe it would be a good thing.

Then it occurred to me that a huge number of these auto-responses would get generated in response to spam, so they'd get delievered to innocent bystanders. So maybe its not such a good idea.

Then it occurred to me that that would help spread the word to more people. So maybe it would be a good thing. But only if the volume were severly limited.

Here's where I ended up: if you can configure your system to only send auto-responses to messages that make it through a reasonably competent spam filter, then do it. Otherwise, unless you rarely receive spam, maybe not.

Reader Comment:
Colin Hall said:
Why would anyone do without without email for a day? I really would glady have an email implanted into my brain and live in constant connection for 24 hours per day.
(join the conversation below)

By the way, here's something I'm looking into for replacing SMTP email: IM2000. (More on IM2000). Ironically, when I joined the mail list and sent a message, I got three auto-responses: one from an email address that's no longer active, and two from Yahoo groups that sending messages to the list apparently subscribes you to (because somebody subscribed to the list using the other lists subscription address). Sheesh.