There seems to be this great misunderstanding among a huge number of email marketers and delivery professionals that MAAWG is some sort of marketing or marketing related conference.
MAAWG is the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group. The intention of the group is to provide a setting where companies providing internet services can work together to stop abuse. Email is one of the major platforms talked about, but there are also discussions about other forms of messaging abuse.
This conference is unique both in its content and in the people who attend. For many ISP reps this is their sole opportunity to get together with peers, former co-workers and friends. Many of the ISP folks are actually low to mid-level employees who are working the front lines fighting abuse every day. MAAWG is a chance for them to work and socialize with people who understand their jobs and the challenges associated with handling abuse on a daily basis. It’s a place to look at the larger issues and blow off steam.
There are a number of folks who show up at the conference that don’t deal with abuse in any capacity, however. They don’t have to deal with rampant levels of spam heavy enough to take down a mailserver. They don’t have to deal with the horror that is child porn. They don’t have to deal with angry subscribers. They don’t have to deal with criminals.
In short, they’re not abuse desk folks. They are, at best, a delivery person but more often are some high level executive at a marketing firm. These folks treat MAAWG as a place to wheedle business cards and contacts from the ISP reps. Stop abuse? The only abuse they see is that their email isn’t instantly delivered to the inbox. Spam? That’s what other people send. Phishing? Child porn? Not important.
All too many of them are not even subtle or coy about the fact that their only concern is finding contacts. One ISP rep tells the story of some marketer that followed him into the bathroom and attempted to trade business cards while the ISP person was at the urinal. Make no mistake, this is not an isolated incident. The badgering is so bad that some ISP reps refuse to state who their employer is.
The ISP folks are there to actually spend time with their peers and y’know, do actual work. ISP reps are not there to get hassled by dozens of marketers.
To be fair, a number of ESPs send delivery folks who are actually working to stop abuse. They do chase spammers through their systems. They do deal with criminals. Unfortunately, because they are from ESPs they are prohibited from actually working with the ISPs.
Why? Because so many of the ESP reps aren’t actually there to stop abuse that MAAWG has had to draw firm lines between ESPs and ISPs to make the ISP reps feel comfortable. I can’t fault MAAWG for that even as I can see there are ESP reps who perform the exact same job functions as the ISP reps.
The ESPs have created this situation. Instead of sending folks on their side who deal with messaging abuse, they send high level executives and marketers. They send people who think that the ISPs owe them something. That believe the ISPs will let mail through just because they shared a beer at the conference. That believe there is some inner circle and if they join they can find out the secret sauce so they can get their mail through filters. They send people who think that ISPs should be forced to sit at a table and listen to marketers yell about “the false positive problem.”
This isn’t to say ESPs and marketing companies shouldn’t join MAAWG and go to conferences. There’s a lot of abuse that both groups have to deal with. But MAAWG isn’t a marketing conference. Sending only marketers or executives to the conference not only misses the point of the organization, it actively sabotages it.