Mailer Error Messages

Marcus Reid marcus at
Wed Oct 31 14:12:13 PDT 2007

On Tue, Oct 30, 2007 at 11:27:51PM -0700, Jason C. Wells wrote:
> This is just a short little complaint.  Could we please make mail 
> exchange error messages just a little more understandable?  For the rare 
> occurrences where I actually get a legit non-spam induced bounce it 
> would be nice to be able to quickly discern what happened.
> 1 - Don't use pronouns.  "This domain is is blacklisted."  Oh I see it 
> was "THIS" domain that was blacklisted.  That clears things up.  Contact 
> the postmaster?  Oh I see "THE" postmaster.

That sounds like arbitrary text that came from a mail server that
you tried to deliver mail to.  It probably rejected your mail with
a 550 and gave you a (admittedly vague) reason why.

> 2 - Say what you mean to say.    
> ----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----
> <example at>
> Actually, the address probably didn't have any errors. It was probably 
> some sort of anti-spam in play.

If the comment on the last two lines was generated by some mail server,
it looks like some message configured at that site.  Again, this is
site-specific configuration.  You could ask them to clear it up ;)
Just know that the mail failed with a permanent error like a 550.

> 3 - Use complete sentences. Please include a subject and verb PLUS the 
> reason why there is an error. " rejected 
> for reason." "There is no mailbox suchandsuch at"

Mail delivery fails in far too many different ways to have a real,
descriptive and correct message for all of them.  Lots of different
software all speaking SMTP and spewing forth lots of messages that
aren't defined by any standards.  I think a good first step for you
in your crusade is to get Microsoft to improve the messages that
Exchange spews out -- those are especially unhelpful.

> (now I must wonder what sort of default sillyness my server spews to 
> everyone else when every variety of spam malfeasance reflects of my MX)
> I used to think that running my own MX was neat.  Now I am starting to 
> think that this is the realm of wizards.  Can mere mortals use the 
> internet without ceaselessly battling with asshats?  The fight is all 
> gone out of me.

I think that is the feeling of a growing number of mail admins.  It's
a wonder it's all still working as well as it is out there.


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