Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oh Boxbe - Why so silly Boxbe?

You know what it's like on Christmas, you rush down open your presents all excited, do silly things with them until you read the instructions properly....etc etc

This is what i felt like a few weeks ago when I found out about

So as some of you know I run my own personal exchange server at home (lol remote oma + mobile synch + perpetual archiving etc...don't know why more people don't do that).

For a while I've wanted a true challenge-response spam solution - basically what this means is that you have an 'approved' whitelist of all your email addresses and anyone not on the list is sent a reply email asking for them to click on a link to approve or complete a 'captcha' so that it's a real person.

Now I know exactly what I want.... it's a Sendio ICE box appliance.

It's a single 1RU linux appliance with browser configuration that does everything I need however for only 2's way overkill and their cheapest license module is for 50 people so around $5000 - which for 50 people is reasonable - for 2 people....little bit of an overkill.

I've often wondered why some type of sender address verification in software hasn't been available for exchange (or even better just for SBS 2003).

There is TDMA (, but this is written in python and not as user friendly as i would like.

It seems like a pretty simple application/process to code against but as far as I know the only option is for a 3rd party SAAS solution which again is never sold in single person licenses :)

So a few weeks ago I came across Boxbe, an outlook plugin that does exactly what I wanted, from outlook it sends a challenge response to any emails not in my whitelist and holds all 'unapproved' emails in a isolation folder while either the sender 'completes a captcha' or I approve it manually.

It even had some really cool features like I could customise what the captcha looked like and what my reply said.

It did have some weird parts relating to it's business model (eg marketing companies would pay a charity donation fee to send me email) - my thoughts around this was hey if you can stop all spam and only charge $20 for the plugin you would have the world beating a path to your door.

There were some other issues around the 'enrollment process' - which I put down to 'clarity in the wording' on their part but also rushing without reading the instructions on my part.

For the last few weeks been working great - I needed to check my 'boxbe isolation' folder on a regular basis but that's only because I subscribe to so many mailing lists etc but once they were approved they went through fine.

The cool part was no more spam. It was heaven, I couldn't have asked for more (maybe for the application to be installed at an exchange level so it worked even when Outlook was switched off - lol my mobile phone inbox went nuts when both my laptop and desktop were switched off - because there was nothing preventing the spam from coming through - yes it would clean it up once I turned on outlook at either my desktop or laptop but was still a problem

So humming along, telling all my friends what a great service it was.....Until this week.

I was digging around my deleted emails folder for an email - (it's a whole other story but since I installed windows desktop search I dont often need to manually look for emails, 'Windows Desktop Search' check it out it's a great application). I just couldn't remember the terms of the email I was looking for but I knew when it was sent to me so I'm looking through my deleted emails folder only to find lines and lines of spam email.

It was huge how much was back there. I couldn't work out what was going on.

Read the email below for a summary.

-----Original Message-----
From: Dean Collins
Reply-To: Dean Collins
Date: Wed, 7 May 2008 14:20:55 -0400
Subject: question about moving 'blocked' emails to deleted folder
Hi I've asked this question before but I haven't had an answer yet.
I only just noticed that Boxbe is moving the 'blocked' emails into my deleted mail folder.
This is a problem as I store all my deleted emails in an archive.
Is this normal that boxbe moves the blocked email to the deleted emails folder whereas outlook junk mail deletes the mail from my folder entirely when I right click "clear my junk mail folder"
Can you please email me an answer to this, as this is critical.
Dean Collins

Hi Dean,
Yes, you are correct. Currently, the way Boxbe for Outlook works is that any incoming email from sender addresses and domains on your Blocked List will be scanned and moved to Deleted Items. The messages will not be automatically deleted.
If you are suggesting that Boxbe for Outlook scan for any blocked addresses (senders and domains), then delete the email from your Outlook folders completely and not moved into the Deleted Items, similar to the Outlook Junk Mail functionality, please let us know and this feature request will be passed along to the Dev Engineering team.
Thank you for your feedback.
Boxbe Support
------------------- the couple of hundred emails being 'blocked' each day were actually just being moved to my deleted emails folder. Which is fine for residential home users who dont keep any emails but for everyone else that archives all their're now storing spam for 4 years or whatever your retention policy is.

Hmm sorry Boxbe - it was short and sweet but you aren't ready for the real world yet. (i'd also offer advice about moving to a license fee rather than this per message fee /donation tangent you are on - if your product works the world will be beating a path to you and your mousetrap).

For everyone else that received my Boxbe invitations that have signed up, sorry - if it works for you stick with it but I'm out of here.



  1. P.S. You have to give 'kudos' to a user friendly company that has in the first section of their FAQ - how to cancel account.

    Shows they are definitely 'user friendly'.

  2. Dean -

    First, thank you for using Boxbe and we're sorry to see you go.

    Second, this is useful feedback for us to improve the product, so thank you again for that.

    I'm curious about your "process" for storing email and I want to make sure that I understand you correctly.

    From this post, it seems that you store items in your deleted folder forever. What kinds of things do you store there?

    From my own experience, the "Deleted Items" folder is a place like the Trash on the desktop. It serves as a "middle area" between your inbox (or folders for storage) and completely removing an item, never to see it again. At the end of the day, I always empty my Deleted Items folder.

    By no means am I saying what you are doing is wrong, but it is different than what I would expect. If you use Deleted Items as just another folder, I suspect you are not alone in working this way.

    The reason why we move blocked items to "Deleted Items" is so that you could retrieve them later if you like. To a degree, the Waiting List serves that purpose, but the difference is that with Blocked Guests, we don't send a challenge message.

    We'll consider deleting messages from Blocked Guests in future releases. Thank you again for your feedback.

    Randy Stewart
    Boxbe Product Manager

  3. Hi Randy,

    Like I said several times, happy I tried the service, and happy with certain customer facing aspects eg.ability to respond to customer requests and faq ease etc.

    To answer your question, when an email hits my inbox (or one of the sub folders routed by email rules) it sits until it is read.

    When i read the email it is deleted into my deleted folder OR if i choose to 'file' it into my 'filed' folders work/personal/etc

    Once an email hits my 'deleted folder' it then follows some more rules basically mailinglists, certain marketing terms etc is all deleted out permanently.

    All the rest of the emails are not important enough to be 'filed' in specific folders but important enough to keep long term (4-5 year drop cycle) are kept in 6 month folders (eg Jan to Jun-July to dec each year (I also break up the non filed 'sent emails' using the same 6 month folder methon (so 4 folders for each year 2 deleted and 2 sent))).

    The important part is that even though an email is in a deleted folder it is still indexable by Microsoft desktop search so a term will still show up in the folder even though not affecting the size of my deleted folder.

    I guess if each ' boxbe tagged email' was 'inserted' with a bad email tag I could delete the email using the deleted folders rule that I also filter out mailing list emails.

    But like I said I think it makes more sense for Boxbe to move emails to the outlook junk folder as soon as you tag it 'faulty'.

    Once it is in this folder and viewed it is deleted 'entirely' rather than moved to the 'deleted' folder.

  4. Dean-

    Ok, now I get it. Thank you for all the details.

    We've grappled back and forth with the Junk Folder. With our Yahoo! product, originally, we completely replaced the junk folder with the Waiting List, the idea being that we were a better spam filter as we would catch everything and give it a junk score.

    As we got more and more users, many wanted the option of still using Yahoo! spam filter, while using Boxbe to catch what the Yahoo! spam filter didn't.

    Personally, I don't like checking two folders for false positives, but different strokes... , right :-)

    In many ways, moving blocked senders to the Junk folder makes as much sense as deleted to me, either way you still have to delete them. We'll add that to our feature list to consider. At the very least, we could make it an option.

    I'll let you know what we come up with and thanks again for your comments.

    Randy Stewart

  5. Randy the reason why junk and deleted aren’t the same is that junk you permanently delete with just a brief glance where as deleted items are deleted but may need to be accessed again.

    Like I said in this day of email archiving/corporate governance/hippa etc etc deleted emails are actually archived for a long long time – you cant just throw junk mail into them.


  6. Hi Dean,
    I am not sure when this conversation actually ended but it is very informative. I received an ivitation to join Boxbe from an email address I did not recognise. This started me search on Google for any snippets of information on BoxBe. Your comments are fully supportable in my view. Junk folders contain Junk whereas Deleted just means it is no longer in my In Box. Like you I have several rules for filing certain emails after I have read them.

    Full Marks

    Thanks again.