At District 91 Toastmasters we do our very best to keep in regular touch with you, our fellow members. Unfortunately, we are aware that many email systems, especially those for corporate and academic institutions, visit hyperlinks in incoming email messages automatically for protection purposes. This affects about nine percent of our members. As a small voluntary organisation, we also rely on all our members’ engagement to thrive and provide relevant and interesting content. We have established that two thirds of all apparent engagement is in fact generated robotically by these protection services. The effects are disproportionate and our website analytics have been rendered meaningless.
An unfortunate consequence of this can be that the unsubscribe link in our email footer gets visited and consequently you may become unsubscribed from our mailings. We are concerned that this may happen without your knowledge or consent and although it occurs beyond our control, we are nonetheless looking for an effective solution to this issue. The typical pattern of behaviour for automated unsubscribes is that the follow-up survey is not completed.
Whilst it is unfortunate when any member becomes unsubscribed in this way, it can also have consequences detrimental to the good governance of our district. If you are serving as Club President or Vice President of Education, you are a member of our District Council, the supreme decision making body in our district. If you are serving as a District Officer, you are a member of both our District Council and of our District Executive Committee. In both cases, meetings are notified at least four weeks in advance and members of the body need to register their attendance and submit business motions in advance. The meetings must also be quorate in order to conduct business. Thus, an unintended consequence of an automated unsubscribe may be that you become unaware of meetings, although they are also posted on our district calendar, resulting in your club becoming disenfranchised from our decision making process.
What are we doing about it?
Our approach has three aspects. Firstly, if you have engaged with both our email and our website before becoming unsubscribed, then you have a cookie stored in your web browser and we can notify you of the issue when you next visit our website. Secondly, when we have established that a member’s email is controlled by protection services, we are replacing direct email links to our website with indirect links via a CAPTCHA page. Since the protection services cannot pass the CAPTCHA test, it means that our website analytics will become meaningful for the first time. Lastly, we are striving to achieve 100% DMARC compliance. DMARC is a trust system for email which affects email deliverability and may affect the treatment our email receives from protection services.
We are on a steep learning curve and unfortunately we have become aware of false positives and aim to reduce them. Robotic activity is detected primarily by velocity. Simply put, robots ‘click’ more and faster than humans. However, we may have particular habits, and we’re now aware that for some this means double-clicking on web links, which doubles the amount of engagements recorded and can bring members into the clicking range of robots, resulting in false positives. However, robots cannot complete CAPTCHA and thus CAPTCHA protected assets, like forms, can only be completed by humans.
As well as false positives meaning that actual engagement may be missed, there are also personal privacy tools that conceal interaction with email and click-throughs to our website, making the activities of members who use them invisible to us. If we believe that members are not engaging at all, then we will unsubscribe them after four months of inactivity, providing one week’s notice. This enables our mailing list to become self-cleaning, reducing both our costs and our maintenance burden. Members can resubscribe at any time, using the form to the right of every news article and others elsewhere on our website. (Note: We will not unsubscribe currently serving club or district officers with a valid and working email address).
What can you do about it?
If you have been unsubscribed robotically once, it is liable to happen again. If you use an institutional email address to receive Toastmasters email, you could ask your IT team to whitelist toastmasters.org and d91toastmasters.org.uk as trustworthy domains for email. Alternatively, you could change your email address at toastmasters.org to your personal email address. If you also reply to inform us of this change, we can ensure that this does not result in a duplicate record being created. Please also reply to our email to let us know if our email to you is misrepresented as promotional or spam and we will see what we can do to improve deliverability. The mere act of replying may resolve the issue for you.