Technical Information

Thoughtexchange email delivery

We use SendGrid to effectively deliver emails and track email delivery.  SendGrid has a rich Application Programmer’s Interface (API) and provides significant email deliverability and reliability, which is key to every Thoughtexchange process.

Spam

We take many steps to avoid our emails from appearing like spam. When we send email we don’t send “group” email (i.e. one email with many recipients). We send a unique email to every participant and can track the status of that email. For activity emails, each message contains a unique hyperlinked URL for that participant.

Also, email from a recognized sender is more likely to generate a response, so we want our emails to appear to be from our customer. However, by pretending to be our customer, we create problems related to “spoofing” that looks spammy.

If a participant hits the reply button in their email client application, the reply email will be sent to the address in the “From” field. By encoding the facilitator address as we have, we can easily forward the reply when we receive it at our email.thoughtexchange.com inbox.

Email sender and participant replies

If you use your email client application to “show headers” or “examine raw source” you’ll see that in our emails we manipulate two fields that identify the email sender: the “Return Path” and “From” fields. “Return Path” is used by email systems to identify the origin of the email–it is not generally displayed in email clients. The “From” field does appear in email clients and identifies the person sending the email.

We set the “Return Path” to something like @email.thoughtexchange.com. This unique id allows us, and SendGrid, to correlate each email with its particular delivery status. By using our subdomain (email.thoughtexchange.com), rather than the customer’s, we can avoid appearing spammy to receiving mail servers. If we were to use the customer’s email address, the receiving mail server would recognize the address as one of its own, but then see that the email was being sent from outside (i.e. not by it).

The “From” field has two parts: a text block and an address. The text block is ignored by mail servers, but is displayed in email client software. We set the text block to “Te – Facilitator Name” (eg “Te – John Doe”) so that it contains the facilitator’s name but is also clearly a Thoughtexchange email. We set the address to a www.thoughtexchange.com email address but, we make it appear like the customer’s address.

By using a www.thoughtexchange.com address with a facilitator-looking name we get the benefits of appearing as if the facilitator is sending the mail, but without “spoofing.” That is, without making it seem that the facilitator is sending an email from a server different from their actual mail server.

If a participant clicks the reply button in their email client application, the reply email will be sent to the address in the “From” field. By encoding the facilitator address as we have, we can easily forward the reply when we receive it in our email.thoughtexchange.com inbox.

Currently, we do not support Out Of Office or other auto replies.

Blocked emails

Despite our best efforts, sometimes mail servers or email clients flag our emails as spam because they don’t recognize the mail source. Some mail servers also use techniques to detect spam, such as issuing a challenge email to all unrecognized mail sources.

We have a dedicated email subdomain (email.thoughtexchange.com) and dedicated IP address (208.117.53.224) with matching MX and SPF records, and also a DKIM signature—all designed to make our mail sender appear less spammy.

However, in cases where our emails have been flagged as spam, for our emails to be successfully delivered, IT Managers need to white-list our IP address and domain.

White-listing

All email from your Thoughtexchange site is sent on your behalf and will look something like this:

Te-facilitator.name.at.somedomain.com@email.thoughtexchange.com

To white-list our IP address and domain, your IT manager needs the following information:

Domain = @email.thoughtexchange.com and webmail.thotstr.com

Dedicated IP address = 208.117.53.224

Once this entry has been added, users will be able receive email from, and participate in, Thoughtexchange Processes.

Black-listing

There are a number of organizations that black-list known spam servers. Every originator of email has a story to tell of being flagged as a spammer and having to leap through hoops to get off the black-list. In the past, we’ve had this problem as well, although the situation has much improved since our switch to SendGrid. If you receive a bounced message indicating that the sending server is black-listed, we need to be informed immediately so that we can take the necessary steps to get off the black-list.

Rate Controlling (IP Throttling)

Sometimes, emails bounce back because the recipient email server is rate controlling (IP throttling) the number of emails we are trying to send.

To resolve this issue, the customer’s email provider or IT department needs to increase or (preferably) remove the limit for our IP.

 

If you have any questions or you need help with this, please contact our support team: support@thoughtexchange.com.