Auto-Responder Wars create thousands of tickets

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15 May, 2009 12:25 PM

Three days after enabling the Auto-Responder feature we logged into dashboard to see 1500+ tickets. The Auto-Responder seems to respond to other Auto-Responders that create a near infinite loop situation. At this time, the count is still rising. See the attached image.

We've turned them off for now, but Auto-Responders need to be smart enough to not reply back to another auto-responder like this.


  1. 1 Posted by mike on 15 May, 2009 12:46 PM

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    If you guys can automatically remove the offending tickets, we'd love you.

  2. 2 Posted by rick on 15 May, 2009 05:20 PM

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    I removed the tickets. I'm going to look into why this happened.

    We do have some protections in place currently, but it's not 100% foolproof. First, we check if the email is listed in the Site Settings (Site Settings => Email Settings => Sending and Receiving, see screenshot). This is a simple check, but may not be completely accurate. Even though we have [email blocked] setup, we could setup an auto-forwarding rule in our email system that forwards [email blocked] to [email blocked]. It looks like you did this actually, the To and Delivered-To headers are different.

    The other thing we do is set a custom X-Tender email header. Anything with that is skipped in the new discussion email processing. However, your emails seem to be missing it. I wonder if your forwarding mechanism is stripping the custom header? I'm not sure what else we can do to prevent autoresponder time loops from occurring.

  3. 3 Posted by rick on 15 May, 2009 05:25 PM

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  4. 4 Posted by mike on 15 May, 2009 06:26 PM

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    Thanks Rick,

    I set up the tender forward emails like you suggest in the screenshot.

    Right now we are using Gmail to forward incoming emails to specific tender addresses, see the other screenshot attached. Not sure how Gmail handles / touches the mail, and if it would strip the custom header or not when set up like this. hmm..any thoughts?


  5. 5 Posted by rick on 15 May, 2009 06:28 PM

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    Not sure. I'll do some of my own tests. Are you using the gmail auto-forward rule, or setting a custom filter?

  6. 6 Posted by mike on 15 May, 2009 06:38 PM

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    Using Filters to set up forwards from various "to:" fields to "[email blocked]" addresses.

  7. 7 Posted by mike on 19 May, 2009 01:15 PM

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    Rick, we turned auto-responders on again after taking some precautions, but to our dismay it went a lil crazy again. Is there any way you can assist us with our queue? We have 2200+ in there right now from this weekend, deleting them by hand is really taxing.

  8. 8 Posted by rick on 19 May, 2009 05:41 PM

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    I delete a bunch of them, but I only saw one recurring title. Let me know if there's anything I missed.

    Those responses look like they're from customers of yours actually. I'm a little confused about what's going on here actually. These responses only seem to be from 2 customers. It looks like something out of tender is contacting them, and their autoresponder is contacting you. We may need some smarter logic detecting repeat responses or something.

  9. 9 Posted by mike on 19 May, 2009 05:59 PM

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    Yeah, It seems like our Auto-Responder is responding to their Auto-Responder which responds to their auto-responder, etc.. They are indeed real customers.

  10. 10 Posted by rick on 19 May, 2009 06:12 PM

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    Right, but I can't tell their autoresponses from regular emails. Though, there is a precedence: junk header...

    Now, I can go one route and skip anything with [Auto-Reply], out of office, etc, in the subject. Or look for things that mark themselves as junk mail in the headers... but I worry about skipping potentially important emails.

    One example of this is when we used to forward paypal receipts to our email address. We filtered them out of the inbox, but then issues would go unanswered because user replies to those receipts would get filtered as well.

    We'll definitely be adding a better mass-delete interface. And from the looks of it, we may be introducing better email filters too. In the meantime, you might be able to add filters in gmail that direct autoreplies to another folder/label instead of to Tender.

  11. 11 Posted by mike on 19 May, 2009 06:25 PM

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    Thanks for the tips, Rick :)

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