March 26, 2003
The dark side of spam filtering
David Gammel experienced the dark side of spam-filtering the other day:
I discovered today that several important e-mails addressed to me over the past couple of weeks had been blocked by our spam filter at work. The person writing them had the word 'free' in a line of her signature, advertising a free seminar her company is offering. That plus html formatting was enough to trigger the filter threshold. I had to scramble quite a bit today to make up for the delay in getting the information.
Ouch; that hurts. I definitely prefer to be in the "driving seat" of my spam filtering: having the possibility to do individual whitelisting and tuning of other parameters are important values to me. Still; I must admit that after seeing how flawlessly Spam Assassin
has worked for me; I've become lazy and now I don't check my personal "spam" mailbox any more... if someone sends me a "spamlike" email and expect a reply, they'll have to call me to follow up.
Call me lazy, but seeing the way things are developing online, I'm not sure I'll change anytime soon... Spam is saturating people's mailboxes, and where email used to be a convenient tool, checking an unfiltered inbox is a pain that takes longer and longer every day.
If people have something urgent to tell me, telephone and/or instant messaging is the way to grab my attention. Sorry... (blame the spammers....)
I use Outlook and I've found Cloudmark Spamnet to be very effective. It is not rulebased so you will never encounter the problems you described. When you download your mail Spamnet creates a key depending on the contents, then checks in an onine database if that specific key has been marked as spam. If yes, then move/delete/whatever, if not, leave it be. Sometimes you get spams that aren't registered, then you can click a "block" button and the key will be registered at Cloudmark as spam so other users don't have to see it. There are ofcourse some threshold but I don't know how big it is. I think it is pretty safe.
Too bad it is only for Outlook...
Interesting. There's also some variant of SpamAssassin for Outlook I think. At work we're currently on Lotus Notes (and I've only been discovered by a couple of random nigerian "princes" and "bankers" so far) but when we more to Outlook I'll look into it..
Hmm ... I expect to get spam from any email address I publish on a webpage, ever. I keep various email addresses for that. If someone contacts me from an address I have published online, I expect them not to mind if it takes me a little longer to reply. That's the nature of the game, and I'm not in it for commercial reasons.
I get occasional spam from a specific IT recruitment company to my work address, which I find interesting. I can't think how they believe a Software Design Authority has recruitment needs, never mind knowing who I am, but again my work address is public. I suspect this is the best area for spam-blocking email clients to target.
If I get spam at a personal address, that means someone has CCed me in an extremely careless fashion, which is mildly irritating, or published my email address on a webpage, which is unforgiveable. It happens so rarely that I have never encountered it so far. I believe I would discontinue the address and give the next one out more carefully, if that were to happen.
If I sign up for something online with my address, I'll probably use firstname.lastname@example.org. I click each of those "don't email me" boxes judiciously, and I'm (almost) prepared to get legal on them if they breach their privacy agreements, just because it would give me a sadistic sense of pleasure.
In short, it's caveat emptor with regard to giving out your email addresses, and I think that antispam software is largely after the fact for personal usage, although it has its uses for commercial addresses.
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