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Reducing Spam

Posted by daniel on September 1, 2003 at 8:46 AM PDT

Last night I cleared my email at around midnight. This morning at six I logged on and downloaded 97 messaged, 85 of which were correctly identified as spam and transferred to my junk mailbox. Nine more in my inbox were unidentified spam. Leaving three legitimate messages.

Dan Gillmor writes in a recent blog entry titled E-Mail:Where Do We Go from Here, "E-mail may be essential, but it's in danger of becoming more trouble than it's worth. I'm finding ways to work around it." As always, Gillmor's analysis is worth reading and considering.

Gillmor's tote board summarizes the situation like this:

  • Chances of fixing the spam problem anytime soon: next to zero.
  • Chances of stopping worms and viruses anytime soon: just above zero.
  • Chances of Microsoft doing the right thing voluntarily: just about zero.
  • Chances of more users and administrators getting with the program: better than zero, but not nearly high enough.
  • Chances of ISPs doing a better job: above zero, and growing.

Gillmor sets up each of the above estimates and details the steps that he is taking. In the Also Today section, we link to two ways to reduce spam. Paul Tyma has put together the Mailinator site that works at the source. When you sign up for a new web site or service that requires an email address to send some confirmation, you make up some account at You can then check in at the Mailinator address for your mail up to a couple of hours after they are sent. The accounts are not secure and are not intended for sensitive or persistent email. It's a nice convenience when you don't want to share your real email address when there's no reason for doing so. Be sure and read the FAQ before using the service.

David Flanagan has made his PopClean utility available. The author of Java In a Nutshell and other books cautions that you make sure you understand what PopClean does before using it. Flanagan writes that "I wrote this to delete the hundreds of huge SoBig.F mails that I was receiving without having to download them. It has been used on two different POP3 servers, but has not been rigorously tested for compliance with the POP3 protocol. Don't run this program unless you understand what it is doing. It deletes e-mail without downloading it: YOU MAY PERMANENTLY LOSE DATA!"

In today's featured Weblogs, Simon Phipps looks back at LinuxWorld in Borg and the Penguin. He quotes Josh Ledgard as saying "I saw plenty of people with windows laptops and plenty of OS X notebooks, but outside of the booths and Sun sessions I was surprised at the lack of people running Linux. Sure, their slide decks talked a big game, but it looked a lot like Powerpoint and Windows XP underneath for Dan Powers(IBM VP of Grid Computing and Emerging Technologies) and several others. For presenters and general show goers I saw it felt like the order was MS > OS X > Linux. It surprised me enough to mention it I guess."

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