Hormel Foods Corporation loves Spam. They say their SPAM Luncheon Meat is "the one in good taste". For the rest of us spam is something quite different and anything but in good taste. There have been quite a few stories about spam here on patrickWeb. Early in the debate — years ago — I took the position that the elimination of spam could be handled by technology and that laws would not work. Even though the spammers have gotten more creative and we are currently seeing a rise in spam, I continue to believe technology is the best answer.
Around August 1 I started using spamarrest. All email addressed to [email][email protected][/email] gets automatically picked up from my mail server by spamarrest. For everyone in my contact list (2,800+ people), their email comes through to my inbox with no problem. However, if an email arrives for me from someone not in my contact list, an automatic reply is sent to them that says something like "Your email to John is pending delivery. Please click here to validate that you are a real person". When you click, you are presented with a web page where a word appears in a graphic image. Something simple like "cat" or "water". After you type in the word that appears you become validated as a real person — not a robot sending millions of spam emails — and you are added to the "ok" list just like everyone in my address book. Likewise, anyone that I send an email to for the first time is automatically added to the ok list. For anyone in the ok list their emails are never challenged — and I answer all my email.
I had resisted challenge/response approaches in the past, but unfortunately today’s environment forced me to make a change. I am really pleased with the results. No more spam or junk folders and daily trash emptying duties. Since August spamarrest has processed 17,433 emails addressed to me. The 4,261 legitimate emails were forwarded to me. The remaining 75.6% of them went into an "unverified" folder. I check this folder on occasion if there is an email I am expecting. Spamarrest is very easy to manage. You can add entire domains to your ok list. For example, any email from someone at ibm.com comes through unchallenged. I have added a dozen or so other domains to the ok list. Occasionally a spammer or recruiter will respond and verify their email address but I then click to add them to the "not ok" list. The bottom line is that I spend significantly less time managing email than I did before and I can spend more time communicating with colleagues, family and friends old and new.
The week before switching to spamarrest, I received an email from a person I don’t know who had read something of interest in my blog and wanted to give me some feedback. This is really valuable to me. I asked her what she thought of the challenge/response approach I was considering. She said "I think that’s a very good idea. People who are worth talking to, either personal or professional, will understand". From my perspective, I am really enjoying a 100% spam free world and yet still able to meet new people and learn from them.