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. I testified in Washington on that point and urged congressmen to resist the temptation to regulate the Internet. I still feel that way. The "do not call" legislation is a good example of good intentions that end up with a lot of exceptions and the result is we still get many calls at home that wed don’t want.
Since September 2002 I have been using a technology from Cloudmark that has done a superb job. It looks at each email with some fancy algorithms and compares it to a database and with information that others have reported. If it is likely spam, the email gets put in a junk folder. The accuracy is excellent. I can’t remember a case in the last four years where someone has sent me an email that was incorrectly identified as spam, and until recently, it has caught nearly all the emails that are spam. Until recently. The spammers have gotten more clever and devious. Of the 200 or so emails I receive daily, roughly 80% are spam. Of the 80%, Cloudmark used to get 99% of them but that percentage is declining. Also, I have the burden of seeing the garbage come in and also of having to empty the trash on occasion to avoid clogging up my ThinkPad. It has become time for a new approach.
When I was last in Washington, one of the FTC commissioners was advocating the idea that software makers and online service companies modify their email programs so that any email that comes from someone that is not already in your contact list or address book be treated as spam and put in the junk folder or deleted. I feel this is an extreme approach. I have met a lot of people over the years through email. I don’t want to reject someone just because I don’t already know them. A company called Spam Arrest has developed a really good alternative.
With spamarrest — which I started using this week — all of my email is redirected to spamarrest.com automatically. For everyone in my contact list (2,800+ people), their email goes through as normal. They see no difference, nor do I. If an email arrives for me at spamarrest 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 list.
I have resisted these challenge/response approaches in the past, but unfortunately today’s environment forced me to do it. I am really pleased with the results. No more spam or junk folders and no trash emptying duties. 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.