Abandoning the battle against spam

I don’t understand why people are so afraid of spam in this day and age. It seems to me that people get overly concerned about giving out their e-mail address to companies or web sites or what-have-you, because “they’re going to send me a bunch of stuff I don’t want.”

Well, I suppose there’s a kernel of truth there. After all, why would someone want your e-mail address unless they wanted to e-mail you? And I admit that I have a tendency to omit my e-mail address from forms where it’s not needed. But then there are those who feel a need to create a separate e-mail account specifically because they don’t want to see spam in their “real” inbox. At which point, it seems to me that the cure is taking more effort than dealing with the mild symptoms of the disease.

First of all, I’ve found in my experience that giving out your e-mail address to a web site (or whatever) doesn’t automatically lead to more spam. There was a time a couple years ago where I was getting upwards of 70 spam messages a day. I consider that to be a lot, especially considering how much spam I get now, which is like one or two a day (which my filters catch for me).

I found that I was getting a lot of spam because my contact e-mail on my web site used a “mailto” tag. Once I changed that to a link to a feedback form (which has its own anti-spam device), the spam dropped of precipitously. There must be something about spam robots that like the mailto tag, but don’t dig much deeper than that. There are apparently NOT roving gangs of spammers out there collecting e-mail addresses and putting them into a databases used for mass-mailing crap. If there were, I’d get a lot more spam than I get now.

It also seems to me that perhaps the spammers have all moved on to web-based feedback forms. Oh, they love the forms, I can tell you that. The comments in Jammer’s Reviews get spammed like crazy. I don’t have to deal with it, though, because spam bots apparently don’t deal much with arithmetic. Adding a field that says “34+3=” (tossing any e-mail that doesn’t answer it correctly) eliminated about 90 percent of the spam in there, and I eliminated the remaining 10 percent by automatically tossing anything with “[url=” in the message. Here on the blog, I use WordPress, which has Akismet filtering that manages most of my spam seamlessly.

But back to my original point: I don’t understand why people who don’t have web sites or blogs have to even worry about e-mail spam. In today’s world of e-mail applications, all the major players have spam filters. I can’t attest to how good all of them are, but I can attest to how good Gmail’s is. (It’s very good.)

Besides, most companies, if they put you on a list, will gladly remove you if you click the “remove” link. And for those few who don’t, you have the power to invisibly filter them out. (You can also do this for people who insist on sending you irrelevant BS on a weekly basis.)

But as far as I’m concerned, the spam problem (and I’m talking about personal e-mail users here, not companies that have to deal with this on a large scale) has been solved. There are people out there who seem to think there’s a battle out there against personal e-mail spam, and that we as e-mail account holders must take it up or we lose. The battle strategy appears to be to not give out your e-mail address unless you trust the recipient with your first born. I don’t see the point. The technology, from where I sit, has made spam irrelevant.

Besides, it’s freaking e-mail. Who cares if you have to delete a few useless messages?

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5 comments on this post

John R
Saturday, September 26, 2009, 4:32 am (UTC -6)

I agree with most of that – but there is a use of using different email addresses.

I have a catchall email address with my ISP, and use things like facebook@myemailaddress.com for Facebook, spamcom@myemailaddress.com and so forth. Every different website has an email attached to it.

If I start to get spam addressed to one of these email addresses, I know exactly where the spam originated from.

I have thrown these in the direction of the website sources and asked them why my email address – that only they know of – gets spammed. Needless to say, the answer is not forthcoming.

Anyway – like you say I can then create a quick email filter or create a new mailbox with the spammed address, and it all goes away.

I suppose the “two mail accounts” idea is akin to going home at the end of the day, walking through your house, jumping over the garden wall, jumping an another car and driving to your real home. All for that bit of extra security.

Brendan
Sunday, September 27, 2009, 9:49 pm (UTC -6)

Is it ironic that I didn;t want to enter my email adress to make this comment?

I agree with you though…. my Gmail spam folder has about 1,000 emails in it, and they now auto-delete at about the same rate new ones come in, so I never even have to look at it. I get about 1 spam email per 3 month period in my inbox with Gmail.

Quinalla
Monday, September 28, 2009, 9:00 am (UTC -6)

There has only been one legitimate company that just will not remove my e-mail, but that’s the only one to ever do that and yeah I send them to junk now. There have been a few that send way too many and I always remove myself right away with no problem. And sure, I don’t just give my e-mail address to anyone that wants it, but it’s because I don’t want e-mail from them, not because I am worried they will sell my address to spammers. And yes, most of the spam comes from you having your e-mail address on a website somewhere that the bots can find it.

I will say that spam has picked up recently though, my junk folder at work usually has 10 messages a day. Another sign of the economy I suppose.

Anders
Sunday, October 4, 2009, 8:39 pm (UTC -6)

My main fear is having a legitimate email being filtered and lost among the hundreds of spam mails accumulated in my spam folder. I don’t trust the automatic filters, and when I keep down the number of spam mails I receive, I get the chance to skim through my spam folder to catch any legitimate mails that may been mistakenly filtered. Otherwise a pain if you regularly accumulate hundreds or thousands of spam mails.

TS
Tuesday, October 13, 2009, 6:14 pm (UTC -6)

Hmm. Wonder when you’re gonna complain about Halloween in some way. Or talk about Lost and/or TNG. Either way, would be cool to read. And yes. Spam. Who care’s. There, I stayed on topic. 😛

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