Dealing with Spam

I've been using Email since the mid-1970s starting in IBM. It's been my principle mode of geek communication for a long time. Now this disease called SPAM has made it useless - or almost so. That is, until I finally have settled on a spam-process to keep it under control.

I get a lot of spam -- upwards of 200 pieces of spam a day. Since I've been using Email and Usenet newsgroups since the early 1980s, my Email address has been on every spammer's list since day one.

I suppose I went through the same process everyone else did. I tried to ignore it. I tried to get them to drop me from their lists, as they promised (how naive I was). I got some relief when I started using procmail. I built my own rules to remove Email that 'looked bad'. Next I started using a Bayesian spam filter like bogofilter and that helped some more, but not enough. Then I tried SpamAssassin and it was better, but still not smart enough. It tossed out about 30-50% of the crap I got.

Next I tried dspam. This actually worked pretty well for me. The amount of spam that actually gets through varies a bit, but on a bad day, I might see five pieces of spam - way better than the past. Others for whom I enabled DSPAM had good success, but not as good as I had. Who knows. Installing DSPAM is a gigantic pain. It seems simple enought, but getting the web interface (the best part IMHO) has tedious in the extreme.

So tedious in fact, that after our ISP managed to screw up a move of our system so badly that we had to rebuild everything from scratch, I gave up on DSPAM and went back to SpamAssassin. SA was dead easy to install. There isn't really a web interface to help train it, but creating some quarantine mbox files for maybe-spam and certainly-spam, I can manage those files with SqurrelMail - which is a very fine tool that is very nice to administer.

My current process implements these rules, in this order:

  1. If it has certain very special keywords in the subject, the mail is delivered directly to me.
  2. If not, then SpamAssassin does it's thing and either quarantines the mail or delivers it.
  3. I regularly watch for good mail in the quarantine (very very few) and redirect those to my account. Otherwise I delete them all. If your Email looks like spam to SpamAssassin, I might catch it, but I don't look very hard anymore at mail in quarantine.

This is hardly foolproof, but is now working acceptably for me. I'm finally back to having control over my Email.

So if you have been trying to contact me and I've not been responding there's a good chance I never even saw any sign of your Email at all. One secret is to put '270' on the subject line of your Email to me. That'll get through. So drop me a line, anytime.

Actually I hate having to do all this. I don't like that strangers can't contact me without getting past the mail-wall I've built. I've had this Email address for a very long time and changing it just because of bad behavior by a very small few is not on. I could change my Email address like so many do, but I refuse to give in to the bastards. Surely there is a special place in someone's hell for spammers and I wait for the day it comes.