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Spam hurts - Was: Out of curiosity

From: Greg FitzPatrick <greg@skical.org>
Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 10:57:23 +0100
To: "Jeff Weidner" <jkweidn@ilstu.edu>, <www-rdf-calendar@w3.org>
1. Ironically, the title you choose for your email 'Out of curiosity'
illustrates a problem many email discussion groups are increasingly burdened
with - Spam.  The only reason I opened your email Jeff, was that I am trying
out a new Spam filter and taking a look at what it kills - like mention of
'weight loss' 'work at home' 'dentist bills' or any of 299 variations for
saying 'get rich' in the subject or text fields of an email.

The community has not come to grips with this rapidly deteriorating
situation, though some mailing lists have voluntary human sentinels. I read
the other day that without filters at various places in the message chain we
(normal email users)  can expect up to 4000 objects of Spam a day by the end
of this year.

That wonderful era when you could write to anyone and get mail from anyone
is over; for some it has been over for quite a while.  I remember the first
time I wrote Dan Connolly and got back an automated reply 'I'm sorry I cant
read this because I don't know you'.

A few years ago I started a discussion on the RDF Interest list with an
email entitled 'A certain difficulty' which resulted in hundreds of
messages.  Today such a title would lead Spam killers to assume that this
was a pitch for incontinence aids or tax problem solvers and the discussion
would never have gotten off the ground.  Your innocent title 'Out of
curiosity' is in the same category.

Not that extremely explicit subject headers will always solve the problem -
clever spamers can take snippets of commonly occurring phrases in a
discussion and reuse them.

I have often toyed with creating a filter somewhat like Connolly's - only
giving people a second chance through a challenge system - replying to
unknown senders with something like the following:

"I am terribly sorry but you are not registered in my 'friends' list. Could
you perhaps resend your message? If you have changed your email address
recently please indicate that.  If you are a long last friend - write a line
about how we met.  If you are interested in my research 'write a line about

Of course eventually bots will learn how to foil such a system, but it
should work for a while.


If anyone has read to the bottom of this email they will realize that it is
the equivalent of Spam itself.  It has nothing to do with the subject this
list is supposed to cover and it is sent out with no idea who will read it.
All that is lacking is a final pitch:

...and the email blocker I have just described is available for download
absolutely free...


Some of the discussion that could or should take place on this list does so
in the form of IRC, Internet Relay Chat.  Libby Miller might like to
describe how that works? It is too complicated for me to understand.


||I have been subscribed to this RDF Calendar for a couple months
||now, and all
||I seem to be receiving is advertising and other information
||straight to the
||Is this typical, can it be stopped, or are there other places that this
||discussion takes place at?
||thank you,
||Jeff Weidner
Received on Monday, 11 February 2002 04:58:06 UTC

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