Why is spam better than spam-filter

People hate spam. It’s dumb, counter-productive and resource wasting. Same people click spam links making it so profitable of a business but that’s not the topic for today.

People if not like then at least appreciate messages from their family, friends, colleagues and readers.

But somehow both of these often get paranoid and ugly treatment with bloated and ineffective anti-spam measures.

Sacrifices imminent?

Most of anti-spam protection assumes by default that there will be mistakes . No matter what the type or scale of messaging is – some spam is getting through and some valid information is getting lost.

So question is – what amount of spam blocked is worth losing incoming email with important information? Oh, by the way you still aren’t blocking spam completely.

Deeply flawed aspect of anti-spam protection - it only gets better with active input to parameters from person on receiving end.

At the same time people are desperately looking for install-and-forget solutions that are by definition worst possible for such complex task as analysis of textual information to determine both content and purpose.

Let’s look at common checkpoints to deal with spam.

Sender filtering

This point kicks in even before act of messaging is completed. Theory is to make sender do additional work that spam bot won’t be able to reproduce. Guess what – there are very few things spam bot can’t reproduce and all of them are going to greatly annoy any live person .

I got very good example while doing my research on 125x125 ads and widgets . One of the systems has contact forms so well protected from spam that I couldn’t register or submit support request (on topic of not being able to register).

Who thinks that losing leads and alienating customers at cost of being protected from spam is good business – raise your hand!

Server filtering

Assuming you own the point where message are received (like WordPress installation or own mail server) there are quite a few different things you can paste into process here.

Only problems is balance. You are installing anti-spam measures because you are not willing to deal with spam manually. But are you willing to manually control and educate your anti-spam solution? If not – you may get astonishingly high percent of mistakes.

External service filtering

Why deal with problem if you can dump it on someone else for free? Centralized anti-spam services collect message from participating members and use different methods trying to evaluate them.

So instead of something close you can at least try to control task is totally outsourced. System that you don’t have a clue about makes decisions on how relevant information is to you.

Oh and if it does allow some degree of control and education then dumb crowd is most probably going to educate it really bad. And it’s going to be really pleasant surprise when such system decided that you are a spammer .

Receiver filtering

This one is scary. It assumes that you have to do something. Like look through folder and waste insane half of a minute for spam cleanup.


Topic is so big and technical that I am splitting it in parts. Subscribe to not miss next post with overview of spam filtering methods.

And to spend time here is cool exercise. Take you email box, or WordPress comments or whatever. Count what percent of spam you had to deal with manually and how many mistakes it made.

Mine numbers are 1% of spam I had to review manually and 0 mistakes on valid messages. Yours?

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  • Ben #

    I use akismet to catch spam on WordPress and it does make some mistakes sometimes. I couldn't live without it though because I receive hundred of spam comments everyday (maybe 10-15 on frogstr.com) so processing it manually is not an option. I simply check everyday what spam was caught and approve the valid comments. So yeah, it does make mistakes!
  • Rarst #

    @Ben Problem with Akismet (as with other external stuff) that is has no clue about context. It's huge pain when you are trying to talk about prices or something like that in comment. It's not spam but Akismet is not smart enough to get a difference in context. It is also very vulnerable to poisoning. If someone by mistake or deliberately submits (or even fakes) your comments as spam - you are suddenly getting treated as spammer across all blogs using it.
  • Texas Wanderer #

    I have to use spam filters. I get several spam messages a day on my blog, and my email, the last time I shut it off it was getting nearly 6,000 emails per day. That's almost one message a second I'd have to delete if I did nothing but delete them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I think spammers should be arrested, then have a short trial, then be dipped in boiling oil. Slowly dipped in boiling oil. One spam email should mean death. They are what is going to eventually shut down the internet and ruin it for everyone. These scumbags, within 10 minutes of my business name being registered, hijacked the domain name and just used it as the return address. Instantly it was blackballed by Yahoo, AOL, Excite, and others. And since 99.5% of my business comes from people who use those services, they virtually shut down my business. Now to send emails I have to use my personal address. That really helps promote and looks professional. The law should be- You spam, you die. End of story.
  • Rarst #

    @Texas Wanderer Notice I didn't say that spam shouldn't be dealt with. :) But it should be handled in smart way. There are very few anti-spam methods that are really accurate and effective and they mostly require manual control. But rest are often advertised as install and forget. Failing to mention low accuracy because of that. By the way 6k emails daily doesn't look like a spam to me. More like personal denial of service attack. You could try bouncing it for some time, if it is spam it will go away. Scary story about your domain. :( That must have sucked.
  • Petevers #

    Don't you hate spam to?
  • Rarst #

    @Petevers Spam just happens. It's like weather. Rain or heat just happens, I don't hate it for that. :)