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Fri, Nov. 7th, 2003, 10:22 am
It's All In the Head

I used to not get spam. Didn't we all, back in the good old days? But I used to be obscure enough that even a year ago, I hardly got more than one or two messages a day. I was careful about who I gave out my email address to; I didn't post it online; and I even had a special spam account for signing up for online services.

Then I got involved with a couple of fairly public projects and was famous, in a very small way and a very small circle, for a bit. (I may still be; things have been kind of complicated in my life recently so I'm not exactly on top of that. That's another post and another story.)

To make a long story short, now I get spam.

Enter Cloudmark: I heard about their collaborative spam-filtering system and absolutely had to try it, but they didn't have a plug-in for Outlook Express. Yesterday they released one (and anyone who is planning to mock me for using OE can just go eat a hedgehog - raw - so there), and I of course had to try it right away.

The idea is this: when a user gets a new email, they can "block" it if it's a piece of spam. If enough users block a particular message, it gets listed as spam in their database and automatically filtered into a spam folder. So only a few users ever see a given piece of spam. If the system screws up, you can "unblock" a message and reduce its likely-to-be-spam rating on their servers. (There's also a reputation/trust system. Read more here.)

I'm finding the most interesting thing about it, though, is how much it changes my psychological attitude toward spam. I actually really enjoy every piece of spam that slips through the filters - because POW! ZAP! I can actually contribute to the success of Cloudmark and the Cloudmark community. When a piece of spam gets through, it's not just a failure of my filters. It's an active chance for me to improve my reputation and trust in the Cloudmark community, and a chance for me to stop anyone else from getting that particular message. I feel good, now, when I see spam (admittedly because I see very little of it) - now that's smart design .....

Fri, Nov. 7th, 2003 08:40 am (UTC)

hrm. i'm a bit unimpressed with Cloudmark as a company; please send me a link if i'm wrong, but i couldn't find anywhere on their site any reference to Vipul's Razor, the open-source collaborative spam filtering package on which their software is built. nor, as far as i can tell, do they filter their own results back into the larger community of Razor users.

granted, the founder of Cloudmark is Vipul Ved Prakash, the author of Vipul's Razor, so i guess he has his own reasons for obscuring the link between his company and the open-source project.

well, anyway, more power to you for working against spam! you've chosen an effective and worthwhile way to go about it, in my opinion. you also may want to take a look at this page, which gives detailed instructions for integrating the excellent SpamAssassin spam filter into Windows. once you get SpamAssassin working and tuned, it can automate this process further for you, by automatically tagging email according to the previous statistical history of what you personally have considered spam, and even (if you desire) reporting new spams to services like Cloudmark automatically (i believe).

on the other hand, that may be overkill if your spam problem is still mild.


Fri, Nov. 7th, 2003 08:43 am (UTC)

p.s. i have duly eaten my unfortunate hedgehog. i am confident that nothing worse will happen to either of us for the rest of the day. may i mock you now? :)

actually, rather than mocking you, i would suggest Bloomba to you as an alternate mail client. if i needed a Windows mail client, i would sure as heck use this one. pay particular attention to its search and indexing capabilities.


Fri, Nov. 7th, 2003 09:41 am (UTC)

A semi-related note on the concept of maintaining anonymity, were you aware of this: http://www.livejournal.com/users/volcanicglass/20864.html ?

Try entering you first initial and last name followed by your zip code in to Google sometime. A little weird.