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 .....