Make Your Spam Filters Work For You

We all know what email spam is, and anyone who spends more than a little time online, has gotten more than their share of the stuff. It’s the scourge of the internet world, and the one real chink in the armor of the webs first real killer application . . . email. Most of us probably can’t remember how we managed to survive without email, and far fewer of us, remember a day when spam was just a really cheap and questionable luncheon meat byproduct.

Fortunately for us net-citizens, the good guys have been battling the evil forces of email spam pretty much ever since that first ludicrous email was sent out questioning thousands of men’s manhood and potency. Unfortunately, spam blocking, and spam filtering is not an exact science today, and likely never will be. It always needs a little supervision and feeding from the good users of all those email services. Free or otherwise. I’d like to make a few suggestions, as to how to make your filters work better for you.

Throw Away Email

While this suggestion may not be really considered a filter, it is probably the most effective method of combating personal spam as any. That would be, a throw away email address. With the plethora of free email accounts available out there, this one is a no-brainer. It’s always a good idea, to have one email account, that you use to give out to all those website offers, and forums that require one before letting you use their service. Whenever I sign up for any service that I’m not all that familiar with, I make sure to give them my throw away email account. I rarely if ever check this account. If at some point down the road I feel comfortable with the web service or forum, than I’ll change my account information to reflect my “real” email account. The one I usually only give to family, friends, and trusted sites. Think of this throw away email account, as one big spam folder. This technique kind of makes you the filter, by using your own common sense as a filter for whom to trust with your personal email information.

Teaching Your Filter Right From Wrong

As I mentioned earlier, your spam filters are not perfect. They can all benefit from a little guidance. It’s important, to not just delete spam from your email inbox every morning with a vengeance. It’s far better to flag it as spam. Most email providers provide this feature somewhere prominently displayed on their email screen. If your email software doesn’t, then it’s time for a switch. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Excite all provide this functionality. When you flag incoming spam mail as spam, your teaching your email filter to be a better filter. Filters make a best guess as to what is spam based on a very complicated set of algorithms running behind the scenes. Every email provider has slightly differ rules they follow, but the one rule they all follow is secrecy. They’ll never divulge how they identify email spam, to anyone, including you their client. It would make it to easy for the spam kings to use it to their advantage. The point is, that when you flag spam, you make the spam filter a little smarter for you, and for everyone else. Most filters will collect flagging information from all their customers, and use it as a filter for everyone’s email, not just the original flagger. So, don’t just delete your spam, flag it.

And Vice Versa

Of course, the opposite is true. Sometimes filters can be a little too aggressive, and important personal emails you really need, can end up in your spam folder. Be sure to check your folder whenever your reading your email. And, don’t just move any good emails you find to your inbox. Tell your filter this is real email, and not spam. Once again, most email software provides this feature, and if it doesn’t then move to one of the previously mentioned that do. This works the same way as before, and makes your spam filtering better for you, and everyone else that uses your email provider.

Who knows, with a little perseverance from the good citizens of the net, maybe our grand kids will only know spam as that somewhat questionable luncheon meat ;)