Thursday, August 21, 2008

SOFTWARE: The BULK of the Problem

I don't think much of the way, my ISP, handles my email. They pre-pend [BULK] to the subject header of just about every email sent my way. For a time, I trusted them to get rid of the spam before it arrived, until I discovered I wasn't getting some [important] emails. They were being deleted before I even had a chance to sick my multi-levels of spam-filtering on them.

To be honest, I got crabby over that.

It seems, rogers' spam filters thought a WHOLE LOT of stuff was spam that wasn't. That 'smack em all and let god (Ted Rogers) sort it all out' approach hurt more than it helped. For example, it nailed all newsletters as spam. For another example, the bad one, it treated back-and-forth threads, with multiple re: and fwd: indicators in the header as spam. It treated forwarded comments from this blog as spam. I know there is a joke in there, but I'm going to leave it at that.

So, I told rogers to stop 'protecting' me and let me do my own spam filtering. I have three sort-of active accounts going at rogers, plus two at gmail. Then there's the hidden five other ones at rogers that I use internally for a variety of things. Because I don't share them, I never get any spam in them ... excepting rogers' own internal spam to me. Oh, well.

NOW, HERE'S THE REASON you've kept reading this dreadfully dull dirge this far. IF you use rogers or your ISP similarly mass-mangles email headers for you, here is a simple filter that will result in 90-95 per cent of the spam you get, getting shuttled off to trash before you even see it. It comes with some warnings, so don't use if you have ANY questions. By the way, I assume the magic nasty work for the ISP is [BULK]. It might be something else. From here on, wherever you see [BULK], just substitute your won pejorative.

If you use EUDORA:

Go to Tools|Filters and get rid of most of the filters you have been using to try to divert spam from your inbox to the trash before you have to look at it, let alone deal with it. NOW, click on the NEW button to start a new filter. Change the Header to be Subject:. Leave the contains box alone. Then type [BULK] into the field beside Contains. Next, change the second condition field to 'and' and the second Header box to From:. Change Contains to 'doesn't intersect address book' and pick <> from the selection of address books offered. Finally, in action, change it to Transfer To, and when the button appears, click it and choose trash. Exit out of the filters screen and you have instant wisdom at hand.

For Thunderbird:

Click Tools|Message Filters to get to the Filter entry screen. Click the New Button and type in your filter's name. I suggest 'Get rid of [BULK] bleeeeep.' Now DOT the first condition to March ALL of the following. Leave Subject and Contains alone, and type in [BULK] in the third box. Now, click the little PLUS SIGN button to add a second condition. Change this line's Subject to From. Change Contains to "isn't in my address book." Finally, leave the default selection of Personal Address Book alone. Down in the Perform these actions area, leave Move Message To alone and change the offered destination to TRASH. Click OK.

For Outlook and any of its relatives:

Don't know. If you're still using it, you're missing a good reason to switch to one of the two preceding programs.

Why this works? Obviously, since most of your email gets tabbed as [BULK], most of your email will trip the first condition. Righteously. However, you don't want to lose those threaded emailed comings and goings. Thus, the second condition. If the sender isn't IN your address book, it's highly likely that you're probably going to think this email is spam.

What happens if it's a cold call, contacting your for business? Unlikely that rogers will originally tag it [BULK], since it's a one-off. What if it's a continued correspondence with somebody new, not yet in the address book? Well, you better put the new contact in the address book pronto. And while you're there, put in any newsletters you've subscribed to in the last little while.

By the way, you CAN cheat a little and use a variation on your name for the newsletter. Say your first initial and your middle name. THEN, create a filter to push off any responses using THAT name in the header and put that filter AHEAD of the [BULK] filter. Right now, my [BULK] filter is fourth, behind bridge, roto and delphi filters that send emails I get with those headers to various folders before being swallowed up by the all-encompassing clean-up filter.

In Conclusion:

If you aren't getting substantial spam (possibly because you do not actually HAVE an email account), or leaving spam-handling to gmail or yahoo or whatever, or aren't using an ISP that pre-scans your email, then NEVER MIND. Otherwise, give this little one-size-fits-all filter a try. Check your trash with a quick over-glance. You might want to divert to JUNK rather than TRASH if you feel a little nervous. But get rid or your junk AND your trash every now and then. It mounts up pretty quickly.

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