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Technology

Fun with spam

September 28th, 2007 by Jeff | 2 Core Dumps

I can’t think of anybody who actually likes spam. Well, aside from spammers, of course. After all, those guys obviously make thousands, if not millions, of dollars from gullible, attention-starved sellers looking to get noticed by any means, no matter how disreputable. And those being advertised obviously keep coming back because they’re making dough off of the few idiots out there that actually buy spam-advertised products. But the rest of us–the poor, innocent Internet users just trying do our thing, not looking for trouble–we’re the ones getting caught in the deluge. We’re the ones paying for the bandwidth, the filtering, the time sorting through all their mess, trying to decide whether we should reclaim our inboxes or abandon them altogether.

Personally, I have a three-tiered spam filtering solution. It’s a bit convoluted, but it works with a minimum of false positives. Currently, all my mail from their various sources is first redirected to my Pobox.Com account. I’ve been a happy Pobox user since college, when I realized that I was going to graduate soon and I’d have to tell all my friends and family to change their contact lists. Pobox lets you keep the same virtual address while your real address can change behind the scenes, so you never have to give out a new one. This was actually a great idea… before the advent of spam. Honest. Now, not so much. These days, I keep my Pobox address mostly because of their incredible spam filtering, which combines dozens of blacklists and other rules that you can customize. Pobox bounces the most blatant spam offenders, holds most of the rest in case of false positives, then sends me the rest along with a report of what was bounced or held. Anything that gets through Pobox is then forwarded to my GMail account, which has its own very excellent filters. (It’s Google. If anyone knows anything about indexing and analyzing text, it’s them.) Finally, I POP my GMail down to Thunderbird, which filters the incoming message even further. This whittles the thousands of spam messages I get per week (at least 3000 at my last count) down to virtually none, with only a handful that I have to handle manually each day.

None the less, there’s a good bit of humor to be found in spam. I often double-check my Pobox discard report and my GMail and Thunderbird spam folders for false positives, scanning subject lines to make sure I don’t lose the odd piece of fan mail or legitimate commercial message from businesses I actually choose to interact with. And I often find a few gems in there, the odd little quirk that for whatever reason gives me a chuckle. Let me share a few….

  • It’s generally not a good idea to advertise online gambling to someone who is morally opposed to gambling in any form.
  • While their concern may be noteworthy, my wife’s and my sex life is none of their business. We’re both quite happy with the size of things as they are, and we’re not looking for any form of pharmaceutical aid.
  • While we’re at it, your sex life is none of my business. I don’t care what slips out of where when you’re doing whatever, or if something is too big or too tiny to do what you want. I don’t have any advice that will help you, and I can’t tell you how to “fix” it.
  • I check my PayPal account regularly on my own. I think I’d know if my account was suspended or if I needed to update any information.
  • “This is not for idiots”, but it was definitely sent by one.
  • Gett a XvcezD3 sp3lLch3kker, UuU m0r0n. Th3r3 noTT th4t HARRD 2 uze.
  • Why should I update my account information with a bank that I have no accounts with?
  • It doesn’t matter if you flood my subject line with 10k Japanese or Chinese characters. I can’t read kanji anyway.
  • I must be a sleep-spammer, because 50%+ of all bounced spam in my Pobox report comes from my own addresses. It’s funny, though… I don’t recall sending mail from Romania. I must be sleep-world-traveler as well.
  • “Cameron Diaz goes bra-less”: And I care… why?
  • “Please Confirm Date”: But we’ve barely met. Oh, all right… but you’re buying dinner.
  • “Photos of $FEM_FIRST have been updated”: Guys… use double-quotes in Perl to interpolate a variable. Sheesh, amateurs.
  • And my all time favorite: Recently, I’ve received a number of what are undoubtedly phishing scams, trying to hack into my e-mail account. What really makes it funny is that the “from” address claims to be from “support” or “admin – at – gpf-comics.com”, with subject lines like “Your email account will be suspended” or “Your Email Account Has been Blocked”. Considering that I own the gpf-comics.com domain and I have a great deal of trust in the guys who run the mail server for me… I somehow find it highly unlikely that my mail has been suspended. (If it had, how would I get that message?)
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