Wednesday, December 06, 2006

How to knock out spam

Using new tricks to bypass filters, spammers have sharply increased the amount of spam coursing through the net, the New York Times reports in today's editions.

OK, now here's a way to fix the problem of unsolicited email:

Your email provider includes an option that automatically sends an incoming message to your junk mail box unless it has one of two recognition signals: either the sender's address is in your address book or the subject line includes a pre-arranged code word.

The reason for the second option is that you may wish to receive unsolicited mail from a certain pool of individuals. You might circulate the codeword informally; or your group might have a codeword system: say, your initials followed by a 1 followed by the first part of your email address, as in sam_spade_09110@yahoo.com gets codeword ss1samspade09011. In other words, members of your group would know how to formulate the proper codeword for your subject line.

Another possibility is to post a specific codeword on a home page. Though spammers might get wise, they would have to search home pages manually. Automated scanner programs would be defeated by telling your reader to use the codeword "s s 1 s a m s p a d e 0 9 1 1 0" but to not include the spaces. Or the codeword might be run down the page thus:
s
s
1
s
a
m
s
p
a
d
e
0
9
1
1
0

Or, if a pattern distortion program isn't available, a photo of the codeword drawn in a distorted but readable style could be included on the homepage.

Of course, a lot of people won't bother with such filters. So if they don't care, then more spam to 'em. Meanwhile, those who do care can eliminate all or most spam.

I should point out that Ztalk is the blog associated with my newsletter Znewz1, which is sent out unsolicited to media professionals.

Hopefully, media people who want to keep up with what's going on here will pass the word to read the blog. Then I won't have to worry about being a bad spam guy.

Why don't people simply subscribe to Znewz1 as they do to other newsletters? Yes indeed. Good question. Either the content is far below par or there is a force blocking those who would solicit the newsletter. Sometimes that force seems to emanate from the business office of the news organization in question. That is, the business office forbids the firm's news professionals from deciding for themselves whether they want to receive the newsletter by blocking it with a spam-bounce program. That shows that there are people who don't want editors and reporters to read my stuff.

And that tends to indicate that these people in the business office have associates in other business offices and in government offices who don't want news people to read my stuff.

This may sound somewhat speculative. However, I have repeatedly pointed out that the tendency to change my hit counters on some of my pages downward has a political motive. Fewer readers translates as less political influence. Likewise, the tendency to make references to my pages vanish from Google has the same purpose. A seeming lack of interest implies low political influence.

And a low subscription rate creates the impression of a lack of interest and low political influence.

I recall when Yahoo changed its rules to block "spam" at my level. The Znewz1 list has only a few hundred entries. But Yahoo was determined to limit its own list system, even when the list numbers indicated noncommercial material. The company imposed a block on a list of the length used by Znewz1.

So I broke up the list into smaller lists. A short time later a new limit showed up. There was a maximum number of emails I could send out in a day. Later Yahoo lowered the time interval to an hour or two (I forget). But, at any rate, I broke up the email lists between two Yahoo accounts with similar addresses. After that the folks at Yahoo started using pattern recognition programs to make sure the sender wasn't an automated program. Gee, they could have done that in the first place.

So now I use two accounts and haven't had a spate of changes that try to trim sending in quite some time. But I have experienced weird changes -- that occur haphazardly -- whereby Yahoo accounts refuse to transmit hyperlinks live, thus reducing readership potential, or that drop them from a forwarded message, thus killing readership potential. Perhaps things would go better if I switched to Yahoo beta. I've tried it, but it is annoyingly difficult to use with lists.

Also, my blogs on Google's Blogger, including this one, publish hyperlinks dead or alive, usually dead.

Oh yes. There once was an option on the Blogspot settings page to switch on a service that people who keep track of blog changes could use. That is, if someone wanted to be notified when a new post was published on Znewz1, they need only notify this service which would function if I gave permission.

You guessed it. That option has vanished from my Blogspot blogs.

The ending of that option, after I came to Blogspot, tends to reduce readership by busy professionals, of course.

Oh, one more point: I receive Google alerts for blog postings about 9/11. I have yet to be alerted to one of my own 9/11 posts (the mail and blog accounts are different).

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