Corpus reset

by Michael Alderete on 4/26/2005

SpamSieve, by far the best anti-spam email tool I’ve used, was updated to version 2.3 yesterday. The biggest change listed was increased accuracy, due to improvements in the tokenizers and parsers. John Gruber reported that the beta versions were running at 99.9% accuracy for him, which is several tenths of a percent above where I’d peaked.

When you get more than one thousand spams a week, you live for improvements of a couple of tenths of a percent. I of course upgraded immediately.

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Spam counts for 2004

by Michael Alderete on 2/22/2005

2004 was a big year for spam, after Congress voted to make it legal at the end of 2003. The result: spam increased sharply in 2004.

But in my own, more personal battles with spam I’ve been more successful at holding back the tide. My stats for 2004:

Filtered Mail
36278 Good Messages
72239 Spam Messages (67%)
197 Spam Messages Per Day

SpamSieve Accuracy
135 False Positives
451 False Negatives (77%)
99.5% Correct

Nearly seventy five thousand spam messages came at me, but thanks to SpamSieve a mere 451 made it into my Inbox. That’s less than two spams a day. Simply amazing.

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Personal survey of anti-spam tools

by Michael Alderete on 1/7/2005 · 12 comments

In the three or four years I’ve been fighting unwanted e-mail messages with better tools than the Delete key I’ve tried almost a dozen different tools. This is a quick (ha!) survey of the ones I’ve used, and why I don’t (or do) still use them.

My very first anti-spam tool was something called Mailfilter. I used it for my personal e-mail on Mac OS X, wrote about it here, and almost immediately afterwards lost a non-spam message to an aggressive keyword match. That was the end of Mailfilter. I can’t even remotely recommend it, as it’s just not intelligent enough (strict, single expression matching), and had zero safety net.

My next attempt at a solution was a utility called SpamFire. Like Mailfilter, it is a “pre-filter,” which means it would run before my e-mail client, download my mail, and skim out the spam. Unlike Mailfilter, it actually saved the trapped messages, so if it made a mistake, I could recover the message. It had plenty of other differences from Mailfilter, which I wrote about previously, and which made it so useful that it became the first anti-spam tool I paid for. But in the end I switched to a different tool because SpamFire was separate from my e-mail client, and that made it cumbersome to use.

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Spam count so far this year

by Michael Alderete on 3/29/2004 · 1 comment

With Q1-2004 coming to a close, I thought I’d take a look at my spam situation, which has been escalating out of control. Since 12:01am January 1, 2004 I have received 22,255 spam messages via e-mail. That’s more than 250 a day, every day, for the last 89 days. Earlier in the year, the daily average was lower, which means that in the last couple weeks it’s gone well above 250 per day.

In spite of these numbers, I have two things that give me hope.

First, SpamSieve is an amazing anti-spam filter that integrates well with Eudora. It’s far more reliable than the built-in SpamWatch feature that debuted in Eudora 6, primarily in the area of false positives (real messages mistakenly filtered out):

Filtered Mail

13565 Good Messages
22255 Spam Messages (62%)

SpamSieve Accuracy

21 False Positives
197 False Negatives (90%)
99.4% Correct

SpamSieve is award-winning software for Mac OS X, and it integrates beautifully with both Eudora and Mailsmith, the two best e-mail clients for the platform. I am getting to the point where I trust SpamSieve enough to just purge filtered e-mail without reviewing it.

Without SpamSieve, I would be going insane because of spam.

The second thing I have on my side is that more than half of my spam comes to one e-mail address, the oldest e-mail address I still use. If I were able to kill it, it would instantly cut off more than half of the spam. But, it’s the first permanent e-mail address I ever got, using the excellent mail forwarding service. I’ve had it for almost 15 years. Because it’s so old, I’m extremely reluctant to part with it — what if that’s the only address a long lost friend has?

Well, it looks like I can have my cake and eat it too. just introduced new spam filtering controls and services, which are far more effective than the old filters that were enabled on my account. Last night I turned them on, and already the amount of spam coming into my e-mail address has dropped to almost zero.

I wouldn’t exactly call this the turn of the tide, but it’s certainly encouraging. Because it’s my only hope to avoid having to look at 100,000 spam messages in 2004, which is where the growth curve points, if there isn’t change.

I’ll let you know how it’s looking when Q2 is over.

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