I receive between 300 and 400 spam emails every day. Spam is not just an annoying time waster, but it is also beginning to strangle email as a useful means of communicating and as an appropriate marketing tool. Unfortunately, there are very few solutions to this problem. Most anti-spam efforts being made today focus on dealing with the spam you get, rather than eliminating it. This month's newsletter provides an overview of the growing problem, some tips for staying off as many spam lists as possible, and some advice on how to contend with the spam you are already receiving.
There are five stages we all go through as we deal with spam. The first stage is bewilderment. The first time we receive spam we are bewildered at why we've received an unsolicited invitation to meet with someone we've never heard of, or why we've been offered a solution to grow more hair, or why a senior aid to an African dictator needs our help to protect 10 million dollars. At first we are genuinely perplexed and not sure what to do with this information. The second stage is anger. As we continue to receive more and more email we start angrily clicking on the "remove me from list" link, or we might reply to messages with angry requests to be removed from the list that sent us the email. By replying, we are unwittingly helping the spammers by confirming that our email address works. As a result we get more and more spam. The third stage is frustration. As the amount of spam we receive increases, we are forced to spend more and more time slogging through it. The fourth stage is sophistication. At some point we get used to distinguishing spam from real email, and can quickly scan our inbox to identify and delete the spam. We might even learn how to set some email filters to automatically move email with certain words directly into the trash. Ultimately however, spam will win. Finally, we reach the fifth stage when we come to realize that we need an automated way of managing this problem. At this stage we resign ourselves to having to pay for a special service or software that will help us contend with spam.
I'll share some recommendations for some of these tools later, but first I'll share some tips on how to minimize or slow down the amount of spam you receive.