Canning Spam

I've tried many ways to can spam, and I can't say any of them is even 99 percent effective. But I have reduced the amount of time I spent dealing with spam by about 90 to 95 percent, which is at least a couple of hours a week.What do I do? First, SpamAssassin lives on my server. SpamAssassin uses a complex set of rules and can check a database of user-contributed spam to assign a score. SpamAssassin throws away several hundred messages a day for me that I never even download because they score so high on the spam-o-meter. Not everyone can use SpamAssassin -- it has to live on the server. But most ISPs now offer some kind of spam filtering option. I use Fastmail.fm to retrieve and send email via a secure Web connection when I'm on the road and away from a real Internet connection, and they offer both virus scanning and various levels of spam filtering. Ditto Earthlink and many others. Second, I use Bayesian filtering on my local email client. The spam that passes SpamAssassin gets checked using the Mac-only SpamSieve which looks at statistical analyses of email that you mark as ham (good) or spam (bad) to assign a probability that a given incoming message is spam or not. It's pretty accurate, and catches most of the rest. Another interesting option is challenge-and-response email. Mailblocks asked me to test their email service for a potential article a few months ago. I rewired two old addresses -- one of them in operation since May 1994 and thus spam-a-rama-attractive -- to point to my Mailblocks account. Until and unless I block certain addresses, any incoming message receives a unique confirmation response. The sender has to respond to the human-only challenge (an image that a computer can't parse) to have their message to me and subsequent messages approved without a further challenge. This works exceptionally well. My account has processed 10,000s of messages, and the handful of messages (maybe 10 a month) from old friends and colleagues manage to get through since they bother to answer the challenge. This isn't appropriate for everyone because it requires an account that you don't mind if some people won't bother to answer the challenge on -- thus, not a working freelancer email account like my primary one. But for home users and many business owners, challenge and response with Mailblocks would be an enomous aid,. Mailblocks accounts' messages can be retrieved via the Web or an IMAP-capable mail browser.