Monitoring the online customer experience, by Mark Hurst.
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Spam is not a problem

Friday, May 30, 2003
by Mark Hurst

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I receive about 150 spam e-mails a day. At night, between the time I leave the office and when I arrive in the morning, I'll get around 100 new messages - almost all of them spam. This is at least double the amount of spam that I was getting a year ago. By next year, I may be getting 300 spams daily. But I'm not worried.

Spam is not a problem.

I spend less than two minutes per day dealing with my incoming spam, which is well above the average user's load. I do this without any special spam software, external Web-mail services, or any other plug-in. I merely use a simple method, which draws on no other technology than a few filters in my low-tech e-mail client (Claris Emailer, published in 1996).

Spam isn't a problem for me, and it shouldn't be a problem for you.

There are four steps to gaining control over the spam invading your e-mail inbox:

- Step 1 (20 minutes, one time only): Learn how to create a mail filter in your e-mail program. One resource is my free e-mail report.

- Step 2 (30 minutes, one time only): Create a few main filters that will catch 80% of your current spam load. Here are the four that do most of the work for me:

- Ignore (i.e. don't filter or act on) any mail that is from someone in your address book.

- Filter to "purgatory" (a mail folder for suspected spam mails) any e-mail containing the letters ""... i.e. filter out any HTML mail from unknown senders.

- Filter to purgatory any e-mail with six consecutive space characters in the Subject line.

- Automatically delete any e-mail containing any of the various bad words that you expect to see in s-xually explicit spam.

- Step 3 (1 minute per week): Every week or two, create a new filter for any spam message that you're receiving repeatedly. This will raise your spam filters' accuracy over 90%.

- Step 4 (2 minutes per day): Spend a few seconds every day deleting any spam that eludes your filters, and visually scanning your "purgatory" folder for any legitimate mails that ended up there (and then deleting the rest).

All told, your time investment is less than an hour to get started, and about two minutes per day after that. The cost, of course, is free. The return on this investment is significant: more productivity, less stress, and more confidence in your use of technology.

This spam solution, and many other e-mail management tips, are in my free report, "Managing Incoming E-mail: What Every User Needs to Know." (For those of you who read it last year, I've just updated it with new pointers to recent articles on spam.)

Finally, I should note that there are many ways of solving the spam problem; mine is just one. For example, many people use services that ask senders to prove that they aren't spammers by completing an online "test" (usually recognizing a word placed inside a graphic). Other people hope that the government will solve the problem. (Keep hoping.) My contention is that more technology, or more laws, may solve the problem in the end, but for now it's up to each individual user to make a small investment of time and effort to manage their e-mail on their own.

Start by reading the report.

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Download the e-mail report.

Saul Hansell recently wrote a column listing seven technology and government-based spam solutions - unfortunately with no mention of a user-based solution like the one above.

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