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MMD > Archives > May 2003 > 2003.05.18 > 09Prev  Next


MMD E-Mail Problems
By John A. Tuttle

Spam - An Interesting Discovery

Hi All,  This posting is basically in response to Robbie's comment,
"So why is MMDigest declared to be spam?"

As we are all finding out, spam, or junk email, is a problem that is
being addressed in numerous ways by literally thousands of people
around the globe.  (By the way, there seems to be some disagreement
about what the word spam actually means.  Two meanings I've found are
"Specifically Persecuted Advertising Mail" and "Selective Promotion
Advertising Mail".)

 [ I believe those definitions are simply inventing the description
 [ to fit a pre-existing word -- "backing into an acronym", as it were.
 [ Certainly a new meaning of "spam" is unsolicited junk email.
 [
 [ "Spam" is (or was) a registered trademark of the Hormel company for
 [ their processed meat product.  The four-letter word acquired many
 [ other meanings after WW2, which is a fine topic for a report from
 [ our MMD old-timers in Great Britain!  ;-)  -- Robbie

The most common way to detect spam is through the introduction of a
filtering program that 'looks' for certain keywords or phrases in
either the subject, the text, or the header of the email.  The program
can be installed in any number of places, but they all reside somewhere
between the point of origin (of the email) and the end user (or you).

In some cases, there may be more than one program that filters your
email.  It all depends on how proactive you and/or your server are
about identifying and/or deleting such email.  The point here is that
you, the end user, need to know which filters are in place.  And,
it is incumbent upon you to know (or find out) exactly what is being
'filtered out' if you expect to get all of the email you 'want' to get.

That aside, let's examine why some email, like the MMDigest, gets
deleted or identified as spam.  First, the MMDigest typically contains
numerous URL's (or web addresses) in the hyperlink format.  This allows
the user (or reader) to simply click on the 'blue' link and go directly
(via a web browser) to that location.

While this is all well and good, such companies as AOL limit the number
of hyperlinks that are 'allowed' in a single email.  Once that number
is exceeded, the email is considered spam and it gets deleted from the
system.  Personally, I don't know the 'magic number' but the tests I've
run indicate that it is around seven.  So, one way to reduce the
possibility of the MMDigest getting identified as spam is to eliminate
the hyperlinks.  This is quite easy since all hyperlinks begin with
'http://' or 'https://'.

The downside of eliminating the hyperlinks is that if the user (or
reader) wants to visit that web site, they must copy/paste the web
address into their web browser manually.  In other words, by simply
changing the address from 'http://www.player-care.com' to
'www.player-care.com' it will no longer appear to be a hyperlink and
the filters will only 'see' it as text.  However, that same address
(www.player-care.com) can be copy/paste into the web browser and the
browser will automatically recognize it as a complete URL (or
http://www.player-care.com).  This is because ALL web addresses begin
with either 'http://' or 'https://' and the browser designers have
accommodated this fact for more than a decade.

Another problem with the MMDigest has to do with the text within the
[body of the] email.  Most email filtering programs look for the phrase
"to be removed".  This is because by law all spammers are required to
give the user a way to opt-out.  Of course, as most of us have
discovered, the links that are presented by the spammers for opting out
rarely lead to a valid opt-out system.  However, the editors of the
MMDigest could reduce the problem of getting identified as spammers by
changing "to be removed" to "if you would like to stop receiving" or
something other than 'to be removed'.

 [ I think Jody used the exact phrase "To be removed from this mail
 [ list" because we are supposed to follow the same laws as the
 [ spammers are supposed to obey.  -- Robbie

Frankly, the only way to insure that the MMDigest gets to your In box
is to examine all of the filters that are between you and the MMD.  The
easiest way to do this is to examine all of the supposed spam before
deleting it.  By checking the supposed spam before it gets deleted, you
can find out why it got identified as spam and then you can change one
or more of the filters so that the MMDigest gets through the system.

(Unfortunately, this might not be possible if your server acts as your
filtering agent.  However, it's my understanding that even companies
like AOL offer the user the ability to 'turn off' the filters.  And in
that case, you will have to install your own filtering program if you
wish to identify spam before it reaches your In box.)

In closing, this might seem a bit complex to some people.  But I can
assure you that things are only going to get worse (and more complex)
before they get better.  So, it truly is up to the user to learn how
and why their email system, and it's associated filters, work the way
they do.

The simple fact is that there are only so many things the originator
can do to help prevent their email from being identified as spam, and
it should also be plainly clear that the originators of spam are doing
exactly the same sorts of things.  The sad reality is that they can't
make any money if their email never reaches its intended destination.
So they are working overtime to come up with new and inventive ways to
'fool' the filters.  And keeping up of the spammers is a full-time job
because those who create the filters can only 'react' to the problem.

What someone needs to do is find a way to defeat the spammers, and
the person or group who finds the 'weapon' will become filthy rich
overnight!

(What's the old saying; "You have to think like a criminal to catch one".)

Musically,

John A. Tuttle
Player-care.com
(not 'www.player-care.com' or 'http://www.player-care.com')
Brick, NJ, USA

 [ Is "Player-care.com" your registered business trademark?  -- Robbie

P.S. Because of some of the words and phrases used in this posting,
it might never reach certain readers.  Oh, well...  Now imagine what
would happen if the government got involved -- ouch!  As some have
predicted, the Internet will eventually self-destruct.  That's sad.
I pity those who have 'put all their eggs in one basket' -- not too
smart...

 [ If MMDigest fails to arrive via email, our resourceful readers
 [ find the latest MMDigest at the MMD web site.  The "raw Digest"
 [ is posted to the web site even before the MMDigest transmission
 [ begins.  For example, 030517 MMDigest is at
 [ http://mmd.foxtail.com/Archives/RawDigests/03.05/digest.03.05.17.txt
 [
 [ To view other Digests, simply alter the sub-directory names in
 [ the URL to reflect the date.  The HTML version of 030517 MMDigest is
 [ at http://mmd.foxtail.com/Archives/Digests/200305/2003.05.16.html
 [ -- Robbie


(Message sent Sun 18 May 2003, 19:51:43 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  E-Mail, MMD, Problems

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