McGarvey’s Words

by Robert McGarvey

re: Canned Spam


Taos Land Sale

Here's What You Are Saying: Letters to McGarvey's Words .

 Back Pages:

o World Phones, Part I

o World Phones, Part II

o World Phones, Part III

o Car Phoning -- legislative lunacy and easy cures

o Palms Away: Travels with a Palm.

o Email-CountryOf Ricky Skaggs, cruising, Yahoo, and the ubiquity of email.

O Google Spying: Much ado about something good.

o Memory Loss: What do we miss when a hard drive crashes?  Little things mainly.

o Ebay and the triumph of ecommerce.

o VirtualOffice: The best travel bag.

o AOL Rules

oChangingTravel: New rules for a new century.

o Hotels: Never over-spend; read McG's rules.

o Cooking Schools for road warriors

o NotMicrosoft: Beat the Beast

o Junkmail: the war on spam.

o Spam: More Tools for the war



I am tasting victory in my personal war against Spam and this is as delicious as a first sip of a vineyard-designated Ravenswood zin (which is mighty good indeed – and perhaps just the thing to crack open to celebrate this triumph).

When I log on in the a.m. now I get 5, perhaps 10 emails neatly deposited in my inbox.  These are emails that genuinely warrant my attention. The rest – the herbal viagra, Asian teenagers, bad credit re-fis, many dozens of them and more every day – are diverted to a Spam folder that I am free to ignore.

What’s my secret: Bloomba beefed up with SAproxy, free downloads from Stata Labs.  I have had them on the job for one month now and each day I grow more impressed with how efficiently Bloomba purges my incoming mail of Spam.

SAproxy supposedly works with other email clients but Stata Labs says the integration is tightest with Bloomba and that’s the configuration I went with.  Bloomba, frankly, isn’t the most elegant email program – the file/archiving system is clunky; there’s no way that I see to hook it up with a calendar; and you cannot maintain an address book (although it does note and save addresses of incoming and outgoing mail).  But Bloomba works OK and in my tests I’m more keenly interested in whacking Spam than in smoothness of the email app.

And the SAproxy-Bloomba duo is proving an absolute champ in killing off incoming Spam.  My favorite from today’s batch – “No Perscription Required Cheap Prices,” promises Molly Light who, apparently, is so zapped on Zanax that orthography has been tossed aside. Forty, fifty and more such missives are intercepted by Bloomba every day.  

Question: does anybody, ever, buy anything from Spammers?  Conventional advice in articles like this is always to say, never, ever buy from these junk emailers – but I won’t insult your intelligence because only a Village Idiot would respond to these emails littered with bad spelling, bad grammar, and bad promises.  My best guess is that the only profits getting made in this sector is by the peddlers of bulk email software.

But we are left to deal with the daily deluge of junk email and that is why I applaud Stata Labs.  Other programs I have looked at just don’t cut it for a business person – they are centered around  "white lists” of approved senders (usually culled from an address book) or they require senders to do something (answer an email, for instance) before they allow the email to come into my inbox.  But I cannot afford to erect more barriers between me and customers, prospects and alliance partners so such tools are definitely non-starters for executives.

Bloomba does miss some (to my eyes) obvious Spam.  Today for instance there’s “Earn a Paralegal Degree Online,” “Always-Prepared First Aid Kit,” and perhaps 10 more pieces of junk.  But the software features a button ("Delete as Spam”) that lets users help train the programs to better sort email.  And, frankly, annoying as Spam may be I’d prefer Bloomba errs, as it does, on the cautious side.  I don’t want an email app that aggressively stomps out every email that has a slightly porky smell.  Let me do the final pruning, and that is exactly what Bloomba does.

Another quirk: in the month I've tested it, Blooma has twice fingered emails as Spam that were nothing of the kind.  One was a personal email, sent only to me, by an editor at Men's Fitness.  Hard to figure how the technology burped but good advice is to at least eyeball the Spam headers once a day or so, just to doublecheck that only garbage has been zapped.

One definite drawback to the Stats Labs solution – the email is delivered to your computer, Spam included, and regular readers will recall that a pet peeve of mine is the time wasted sitting in hotel rooms watching junk trickle in on a dial up connection.  No help there from Bloomba, alas.

But there is help from Spamache, a prime contender for world’s ugliest website, but this is a good, valid Spam-eating tool that destroys Spam at the server level.  Every 10 minutes Spamache logs onto your email server and grabs up all and only Spam, which it deposits on a Spamache server for your later review.  One gripe about the review page – it doesn’t show the sender, just the subject and size of the email.  But that is a cavil.  For $6.99/month, Spamache delivers peace to business travelers.  When you access email with a dial-up modem on the road, you'll received only legit stuff, no Spam. Log on to its server only when you’re back in the office (that is, connecting at high speed).. In my tests Spamache did a terrific job of Spam eating – in week one alone it culled 350 Spams from my incoming and only two proved to be false positives.  If much of your time is spent doing email at hotel in-room desks, Spamache may be the tool you’ve waited for.  A one-week trial is free so give it a go.

It is too early to proclaim victory over Spammers but, suddenly, I am feeling more optimistic than I have in months.  Legislative action (a la the “do not call” registry) seems an ever more unlikely solution, if only because Spammers often are offshore and the ones who aren’t seem too, well, dumb to take much note of laws.  The big ISPs such as AOL still seem to incline towards timidity in filtering out Spam.  (Does anyone still check Hotmail accounts?  Mine has more Spam than a vacant Carolina lot has kudzu in the summer. )  

That puts the ball in our hands and, between Stata Labs and Spamache, I am eyeing a bottle of Ravenswood as I get nearer to proclaiming victory in my war on Spam.

How do you fight Spam?  Tell us what and why and the best emails will go here.

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 Copyright 2003 by Robert McGarvey

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About Robert McGarvey

Author of How to Dotcom (Entrepreneur Press), McGarvey is writing a book on Brain Wars, the rise of cognitive science and the search for truths about thinking.  A onetime columnist for, he is a frequent contributor to dozens of magazines, ranging from American Legion to Selling Power, American Way, and Rutgers. He has also contributed to Harvard Business Review.   For the past five years, he has served as "The Ombudsman" for PORTHOLE Cruise Magazine.  Still curious about McGarvey? Read up on him here. 

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