Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Check Your Spam Folder

E-mail has become as common as picking up the phone to dial (or push buttons.) But whenever something is in widespread use, there are always culprits trying to mess with a good thing. First the telephone was invented, then you started getting obscene and prank phone calls. Eventually Caller ID was born to help avoid answering an unidentifiable call.

The same holds true for e-mail. People around the globe feel it necessary to send you alerts about some two cent stock that will hit the charts the next day, or inform you how cheap you can buy prescription drugs online. Or worse to spread computer viruses through various means via e-mail. To combat that problem, many e-mail providers have developed this lovely little folder called "Spam" - the name given to undesirable or unsolicited e-mail sent in bulk. There was even legislation passed - the CAN-SPAM Act - to control the actions of guilty parties. So, everyone raise their hands in praise, no more Spam!

Yeah, right.

Solving this problem seemed easy, right? Just set up some rules and allow all the spammy mail to land in a designated "Spam" or "Junk" folder. Wrong. Oh yeah, it captures a good number of these nastygrams, but many a good e-mail gets sucked up in these folders. I've had some recent issues with my BellSouth e-mail (I have 4 e-mail addresses to manage all my communication) Evidently BellSouth has had some culprits issuing spam from their domain name, causing all bellsouth.net e-mails to get blacklisted from some e-mail servers. If I've had this conversation once, I've had it five times in the last week:

Me: "Did you get my e-mail?"
Them: "No"
Me: "Did you check your spam or junk folder?"
Them: "No"
Me: "Well, do that because it's probably there."

For all you non-techhies out there that just empty those folders without a quick scan, here's some food for thought. Let's say you were getting a lot of visitors at your home that were a little sketchy. To avoid having to open the door everytime someone arrived, you rigged a robot to stand at your door and determine who is legit and who isn't. Chances are some of your best friends might get turned away. Robot failed.

Well, that's the methodology behind Spam and Junk folders. They are trying to determine automatically and technologically, what is and isn't spam. Chances are those directions to this weekend's party got sucked away into SpamLand simply because it was sent to multiple addresses. The moral of the story? Check your spam folder...

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