The State of My Mailbox – an Essay in 3 Parts

The Internet Patrol - Patrolling the Internet for You

by WD Basely

— Background —


This address has been in use for a long while; in Internet years I would call it middle aged. It has traveled around a good bit as well, having been used in various mailing lists, newsgroups and for myriad online signups for this and that.

In some significant ways it is not a typical email address, primarily because it has been used in anti-spam efforts. This has doubtless caused it to be even more exposed to millions CD’s and spam hydrants than it might have otherwise been.

I get a lot of mail to this address. A whole lot. It is on several high-volume mailing lists, plus it has been very well distributed to friends and acquaintances over the years.

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I get a lot of spam to this address. A whole lot. A whole stinking spewing heaving torrent of a lot of spam. I get so much spam to this address that I am compelled to turn on spaminator/brightmail/whatever-they-call-it-today at my service provider [1]. In addition to the aforementioned efforts by my service provider, I also do a fair bit of filtering/sorting/divining locally in an attempt to separate the wheat from the remaining chaff and to sort list mail into relevant heaps.

If I turn off my providers’ filters and rely solely on my local filters the incoming mailstream is so polluted as to render the address useless, primarily due to the amount of time needed to sift through the messages to find those I truly want.

 

For a great many practical, personal and selfish reasons I do not want this address to become useless to the point of having to abandon
it. Example: because it has been so widely distributed to friends and acquaintances (and because address book maintenance is still a manual
task), if someone were to give my email address to someone else it is extremely likely that this address would be the one they would give them.

— The current state of my mailbox —

Still quite usable. Local filters direct list mail into separate mailboxes. Other filters move suspect messages into yet another mailbox; that mailbox has lately seen only a few messages, all spam. Some spam still manages to elude all of the efforts arrayed against it and make its way to my inbox, but the volume is very manageable, barely worthy of calling an annoyance. A quick manual scan usually takes care of them.

Because of the level of filtering taking place and the very large volume of mail that gets deleted sight unseen, I worry sometimes about mail I’m not getting that I might have wanted to get. But I see almost no evidence of that having happened, of someone trying to reach me and not hearing back because I never saw their message. However I still occasionally delete legitimate mail in the course of my final manual scan of the inbox.

I am seeing more advertising mail from sites that have legitimately obtained my address. With very few exceptions the messages come from entities with which I have conducted business — mostly of the form of “I paid them money and they sent me stuff” but also some of “I gave them my contact information in exchange for a service”. Just today I received 4 such messages, which is a lot in one day, in my experience. Two of them were immediately nuked, the other two I took the time to read.

— Observations —

Email is a lively, active, and still quite useful communications medium.

There are, now more than ever, considerable resources expended for the purposes of killing off spam before it gets to my mailbox. Those efforts have become a requirement for the continued utility of email communications.

Stopping spam is a legitimate basis for a business, something that is not likely to change anytime soon. There is also enough history, experience, and assembled knowledge, and the need for people versed in same, to consider email spam a ‘field’ if you will — a resume entry at the very least, and often a good bit more than that.
Email client software, including webmail, should include filtering/sorting
via address book entries as a standard option. It should my-grandma-can-do-it easy to add/change/remove an address to/from the address book. In addition there should be a standard format so that address books can pass easily among various software and platforms.

Merchants seem to be losing their fear of using email to reach customers. They appear to be venturing forth while adhering to a high standard of permission and privacy.

(As noted earlier) I am taking the time to read commercial messages now. I am reading them because I now believe they may contain something I will find useful or valuable. I think this is all the more significant because of the history of my address, its use and misuse, and the years of built-up skepticism and distrust of such messages.

The concept of purely serendipitous email — that is, email that I didn’t know I wanted until I saw it — is a non-starter. Such messages are going have a very, very hard time being seen (at least by me) as long as there is spam.

There will always be spam.

WDB

[1] My service provider also does virus blocking, which I have intentionally left out of the above discussion. Virus-laden messages, even coming from friends, are nuke-on-sight AFAIC, and whoever wants the pleasure of doing so is welcome to it. Whoever does so, please accept my heartfelt thanks. You are doing the whole Internet a huge service. (But, at least for the time being, I’ll still keep my local virus definitions up to date.)

No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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