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Michael Gracie

Thomas Bayes – Good Guy

The Rev. Thomas Bayes was an Englishman who lived in the 1700s. While I suppose that religion was his primary work product, he did draft a paper which formed the basis for programs like SpamAssassin. Called Bayesian Reasoning (unfortunately some time after he passed on) , ol’ Rev. Bayes theorized that events that have already taken place might have some usefulness in calculating that something else might happen, even if the events seem quite independent.

To the average recipient of tons of spam, this might make things a little easier:

A system gets some email, and the user flags it as spam. The spam contains certain elements that make it so (say the word Viagra). As more email is put into the system, the user continues to “train” it by denoting messages as spam or not spam based on subjective criteria. As time passes, the system says “I just recieved an email, and it contains elements similar to those that were flagged as spam in the past, so I will give it a score, then see what else I can come up with”. If the system finds enough criteria similar to those that were in messages, received in the past that were flagged as spam, it will then flag the new message as spam.

For the complex answer, including a link to a stellar writeup on the subject, take a look at Sidebar: Bayes and His Theorem – Computerworld.

Spam is annoying, and…

the most recent study on spam and worker productivity is downright silly.

I was hoping that Spamroll could be THE source for skeptical, disagreeable, and sometimes outrageous laughter directed at the establishment, each and every they come out with a “study” that makes no sense whatsoever. I was the underdog, mostly because my site isn’t up yet, but Paul McNamara of Network World beat me to it anyway.
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CAN-SPAM poorly thought out, and everyone knows it

Network World ran an article a week or so back, postulating on the chance that an overzealous prosecutor (yes, I know that is an oxymoron) could use CAN-SPAM in an inappropriate fashion.

I have not studied the act in detail, but many have. Here are some of the responses in Mailbag: Thoughts on misusing the CAN-SPAM Act.

Please Mr. and Ms. Senators and Congresspersons, get some help next time, please.

If you want to read the original article, you can find it here: Could the CAN-SPAM law be misapplied?.

Proof Positive Spam Is Slowing

ComputerWorld just reported on the latest ultra-statistically significant study to come out of the fight on spam. In Symantec: Spam growth slowing at last – Computerworld, Brightmail, a subsidiary of Symantec, noted that in December, they received the same amount of spam they did in November (67% of total messages), and that they have seen only minor increases in the previous couple of months.

Meanwhile, MessageLabs data was entirely different. They state that the spam component of total email was 94% prior to the months in question, and that spam has actually fallen. Of course, MessageLabs runs a whole bunch of in-house Windows 2000 and NT4, so the fact that their numbers are so much higher comes as no surprise.

My conclusions:

1) Spammers took the month of December off just like everyone else;

2) Spammers have decided to pursue stealthly phishing techniques, because it pays better, and doesn’t mention the word Viagra; and

3) Nobody really knows what the heck is going on, but they are selling a lot of anti-spam software, so who cares.

Six Apart Guide to Comment Spam

Six Apart, the folks that bring you the MovableType Publishing Platform, recently released the Six Apart Guide to Combatting Comment Spam.

Pretty comprehensive look at the comment spam issue, and how to avoid big wastes of time deleting kazillions of un-approved comments that sound like complete nonsense, but do contain great links to cheap Viagra.

Anyway, between it, and a solid implementation of MT Blacklist, you should be wasting little time, and this is good. You will have to find another job in order to afford the pharmaceuticals at your local Walgreens, and this is bad.