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Weblog Entry

Re-mail

October 19, 2006

Not that I’m the first person to think this way, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that email is a dead medium.

I’m up to 150 new messages or so everytime I check certain accounts. Two or three are legit, and generally only 1 is even remotely useful. My junk folder fills up with thousands and thousands of useless messages between cleanings, and it’s not even remotely plausible to browse through it looking for false positives anymore.

The latest development is that I’m beginning to lose the ability to communicate with people. Twice in as many weeks, I have had to run through a list of email addresses with the other party on the phone, trying to find one that hasn’t been blacklisted by their mail server yet. I’ve been able to make a backup address work, but for how long? Thanks for trying, SpamCop, but please go away now. You’re making my ability to do business very difficult.

I’d ask if anyone has any fixes, but well… This is starting to feel like a pretty futile war. When do we all just give up and try something else instead?


1
Blake says:
October 19, 15h

I’m not sure that I understand what you think the problem is. Yeah, spam is annoying. And sometimes a particular address has gotten on so many lists that you just need to start over. I have never had a problem with my address being blacklisted, though.

2
October 19, 15h

I think I am some time in the not-so-distant-future going to apply a white-listing approach. At least on my personal mail. There exists solutions where people that are not on my whitelist, will receive a bounceback explaining they’re inexistance on my whitelist, and require another reply (possibly with some sort of code to add), which would automatically validate them and add them to my whitelist. This would, I hope, automatically disable spammers’ mail to arrive in my inbox, as I doubt they’ll actively reply to the bounceback. But obviously this is an annoyance for the ones that want to send something relevant to me - and that’s why I don’t think I’ll enable this sort of feature on my business mail.

To prevent some of the annoyance, I could of course add new people to the whitelist if I’m expecting mail from them. And if someone abuses their whitelisting, I’ll just blacklist them.

Although, actually, I can’t say I receive that many spam-mails in my personal inbox anymore. Either it’s caught by MailScanner on the server, or by Apple Mails junk-filter.

3
October 19, 15h

Blake, Dave’s point is that email is becoming less and less effective as a communications tool - not that blacklisting is his problem. The problem is much bigger than that. The question is: What’s the alternative?

4
Joshua says:
October 19, 15h

I don’t think the fight is futile and it sounds like you need a different strategy. I’ve always found email to be fine.

First, I’d use a good email service like .Mac or something instead of relying on your own domain email. Letting a company that deals with thousands of email addresses work on the spam problem instead of worrying about it myself has been a huge advantage for me.

I ditched having the multiple “spam” addresses a couple years ago and have relied solely on my .mac address for everything. Do I still get spam? Yes. About 1 a day during the heavy seasons, but usually about 3, maybe 4 per week. Of that, 90% is caught by my junk filter.

And I’m NOT careful, I sign up for EVERYTHING with it. I’ve also never had my .mac account blacklisted.

Your situation sounds really out of control to me, definitely not the norm. If you don’t want to pay for email either I’ve heard that gmail and other free services are good about that stuff as well, but I’ve always had an amazing experience with .mac so I just stick with it.

But… wow… that’s bad. (thousands?!?)

5
Mike D. says:
October 19, 15h

I was *just* about to post a similar, possibly much longer post about this. I have a million problems with email right now, but most of them are related to my increasing inability to attend to them. I used to respond to everybody. Now it’s like 10%.

BUT, to your spam issues: I’ve come to the conclusion that the useful life of a relatively spam-free e-mail address is about three years (if you’re careful). Every three years (or when it becomes a problem), simply change your e-mail address. Send out one e-mail to everyone in your address book telling them about your new address and then turn on an auto-responder at your old address simply pointing people to your web form. If people *really* want to get ahold of you, they should have no trouble finding you. The last time I did this was three years ago and it went flawlessly. The next time I do it will probably be next week.

6
Luke says:
October 19, 15h

Same here - I never really been blacklisted. Spam is annoying, but I just don’t see anything that could replace email.

IM is nice, but it has the same downfall as phone communication. When I code, or work on something important I do not want to be interrupted - I want to be able to receive and send messages quickly, but on my own schedule.

7
October 19, 15h

I’m under the impression that dumb people shouldn’t be allowed to have email addresses. I’m referring to the idiots that actually click through and *gasp* buy something via spam.

It’s just way too easy for these spammers…they send out hundreds of thousands (millions?) of spam emails a day and get results based soley on the huge number of spam emails he/she sends.

The problem lies in the disposibility and illegitimacy of an email addresses. It’s too easy to get an email address, cloak an email, and stay anonymous. Email is just old technology but there’s nothing better (yet) that could take its place.

8
Dave S. says:
October 19, 15h

“I have never had a problem with my address being blacklisted, though.”

That’s likely the part you don’t understand then. Try sending an important email to a business contact from two different addresses, both getting rejected by their server, before using a third supposed-to-be-personal address out of desperation.


“Letting a company that deals with thousands of email addresses work on the spam problem instead of worrying about it myself has been a huge advantage for me.”

Good point. That’s worth a hundred bucks a year.


“I used to respond to everybody. Now it’s like 10%.”

Yeah, there’s that too. At any given time I have hundreds of legit emails to reply to. I think it was Lessig that wrote about declaring email bankruptcy recently; I can relate.

9
October 19, 16h

Gmail also does a good job of spam filtering. It works about the same as .mac using a community flagging system (so I’ve heard).

I have Media Temple, and they have a built-in spam filter which I’ve been using and has been somewhat effective. If I forward that through gmail and then receive it on Apple Mail, that means my email would be running through 3 filters.

I wonder how well this would work?

10
John says:
October 19, 16h

I use a company that deals with millions of emails and it’s free.
Gmail
Get over having a @myowndomain.com and life becomes a whole lot easier.

11
John says:
October 19, 16h

I use a company that deals with millions of emails and it’s free.
Gmail
Get over having a @myowndomain.com and life becomes a whole lot easier.

12
Chris G. says:
October 19, 16h

I use Gmail to filter out the spam. I then download via POP3 to my e-mail client (Apple Mail).

It is extremely rare (maybe 5 times a week) where a message slips through both Gmail’s and Apple Mail’s filters. I probably get around 500 spam e-mails a day on Gmail as well, thanks to an old e-mail address forwarding to it.

The best part is thanks to Google’s search abilities, I can instantly search the spam for something if it was caught by the filter by accident. Which happens maybe once a month…at most.

It makes e-mail usable again.

13
October 19, 16h

This is why, for communication with my clients, I rely heavily on Basecamp and Campfire.

The most satisfying solution would be to send all spammers to Gitmo…

14
October 19, 17h

I can’t help thinking that public floggings for spammers might be a nice start, but sillyness aside…

I have to use a lot of tricks to keep email usable. I actually went so far as to explain to a friend a while back that while the e-cards were lovely, could they please use my throw-away email address to send them? An email only has to get out to one source and you’re gone.

So, throwaway emails for public sites; everything run through Gmail for convenience and hive-mind spam filtering. My own domain emails are all forwarders that can be turned into autoresponders if needs be (legit users who actually read the reply will be directed to a URL with a throwaway email to re-establish contact).

Ultimately I think we’ll end up with email whitelists; paired with web request forms where people can send an initial contact. We’d still have to process requests, but I’d still prefer that over losing contact with old friends :)

15
October 19, 18h

I agree with the GMail fans–the spam filter is very good, and improves over time.

Also, they have this “send mail as” feature, so I can use the me@mydomain.com return address.

16
Jake says:
October 19, 18h

I have a gmail to which all of my other addresses are forwarded. I download all of the messages into Evolution. (This gets most of the spam) I use Sendmail to send everything, and I have all of my addresses set up. Thus, my spam problem isn’t there. Sure, I get several hundered a day, but its once every month that I see a piece of spam.

17
Alypius says:
October 19, 18h

Dave, there are very few accurately tweaked blacklist providers. Most are afraid to be “too loose”, not because that would make them useless (blocking 70% of your spam is still very valuable) but because they want the high block counts for their figures. There are even lists like FIVETENIGNORE who block spammers at the IP subnet level. Meaning, if your hosting a mail server even next to a spammer (ip addressing-wise) you get blacklisted. Sadly, there are many email administrators who install blacklists suites, which for some ridiculous reason, include lists like FIVETENIGNORE.

It’s our job as IT professionals to inform our clients when their email admins are acting ignorantly. Let them know their email addess has essentially been placed within a virtual bunker and they need to lobby for changes to their SPAM handling procedures.

Use DNS Stuff to track down problem blacklists:
http://www.dnsstuff.com/tools/ip4r.ch?ip=

18
October 19, 19h

I rely on the services of mailnull.com (similar to Gmail’s + aliasing) to help me stop junk mail directed at a particular address. It’s pretty geeky I guess, but when I start getting spam at an address I can just turn off that address.

And yes, Gmail has some awesome spam filtering. About the only junk I get nowadays is through the address I use for registering domain names. Thankfully it’s becoming standard for domain registrars to obfuscate this information for you at no charge.

19
October 19, 19h

I’m sub’ed to 800 RSS feeds with Rmail. I’m getting 1000 Rmails and 2000 spams per day. A good spam filter and a couple dozen rules made my Gmail inbox manageable.

20
October 19, 20h

I’ve but one thing to say: Hosted gMail.

http://google.com/a/

You get the power of gMail with the convenience of keeping your existing email address.

21
Joshua says:
October 19, 20h

Chris Harrison,

I was going to suggest gmail for your domain as a free alternative but I wasn’t sure if using it would still give you access to gmail’s spam filtering.

If that’s the case, I think it’s safe to say this is about the easiest, cheapest and maybe best all around solution.

And on top of the great spam filtering, you still get an awesome interface for your mail that’s probably much better than neomail, squirrel mail, horde or roundcube.

22
October 19, 21h

You most certainly get it… and Phishing detection… and Virus protection…

Plus you get Hosted Calendar and GoogleTalk for your domain to boot. All for the low, low price of free.

I’ve been using gMail since last April (I think…) and hosted gMail for about 4 or 5 months and I swear by it. It’s easy to use, easy to configure…

23
October 19, 21h

It certainly seemed to pick up in the last 60 days, and the flood of new spam has become so intense many of my clients have begun complaining ad nauseam.

24
Flick says:
October 19, 22h

I run everything through Gmail. My email is set up to send to my gmail account and filters the email. Then Mail filters it again and I generally don’t see any spam in my inbox.

To send, it’s also set up to send through my Gmail account as my actual email address.

In the end, everything is archived on Gmail and filtered.

25
Nic says:
October 19, 23h

@5/Mike D: Please remember, when you send out your new email address to your entire address book, to make sure that you use the To: field… :-)

26
October 20, 00h

I’ve been hating email for some time now. It’s a horrible way to receive information. Everything is stuck in my inbox. I’ve been wanting something more like a ticketing system. Something that connects communication with calendaring and file storage.

I also hate how many passwords, links, and other information are stuck in there. How cool would it be if everytime I created a hosting account the FTP information could feed into BBEdit.

27
Sophie says:
October 20, 00h

I do agree SpamCop is completely failed and is more a racket scheme than a tech tool.

It’s not about being unable to use a @mydomain.com address, it’s about whole Web host or ISP IP addresses ranges being blacklisted because there’s a black sheep somewhere.

So in the end it’s about the black sheep : websites open to hacks that make them spam factories, people not upgrading their ubiquitous and unsafe forum tools.

As for gmail, as far as I’m concerned, my customers make me sign NDAs and I don’t want google peering over our shoulders, thank you.

So : phone and jabber… use email but expect it not to work, which my customers working for ISPs know very well.

28
October 20, 01h

Thumbs up and a “me too” on the Gmail for your domain tip… it’s super slick and spam is (practically) a thing of the past for me….. and a while back I heard something similar, about RSS replacing email eventually… but I guess that is a while off yet.

29
October 20, 01h

I forgot to say - this might be useful for some of you: http://www.tempinbox.com/

30
rich says:
October 20, 02h

+1 for Gmail - I’m about to switch to Gmail for domains as well now I’ve got an account.

My original Gmail i’ve had since around when they began, have a gig of mail or so on it, and although i’ve used the address for everything (I’m not great at being careful with it nor should i have to be) the spam filters do an excellent job.

31
Steve says:
October 20, 04h

Agreed.

I was in exactly the same boat - 100-150 spam per day, no more than 1 or 2 legit emails amongst that. Junk folder filling up with several thousand and scanning for false positives almost impossible.

Thunderbird’s whitelisting and bayesian filters did get it to a point where it was still usable theoretically, but I just got fed up with it nonetheless.

These days most people know that if they want to catch me online, they’ll get a quicker response if they find me on AIM or send me a PM on one of the forums I visit daily. About the only person left who still primarily uses email to contact me is my mother!

32
October 20, 04h

I’ve found greylisting incredibly effective, using Postgrey on our Postfix server.

The idea is to temporarily reject unknown senders for a set period of time (30 seconds to a few minutes). Proper mailservers will wait and reattempt delivery, but most spammers will not bother with retrying.

The best thing about this approach is that it’s completely transparent to the sender.

33
PZ says:
October 20, 04h

I’m not popular enough to receive so many emails, nor do I have the same volume of business to conduct, as you, which could be why I don’t seem to have many problems with email.

I HAVE noticed, however, that for personal communications, email is also becoming less effective. A few years ago I would regularly trade emails with at least my closest friends, and occasionally get updates from acquaintances. Now it seems like at most I get a quick note when someone has a baby but nothing more, and certainly no responses to the nice emails I send out. (Let’s assume for the moment that it’s not simply people don’t like me any more.)

I’ve decided to try out this newfangled voice technology called the “phone” instead…

34
Mo says:
October 20, 05h

If a good chunk of major e-mail providers announced that they would start using SPF in three months’ time and stuck to it, the rest of the world would really have to follow suit. SPF isn’t a cure-all, but it does make life very difficult for spammers (i.e., you actually have to register a domain and you have to control the DNS for it before you can send mail using it as the domain part of the return address).

35
October 20, 05h

I hear ya, it’s for this reason that all clients get a basecamp account and all communication now goes on in there.

No more searching thru e-mails. And in this manner, everything is nicely categorized, organized and accessible from the dashboard…

36
Dave says:
October 20, 05h

I suggest supporting the Okopipi project. This is the same technology that pissed off the spammers so much that they forced Blue Security to shut down. You know something is worthwhile if it angers the spammers. The difference this time is that the servers will not be centralized:

http://www.okopipi.org/

37
Anthony says:
October 20, 06h

Some have suggested RSS is the new e-mail. This is sort of an automatic white list, because you’re only subscribing to feeds you want messages from. I’d at least be interesting to see an attempt at something like this. Something that handles an initial handshake between you and your contacts and then maintains your individual feeds to each one with UI that feels like e-mail. Google could do it with some sort of Gmail/Reader combo.

38
Nathan says:
October 20, 06h

I use spamseive through apple mail, which gets most of the spam…but I understand the real issue: communication.

I have moved to a Basecamp only communication with clients. My contact info (phone, fax, aim, etc) is on Basecamp as well as everyone else’s, so they can call or whatever if they like. But I make it known that email is not my primary communication, Basecamp is.

It doesn’t make sense to run your business (or life) with email.

39
beto says:
October 20, 07h

This is the very reason I’m using my Gmail account more and more for all kinds of email, not just personal ones. Emails through my domain account just got into an ever-escalating war against spammers (even being as careful as you can be about these things), and frankly, I have better things to do with my time than playing “spot the spam” in my Inbox every day. Entourage’s junk mail filters are just that - junk.

Even so, Gmail’s once-undefeatable antispam engine is kind of letting me down lately. Currently there’s an average of six to ten spams getting through the filter daily. Time to try something else already? Like, smoke signals? :(

40
October 20, 07h

Looks like most of your commentors are focusing on the spam part of your post. The more frustrating part is the receipient not receiving your mail because you’ve somehow fallen into the blacklist. I’ve been amazed that email has lasted as long as it has. I wish that we had a trusted-based approach to email that was simple to use. One of the great advantages of email is that there are so many tools and clients to pick from for any platform. Getting people to switch to anything else would be ridiculously hard at this point.

41
October 20, 07h

IM is the new SMS is the new email, because in Korea, only old people email:
http://slashdot.org/articles/04/11/30/0034259.shtml

42
October 20, 07h

Maybe you should get a gmail account? My email account is more like a news aggregator, I usually contact all my clients through, you guessed it, MySpace. Yuck!

43
elv says:
October 20, 07h

For about a year I’ve been try to reduce spam. I had about 15 accounts at that time, most of them were throwaway addresses at free providers, plus a few for my own domains. Most of them got spammed.

It took a few steps :
1- I don’t use any catch-all on my domains
2- I don’t use free email like hotmail, free.fr, etc. anymore. They get tons of spam even if you don’t use the address at all! I killed all free email accounts, except two of them I still use.
3- Everytime I subscribe to a website, forum, online shop, I create a “spy” alias on one of my domains. Say if I subscribe to digg I will use digg@mydomain.com. So if I get spam, I’ll know where it came from.

So what’s the result?
- I get 3 times less spam, from 90 to 25/30 a day
- I didn’t get a single spam on my “spy” aliases. It seems most websites are honest when they say they won’t spam you!
- the most polluted account is my main one, the one I NEVER give on any website. My guess is I get most of the spam via friends and clients with spam viruses, people who send stupid e-cards or send jokes to 30 people at a time.

44
October 20, 08h

use IM instead. i have a “group” in adium that’s clients, since i get a couple hundred spams a day. if i’m working i just make myself visible to the client group so they can get in touch. if i’m working *hard* i just invisible.

45
October 20, 08h

I’ve been using FuseMail (http://www.fusemail.com) for a couple of years now and really like it. They provide a very cheap hosted IMAP account (IMAP is to POP3 as Web 2.0 is to Web 1.0) that you can access over the web or with any desktop client that supports IMAP.

They allow you to consolidate all of your various e-mail accounts from other providers into one account and you can even keep @myowndomain.com e-mail addresses.

They also have a very good spam filtering system. There are multiple lines of defense and you can configure it to meet your requirements and sensitivity. Check them out.

46
October 20, 08h

I can’t believe nobody has yet recommended Postini. I was half-seriously in doubt about my future employment (over complaints about spam from all our users) until my CEO, in desperation, set it up with our email host LanLogic. Within a week, all discussion about spam in the company ceased. $10/month/user is a heck of a lot cheaper than my time maintaining SpamAssassin et al.

You point your MX to Postini, they filter and forward it to your original MX. Nice web-admin page for each user, so my admin time is now zero. It seems they only work with providers (like ISP’s) though–bug your ISP or other email provider to offer it to their users; it’s worth it. (And if any Postini employees ever read this, OFFER IT TO INDIVIDUALS. You will take over the world in short order.)

47
Ethan says:
October 20, 09h

Capital punishment for spammers.

You know I’m right.

48
Ty Hatch says:
October 20, 11h

Don’t have an issue with spam as big as yours, yet. If it gets to that let, I might just to break out ye ole pen and ink and actually write a letter, stuff it in that white rectangular thingy, carefully affix self-adhesive postage and manually deliver it to my mechanical mail server… ;)

49
Shaun Gummere says:
October 20, 11h

I think one of the salient points that’s getting lost in the discussion is not *if* it’s possible to gain control of your mail, but whether, if most people can’t/don’t because they don’t know all these clever tricks and techniques, then that results in the death of email as a (perceived) ubiquiitous communications medium by default.

Once email gains a widespread reputation for unreliability (and I’ve seen some interesting demographic studies recently that suggests that younger folks are, in certain respects, abandoning email in favor of IM, etc.), then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that no amount of workarounds will fix. I’m not saying this is going to happen, but it’s worrisome when so many technically capable people are throwing up their hands in sheer frustration at an apparently failing medium. Maybe GMail will save us all?

50
Dave S. says:
October 20, 12h

Most people are fixating on spam filtration, but I certainly was talking more to the increasing unreliability that spam is causing.

Though I hear everyone else loud and clear, and will consider outsourcing my email to GMail/Basecamp/whatever (provided I can keep the same addresses, which comment #20 confirms I can do), those comments in particular that got at the gist of my meaning were #3, #17, #27, and #49. Thanks guys:

http://mezzoblue.com/archives/2006/10/19/remail/#c031440
http://mezzoblue.com/archives/2006/10/19/remail/#c031455
http://mezzoblue.com/archives/2006/10/19/remail/#c031467
http://mezzoblue.com/archives/2006/10/19/remail/#c031494


I’ll leave the comments open for now, but they’re getting pretty redundant. Try not to repeat someone else if you can help it.

51
Brett Mitchell says:
October 20, 12h

E-Mail was great because you didn’t rely on someone else’s software or connection - it was just a protocol. The only way to fix e-mail without resorting to someone else’s software is to make a new protocol.

The unfortunate part about all of this is that most alternatives I’ve seen are dependant on other people/companies.

You want to use a form of instant messaging? You’re using another companies software. You want someone else to filter your e-mail? Controlled by someone elses software. While I’m sure they have top-notch programmers, of course, no piece of software is completely safe. How long until that gets hacked? How long until an employee makes a hole because a spamming network offers him money for it?

On top of that, all of that gives those companies insane amounts of power. Knowledge is power and if their software/system replaces e-mail, they have possibly more knowledge than anyone else in the world.

If everyone in the world switches to gmail, we’ll eliminate the spam… but I’m scared of spam FAR LESS than I am of a single corporation controlling the world’s e-mail.

52
Mirkules says:
October 20, 14h

Few things I would suggest, for different levels of reliability/security/spam filtration:

1) Unimportant email: Make up email addresses for unimportant stuff (registration websites, etc) to go to http://www.mailinator.com (a free service that automatically receives email at any address, and that anyone can read).

2) Non-critical email: Create several different email accounts that all forward to the same email address. As you notice more and more spam coming through one of the accounts, simply cut it off, and create another.

3) Important email: Send/Receive and follow through with a phone call or an IM message.

4) Critical email: Do not use email for critical stuff. It is not secure, can get lost, etc. Phones, and if you must, encrypted IM protocols are far better at this.

5) Email-as-a-file-transfer-protocol is a bad idea and should be avoided like the plague.

Someone above suggested a handshake email system (much like TCP) for sites that have not been whitelisted. This would double, if not triple, email usage, even IF they do get whitelisted the second they reply. Besides, it wouldn’t be hard to automate replying to such messages.

53
Thorsten says:
October 20, 15h

Usually I receive about 200 spammails per day and I had a long time many problems to filter them. Two weeks ago I had to install my computer new and reinstalled Outlook with the latest patches. I was wondering that Outlook is filtering 90% of the spam mails the rest I get by an blacklist of keywords. This week only 3 spams out of 1000 made it to my inbox. At the moment I´m lucky. But as long as people can easy hide behind ips in hijacked pcs we will have problems. Email is one of the fastest and cheapest ways of communication and I can´t see an other option.

54
Mag says:
October 21, 02h

The picture isn’t that dark. Most filters these days catch spam and separate it from legitimate emails, putting it under a single click deletion option after taking a quick look on. Sure it’s not 100% accurate but at least it reduces your pain to its minimal.

55
Chris says:
October 21, 06h

Gmail for professional business mail? Are you joking?

Nothing looks more unprofessional than a gmail.com address. And you want to trust G$ with your business electronic communications?

There are much better solutions and good spam filtering gateways on the market.

56
October 21, 08h

I feel your pain. It makes it harder to communicate what with having to find the nuggets of gold in the mountain of fool’s gold. It involves more sifting than I care for. Even with all sorts of message rules set up, it’s still a chore. Between all my accounts, I get over 300 emails a day. Of which only a 40 or so are from groups, and only half-dozen or so are directed to me and important. I’m starting to tell people to use really telling subject lines so I don’t miss the legit one. I tend to delete mails in blocks at a time so deleting something good is quite possible nowadays. It’s a fantastic communication medium that has sadly been abused to death.

57
Talla says:
October 21, 08h

@Chris: Read the whole comment thread before you post. Gmail lets you use your own domain address and remains completely invisible to your recipients.

58
Stephen says:
October 21, 09h

@Talla: not entirely accurate. When you email from Gmail using your own domain, I’ve seen it show “sent through Gmail” (or some variant thereof) in the recipient’s message.

I don’t know if this is still the case or if this happens when you host Gmail on your own domain.

@Chris: I can think of dozens of more unprofessional things than a gmail.com email address. For instance, a company website on geocities (or equivalent).

59
Chris says:
October 21, 11h

Hi Stephen, I agree that there are dozens of more unprofessional things that using gmail. Geocities indeed. :-)

Using any “free” domain email such as gmail, msn, hotmail, aol, etc. for business just screams amature. I mean, come on, how many Fortune 500 corporations use flyboy323@gmail.com or 23jdl2trn@aol.com or menohavewebsite@aol.com addresses to correspond with their clients?

Given the availability of professional antivirus and antispam filtering on the mail server level, there is no reason I can think of to use gmail for business. The trick is to make sure your web host uses it, oh, and uses it properly, and then dump them for someone else if they don’t. As web professionals, we are often more concerned with what version of PHP or .NET a provider has installed vs. what kind of spam filtering they do. It’s simply another requirement that should be met for choosing to do business with a web host running your domain. We ourselves have 7 email addresses on our domain and receive on average, about 1-2 items of spam every month and that’s it.

But using G$ or M$ for your business email? Not me. Nothing is ever really free, and you are either carrying their logo feces at the bottom of all your business communications or having THE critical element of your communication (email) out of your control and dependent on some 3rd party search engine company or OS maker.

But I digress off topic. The issue that email is a “dead medium” is silly and I don’t agree with that. Look at the hassles of using a telephone. The sales calls, the marketing, the voicemail hell when trying to quickly get an answer via telephone, and so forth. Using a telephone just sucks today. Or just look at the hassles of driving on a freeway.

There are annoyances and hassles that arise in just about any modern invention. Email has gotten worse, yes, but it just simply requires more strict management—not giving up on it all together as that will never happen in the business arena. But the idea does make for fun blog topic, though.

60
October 21, 22h

I’m a gmail user too, and have 5 very active email accounts that I forward to and reply from gmail, since allows me to pick which account I am sending out from. Life became much easier after I finally got all of this setup.

But I find communication less vital through email as a whole. I get a lot of emails but most are subscription based things I signed up for. RSS is my main source of update notification, and IM is by far my largest form of client interaction. I let gmail just do it’s own thing and for the last few months things have been working out fine.

and now I guess with google apps for your domain, https://www.google.com/a/ you can just get your own custom gmail for your domain setup, and you don’t have to do all the forwarding and stuff I guess. I haven’t tried this solution, having my one gmail account setup for all my domain emails to forward to is working out just fine.

61
brewt says:
October 22, 00h

What’s (almost) worse than spam itself are auto-responses to spam. I don’t care that you’re out of the office till Tuesday, or that you’ve got white list set up because I did not send you the damn e-mail - some spammer did. Please, please, please, before you enable or install anything that auto-responds to e-mail, make sure it doesn’t blindly auto-respond to every incoming e-mail.

62
October 22, 10h

I agree, spam really is a pain in the ass. On my brand new Gmail account I get around 50 spam emails a day. Fortunately, Gmail’s spam filter appropriately forwards them all to the trash.

Whenever I sign up on a message board or post a comment on a blog, I always use a fake email address, thanks to http://spamgourmet.com/. For example this blog. I used the email address mezzo.x.jmeeter@spamgourmet.com. I have no problem giving it out on the internet because no one knows my real email address. :]

63
Heather says:
October 23, 10h

I know EXACTLY what you mean. The worst I have had was trying to communicate with an editor who couldn’t recieve my email. Talk about infuriating. I kept responding to his email, but it was quickly obvious that he wasn’t recieving a thing from me.

64
Johan says:
October 23, 10h

Why not create a captcha for mail so when you get a mail and the person did not fill in a captcha that you send by mail. The mail address gets bounced!

SPAM really kills the e-mail experience. You feel like posting mail through nomen’s land full of mines.

65
Raven says:
October 23, 10h

I hate spam, and I hate email but because I’m post-lingually deaf I rely on it to the extreme.

66
Gabe says:
October 23, 18h

On a tangential note. I have a spammer hitting the contact form on my website with linkspam for google. This results in several “Contact Form” messages in my inbox which used to be 100% legit. The infuriating thing is that they continue to do this even though it’s completely useless for them. These posts do not show up on any web page anywhere.

The root of the problem in this case is vulnerable Windows machines that serve as huge zombie nets for any spammer who has the time to infect a few machines. It used to be there was some marginal charge for spamming, but now it is literally free to send billions and billions of spam messages per hour. Thank you Microsoft and the American Consumer.

67
Jon says:
October 25, 04h

Spam is annoying, true. But whilst more legislation may help (particularly in the US, CAN-SPAM was/is a disaster) there are a number of low-cost things we can do ourselves to combat the problem.

First, get your own domain, and give out different addresses for every purpose (such as posting here - if you were to sell my address to a spammer, I’d disable the alias I’ve given you). Whilst I get maybe 5,000 items of spam a year to a couple of spamtrap addresses, I get none on my main alias. At all, without filtering. And I’ve used the domain solidly for three years.

On Spamcop, they seem to be the target of much ire, which would be much more appropriately directed to the spammers that have forced companies to adopt mail-server blacklisting. My mail server has been in the SC sin-bin a few times, but I complain to my provider, not Spamcop - after all, it was my provider that allowed a spammer onto their servers in the first place. My provider sees it this way too, and (unlike other providers I have dealt with) does not whinge about IP blacklisting - they kick the spammer off, and apologise to any customers on the same IP/range.

It is good to remember also that when the Spam Cop Blocking List prevents your recipient from getting your email, it is their provider that *chose* to use Spamcop. No-one forced it on them. If a recipient is not happy with that situation, they are free to choose another provider that does not use Spamcop.

But for what it’s worth, I think Spamcop are taking the right approach. Legislation is never going to be the total solution - partly because it is easy to overlegislate, and partly because some regions will never legislate.

We are all therefore going to have to be smarter in our use of email, and service providers that make it easy to do this (such as systems to manage multiple aliases, as well as good filtering mechanisms) will carve a niche for themselves.

68
pixel9 says:
October 25, 19h

Dave,

If you can afford to, you can take the most effective and drastic measure possible to clear out spam - disable your email account for a day (or two). Once all the spam has been bounced back, your email will practically be removed from all the spam lists.

Obviously this is a pretty drastic measure and will either require some planning on your part (like warning your clients beforehand).

Personally, the good old fashioned telephone works the best for me. There’s too much room for misunderstanding with email. It doesn’t matter how well you can express your thoughts in words if your client can’t do the same. Email is usually relegated to sending invoices.

Good luck. Love your site, btw.

69
Ole says:
October 26, 02h

Until I got my gmail account, I never knew there was so many ways to spell Viagra. I bet if they start using phonetics, I’ll get a couple of more ideas.

I used my ISP mail as a private mail address for a couple of years, but made the mistake of using it to send a mail to 10-15 people that needed a message while my spam-able account (College mail address) was down due to poor administrating and an open SMTP server.

Anyway, result was that I started to get spam to that account to. Yet another email account lost to spam, dang it!

70
Rasmus says:
October 27, 04h

My solution is:
I keep at least three seperat emailadresses with different levels of “security” if you can call it that.
Number1) A total spam adress. Every time I need to create an account to access a website og enter a competition or anything in that matter I use this adress. This gets spammed up in no time, but who cares…
Number2) Semi-spam adress. I use it for things I have a genuine interest in, so I don’t want it getting lost in the spam, but is not important enough for my primary mailbox.
Number3) My primary adress, which is used for personal mail and extremely important mail for online stuff. I hardly get any spam at this adress…

Luckily gmail is happy to offer more than one account… Works for me :-)
Cheers Rusty

71
Ben says:
October 27, 07h

MM, spam, yucky.

I don’t run my email through some other company before it gets to me computer, I have used the same email address for the last 6 years, yeah it gets spam but i have something to deal with it.

I use MailWasher Pro http://www.firetrust.com/
You blacklist and whitelist what you want.

I then set it to automatically delete anything thats in the blacklist automatically, I don’t even see it.

about 10 - 15 slip through a day but once black listed i never see them again after proccessing.

I haven’t had spam in outlook express (or a virous) in about 4 years. I actually use mailwasher to reply to all my emails now and only open outlook when mailwasher starts getting cluttered with email (about 3 times a day because I get so many emails)

at one point I was getting over a thousand spam emails a day now I only get about 10 new ones and no idea (don’t bother checking) of how many I get now, it checks every 5 minutes but I don’t bother looking untill it notifys me I have a new legitimate email (it will also deside if its spam or not before telling you, you have new email.)

You should check it out.

72
ShawnMills says:
October 30, 01h

Its not just email, though I’ve solved this particular problem by having “layers” of email addresses.

The biggest, gooiest sector is going to be online media. Its hot right now, but trust me when I say, ITS A DEAD END.

There are LOTS of reasons why I think online media is screwed in the long term but I’d be writing too long and just contributing to your hopelessly wasted lives on the internet…

What happened to the good old days when Sienfeld and the news were all we needed?

73
Mark says:
November 02, 02h

John Gruber rates SpamSieve. Give that a go if it fits your scenario: http://daringfireball.net/linked/2006/october#mon-30-spamsieve

“Best email spam filter for the Mac, period.”

74
November 05, 15h

Hi Dave,
If you can live with using Microsoft’s Hotmail as your interface, I recommend creating an account over at
https://domains.live.com. You can then login using your own domain email address. My spam levels have decreased dramitically since doing this.

75
DaveP says:
November 05, 19h

I can’t for the life of my find the article - maybe someone with better Google-fu can find it. It’s a story about the volume of spam passed around the internet as a percentage of the total e-mail. The source material is the group of ISP’s who have been working on a response to the spam dilemna. The short story is that more then 90% of all e-mail is spam and the percentage grows every year.

The only way we will defeat the menace is to remove the financial incentive. I know it’s treasonous to say it - but until e-mail use is metered and there is some financial implication - spam will choke the life out of e-mail. The only people who will be able to use e-mail for communciation are those who diligently maintain white lists. Even then, servers have finite capacity for refusing spam.

76
DaveP says:
November 05, 20h

Wow - that sounded negative. One other thought though…

I use a defense in depth approach today. I have my public facing Yahoo account. I pay the $20 a year to get the disposable accounts and extra filters. Then I use Mail Washer to not only delete but also bounce back spam the makes it through Yahoo’s filters (a number that has recently grown - not sure why).

Finally, once I establish a relationship with someone I use one of my personal e-mail addresses which I white list. The only people who are using my white list controlled e-mail addresses are invited. It works pretty well.

And because all of these accounts get tiresome to navigate between when looking things up - I use a gmail account to forward all of the white listed mail to. Then I use the gmail search capability to search mail across all of my accounts.

77
Michal says:
November 08, 04h

I use google.com/a for my domain and I’m happy so far.

78
Robert Jackson says:
November 23, 06h

There is an alternative! Set up an email account at boxbe.com.

Use the boxbe email address as your email on all webforms and online registrations. Boxbe will quarrantine suspect emails and forward only authorised addresses. All for free. Bonus: You can even maximise spammers - boxbe will also contact spammers and try to get cash off them for you or a charity of your own choice. Don’t hold you breath.