Blog » Spam -> baked beans?

27 Feb 2005

Spam -> baked beans?

Filed under: Digital revolution — paulcook @ 2:34 pm

Is it just me, or has spam become much less pervasive over the last few months?

I used to get more spam than non-spam email, but these days it’s just a few re-mortgage notices, cut-rate software sales and 419 scams a day. This is far down from the peak a year or so ago!

Either it means that the efforts of big service providers to cut down on the sources of spam are working, or I’m doing something very right. I take a few precautions to prevent spam:

  1. I use this great free service, www.spamgourmet.com, which provides you with temporary email addresses. For example, test[email protected], after removing the SPAM and etc. I can make this up on the fly, as I’m entering my email address into any online service. Then the first 3 (in this case) emails that go to that address get through, and thereafter everything else is automatically trashed. This means that I get the registration password sent by email, and however many more emails I want, but then more beyond that can be assumed to be spam, and are silently thrown away.
  2. I make sure, as far as possible, that my email address doesn’t appear in plain text, anyway on the web. Hence the obfuscation of the address above. For example, the homepage of this website has my email address, but it’s created by a complex JavaScript code, and not just written in plain text. Some spammers use bots that scour websites looking for email addresses, and this makes that very hard to do.

Oh, and I’d better explain this post’s title: the word “spam”, attached to internet junk mail, apparently originally came from a Monty Python skit. The skit in question features a war-time diner, full of vikings who occasionally break into chanting, “Spam spam spam spam …”, whenever prompted. The main characters, a couple, descend from the ceiling (if memory serves) and set about ordering breakfast. Being wartime, most of the menu features one or two items, plus lots of spam (which is, for the uninformed, processed corned or salted pork. Mostly). The husband finally orders, “Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam and spam, but can I have baked beans instead of the spam?” Cue the vikings chanting, past the proprietor trying to yell them into silence, and one gets the picture of unstoppable quantities of unwanted stuff — rather like internet junk mail. This post is about preferring the baked beans (metaphorically).

Exercise for the reader: Create a temporary/fake address, for example using spamgourmet. Post it on a maximum of 5 websites. First person to get a mortgage offer to that address wins!

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  1. My experience with spam must be different than most people’s, because I have never really had a problem with it. I have a Hotmail account that I use when I am forced to supply an online vendor with an email address (though the spamgourmet arrangement sounds better than the way I currently do it), and I have a couple of other email accounts that I have set up for different purposes (usually dedicated to a particular newsletter than I enjoy reading). If one of those special purpose email accounts gets eaten alive by spam, no big deal; I will trash it and set up another. I have two primary email addresses: one for Caltech correspondence and one for private correspondence. I suppose there is a luxury to just having one email address and using it all over the place, but I never really got into that when I was first exposed to email. The idea of having my inbox flooded with spam was enough to drive me away from that concept in the first place. I suppose I am more alone in this practice than I thought.

    Comment by jjk — 27 Feb 2005 @ 4:52 pm

  2. When I first started online, I had just one POP3 mailbox. Webmail never appealed to me, it always seemed such a nuisance — particularly since we were paying for internet connectivity by the minute. By the time I wised up to spam, it was already too late for that first address, I suppose. But I’ve noticed that it too is getting less spam, thanks to me NEVER clicking on any included links, or even loading any of the pictures in the emails that do arrive.

    Comment by paulcook — 28 Feb 2005 @ 1:34 am

  3. http://www.myTrashMail.com is a similar service like spamgroumet. I call it the cool email service for the lazy man.

    I agree that hotmail or yahoo accounts get less spam. however I use daily about 20 fake emails to download software trials etc. If you are very active you definitely need temporary email addresses!

    Comment by anonymous email — 12 May 2005 @ 2:55 am

  4. I’m now taking votes on whether the above comment is, itself, spam.

    It’s almost certainly from someone associated with mytrashmail, as indicated by the web address of the anonymous poster. There is, however, a difficult point at stake here: the information in the comment is potentially useful, and it would appear that the comment is not robot-generated. Also, the links are all rel=”nofollow”, so there is no search engine ranking benefit to be had by having this link here.

    On the other hand, it’s clearly promoting a particular service. Opinions?

    Comment by paulcook — 12 May 2005 @ 3:09 am

  5. I’d have to say yes, the above comment is “spam”. But, it’s a particularly useful form of it, in that it’s nicely composed and doesn’t appear to be robot generated. Re-reading my original comment and then the mytrashmail comment, though, shows that the statement “I agree that hotmail or yahoo accounts get less spam” isn’t really appropriate, since I never made that claim and I was the only one to mention Hotmail.

    I’d say leave it for the record, because of it’s usefulness and the seeming lack of commericial motivation.

    Comment by jjk — 12 May 2005 @ 10:39 am

  6. The plot thickens — my statistics tracking package shows a Google search for

    spamgourmet blog -mytrashmail +comment

    that led to my blog yesterday. Clearly someone is looking for all blogs that mention spamgourmet, and allow comments, so that comments like the above can be made.

    Comment by paulcook — 12 May 2005 @ 11:22 am

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