Taking Care of Email
It is an inevitable fact that if you have an email account you are going to have SPAM. I have used the same email address for over a decade and as you might can imagine, I am now being inundated with unwanted email messages. I have tried nearly every tool imaginable to try and minimize the number of SPAM messages I have to deal with. This has included white lists, black lists, and several tools and appliances that will stop these messages from being delivered. The problem has been that while some of these solutions have eliminated the SPAM messages they have also deleted some of my messages that weren’t SPAM. Even worse some of these have begun to filter out specific users and domains no longer delivering mail from some domains. These domains are not some small or questionable domains but rather some of the bigger and more respected companies on the Internet such as apple.com, mattel.com, or dbacks.com. Obviously this was unacceptable and I needed to make some changes so that I could continue to rely on email as a communications method.
The first thing I did was to cancel my premium email service from GoDaddy.com. I had been using GoDaddy for my email services for a couple of years. I liked their web client and had gotten pretty good service from them. Unfortunately their service and support are non-existent. When I realized that I was no longer getting mail from Apple, Mattel, or the Arizona Diamondbacks I opened a problem ticket. That in itself is no small feat since GoDaddy’s web site has one of the worst user interfaces I have ever had to deal with. Once I finally was able to open a ticket it took them days to respond. When they did respond it was fairly useless information.
In order to help me they would need me to contact each person whose email I had not received and have them send me any error message they might be getting. I had to re-read that a few times for it to sink in. How exactly would I know who to contact since I am not getting the emails. That would be like the phone company telling me to call everyone who I thought tried to call me when I was on the phone to see if they got a busy signal. I attempted to explain this to GoDaddy but unfortunately I lacked the necessary communications skills to get them to understand how ridiculous their suggestion sounded. In the end it just seemed like an easier solution to stop using their service than trying to get them to fix their problems.
Probably the right answer to my email dilemma was to create my own email server. The problem was that I didn’t have a server lying around and at the present time I am using a shared server environment through my ISP. I’ve been meaning to create a virtual private server but on my list of fun things to do that one just hasn’t bubbled to the top yet. I was therefore limited when it came to email service choices. I am currently using HostGator as my hosting company. I have no complaints with HostGator. They have been very good at maintaining uptime and their technical support has been very quick to respond to my tickets when I have entered them (my sample size for this statement is relatively low since I have entered 3 support tickets in over a year and 2 of those were questions about server configuration rather than actual problems).
I set up the email accounts to use the included shared servers at HostGator more of a stop-gap measure than a long term solution. Based on my experience so far, I may just keep this as my main email solution. All my mail is being delivered and I am now magically getting email from Apple, Mattel, and the Diamondbacks even without contacting those three domains and asking about possible error messages. The only problem is that the mail servers do not have SPAM filtering installed by default. This meant that I needed a solution to my inbox problem of receiving mountains of SPAM every day.
I have become somewhat of a fan of Bayesian filtering for dealing with SPAM. Thomas Bayes was a British mathematician and Presbyterian minister born in 1702. He is credited with developing “Bayes’ theorem” which describes a problem in terms of inverse probability. For centuries this theorem was an academic exercise with no real value. This of course all changed with the advent of email and SPAM. Someone determined that the Bayes’ Theorem could be utilized to determine whether an email message was valid or SPAM. This is done by assigning values to words and their frequency within a message. The interesting part is that these Bayesian filters continue to evolve with each message it analyzes making it more accurate the longer it is used.
On Windows I have long used Bayesian filters. I started with SPAMBully but when they moved to a subscription model I ceased using their software and moved to SPAMBayes which is an open source equivalent. SPAMBayes worked very well and I had a success rate of over 98 percent in catching SPAM messages.
When I contemplated moving to the Macintosh one of the first things I did was research Bayesian Filters for the Macintosh mail application. After a lot of research I settled on SpamSieve. It is a simple application that brings powerful results to the Mac mail client. SpamSieve looks at each message coming into your mail client and determines whether it is a legitimate email or if it is SPAM. SPAM messages will be moved to a separate folder or can be contributed to be deleted automatically. Good messages are maintained in your email inbox. One of the great things about using SpamSieve is the fact that it manages your mail at the inbox level. By setting up my email as IMAP rather than POP3 it has the added ability of making sure only good mail is delivered to my iPhone keeping that device relatively SPAM-free, At first SpamSieve’s accuracy was only around 90 percent but after using the application for a short period of time the accuracy has gotten much better and is now in the 97-98 percentile. I can’t tell you how much of a relieve it is to check my mail in the morning and see 20-30 good emails while seeing 90-100 SPAM messages automatically filtered out and sent to the trash. If you are currently dealing with SPAM issues I would highly recommend looking at SpamSieve, it is well worth the $30 purchase price.