Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Managing your email: eliminating the junk

I hate spam. Today, I’m going to tell you how to fight it.

And I don’t mean just the random mass mailings of the F@rmis_UtiCal come-ons. I mean unwanted newsletters a well-meaning friend signed me up for… that just won’t let me “unsubscribe”. I mean the “pass it on” jokes (which, allow me to take a moment and ask, does anybody ever find them funny???) and chainletters that some clown forwards to EVERYONE in their address book. I mean the “please take a survey” and “Win a free iPod…” come-ons. I mean the friend/relation who’s trying to convert your politics, and sends you official-looking kook propaganda from Kook HQ…you with me?

Tip of the day: Take a few steps and configure your machine to ‘filter’ out the garbage. The first thing to do is start “training” the spam filter that comes with your email account. If you use a free mail service, like Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail — or your ISP’s — you can teach your mailbox what to filter (somewhat; it will never be perfect) automatically simply by using the “mark as spam” option or, in some services, the “move to” (and move the offending items to the Junk folder) tool.

If you simply delete the junk, the learning algorithms back at Hotmail Command will not be able to determine why you deleted it (maybe you’re done reading it?), and will make no improvements to your filtering. But if you mark it — this is spam! — notice will be taken of the Subject, Sender, and Sender URL, and that info will be analyzed for ‘spam patterns’. When enough people mark “Great Deal, Act Now!” from “Joe Blow” at “Shady Company.Com” as Junk and as spam — they will, first, mark all email from that source as “suspected junkmail” and deliver it to a different box than your Inbox, and then (and this is the point), with gathering confirmations, block it at the source, essentially putting Mr. Blow out of business (temporarily). Hitting “Junk” instead of “Delete Message” is a public service and, over time, will keep a cleaner Inbox.

The next step is to start working on your blacklist. This is usually done by clicking the Block Sender option. A “blacklist” is a list of senders, or sender URLs, that will not be accepted. An excellent first step is to add anything you receive from the Domain “.info” to your Blocked Senders list. Then add that newsletter that just won’t go away.
I will demonstrate with Hotmail, but these general steps apply to all email accounts… the names and locations of the Settings may be slightly different, but the principle’s the same. (If the Block This Sender option is presented, use it) Click on the mail Options button (in some cases, this will be called “Preferences”) mlopt.jpg and then you will be presented with a list of optional settings you can “tweak”, as shown below.
In today’s lesson, we’re looking to out-and-out block a newsletter, so we’ll click on “Safe and blocked senders” (our “white” and “black” lists). Then click “Blocked Sender”.
As you can see, Hotmail Command has already blacklisted many senders. This is because enough people marked these folks (instead of just deleting) as junk mailers. You can also see how to block the newsletter I want to stop. I typed in (or copy>paste the URL from a newsletter in my mailbox) and click “Add to list >>”. This is actually a smarter way to deal with unwanted list-mailings than clicking on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the newsletter itself. Why? Because, while they’re required by law to post such a link, they’re in no way truly obligated to honor it (there’s no enforcement), and you are telling them that your address is valid (and thus valuable to other list users). Add as many junk mailers to this “black” list as you like.

Since there are more steps you can take — the technique described above is a good start, but not the end-all-be-all — to control what appears in your Inbox, I believe I will make this a series of articles, and stop here for today.

Today’s free link: Have some fun and add useful doohickies to your desktop with Yahoo Gadgets (formerly Konfabulator). From site: “The Yahoo Widget Engine is a JavaScript runtime engine for Windows and Mac OS X that lets you run little files called Widgets that can do pretty much whatever you want them to. Widgets can be alarm clocks, calculators, can tell you your WiFi signal strength, will fetch the latest stock quotes for your preferred symbols, and even give your current local weather.”

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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August 25, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, PC, spam and junk mail, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | 6 Comments