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How to handle spam without cutting your established communication lines

Spam is a common word these days. For those new to the Internet, it basically means this: "Use of the term "SPAM" was adopted as a result of the Monty Python skit in which a group of Vikings sang a chorus of "SPAM, SPAM, SPAM . . ." in an increasing crescendo, drowning out other conversation. Hence, the analogy applied because unsolicited commercial email was drowning out normal discourse on the Internet." At this link you can read where this definition came from, read the Monty Python skit, and listen to the Vikings singing "Lovely Spam".

So how do you keep spam from drowning out your normal discourse?

The simplest way is to quickly learn how to identify it so you can select out unimportant messages and discard them without further ado. There are many computer tools which can help you to do this, but you need to be able to recognize spam and understand it before you let some computer "robot" cut your communication lines. Robots are really quite dumb -- after all, someone will need to give that robot his orders. It might as well be you.

So here we are back to "How do I recognize spam?" First of all, spam could be an email in your inbox that is from someone you donít know. Or it may have a subject line for a topic you have no interest in. If it had "ADV" (for "advertisement") in the subject line, you'd probably know for sure that itís not something you want. If the language is poor (poor English, for example, that doesnít communicate to you at all) it may be not only spam, but include a virus as well. Discard it. The email might be addressed to a name that is not you or itís addressed to your email address like "Dear jerry@yahoooo.com" (a made-up email address).

There are a myriad of "markers" you can use to instantly identify an email as spam and consequently discard it.

Now on to the use of computers to help you...

Many of the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) provide a method of screening out "known spammers". Earthlink is one such ISP. You can turn on their spamBlocker function. There are two settings: one that filters out known spammers (a wise choice) and a higher setting which filters out "suspect" email.

The "suspect" setting filters out everyone who is not already in your address book with Earthlink. Earthlink wonít know the addresses you have in your own computer so this really means "everyone" until you get that address book filled up with Earthlink. This setting can almost entirely cut your email communication lines if you donít know how to use it well. This setting is not recommended for a newcomer to the Internet.

For newcomers, most spammers wonít even know about you, so you wonít need to worry about blocking incoming spam. Your best bet would be to practice not giving out your email address to people you donít entirely trust -- donít trust that they wonít spam you or give away your email address to those who will spam you.

One useful tool that I use is Spam Gourmet. This service allows you to "invent" an email address for each person who wants your email address. For example: I invent one each time I purchase something on the Internet, or the first time I sign up with a new email list. If youíre creative enough with your "invented email addresses" youíll be able to tell when someone gets your name from someone else. Better yet, you can instantly close off one of these invented email addresses if the spammers get hold of it. You can go to www.spamgourmet.com to read more about this sort of service.

There are some spam filtering services that entirely cut your comm lines. They work like this: I send a message to Joe. But Joe has signed up with SuperSpamBlockService (an invented name). SuperSpamBlockService sends me back an email and tells me that I have to prove I exist by clicking on some link in their auto-responder email. If I donít click on the link, then Joe never gets my email.

This is a waste of my time. It means that I have to communicate twice in the direction of Joe before Joe will receive my message in the first place.

Do you think Joeís "quantity of emails" will go down when he signs up for a SuperSpamBlockService? You betcha! It will cut out a lot of the valid emails people would have sent to him. Thatís a cut communication line and is not likely to be pro-survival.

The ultimate cut communication line is to change your email address and delete the old one. That will sure keep the spammers from reaching you. And everyone else, too.

Donít bother telling the spammers to quit sending to you. That never seems to work.

Your best bet is to learn how to instantly recognize spam and then wisely use various computer tools to help you handle it (not letting it handle you).

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