17.532 spam and subject fields

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Fri Jan 16 2004 - 06:45:24 EST

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 532.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

         Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2004 11:22:27 +0000
         From: Alexandre Enkerli <aenkerli@indiana.edu>
         Subject: Spam and Subject Fields

As can be expected, developers of anti-spam filter are finding ways to
catch these modified titles and there were recent articles on the subject
in Wired, I believe. There was something to the effect that such weird
titles alert the human users that the message is in fact spam, thus
defeating the purpose of the spam in the first place (if there is in fact a
purpose to spam). Coincidentally (or not), there was a piece this Tuesday
on random words in spam messages:
While early anti-spam developers relied on relatively crude grep-like
filters, it seems recent anti-spam software might use more elaborate forms
of NLP.

A related issue, though, is that as non-spammers we may now run into the
same problems as spammers: we now need to design the subject lines for our
legitimate message in such a way that the message will be recognized as
legitimate. Often this can mean the avoidance of certain words such as the
word "spam" itself. Of course, this precaution is meant for the human
receiver of our message as we can be fairly confident that anti-spam
filters aren't crude enough to label our message as spam based on the
subject line alone.
Interestingly, this is more of an issue with messages sent to people with
whom we haven't established contact yet. At the other end of the spectrum,
it shouldn't be an issue in an ongoing email exchange, such as is the case
here. Surely, some scholars are working on the indexicality involved in
email exchanges and have more thoughtful comments on the subject than I.

All I can do is sing:
"We dine well here in Camelot
We eat ham and jam and spam alot"

Alexandre Enkerli
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology
Indiana University

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