Graham's spam filter

Anthony Baxter anthony at
Thu Aug 29 04:34:18 CEST 2002

>>> "Mark McEahern" wrote
> [Anthony Baxter]
> > This [whitelist] technique is evil, and fails to scale in any useful way.
> Evil?  Would you like cream with your hyperbole or do you just prefer it
> black?

In the context of computer systems, "evil" is a perfectly well understood
concept. If the term offends you, I can use "a really bad idea" instead.
> Please be more descriptive; otherwise I--and perhaps I'm not alone--really
> have no idea what you mean by "evil", "scale", and "useful."  What on earth
> do most people need with an email technique that "scales" anyway?  Perhaps
> my attempt to guess your meaning is completely orthogonal to what you
> implicitly mean--but then, how would I know?  <wink>

Ok. It removes a lot of the simplicity and convenience of using email. I see
a post on a newsgroup, or a web page, and I think "hm, I have something to
say about that to that person". Maybe they were asking a question, maybe
there's a broken link on their website, maybe it's merely pointing them to
another resource that might be of interest. Now, instead of it simply being
a matter of 'drop them an email', it's 'drop them an email. at some point
an automated response will come back with instructions on another step to
take (often pointing at a website). read and follow these instructions,
then depending on the service, re-send the original email'. If you only
ever emailed a small group of people, and the same people, these schemes
wouldn't be so annoying. But the great thing about email is that you _can_
just email anyone, and get responses from anyone. 
As far as "scaling" -- suddenly there's a significant amount of email 
flying around, which consists of humans wasting time verifying that yes,
they really _do_ want to email someone. That's a lot of wasted time and
effort, and it's really defeating one of the really strong points of 
email -- that it's _easy_.

> > I know that if I'm emailing someone who uses one of these systems, I won't
> > bother. I have too much to do as it is.
> Well, and I don't mean this snidely, then perhaps the technique serves its
> purpose by filtering you out; i.e., since you don't care that much, perhaps
> what you had to say was not that important?  Seriously, if you can't be
> bothered to reply once, then maybe you weren't all that interested in
> contacting the person.  I know I wouldn't mind doing this.  I have a
> relatively limited set of people who I contact regularly.  It would be
> annoying if I had to reply each time--presumably, they could add me to a
> list so that I would only have to reply once.

See above, though - it's not just me as sender who's going to be cut off.
Often when I'm emailing something to someone I don't know, it's to inform
them of something. So they're going to lose.

> > Especially irritating is when someone emails _you_, and your
> > response needs
> > to go through this level of filtering.
> Edward's original email pointed out this was not necessary.

Not always. They have to email you on the same address you send from.
And while Edward's system might get this right, I've seen a couple that

Anthony Baxter     <anthony at>   
It's never too late to have a happy childhood.

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