How to handle spam efficiently

Opening messages to decide whether they must be read or be discarded works well with low volumes of email. However, with ever increasing messages and more sophisticated spam techniques, this filtering method becomes unsustainable.

Spam filters based on statistics and heuristics are useful to cut down the number of unnecessary messages that we have to open and read, but they still need us to check for false-positives—mail that have been incorrectly identified as spam. We need a better technique.

Typically, messages from known contacts and with familiar subject lines are likely genuine; in contrast, messages from strangers and with suspicious subject lines are rarely read. Based on this observation, we can set up  our email client to segregate messages in two categories, as follows.

  • Create folders for known correspondents and subjects.
  • Create filter rules to move desirable messages to the new folders. Leave the rest in the inbox.
  • When reading email, read the messages that have been moved to specific folders first; you can read messages in the inbox later, as they are considered to be less important.

For this method to work, we must continually create rules as we increase our contacts and the subjects that are of interest.

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