Mail Schemes

Sudog at kuro5hin managed to become spam-free and that’s what I am trying as well. I didn’t copy his approach because it is simply too complex for me but I used some of his ideas in filtering my mail.

There are a three different types of email

  • private mail from people I know or from people contacting me the first time
  • non-private mail from mailing-lists I want to receive or from websites I am registered at
  • spam mail from websites/or lists I do not want to receive (= solicited spam) and everything else (= unsolicited spam)

Private mail poses no problem, because that is what I want to receive. That’s why everything else needs to be filtered, so I don’t miss one of these. To distinguish the three types, I have spent the last two days having hoogla add a bunch of mail aliases to my domain’s exim configuration, cleaning out my mailbox and changing all my mail addresses to specific new aliases for each major web-service, mailing-list, web-shop etc. I am registered at.

Next I created a bunch of filter rules with websieve that filters mail simply by alias and as soon as I start getting spam on an alias, I’ll add a secondary rule that specifies those who are allowed to send to that alias which is fairly easy since most major sites only use one domain to email from (well maybe .de, .com and in case of amazon). If they hand out those emails or if you can see them on their site (as with amazon) doesn’t matter, since filtering out unwanted stuff is easy.

Most of the mail I don’t want to read consists of stuff I actually ‘solicited’: register at some web-service and you agree on getting their newsletter. So I started getting rid of tons of these newsletters I never quite wanted. The big surprise is that it was fairly easy getting off of most of these, many simply supply an unsubscribe-link in that newsletter.

All mailing-lists I am on that have a publicly accessible web-archive, have also got their own alias, which I can keep changing as soon as there’s spam coming along with the list email. As is described in the article I mentioned above (and the comments to it), mailinglists are a bit of a problem in this scheme, because you cannot simply bounce mail that doesn’t arrive via the list, as other list members may try to reach you off-list.

Now this enables me to filter all the email I get from web-services/-sites, newsletters and mailing-lists that I want to receive without having to fear that the addresses used for these will start generating spam I cannot filter. In the future I’ll be adding more aliases for new webservices I start using. For now I have a few ‘preliminary’ aliases for use with new stuff I want to try out. Those can be dropped as soon as I start receiving spam on them.

Of course I got myself a bunch of ‘spam-this’ addresses that are redirected to /dev/null as well. Spam Assassin is running and is catching most of the ‘real’ spam.

What I expect now is that my Inbox will only contain private mail from people that I know. Maybe I’ll have to extend the alias/filter-rules some more since I am sure I am not yet catching every newsletter and list I ever registered for but it’s been two days and my inbox looks much cleaner than before. The only problem of course being that for the last year or so I have been using my ‘private’ aliases on the web and for mailinglists and so I might have to actually change my private email address for some time.

A problem that has yet to be solved, is the private mail from people trying to contact me via the web. For this I need a public alias that I will actually check for private mail and may catch spam as well. So I guess I’ll post an ever-changing contact-mail address ….

By Yashima

Writer of code and stories