March 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio March 2000 Current Issue
March 2000 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:



Banning Spam From Your Desktop

Frustrated by unwanted e-mail solicitations? Here's how to filter out the junk

Each time I access my e-mail, I find a load of spam, which is the techno term for unsolicited junk e-mail. Spam presents a growing problem for e-mail users, system administrators and direct marketers. How does spam spread? Every time you give someone your e-mail address, the possibility you will receive unwanted missives multiplies. When you are asked for your address upon entering a site, it could trigger a glut of spam. If you post your address on a Web site or in a newsgroup, your inbox could bulge with more spam.

To make matters worse, spam-list distributors search the Internet for e-mail addresses, selling millions of them on CD-ROMs.

Unlike direct mail, spam does not cost a lot to send. Anyone with an Internet connection can download a free mass-mailer program and purchase a list of a million e-mail addresses for less than $28. With the press of a button, recipients are blasted with unwanted messages.

Please make it stop
There are a number of ways to cut down on this time-wasting intrusion.

  • Corporate servers can be equipped with spam filters. They can access lists of common spam senders and analyze mail for common spam content ("Make Millions for Only $14"). Many Internet service providers have added spam filters to protect their subscribers.
  • Prevent future spam. Many e-mail programs let the user designate a received message as spam and block future access from that address. if I receive a message from "joe@hotrealestate. com," I can tell my e-mail program to delete all future messages from that address or even the domain ""
  • Use your e-mail address cautiously and strategically. Become stingy with your e-mail address by thinking twice before filling out an online form. Or use several different addresses to protect a personal or corporate account from spam. Many people create an e-mail address using a free, Web-based service like Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail to give to vendors. This isolates the spam to an e-mail box that can be dropped easily if the annoyance factor gets too high.
  • Report the spammer. Find out the domain name of the spam sender and report him to his Internet service provider. The ISP just might drop the offender.
  • Spam-Free Marketing
    If you need to reach a large constituency, there are things you can do to lower your own spam noise level and still leverage the power of e-mail.

  • Don't be a spammer. It is easy to fall into the trap of sending unwanted e-mail. You might get excited at the prospect of sending an announcement to hundreds of people about a new property or meeting. But remember, spam is in the eye of the receiver. One person will thank you for telling her about this cool opportunity, and another one will hit the spam-blocking button on her e-mail system.
  • Use permission marketing. Ask people for the right to send them occasional messages on a topic.
  • Allow people to say no. When sending e-mail messages to a large group of people, provide a simple way for recipients to ask to be taken off the list if they choose.
  • Hide recipients in a large list. We often receive a note that was sent to 50 people, with all the addresses listed in the "to:" field of the e-mail message. This is a spam nightmare waiting to happen. Use a list mailer or move the names to the "bcc:" (blind carbon copy) field.
  • When I was a kid, I refused to eat Spam, the canned meat, because it looked awful. I feel the same way about digital spam; the message might be valuable, but I will not read it if it looks like spam.

    Elliott Masie is president of the Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based MASIE Center (, an international think tank focused on learning and technology.

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