Tim Bray posts today about progress in the spam wars. His basic sense is that the filters are winning. At this point, I’m inclined to agree. He uses Mozilla’s built in spam filter; my weapon of choice is SpamAssassin. My experience with it has been good since I first started using it for about 10 months, and since I installed version 2.50, it’s gotten a lot better. I’ve never had real problems with false positives, and these days it’s letting very, very little spam get through. I’m still saving up a big pile of email messages to train the Bayesian filter, but I haven’t bothered yet, and at this point I don’t know whether I will. The built in filters are already outstanding.
One perverse thought I had the other day is that ISPs running spam filters are kind of screwing those of us who run our own spam filters. The reason is that if spam filtering is opt-in (either setting up your own or turning on the ISP spam filter), then spammers have little incentive to write their messages to get around the existing filters. They might do so anyway because my gut assumption is that spammers are generally total morons, but any spammer with a modicum of brain cells should know that if I’m willing to go to the trouble to set up a spam filter, I will never, ever accept an offer that comes in via spam. On the other hand, if AOL and Yahoo set up spam filters by default for all their users, then there’s a powerful incentive for spammers to attempt to circumvent them. Overall, such filters may still be to the good on the larger scale, but they sure don’t work to my benefit.