Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Reducing Spam

I hate spam. No, I'm not talking about Hormel's fine pork product. I'll fry some SPAM® up and eat it on a bun! No, I'm talking about the evil spam. The kind that shows up uninvited in your inbox. And that's what this Blog Tip is all about: reducing spam.

If you've had a computer and an e-mail address for any length of time, you've received spam. And you've probably taken steps to reduce it. Maybe you even bought some products to filter it out of your inbox.

Spam Is Easy To Get

How easy is it to get spam? Easy. Real easy.

Over at the Alliance, where I'm now listed as "Blogging Tips Guru" underneath phin, they've posted an e-mail addresses for sending me questions about Blogging Tips.

The address was created August 1. It was posted on the Alliance about 5:30 PM on August 2. The first spam arrived at 9:13 AM on August 3. That means that less than 16 hours after it appeared on a Web page, spammers had read it and were spamming it.

Oh, I've got other Gmail addresses, but they aren't getting spam. Yet.

So what can you do?

One of the best preventive measures you can take is to not let your e-mail address get out. Which sounds crazy at first glance. But stay with me. It makes more sense than you think, if you do it right.

phin Hates Spam

Last week, phin posted a piece on etiquette at the Alliance that included this:
If you are going to e-mail a large number of recipients, be sure to
Blind Carbon Copy everyone. By using the Blind Carbon Copy function you
keep everybody's e-mail address private, which helps protect them from
viral infections (the computer kind) and spammers.

Good advice for people sending out large lists. Some are now doing it for me, and I appreciate that. However, if they did it for everyone (remember, you can BCC the entire list at once), it would reduce the chance of spam.

To be sure, if you send an e-mail to someone who adds you to their address book, and they get hit with a zombie or something that reads your e-mail address, well, you're screwed. But, if someone were to BCC an entire list, then only the sender and the infected recipient are screwed, not everyone on the list.

Yes, we've beat this horse to death. And we'll do it again if you don't listen!

Faking It

Another thing you can do is not post your e-mail address on your blog. The down side is that legitimate contacts can't reach you. Of course, if you don't want people contacting you anyway, it's no big deal.

But, if you welcome legitimate e-mails, you want your e-mail address available to your readers. So what do you do?

Some add extra letters or characters to the e-mail address and show it, but don't offer an actual link. Which works, but takes away the convenience of your readers clicking a link to e-mail you. Oh, and before you offer this up, it doesn't work:
<a xhref="" mce_href="" > </a>

You see, robots (or "bots") can read your real address ( They can read the source code and find an e-mail address and add it to their list. Then you get spam.

However, just the text "" is okay, bot-safe, and works. However, like I said, it takes away the convenience of your readers clicking and sending you e-mail.

Visible, Yet Invisible

Another option, and my favorite, takes a little work, but is worth it in the long run, in my opinion. It lets human eyes read the e-mail address, it prevents bots from seeing your e-mail address, and it provides your readers the convenience of clicking a link to send an e-mail to you. Do not underestimate the importance of making things convenient for your readers. Many people take the attitude "Oh, well, all they have to do is this instead of that." If you can make e-mail security transparent to your readers, do it. It really is important.

How do you do that? Encode your e-mail address.

There are different ways to encode it. But one of the encoding services I like -- and it's free -- is provided by Automatic Labs. They offer the Automatic Enkoderform for free. Just put your e-mail address in the forms (add a subject if you want, but you probably won't) and click submit.

You'll get some un-Godly-looking piece of code that's really nothing more than JavaScript that will translate back to your e-mail address. But look at that mess. So far, it's been good at keeping bots from reading it. So far.

Anyway, take the resulting code as is and insert it in the source code where you want your e-mail address to appear. Most likely, this is in your sidebar. Modifying it is easy in Blogger. TypePad uses an encryption routine already, so you don't need to even do this, if you use the e-mail address attached to your TypePad account. However, if you want to use a different e-mail address, you can use TypePad's TypeList feature to insert the code in your sidebar.

Is It Worth All That?

Well, if you want to reduce your incoming spam, then yes, it's worth it. Remember what I said earlier. It took less than 16 hours for spam to appear in the unencrypted e-mail address No spam has (yet) reached the encrypted e-mail address.

Hey, it cuts spam and it's free! And, to me, that's a good thing.


  1. basil blog tip - encode your email address

    basil has a great tip (I never thought he would teach me something about computers, but I was arrogantly wrong!) on how to encode your email address using JavaScript to make it spambot unreadable. If you post your email in the clear on the web, it will...

  2. RE linked post: Your tips kept coming and at each one I sort of sniffed to myself, "I already knew that!" (which was stupid because I'm sure non-computer programmers benefited greatly.)

    *grin* Way to go! Thanks!

  3. Thanks. Glad if it's of any help.

  4. basil's blogging tip

    basil has a new blogging tip up. Well maybe it isn't a exactly a blogging tip, it is more like a web design tip. It is good none the less.

    It is about avoiding spam in your inbox:

  5. Around the Blogosphere

    Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wanted to direct you all to a number of good things (as Martha might say if she weren't still confined to her home) and important things on other blogs. Before you do other things....

  6. Span (the fine Hormel kind) is a suitable substitute for Scrapple.

    It is especially good with some jalapeno jelly on the side.

  7. basil, you're a damn genius!


  8. Steel:
    Mmmmm. Spam.

    Thank you. I appreciate that.


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