Thursday 15 September 2005

Here we go again

So... I was trying to make heads or tails of this press release this morning:

“The [spam] filtering approach was designed to handle junk mail for people receiving between zero and sufficient numbers to cause a nuisance. The real issue now is for people in the flood category, where filtering is not viable.”

Huh? What are they talking about? Let's read on...

Figures vary for the volume of unwanted mail. ... Using 80% means that four out of five mails for users [who get 30 or more spam messages per day] need to be marked, filtered, re-directed, quarantined and possibly archived.

Aside from the dodgy mathematics (there's no direct correlation between the number of legitimate and spam messages you receive), what is the point of all this?

High volumes are starting to strain the filtering approach because the filter has to take action on each mail it determines to be unwanted. This strains computing resources and also obliges recipients to take some action. Because the mail may have come from a source that has sent mail before, the receiver cannot ignore it.

Uh-oh, I have a bad feeling about this...

The alternative to filtering lies in the challenge-response method of dealing with spam, as used by the NMS’s Australian-developed TotalBlock solution.

Bingo! Yes, dear reader, it's our old "friend" challenge/response again. You may recall my previous post on this subject.

So, to summarize, if spam is a "nuisance" to you, why not turn it around and be a nuisance to legitimate senders who want to communicate with you, and be a nuisance to the poor people who are getting their email addresses used as forged spam senders? Yeah, and let's "oblige senders to take some action" instead. That's reasonable. Sheesh.

When will you people figure it out? In nice, simple language:
  1. Challenge/response causes spam
  2. If you use it, you're a spammer
  3. If everyone used it, email wouldn't work!

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Oh dear: false positives ahoy!

So the good people behind Mailinator (the disposable email address folks) decided to put up a Google Maps thingy that shows where spam has come from recently. Unfortunately, it only served to illustrate the false positive problem...

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What is Ajax?

Ajax is an emerging way to design applications that run inside a web browser. Its key advantage over conventional web applications is that Ajax applications are much more responsive and interactive.

It's an acronym for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. What that means is that the underlying data are exchanged between the browser and web server in XML and the display intelligence runs in a JavaScript program (AKA ECMAScript: i.e. the scripting language, not Java applets). The program is downloaded when the browser first connects to the web server.

A relevant example of a good Ajax application is Scalix Web Access (SWA): David Ferris of Ferris Research just called it "The Best Email Web Client." This alternative to Outlook is extremely fast, compared with the current Outlook Web Access and provides a comprehensive list of functionality, including email, calendar, scheduling, tasks, contacts, delegation, and public folders. Another example is Google's GMail, although the Gmail paradigm is a little too page-based for Ajax purists.

To contrast a conventional web application with an Ajax application:

  • Display intelligence runs in the web server, which generates HTML pages to be displayed in the browser
  • Display intelligence runs in the browser, which exchanges the underlying data in XML
  • Page-based user interface paradigm, unlike most desktop applications; each change requires a complete new page to be transferred and displayed
  • User interface design can be much more familiar -- similar to desktop applications; changes can simply modify an existing object on the page and usually do not require a server transaction
  • Mouse interactions are limited to clicks, which take considerable time to transfer to the server and be acted upon
  • Interactions can be far richer, including dragging
  • Users must wait for each interaction to complete
  • Data transfers can be scheduled in the background, meaning that users don't need to wait; data can be pre-fetched in anticipation
  • Must be online to use
  • Could work offline

There's much more that can be said about Ajax. If this short post has whetted your appetite, ask me more.

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Monday 12 September 2005

Stupidest. Spammer. Ever.

Good grief, look what just plopped into my inbox...

We have been trying to contact you over the past week!

Your blind date approval is {needed|on wait|pending}.

{Upon|After the} validation you will find out {which|what} friend {set you up on|arranged} this date.

{Visit|Follow|Cl1ck} the link below to {accept|validate|approve} your date:

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