Re: [Asrg] Adding a spam button to MUAs

Ian Eiloart <> Thu, 17 December 2009 18:04 UTC

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Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2009 18:04:19 +0000
From: Ian Eiloart <>
To: Anti-Spam Research Group - IRTF <>
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Subject: Re: [Asrg] Adding a spam button to MUAs
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--On 17 December 2009 12:33:59 -0500 Nathaniel Borenstein 
<> wrote:

> On Dec 17, 2009, at 11:27 AM, Ian Eiloart wrote:
>> Twitter seems to think that users are smart enough to distinguish
>> between "unwanted" and "spam". They give you a button for each. It's an
>> important distinction that most people can make.
> Twitter isn't always right, and my intuition differs from yours on this
> one.  Fortunately it's something that could be resolved empirically.  I'd
> like to see such a study, because it wouldn't take very many users who
> *can't* properly make that distinction to render the two-button solution
> counterproductive.  I'd rather have one bit of meaningful data than two
> bits of muddled data.  -- Nathaniel

Well, then you have to make a judgment about what to do with the data. 
Application of fuzzy logic is essential here. You don't ban everyone who 
get's hit with a spam report, you wait til the reports hit a certain 
threshold, or you feed the message into your Bayesian analysis engine, or 

What you can do, though, is stop delivering mail from the reported source 
to the recipient, perhaps after asking for confirmation. You need to be 
careful that this can be undone, though.

Yes, users make mistakes, and they have differing judgments about what is 
and is not spam, and those judgments may not be your judgments. But, that 
doesn't make the data useless, it just means that you have to think 
carefully about the application of the data in order to keep your false 
positive rates down.

Anyway, the worst case scenario is that users hit one of the two buttons at 
random. In that situation, you simply treat the buttons as equivalent, and 
take the same action for each.

Ian Eiloart
IT Services, University of Sussex
01273-873148 x3148
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