By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: spam

Toward a better Gmail

It’s not Google’s fault. It’s the spammers’ fault. Nevertheless, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what Google’s top priority ought to be, and it’s not Google Buzz.

I truly love many things about Google. And its greatest gift to humankind is surely Gmail. But I have been frustrated over the past several years because I can’t use it as fully as I would like. I’ve written about this before. I think it’s important enough to all Gmail users that it’s worth writing about again.

Gmail lets you send outgoing e-mail using one of your other e-mail addresses. Within the past year, it also added a feature so that you can use a different SMTP server for outgoing mail as well. Theoretically, I should be able to have my Northeastern e-mail redirected to my Gmail account, and use Gmail to send e-mail from my NU address, officially stamped with the Northeastern SMTP server information.

The problem is that Gmail includes some code in a usually hidden part of the header that lets recipients know incoming messages aren’t “really” from NU. And some systems have been programmed to see such messages as spam, and either bounce them back (problem) or shoot them into the intended recipient’s spam folder, perhaps never to be seen again (bigger problem).

My solution in recent months has been to receive my NU mail and my personal Gmail messages via Apple Mail. Both are IMAP accounts, and I can move messages into Gmail folders within Apple Mail. It can be painfully slow, because even though it looks like I’m simply transferring messages into folders, I’m actually uploading them onto Google’s servers. (The advantage to this is that I can go to Gmail and use its superior search functions.)

There’s also no visual interface as good as Gmail’s, and I find that it’s easier to miss messages when I’m looking at them in Apple Mail or any other program — most definitely including Thunderbird, which is too kludgy for heavy use.

Over the past two weeks, I got brave and gingerly dipped my toe back into the Gmail waters. Then, today, a message was rejected by the Barracuda anti-spam system at WGBH. Like most of us, I just can’t take the chance that my e-mail won’t arrive. So it’s back to Apple Mail. (Or — shudder — Microsoft Entourage, whose interface looks remarkably like a Rube Goldberg flow chart.)

Now, I’m not suggesting that Google alter its header information. For all I know, it would be illegal. But surely there must be some way of working with the major security systems and coming up with a solution. Perhaps it would be possible to register with some sort of service stamping users as legitimate. I don’t know. But Google has a stake in getting this right.

As it stands, I’m working less efficiently than I’d like. And I’m costing Google money, because I’m not looking at its ads.

Cell-phone spam

Just got my first spam text message via cell phone — a Viagra come-on. What gives? Why haven’t I gotten any of these until now? What can I do?

Spam is raging out of control

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, too, but it seems to me that the quantity of spam has increased exponentially over the past several months. What worries me is that I’m losing the ability to read through the contents of Gmail‘s spam filter to see whether anything important got caught by mistake.

Right now, I’m looking at 3,671 — whoops, 3,672 — messages trapped by the filter since last Wednesday. Even if I quickly page through them all, am I going to notice if one or two valid messages are in there?

The Gmail filter does a good job, but I’m a little frustrated. On a few occasions, I’ve noticed messages in my spam folder from e-mail addresses that are already built in to my address book. That is never supposed to happen. Am I alone in experiencing that? Am I doing something wrong?

Now up to 3,673.

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