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This information may prove more important than you will ever know!!!

E-mail and will power!

A lot of will power is needed in this day and age concerning e-mail, both at web site level and using your own e-mail client program.

  • 1) e-mail addresses are "harvested" by low lifes and sold in bulk to others who have no scruples using them for spam mail.
  • 2) we should all have heard in recent times the number of viruses that can be (are) transported to PCs via the humble? e-mail letter.
  • 3) most people think that spam mail (unsolicited) containing "UN-Subscribe" links or directions to do same will always successfully and ethically remove them from that list.... guess again.

"The trick is not so much to stop address harvesting altogether, but make real responses to them recognisable."

(1) When starting with your own probably "free" web site, the common method of giving visitors contact access to you is to place a hyperlink tag on your web page(s) which attempts to automatically open the visitors e-mail client which is mostly (unless like myself) associated within their browser set-up. That should be understood by most www surfers because those links are everywhere.

However as listed above 1) there are rogue "robot" programs harvesting the addresses from those links within web page html code all the time.

In time when/if you progress to your own real hosted web site and domain you should begin the next step (of many) of learning to install simple CGI programs (programs called "perl" programs or scripts the most common) within your site some of which can be used to "generate" the likes of e-mail addresses within a viewed page, OR respond to <form>s on your site, thus negating the need to actively place the e-mail address in a page via html.

The most common type of CGI program used is a "forms processor" which sends the submitted form data to you via e-mail created as a result by the program. HOWEVER: many of the readily available CGI forms processors are created by simpletons and therefore still have to have your address imbedded within the forms html code; give them a miss.

Amongst the many there are decent free "Remote Hosted" forms processors available. That is, you just add a form to your website and the parsing/manipulation is performed at another site returning the results to you. There are restrictions compared to having data saved to your own site with your own CGI installation, but this is a useful work around until you get your own domain/CGI enabled web site. Again hopefully you can keep addresses out of html code. See more about CGI-BINs on another page in this Lab.

(I offer several free-to-use Perl CGI programs here at dtp-aus.com. If your site is CGI enabled and you need assistance you can apply for low cost installations.). So bookmark dtp-aus.com.

(2) Will power? IT IS so hard for many people through human inquisitiveness to ignore and immediately delete unexpected or unrecognised (source) e-mails But worse still is the lack of control IF relenting and opening such letters TO ALSO activate any "attached" files attached to an e-mail - bingo, possible immediate activation of a virus!!

Most modern e-mail clients do at least only indicate an attachment giving you the chance to ignore it before viewing. Because we receive so much mail every day and over 60% is spam I use a non associated e-mail client which also gives us the opportunity to view a list of ONLY e-mail headers before even downloading therefore allowing us to quickly delete the rubbish and suspect letters ON the site server without actually receiving them on the PCs.

This is one advantage of eventually having your own real hosted web site and domain name - you also control the content of the mail folders - which are not those of your ISP. The mail client program I speak of if interested is "Pegasus Mail" and is free. As mentioned I do not associate it in the browsers set up either so double clicking web page mail links do not work - IF necessary and trusted a mouse shortcut copy/paste does the trick (general rule is we do not contact a webmaster other than via a form if available and expect the same). NOTE: another advantage of such an e-mail client is the listing of letter file size too with just the header info..... a large file size means an "attachment" - not recognised/expected - danger - delete it!

(3) I believe the US Congress passed a (supposed) law controlling spam mail (unethical unsolicited lowlife mail) where if the spam mail includes a method of UN-Subscribing the unsolicited letter is not illegal. If that is so then the US Congress is still creating laws by having them etched in stone by lightning on top of some mountain somewhere!!

**IF YOU UN-SUBSCRIBE SPAM MAIL - even if successfully off that particular list - you have probably just added value to your e-mail address resold with millions of others on CD ROMs by CONFIRMING the address by you simply answering. Up-to-date confirmed addresses earn considerably more amongst spammers. Sorry but that's how these b......s work. So be warned. Best just to ignore and delete them no matter how desperate you are for a "free" million dollar deal.

A recent trend, 2001, is to imbed the send date of spam mail days, weeks and occasionally months BEFORE the time of sending. The idea is that you will not see such letters listed in your email client program when deleting new obvious rubbish BUT may inadvertantly view it when you later discover an old? un-read letter.... and that one's perfect for virus containers too!

Some spammers send letters with subject lines of just "RE:" or "In response to your request" or "I have a question" and dozens of other pathetic attempts to get under your guard.... IF NOT expecting it, delete it! People out of work and low income earners are very much at risk to some of these lowlifes with what they supposedly offer; fortunately those letters are mostly easily recognised by their subject line. Another ploy towards males is to always include a female name in the subject line!

That alone shows how desparate and un-ethical ANY spammers are. With personalities? like that involved I do find it hard to beleive any one is gullable regarding spam letters yet some are and it only takes a few percent of a million letter mailout to respond to the advertising hype to make it worth their effort. Rarely are their displayed email addresses real or kept active after each mailout (**or they are just used to automatically record yours as an active address by your responding).

Viruses aside, and just as door-to-door sales do work (but I would never fall for that!!!) every spam letter contains traps, false promises, or access to iillegal products - that's another rule.

Another trick for spammers is to supply a URL to click on little knowing that you are opening a page with paid affiliate links where each click earns the page owner a few cents per click just because of your curiosity.

Finally, if you can progress to having your own forms producing their own subject line including a unique reference number, it is easy to just ignore most spam. Even a visitor responding in turn to an "auto response" they receive from such a form will automatically contain the same reference in the subject line placed by their email client. If not included.... delete (recently some pathetic idiot added such a subject line from one of my forms creating a unique ID to a spam list including subject lines - same ref number each time - out of date - what a dumb twit!).

I submitted a follow up post on a forum where spam was the topic. You may find my comments worth keeping in mind. HOWEVER do understand the following is in reference to webmasters with their own domain names and a hosting package enabling "catch-all" POP email boxes as in: (anythinghere@yoursites.dom)... that may be you soon!

....and a bit of advice for newbies - from experience.

NEVER use your primary ISP supplied address as conact when registering domain names. Using an address via your site can be changed at the registrar at any time once it becomes a "spam" address (registrars are still a prime source for address harvesting).

*Ditto when using email for registering at other web sites. In fact then it is a good idea to use the other sites name as in "othersitename@yoursite.dom" - if it becomes used for spam you have a fair idea who sold the address.

Place a comment in all email signatures and on form pages that "addresses are changed several times a year - reapply via FORMS only if direct letters become unanswered at this address".

*Ditto for form processors. Never use ISP addresses for the "From: in auto response back to user (and throw away CGI form processors that require an address imbedded in a forms hidden tag in page code).

*If you must display addresses on site, use bitmap images also hyperlinked to forms (direct all contact through forms).

All the above assumes you have a "catchall" mail box as per our accounts (then selected "named" addresses can be blocked/trashed/redirected as needs arise). Hosted sites don't have the luxuries of owned mail servers and scripting/plugin/management for same as do the "big boys".

Hope that helps someone.

PS: also important. Supply once off addresses for special purposes like the tax office, banks, and other "special" important return contacts. Then it will always be safe to confidently trash any other address which becomes "spam" fodder (I got trapped by that - takes yonks to work out who important has got "that one" !). And remember, if you get sick of your ISP and change, you lose that address too !!

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