is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
I’m no one special just because I get a boatload of spam every day, but I do, and it’s annoying. My mail host provides SpamAssassin protection at the server level, trapping most of the incoming junk messages before I ever get a chance to review them. If it catches some false positives once in a while, I long ago decided that life is far too short to bother wading through its harvest, even irregularly, so I leave them there for eventual deletion by the system.
There are plenty of junk messages that do make it through, though, and those are filtered through the reasonably effective junk filters provided in Microsoft Entourage. I’ve always liked this application-level protection; using a custom view, I can easily monitor the spam filter for messages erroneously marked as spam. It’s really the way I prefer to manage my mail.
Over time, though, the number of junk messages that make it through SpamAssassin has gradually increased, as has the number of false positives I see in Entourage. One has to admit, spammers are Darwinian fighters if nothing else; they adapt and re-calibrate with great persistence — their uncompromising vision of a low-finance, Viagra-fueled utopia just won’t be denied. After seven years of this kind of noise level, I’m just getting weary of combing through my email every day.
I know I could add a utility to my computer like SpamSieve to help improve this error rate; I tried it once and didn’t really like it that much. And I know I could move over completely to Gmail or some other Web-based mail program with purportedly much better, centralized spam protection, but I have a low tolerance for webmail as a general rule. So I’ve been thinking about using a challenge/response spam protection system. Is that totally awful? I know there are many drawbacks, but is anyone out there using such a system successfully?+