An Approach to Email

Recently, someone asked about the “2003” appearing in the “” email address I’ve been using in a recent public postings. Since I arrived at NYU I realized that continuing to use my MIT email address wouldn’t be politic, but my NYU address is ugly. Back in 1990, folks would brag about how many email addresses they had — and I still see the odd web site where someone lists all of their addresses as a point of honor. Today, things are different:

  • Simply, the more addresses I have, the more spam/junk I receive. If one email address receives a couple of hundred spams a day, two addresses receive twice as much and there’s still only one of me to deal with it all. Also, because some of my email addresses where in Windows users’ address books, I was receiving thousands of bounced SoBig virus messages a day. The same principle applies, more does not equal better.
  • My domains permit me to receive email to any address at that domain; however I quickly turned that off as many spammers randomly guess addresses and collect those that don’t bounce, consequently I could start receiving email at “”.
  • All of my public addresses flow throw a highly trusted, lifetime forward address that then sends it on to my primary pop and backup accounts, for redundancy and web access. I certainly don’t want to publicly rely on an address as ephemeral as an ISP: I saved myself a lot of grief in in Cambridge when my ISP address changed from RoadRunner, to MediaOne, to AT&T in as little as two years because of mergers and trademark disputes! Hopefully, the lifetime forward address never gets seriously compromised by spammers.
  • I’m not willing to remove my email address from public sites as a way of contacting me; and I get very frustrated with authors that do so.
  • While I’ve frozen the number of “real” addresses I’m willing to maintain, I’ve started using disposable tokens (dates and places) that can later be thrown away, or even temporarily turned off to bounce off the spammers.

Fortunately, spamassassin and bogofilter are trashing (literally) thousands of messages a day for me. If somehow they stopped being effective, I would move to a whitelist based system (e.g., confirm your email to me before I see it) but would not stop using email, providing it as a point of contact, nor using it as an effective tool.

Ported/Archived Responses

anthony on 2003-09-17

SpamAssassin is one of the best free bits of software out there. And I just noticed you weren’t on my whitelist, so a message of yours got filed as spam (a message apparently from your MIT address was sent through an open relay at some point). Oops.

Joseph Reagle on 2003-09-17

I don’t remember which message, I probably figured you were ignoring me. :)

anthony on 2003-09-18

The reply to my reply to your query about Macs and fonts. :) Which we discussed the next day when you came here, anyways.

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