[R] Discussion: Spam on R-help

(Ted Harding) Ted.Harding at nessie.mcc.ac.uk
Mon Aug 4 11:12:44 CEST 2003

[re-sending this one since it apparently didn't get through yesterday]

Hi Folks,

I just had a look at the r-help archive for the still-young month of
August, and happened to notice that out of 49 postings there, 20 were
assorted spam of all-too-familiar types.

I'm wondering (discussion point) whether this might suggest that the
list should adopt a more restrictive policy. Apparently, as things
now stand, anyone may post to the list.

I faced the same problem some months ago when two lists which I run
(linux-users at mcc.ac.uk and man-lug at mcc.ac.uk) were being hit by spam
at a rate which was becoming irritating. With great reluctance, I came
to the conclusion that the lists would have to be restricted to "posting
by members only". This has had the knock-on effect that both spam and
also occasional genuine worthwhile postings by non-members end up being
sent to me for approval. Fortunately in the case of these lists, the
frequency of this remains at an acceptable level -- say a dozen or so a
week, of which almost all are spam and are easily dealt with, with no
regrets if there's any delay before I get round to it. Also there are
not huge numbers of subscribers -- the overall level of traffic is
relatively low.

Another knock-on effect is tbat when I get a subscription request from
an email address that is not obviously bona-fide, I feel obliged to
send off a mail to that address asking for confirmation of genuine
interest in Linux (I have a pro-forma template for this). This is
to prevent people subscribing to the list in order either to send out
spam via the list or to harvest email addresses of list subscribers.
For the same reasons, access to the lists' archives and to subscriber
lists is password-restricted to subscribers.

It is likely to be otherwise with r-help. This has a fairly high level
of traffic, many people may welcome the opportunity to post messages
without subscribing, and the list-owners might find themselves forced to
devote more time than they would welcome to dealing not only with spam
but also with non-member postings, if the list became "members-only".
There are many subscribers: this too would add to the list-owners' burden
if they had to "manage" all that.

On the other hand there is the possibility of spam-blocking software.
This works up to a point, and provided the amount of spam that slipped
through was small it could be an acceptable solution. At the same time,
it's all too easy for genuine messages to get blocked if the spam-filter
triggers are comprehensive enough to trap most spam (in a statistical
context, SEX may be a factor; and there are many other triggers e.g. in
the 'cluster' package).

Yet again, people can simply accept that spam, like flies in Summer,
is one of those irritations that must simply be ignored: "just hit

Anyway, as I said, a point for discussion. What do people think?

Best wishes to all,

PS: Just to make clear that I'm not _complaining_ about receiving spam
via r-help. Those 20 messages would be only a tiny fraction of the
hundreds of times I have "hit delete" since 1 August!

E-Mail: (Ted Harding) <Ted.Harding at nessie.mcc.ac.uk>
Fax-to-email: +44 (0)870 167 1972
Date: 03-Aug-03                                       Time: 13:39:17
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