[R] Discussion: Spam on R-help

Christian Hennig hennig at stat.math.ethz.ch
Mon Aug 4 11:44:46 CEST 2003

Hi Ted,

the R-help list is maintained by Martin Maechler, ETH Zurich, 
who is not at work at the moment. We had various computer problems at the
ETH in the last week. It may be that the spam filter broke down somehow and
Martin is not here to fix it. I think the reason for the lots of spam are
temporary technical problems and I hope we will have a "filtered" mailing
list again in one or two weeks.


On Mon, 4 Aug 2003 Ted.Harding at nessie.mcc.ac.uk wrote:

> [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
> delete".
> Anyway, as I said, a point for discussion. What do people think?
> Best wishes to all,
> Ted.
> 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
> ------------------------------ XFMail ------------------------------
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Christian Hennig
Seminar fuer Statistik, ETH-Zentrum (LEO), CH-8092 Zuerich (currently)
and Fachbereich Mathematik-SPST/ZMS, Universitaet Hamburg
hennig at stat.math.ethz.ch, http://stat.ethz.ch/~hennig/
hennig at math.uni-hamburg.de, http://www.math.uni-hamburg.de/home/hennig/
ich empfehle www.boag.de

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