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4/5/2003
08:39 AM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
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Editor's Note: Block Or Accept Mail, You Decide

"Hi," "info you requested," "your account," "urgent," "you've won." While these words sound innocent enough, they're just a few of the dozens of subject lines included on the E-mail messages that I delete every morning as part of my autopilot, first-cup-of-coffee-of-the-day, get-this-*&%$-out-of-my-in-box routine.

That's on top of ones that are far more descriptive and sometimes repulsive. Enough already. I applaud the efforts under way to help the industry reduce the amount of spam in our business and personal E-mail boxes. I was especially intrigued by news last week of a new product that uses several techniques to stop spam, including letting users set a payment rate to receive E-mail from unknown senders. In that same vein, a researcher at IBM's Watson Research Center has written a basic algorithm that can determine whether incoming E-mails hail from an addressee on a recipient-defined list of approved addresses.

These sorts of "accept" strategies versus the current "block" strategies are something legitimate E-mail marketing companies favor. Last week, I spoke with Scott Dorsey, CEO of one such company, ExactTarget, which recently joined a coalition with more than 20 other permission-based E-mail marketing companies to help find the right solutions. "It's a multifaceted problem that includes freedom of speech, legislation, and technology, but it's a problem that needs to be addressed," he says.

If the various accept strategies prevail, it will require us to change the rules by which we use E-mail. I don't like that it puts the onus on me to determine who can send E-mail to me or that I might have to establish a payment method to receive messages from unknown senders. But that might be just what it takes for us to continue to use a very effective medium.

Stephanie Stahl
Editor
sstahl@cmp.com

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