Advent Conspiracy – It’s a Tide, not a Day

One of the revolutionary changes that occurred in my celebration of Christmas was when I realized that it was a “tide”, not a day. I recall as a kid wondering what that word meant. You know, the “Yule Tide Carol”. And what was this thing about “The Twelve Days of Christmas?” As a rural Protestant, all there was to Christmas was December 25th. While there was a lot of stuff happening before that day with the “Christmas” label, the celebration of Christmas, for all practical purposes, was one day.

Fast-forward thirty years, add three kids and a wife, a dozen or so relatives, an ever-widening wealth of friendships, it seemed that something was terribly bent about Christmas being just a one day celebration. Instead of celebrating the day as the coming of the Saviour, it was more of a logistical contest, managing the yearnings of children wanting to open all their gifts on Christmas morning, fixing a hot breakfast followed by a huge dinner, and having the dining room fill with friends and family, topped off with a marathon dish-washing. Come December 26th, nothing except exhaustion.

As a lover of history it was no secret to me that sometime before 1900 people had a broader understanding of Christmas. To Europeans, Christmas-tide was a period of time extending from the day Jesus was born to Epiphany, when he was visited by the wise men. Those twelve days were replete with activities that had little to do with giving gifts. Most people could not afford the orgy of materialism we see today. While gifts were exchanged throughout this period, it was at a much smaller scale and most everything people gave was personally made or had significant practical value. Food, for example, was vital – as was clothing. To give someone a pair of shoes was a blessing from heaven. People moved from household to household sharing food, liquid refreshment, music and stories.

Today, Christmas is now fast-tracked. It starts with the madness called Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. The Drudge Report fills with headlines of fights and even deaths resulting from the rush of people. It is then followed by Cyber Monday when on-line services compete to sell their goods over the Internet. Charities are now chiming in with a special day on Tuesday. The rest of time is filled with Christmas pageants, cantatas, concerts, carol singing, office parties, and so on. Christmas Day comes along, usually proceeded by a Christmas Eve service at your church. Some families have a tradition of opening some gifts on Christmas Eve. But Christmas Day is the climax where people rush to the Christmas tree and open a mountain of gifts, followed by a huge feast. It is a day of fond memories. But then it ends.

Historically, it was the other way around. Prior to 1920, there was not much consumerism. Gifts were usually hand-made. Pre-Christmas parties were often the luxury of the wealthy. For many commoners, Christmas was twelve days long. It was during this time that carols were sung, gifts exchanged, gatherings made around a Yule Log. It was more spontaneous. There was no rush. It is the Christmas I dream of having every year.

How can we regain this tradition that expands over two millennia?

Start with the family. Attempt to wean your children off of the Christmas morning rush. We felt we were successful if we could stretch it out over two days, beginning with Christmas Eve. This will definitely be the toughest assignment. But, over the years, it may actually work. Isn’t it sad that kids open up a half dozen gifts, all scattered out over the floor, filled with joy and excitement yet they hardly know the gifts are there after the day is over. Imagine replacing that with a gift each day and each day that gift is special. That may be the most idealistic proposal in this essay – good luck.

Staying with the family, attempt to arrange trips around Christmas-tide rather than Christmas Day. Let your extended family members know that it is OK if they come December 28th or News Year Day. It is still Christmas! Vice versa, you can avoid much of the Christmas chaos at airports and highways by traveling during off-days. You may notice that ticket costs vary considerably if you choose days that are less frequently traveled. The greatest dividend is that your family members can travel without feeling harried, rushed or unsafe.

Third, scope out your acquaintances and see who you can have over for dinner. The biggest tradition of Christmas-tide is that the nights are filled with fellowship, food, drink and even some rowdiness. While not advancing the latter, the other three things look quite attractive. Have this week reserved for friends and those who are without family. Get to know someone new. Invite the neighbors for an evening of left-overs.

Fourth, check to see if there are ways you can extend service to those in need. It is nice that members of the community chip in and provide a mountain of food and a hot meal to those in need on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. But they are in need the rest of the year and you may find it more meaningful to see how their needs are met on a regular day.

Fifth, really get radical and sing Christmas Carols! Imagine how weird that would be in our modern society. But that is what folks used to do, singing carols during Christmas-tide. Being shy, you may want to start with a carol-sing at your home or local church. Then get brave, and spread out to nursing homes, homeless shelters, or schools. But one great idea is to bake up a batch of cookies and share them with people if you must go door-to-door. You might be surprised what you will get back – I can imagine that everyone on your street will have a mountain of leftovers to share!

This is just the beginning. I can imagine that buried deep into the past are a bevy of lost traditions that await our discovery. Christmas-tide can definitely be the most joyful part of the year.

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Please check my web site for a listing of more technical and literary publications.

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Advent Conspiracy — Give More

Two of the tenets of the Advent Conspiracy are to Spend Less and Give More. What sense does that make?

give_moreIn an earlier essay I discussed how we could get through Christmas without any debt. It is interesting to note that, in hindsight, I was not telling you to spend less. But by focusing on spending cash only, it would automatically cause us to take more care in how we spend money for Christmas gifts, evolving from being impulsive to being deliberative, from credit card debt recovery to saving in advance. It could, quite possibly, cause us to spend less. But the real point of controlling how we spend money is not to become misers and Scrooges, but to enable us and others around us to enjoy Christmas in a worshipful manner, to have the liberty of truly focusing on Christ and all the important things he has placed in our lives: love, generosity, family, and friends.

So how can you give more while “spending less”?

First, taking thought before buying anything. Ever wondered why you wait till Christmas to buy someone a gift? A gift that is truly meaningful is one that meets an important need in a timely fashion. I make an annual trek to Missouri to help my dad around the house. One year I was painting the trim around the exterior of the house. His step ladder was 15,000 years old and was nothing short of dangerous. He needed a new ladder and, being near his birthday, it became his birthday present.   He needed a new ladder then, not later. This type of stuff goes on all year, encountering people who could be blessed by receiving a timely, much-needed gift. Waiting till Christmas makes no sense. As a result, there are honestly few nice gifts to give people on Christmas. So you have to pause, think, and carefully consider what would truly lend value to a gift. Just don’t throw money at something. I noticed a lot of people are just like us, resorting to purchasing a cute Christmas card with a cute gift card inside. Sometimes cash is the best gift.

For my family, our journey in buying sensible gifts began with “What do you give someone who has everything?” This typically applies to older people. Would my parents really need another painting? Would my wife need another bracelet? After a while, the parents have run out of wall space and your wife’s two stacks of bracelets are getting to appear more like a rare metal investment. So we bounced an idea off of our parents and siblings – would it be OK to give to charity on their behalf? They thought it was a great idea. The fun part is what we select. We would navigate to the World Vision web site and pick a goat for the brother, a pig for the sister and a piece of a water well for my parents (my father is a civil engineer). The neat thing is that we are not guessing at what would benefit someone who has practically everything. Nor are we sending them gifts that have no practical use.   But giving on their behalf for a World Vision project? That made more sense.

Also note that in buying a goat we gave more. We gave a gift to my wife’s brother, but somewhere in Latin America a family received a goat that blessed them throughout the coming years. How many people drank the milk? If they sold the milk, what did it purchase for the family?

Next, buying local. Giving more is possible because you are blessing people who live in your community, people you most likely see around town, possibly a friend. I realize this is tough for folks who live in major metro centers. But wherever it is possible to relationally connect with store owners and their employees, there is something positive whenever you realize that an item you purchase benefits people you are near. Also note this does not necessarily mean ignoring chain stores. I knew someone who worked in the florist section of a large grocery chain store. I could have bought flowers from elsewhere, but I knew that this person would be blessed to do business with me and she knew my wife besides. She was delighted to be making a flower arrangement for my wife.

Buy from local artists and craftsmen. One of the bonuses of living in Juneau is the abundance of artists. It is interesting that Black Friday is the day the local craft fair is held. The event is usually well attended, packing people into three different buildings. From food to cutlery, from scented candles to outstanding photography, you can find it at this craft fair. We usually buy something each Christmas. Folks who receive these gifts are getting something handmade, unique and with a touch of Alaska. But just as importantly, the creators are blessed by being rewarded for the fruit of their creativity and labor. And, for a city as self-contained as Juneau, it is likely someone you will see again.

Buy from friends or people you know who would particularly be blessed. We know people who are very talented and could really use the income. Be watchful for people who need the extra income. I love to buy art work (wish I had more wall space) and I have had the good fortune of knowing some very talented artists. Reserving my resources to buy their art work is a blessing. It also addresses the fourth tenet of the Advent Conspiracy – to Love All.

Giving is also something we do that does not involve a purchase. There are food drives, coat drives, Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child. Consider buying a bell-ringer a cup of coffee. Inventory how you use your time and consider giving your time and talents where it is needed. Christmas is a good time to take account of our own resources to see how we give all the time. Maybe Christmas is a good time to call Love INC and volunteer your time, call the Glory Hole and join a kitchen team, volunteer to provide health services, or call your local church and provide your time to a need they may have observed in your congregation.

Consider giving the “fruit of the Spirit.” Interesting, isn’t it, that the most important thing you can give to anyone is your presence. “Presence, rather than presents.” Consider a commitment to love someone more, to untrack your personal agenda and have intentional compassion toward someone else. It’s amazing how something costless is priceless.

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Please note that Advent Conspiracy is a movement started by a handful of concerned Christians desiring to recapture the true meaning of Christmas.

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Please check my web site for a listing of more technical and literary publications.

Advent Conspiracy — Worship Fully

A tenet of the Advent Conspiracy is Worship Fully.

Worship_Fully.png To reclaim Christmas, we can dole out a considerable amount of advice. Yet we need to be reminded that “Advent” is part of the Advent Conspiracy. Any suggestions offered to regain Christmas can never be addressed unless the reader has a stirred conscience and a desire to participate in the Advent season.

Advent is not a scripture-proscribed holiday.  Advent evolved from the development of the liturgical calendar. The early church was largely composed of illiterate people. Paper was very expensive and rare, so even if you wanted to read and write, the transference of scriptural knowledge was usually reserved to a few. To resolve this problem, the early church used a calendar to emphasize various parts of the gospel story.   Up until the 19th century, Easter was the big holiday in Christendom. The crucifixion of Jesus had a specific date because it occurred during the Jewish Passover.   The gospels are replete with details of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, and contemporary secular sources of the time verified much of what was recorded in the gospels.

Advent was designed to instruct believers in the coming of Jesus. Words like “anticipation” and “preparedness” apply to this time of year. While the Nativity Scene is often associated with this season, that did not appear until the 13th century courtesy of St. Francis of Assisi. But the stories of the birth of Jesus abounded. Unlike the crucifixion, the birth of Jesus was reported quite differently in each of the gospels. Mark and John have nothing about it, while Matthew and Luke were similar but each providing a unique element to the story. So Advent leaves a lot more to the imagination.

Advent is a spiritual journey. It is my journey and it is personal. There are no formulas here, no recited liturgy or rites of passage. It is, in essence, a reminder that at one time in the history of man was my personal history – a life without the Christ. I have heard a lot of testimonies and they all contain some common elements – one of which is preparation. Whether a person knew it or not, they were being prepared for the coming of Christ into their lives.

As a Bible-centered evangelical raised in rural Missouri, the liturgical calendar was something lightly regarded in my church. My family did not celebrate Advent as such although I recognize some elements of it on hindsight. So it would remain until I was much older (several years ago) when I realized that Christmas had become, in reality, a single day on the calendar of frenetic activity and material consumption with a rapid succession of events proceeding, as any parent of children can attest. Managing the affairs of Christmas became algebraically more complex with each addition to the family. Finding the true meaning of Christmas was illusive.

I related to what C.S. Lewis referred to in Surprised by Joy, this awareness that there was something fresh, mysterious and pure somewhere near me, more than imagination.  On hindsight I realize that I was “being prepared.” My conscience was stirred. For a few years I kept asking God, “Lord, is this what Christmas is about?” Each year I was more prepared to address that question.

And that is where the Advent Conspiracy begins – prayer and meditation. It is no accident that missionaries and Christian charities begin with prayer support. Missionaries don’t say this rhetorically when they share how we can support them – they begin with prayer. You can write a check and that takes hardly a minute. But missionaries are full time on the front line of our faith. They need our prayer support all the time. Advent is certainly no different. It begins with you, preparing yourself, for the coming of the Saviour. It grows to be an embedded awareness.

What I share of the various tenets of the Advent Conspiracy in a few weeks will reflect almost half a lifetime of my spiritual journey. No guilt trips here. No radical purge of materialism. Rather it was a gradual transformation. I discovered that the Advent calendar was there for a reason, to redirect my thoughts and energy toward a renewal of my faith. It is a spiritual exercise that I now look forward to each year.

May you worship fully this Advent.

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Please note that Advent Conspiracy is a movement started by a handful of concerned Christians desiring to recapture the true meaning of Christmas.

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Please check my web site for a listing of more technical and literary publications.

Advent Conspiracy — Cash Only Please

Spend_Less.png
Spend Less

One of the tenets of the Advent Conspiracy is to Spend Less

If anything demonstrates how distorted Christmas has become, it is the amassed credit card debt. According to an ABC Report, 60% of credit card holders do not pay their balances in full. From within this group, credit counseling agencies report a 25% post-Christmas up-tick in people experiencing credit debt assistance. The London Telegraph notes that 1.5 million Britons take out payday loans to pay for Christmas! Most folks are happy if they can clear the debt by April, often thinking a tax refund will cover the balance. It is the worst kind of financial management. It generates personal stress and weakens the family.  It is indeed ironic how many Christians participate in this trend. I should know because there was a time in my life when I was a part of that “tradition.” Besides attempting to cover gift purchases for my immediate family, I had to cover gifts for the extended family. Add to that office mates, business contacts, neighbors, my close friends, special offerings, and January sales, the amount of money I expended in late November through the first week in January was staggering.

Yet it was Jesus, himself, who taught us that we either serve God or Mammon. Mammon is more than money. It is spiritual servitude. It consumes us and demands our devotion. It is the very essence of debt. Yet how was I celebrating Christmas? I went out and generated four months of debt! When that happens, you spend a part of your life recovering from that debt, not only changing how you spend your income in the coming months, but also how you shift your priorities and even the level of generosity in the months after Christmas.

100The first financial step I took to recover Christmas was to switch to a cash-only basis. No credit cards. The first Christmas was, admittedly, a failed attempt. We did not have enough cash to cover such a noble principle. Our urge to purchase gifts was still well ahead of our means. And, as a family member, I had to have buy-in from my immediate family as well as other extended family members. Getting “buy-in” from a five-year-old is a bit of a trick. The Advent Conspiracy tenet of “Spend Less” was not exactly easy to implement without some “preparation” for others in the family. So don’t beat yourself if you find this takes a few years to achieve.

Eventually, however, cash-only became a reality. It took a couple of seasons before we figured out how to pull back on our spending and save ahead. Once I figured how much we spent for Christmas, I set aside a given amount each month. Come Christmas, I could say we had $600 to spend on Christmas gifts and we, generally, kept to that amount. You can’t imagine what a huge change that was for me as a bill-payer. In the space of about three years we evolved from paying off credit cards in monthly installments to having money in the bank come November 1st. What that made possible for me was the opportunity to “Worship Fully” (another tenet of the Advent Conspiracy). Don’t kid yourself. It is impossible, as a bill-payer, to truly worship fully when you and everyone around you are making demands that will have grave financial consequences. It was a huge blessing to go through Christmas without that hanging over my head.

Sticking to the budget made “spend less” automatic. As noted above, there is a lot more that goes on with “spending less” than cutting your credit cards and unilaterally buying fewer gifts. It is a cultural shift. Your children need to appreciate that it is not important that they each get three gifts. But it is also more imperative that you, as a parent, are more aware of what is truly meaningful to them. Personally, I had to stop buying small gift items for the office. But I found purchasing tasty food items a good substitute, or simply baking a loaf of bread or a batch of snicker doodles . My wife has been great at making small craft items.

So pray about this important challenge – to get through Christmas without a single credit card purchase. It will be the first step in your journey to recapture the true meaning of gift-giving. And eventually you will have a Christmas without a worry or unnecessary demands on your financial resources.

Spend Less.

Sources: “Lingering Christmas Bills Can Lead to Debt Woes,” ABC News

Why debt-fuelled spending on Christmas and weddings is humbug”, The Telegraph

Here’s what the average American spends on holiday gifts,” Motley Fool

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Please note that Advent Conspiracy is a movement started by a handful of concerned Christians desiring to recapture the true meaning of Christmas.

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Please check my web site for a listing of more technical and literary publications.

Advent Conspiracy — What’s Missing

One of the tenets of the Advent Conspiracy is to Love More.

Love Well -- One of the Tenets of the Advent Conspiracy
Love More

I have had pleasant memories of Thanksgiving when I was alone.  It was in college that I had my first experience of being away from my family for Thanksgiving.  Traveling 600 miles from Hope College to my home was a daunting task.  I did so my freshman year and both myself and my parents agreed that the trip was expensive and hurried, although it was so good to be home.  For my parents, it was a long-awaited acknowledgement from their somewhat rebellious son that home is a good place to be.  So it would be that I remained in Michigan for subsequent Thanksgivings.

What was a blessing was that the college campus being a community of students, faculty and families in the town.  They were all aware that many students would not be returning to their homes.  So it was truly a blessing when I received an invitation to join a family for a Thanksgiving dinner.  Aside from the incredibly excellent cooking of my hosts, there was the opportunity to dine with two noted theologians.  Something I certainly did not merit.

When I first wrote this essay I was going to wait till the final week of Advent to discuss loneliness, but two events occurred that caused me to change my priorities. First, my mother’s memorial service was held in early November 2014. The other event was the service I attended at the country church I attended as a youth. The pastor, staying true to the church calendar, shared a message on honoring the memories of those who passed away. Many people, even Christians, do not realize that Halloween is followed by All Saints Day and many Christian traditions have used that day to honor those who have recently passed on. The pastor’s message was a Christmas message, oddly enough. The pastor asked that we remember who was missing.

As is immediately apparent in my own family, the elderly who have lost a loved one are often confronted with the deepest loneliness. I can’t begin to imagine what my father experienced, to see someone who was by his side for over half a century pass on.  When Christmas rolled around his family members resided in remote cities or countries and many of his friends were far away or dead. The home was empty except for a pet. So in our journey to love more, it can best begin with those who are nearest to us, considering those in our family who may be going through the holiday season living alone.

Then there are those who are without family nearby. Not too long ago I had a conversation with my daughter and she commented how lonely she felt. I said, “Isn’t it ironic you are in a city of 14 million and you are lonely?” I relate because I resided in a city when I was single and just out of graduate school. Amidst 2 million people I felt lonely.  No matter where you are, it is difficult to be far from the ones you love.  Juneau is famous for having people who are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from family. In some respects it is akin to living overseas or in a different country, 850 miles from Seattle.  This is a time to remember Coast Guard families and keeping our eyes and ears open for people we know who will not be able to fly down south to rejoin their family. It was four years before my family could scratch together the funds to fly down south.

Finally, amongst the “missing” are those simply alone because they are homeless.  Many of us may have rolled up our sleeves and volunteered at the Thanksgiving or Christmas kitchen. But having a homeless person invited to your home? You can’t be serious! To be quite honest, most of our readers may have to make this a project for the coming year. To be truly meaningful, setting aside a part of your Christmas-tide for a homeless person or family requires a personal investment in their life. Otherwise, it is a bit patronizing. In the course of your charity work you can make a commitment to be personally invested in one or two people you are serving. It goes beyond cooking at the Glory Hole. It requires you to get out from behind the kitchen counter. When that happens, having them over for a meal during Christmas is much easier.

Yet maybe the homeless are not over there at the Glory Hole. Look around and you will probably see someone you know who is going through a financial crisis, a lost job or a sudden emergency. They may not be homeless, but they are close to it. Showing you care about them, that you are praying for them and willing to have them over for dinner can be a huge blessing.

It seems that the title of this essay should be “Who is Missing,” but it is the what that defines the value of family:  love, warmth, acceptance, laughter, good cooking, wonderful memories.  These are aspects of life that are difficult to replace.  When you extend a welcoming hand to people who are lonely, you help fill the emptiness.

Love More.

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Please note that Advent Conspiracy is a movement started by a handful of concerned Christians desiring to recapture the true meaning of Christmas.

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Please check my web site for a listing of more technical and literary publications.

Spam Filtering: Mastering Your E-mail

 

It is now a fact of life that e-mail traffic is largely spam, unwanted solicitations for your time and money, if not worse. I recall in the days of the mailbox that spam was the latest sweepstakes offer. That’s quite tame compared to the dozens, if not hundreds, of daily spam offers we encounter.  Spam cannot be avoided, but it can be controlled.

This does not have to be so. The most effective way to control spam is to note your internet behavior. Most people have one e-mail address, whether it corresponds to a friend, a bank or the guy needing money for his Nigerian grandmother. There is no better solution than to divide up your e-mail into unique e-mail addresses. (This is discussed at length in “A Method to the Madness.”)

This article focuses on how to effectively use spam filters. And it is a journey I have undertaken to understand spam filtering. Like just about everyone who reads this blog, I had one personal e-mail address. I was between jobs so I was hitting a lot of job sites on the web. It was then that I realized some were not quite what they appeared to be. When I began working at the University of Alaska (UAS) I had my personal e-mail address (which was used primarily for consulting work) forwarded to my work address. Before long the UAS account was being hammered by “job opportunities.” To add fuel to the fire, this was at a time when a faculty member’s e-mail address was posted onto a web page. Filtering, at this point, was a desperate battle of survival. Mix in about a 50-100 students, message management was a nightmare.

Introducing Filtering

Filtering has come a long ways since 2003 when I moved up to Alaska. I picked up on it quite readily. I started teaching the concept in security classes. I have seen various tools that provide filtering at different levels. For you, the average user, about all you see are the junk mail controls on your e-mail software. There is more to filtering than that. Filtering is done at several levels.

  • Your Internet Provider or Host
  • Your mail server
  • Your e-mail client software

 

For most folks, what they see day-to-day is their e-mail client software and they’ll see a folder called “Junk” or “Spam”. What they don’t see is that Internet providers and hosting services (like 1and1.com) have been utilizing anti-spam measures of their own.

  • Spammers need an e-mail server to do their work. The message must start from somewhere. That is getting harder to do these days using conventional channels. Mail service providers have been utilizing digital certificates to authenticate who they are, which it makes it more difficult to service traffic from rogue servers. Mail servers on the Internet send messages to “relay servers”, which in turn are capable of detecting spam traffic and blocking abusers.
  • Mail service squelching eliminates bulk e-mails. Most people do not encounter this problem until they volunteer to send newsletters to the 100 member gardening club. That’s when they discover an exciting new feature from the Internet provider – squelching. The messages start to drag, then get very inconsistent, and then get corrupted. You go to your provider’s web site and see in very fine print – “Send messages to as many as 50 recipients.” Once you go over that limit, the message delivery rate is sent to the bottom of the pile as messages may or may not be delivered. In other words, your Internet provider is not in the business of bulk mail.

 

From data I gathered during my days at UAS I detected that the UAS mail filter (which was my “Internet provider” so-to-speak) was filtering about 1500 messages a week for my account! They provided faculty and staff with a tool to check theses messages which provided a great deal of insight regarding the volume of spam. And that holds true for what your Internet provider these days encounters. Messages, which are unambiguously spam, are zapped before it ever gets to your mailbox.

The second layer of filtering is with your e-mail server. Most people have only an Internet provider, but if you have a hosted site ( like for your personal web page or business ), you will notice that your e-mail service has a filtering feature that affects all the people who are listed under your domain. If you had an address such as juneauflowers.com, and you had 12 employees, you can set spam filtering that affects all employees. This can remove another significant level of messages in which your employees may be tempted to open. You may also note that tools like SpamAssassin may be employed at the server-level.

 

1and1_spam_filter

No one is more aggressive at doing this than government web sites and high-security business sites. In my work with volunteer organizations, I implore people, over and over again, do not list your government office e-mail address. Invariably, newsletters are blocked by mail filters. If you subscribe to an e-mail server, you can also control quite specifically the type of traffic that comes to your employees.

The third layer is your e-mail client, the software you use on your computer or smartphone. You may have noticed that your mailbox may have a folder called “Junk” or “Spam”. These folders are used to collect spam and deposit into Junk folders. You usually get a message with a summary of the filtered messages. If you discover this is an error, you can right-click on the message and mark it “Not Junk”. Below is an example how you configure Thunderbird to filter junk mail, as well as decipher e-mail scams and messages with viral payloads.

thunderbird-1

What is interesting about this layer is that you are introduced to the fact that an e-mail client is “trained” to identify junk mail. In reality, the spam filters of your e-mail server are also “trained,” albeit at a different level. Your spam filter is asking you to move into the Spam/Junk folder any message you do not trust or want. The next time that message arrives, it may see a similar message in the Spam/Junk folder and automatically mark the message as spam. Be patient. It may take a while for the software to learn. Another thing to note is read carefully which messages are being filtered in the event a sender you care about gets marked as “junk.” For example, my health care insurance provider had, for some odd reason, their messages filtered. The solution was to right-click over the message and mark it as “Not Junk”.

The fourth layer are “rules”. Thunderbird, my e-mail software, calls it “Message Filtering” while Outlook calls it “Rules”. In both cases, you have the ability to filter out messages based on who they come from or specific phrases. This is the last defense of filtering where all other measures fail. This feature is not only for spam, but for doubtful messages, or for general, routine messages that clutter up your mailbox and you wish to keep them out of the Inbox. As an enterprise administrator, my mailbox is pounded by automated messages. These are all handled by rules, which direct these messages to specific folders. This enables me to communicate more effectively with my colleagues while also tracking notifications.The final filter is yourself. Be smart. If the message is unsolicited, use common sense. What do you know about a grandmother in Nigeria? Are there links in the message which are different than the sender. Is their an attachment from somebody you do not know. When in doubt, delete it.

thunderbird-2

In Conclusion

As I said at the beginning, learning the art of spam filtering is a journey. Take some time, beginning with your e-mail software. See which features it provides for filtering and virus protection. See which features your Internet provider employs for spam filtering. Make one change at a time and measure how it affects your e-mail traffic.