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BLOGSpam Rescue and Type I Errors

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Content, Make It Happen Tipsheet, WebTagged as: , ,

Consider this scenario: you get a phone call from a key client or a distraught family member: “didn’t you get my email?”  They are clearly upset that you “ignored” them: they see evidence that they are not your priority. You are not unresponsive.  You don’t care.  

Or maybe, your spam filter was doing just a bit too good a job.  Welcome to the world of Type I errors.

A Type I error is generally called a false positive:  your good email is flagged as spam, and gets filtered into your junk mail folder.  A Type II error is generally called a false negative: spam is not detected as spam, and gets through.  Because of the volume of spam, we seem to be on a cops-and-robbers treadmill of stronger spam filters, which leads to more clever spammers, which leads to even stronger spam filters, and so on and so on.

Was it a programmer that made the decision that it was better to have a clean inbox (with a bit of spam that gets through)?  Or maybe a marketer who decided that the effectiveness of their spam control program was best evidenced by a mostly clean inbox?  In both cases, this “no-spam inbox” policy made an inherently dangerous assumption: that it was better to miss a few emails (because they were caught by the spam filter) than delete a few spams from your inbox.  This assumption may not be right for you.


This week, calendarize a weekly review of your junk mail folder.  Rescuing non-spam email from the junk mail folder will make a dramatic difference…  to the person who sent the email.  If you are really keen, ask your technology department if they are blocking so-called spam at the network edge, which means that it doesn’t even get into your personal junk mail folder.  While this is a technology best practice, they should have a way for you to periodically review anything that is addressed to you.

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