Like I said on IRC today, I liken the fight against spam to the
world being overrun by flesh-eating zombies. No, really, stay with me
here. In this situation, you have two different groups. The type 1
crowd cowers in boarded-up abandoned-looking homes, being very quiet and
inconspicuous, hoping to avoid the zombies' notice. By staying silent
and never going outside, this type believes that the zombies will simply
pass them by. In terms of email, this group never publishes their email
address publicly. They will give it out through direct person-to-person
methods only, and rely on tools such as a web form-based emailer that
spammers are not equipped to abuse. Or if they do reveal their email
address publicly, they do so encoded; the address itself may contain
clearly marked instructions that a human mind can recognize and parse
but the spammer's address harvesters are not sophisticated enough to
Members of the type 2 crowd armor plate their Magnum V8 Dodge
pickup, ring the outside with jagged spikes, and then pile into the bed
armed with shotguns, automatic rifles, and flamethrowers. Then they
cruise around, doing whatever the damn hell they want. They're
constantly under zombie attack, but they hardly even notice it most of
the time, because almost all of the soulless beasts are too dumb to
avoid the spikey bits arranged around the truck and so they mindlessly
impale themselves. These are the people who run aggressive spam
filters, such as SpamAssassin, and they do their best to keep their
filters up to date and their Bayesian databases current with all the
latest spam emails.
Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages. The type 1 crowd
is all happy and good for a time, except that it almost never lasts.
Either someone inside the house screws up and makes their presence
known, or some unscrupulous asshole sells the address to the evil Zombie
Overlords for a pile of blood-stained money. In either case, suddenly
there's a flood of zombies attacking the house which is completely
undefended, and so the people must run and flee and try to find a new
home, except that they can't contact the post office to provide a
forwarding address (the zombies read those) and now they have to call
all their friends and give them their new telephone number.
For the type 2 crowd, they generally don't even notice all the
zombies that their big truck is grinding into the pavement. Once in a
while, one the sneakier zombies will get between the spikes and try to
claw its way into the back. A couple of shotgun blasts to the head and
the unholy thing is dead once more, dumped in a ditch somewhere to rot.
Very rarely, their big engine of destruction will plow over some poor
bastard who's actually still alive. It takes a bit of dedication to
peer over the roof and scrutinize all the zombies before you run them
down, just to make sure you're not doing in people who don't deserve to
be splattered. Running a good spam filter means you may average about a
spam a day getting into your inbox. If you want, you can check your
spam folder for false positives. You can split your spam up by score so
that you only check the low-scoring spams for false positives.
So while the type 2 group can go on indefinitely with only the
occasional minor inconvenience, if the email addresses of the type 1
crowd start getting spread around all of the spammer lists and those
folk decide to stay type 1, they go through a tremendous hassle
converting everything and everyone over to their new address.
To me, there's not even a question. It's easier on everyone and
myself to make my email address public and just delete the occasional
spam that gets through the filters.