Put your email inbox on a low-spam diet : Naturejobs Blog

April 15, 2018

Put your email inbox on a low-spam diet by @j_perkel
http://blogs.Nature.com/naturejobs/2018/04/11/clean-your-email-inbox-with-a-low-spam-diet/ #Email hygiene for the researcher – ie how to escape fake conference & journal invites + #spam calendar invites

The practice of publishing their email addresses on journal articles and university web sites makes research academics ready targets for email spammers. Spam, Clemons insists, is not merely a nuisance but a time-sink. Mark Gerstein, a professor of biomedical informatics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, estimates that maybe a quarter of the 200-or-so messages he receives in a day are important. “I spend many, many, many hours a week, days a week probably, going through my correspondence,” he says.

Gerstein, for instance, uses a multi-tiered approach to triage his correspondence, relying on Gmail filters, labels, and artificial intelligence. Gerstein has a whitelist — a list of ‘approved’ email addresses. Messages from those addresses are automatically routed to his inbox, where they receive the highest priority. New senders can get on that list by placing a special keyword (available on his web site) in the subject line of their message — which is how I was able to contact him.

Below that top tier are departmental messages, messages from mailing lists, and the like. At the very bottom is the obvious spam, the stuff that gets picked up by Google’s spam-detection algorithms. And in the middle is what Gerstein calls ‘almost-spam’ — messages from predatory journals and conferences, spam invitations to join editorial boards, and even spam calendar invites, which automatically add themselves to his calendar and clog up his schedule.

Gerstein advises researchers to use multiple email addresses in dealing with journals, vendors, and the like. Then, by funneling those messages to a single inbox, one can sort the messages by account and prioritize them accordingly.

Gmail is particularly useful for this purpose, Gerstein notes. Suppose you have the address ‘janesci@gmail.com’. Google allows users to modify their addresses by placing a plus sign and additional text between the username and the at-symbol — for instance,
‘janesci+amazon@gmail.com’ and ‘janesci+ebay@gmail.com’. These messages all go to the original address, but users can sort their messages based on the specific address used.

“You can use that quite powerfully to create unique addresses for all sorts of things, and to filter your email on the basis of that,” Gerstein says.

Still, Gerstein admits, spam inevitably falls through the cracks. How to spot it?