NetBeans Community Interview

December 2010

Holger Stenzhorn: Spam-Stopper for NetBeans Mailing Lists

Unsolicited emails, otherwise known as spam, are the bane of inboxes, mailing lists, forums, and websites everywhere. Keeping the NetBeans mailing lists spam-free or at a minimum "spam-lite" are NetBeans mailing list moderators--community volunteers who sign up to shield other users from dubious offers for luxury watches, discounted pharmaceuticals, bank transfer requests, and so on. In this profile, NetBeans user and mailing list moderator Holger Stenzhorn, who stepped down recently from his spam-fighting duties, gives a brief account of his time in the trenches.

Holger Stenzhorn, NetBeans Mailing List ModeratorPlease tell us about your experience as a NetBeans user.
I've been using the NetBeans IDE since the year 2000 in both commercial and research settings for developing prototypes and real applications in the areas of natural language processing, information retrieval/extraction/management, and recently in Semantic Web.

How did you take up the crusade against unsolicited messages on the NetBeans mailing lists?
I had participated previously in several NetCAT programs when Jiri Kovalsky, the program manager, asked if I would like to "take on" spam as a community task. I agreed because it was a chance to help the NetBeans community and to show my appreciation for a great tool.

What was your strategy to keep the NetBeans mailing lists clean?
It was quite simple: I trained the spam filter in my Thunderbird email client to the extent that filtering happened (almost) automatically. Luckily, this approach worked very well because without automated help checking every item of mail would have been impossible.

You must have seen all manner of messages while in the moderator role. What patterns or types stood out for you?
My impression was that a lot, if not most, of the spam messages originated from Russia and China, and they had similar content patterns, for example, offers for "interesting" products. What I found quite annoying though were requests from actual individuals to the mailing lists to become social-networking "friends".

After 2.5 years, would you consider yourself a "spam expert"?  What tips do you have for curtailing spam attacks?
No, I am not a "spam" expert since I never really dived into the origins of spam messages. I have simply "suffered" a bit more than the usual user when it comes to exposure! My tip is to take your time and train the spam filter of your email application well and you should see a reduction in spam.

A spam-free world: Possibility or pipe-dream?
If no sensible technological measures are introduced, then I doubt that we will ever be free from spam. We definitely need increasingly stronger automated measures integrated into email clients to help reduce spam.

Any last words as you step down from your list moderating duties?
Good luck to future spam assassins!

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