Email Wisdom

1.  Forwarding nonsense
Before I get into the interesting part, let me set everybody straight on forwarded e-mail.  In short, if you are looking to forward yet another story about how the ACLU is forbiding crosses in cemetaries, or AIDS tainted needles being stuck here there and everywhere, STOP.  Don't forward another one until you know it's true (both of the examples I mentioned are concoctions).  If you receive such an e-mail, you are cordially invited to look it up at snopes.com for veracity.  If anybody forwards me such an e-mail that's full of cocamamie bunk, I reply all and correct him.  OK?

Don't forward a bunch of nonsense!  Make sure it's really true first!
2.  Basic terminology and concepts
UBE Unsolicited Bulk E-mail.  This is email that starts when your e-mail address is "harvested" through surreptitious means.  This commonly occurs with putting your e-mail on a domain name registration (say, you register your church's domain and you are the technical contact).  Other methods include having your e-mail address posted on discussion forums (most fora won't do expose your e-mail publicy for this reason unless you change a setting that allows it).  Don't allow it.  You will see that in the header above in this web page, my e-mail address appears.  You will also notice that it's done in an image so that spammer's automated web crawlers will have a hard time reading it, but humans won't.
This class of e-mail is the lowest level junk: ads for college diplomas, medicnes, and all other sorts of things we don't talk about in polite company.  It's a good way to destroy a child's innocence.
SBE Solicited Bulk Email.  This is the result of going online and putting your e-mail in a web site to set up an ID.  You will then get little newsletters, reminders, offers of meaningless specials, etc.  This is a little more respectable, but is still annoying when you don't want it.  Usually these e-mails have opt-out or "discontinue" links at the bottom, but you're better off having control of whether the mail gets to you or not, because these links often don't work right or conveniently (for the sender) don't work at all.
False positiveYour e-mail filter thinks mail is undesired when it is desired and sends mail you want to the spam folder.
False negativeYour e-mail filter thinks mail is desired when it is junk.
3.  Keeping your address the same.

You can use a service like pobox.com which will let all your friends have an e-mail box that will stay with you for life.  They charge about $40.00 per year.  It's worth it.  It works like this:
--You register with the service.
--You give the service's email address (like mine which you see above in the banner) to your friends.  Notice I said your friends.  I did not say merchants which we will get to later.
--
You go to pobox.com's web site, login, and point that address to whomever handles your e-mail.  If you chage companies, (say from Comcast to AT&T), you repoint your pobox address and your friends never know the difference.

I find that having an entity like pobox.com switching things is very effective, even when you are sure you aren't going to change.  As they say, "The only constant is change."  Even with webmail.

4.  Dealing with UBE.
UBE.  The guys that somehow get your address and send lots and lots of worthless junk about working from home.
I regard this as a fact of life.  Sooner or later, your address will get harvested.  I'm convinced that the absolute best filter for this is using Gmail.  That's right.  Set up a Google account.  I get just about false nothing.  No false positives, and extremely few false negatives.  If you have a pobox.com address, they got into trouble with Google because the vast majority of pobox.com mail getting forwarded to Gmail was spam, and Google had a chat with pobox and basically forced them to use at least minimal spam filtering.  I think Google had very good reason for what they did.  So, set your pobox filtering for weak as possible.  Pobox has gotten false positives for me in the past, and pobox.com is the last place I think about going if I suspect a false positive.  Even if I did, I would rather handle the UBE through Gmail's interface and Gmail has the best final filtering anyway.
5.  Dealing with SBE.
Ok, so you go online to buy something and they make you put in an e-mail address.  The e-mail newsletters, special offers, etc. should trigger something in your head.  That's what spamgourmet.com is for.  Set up an account there, and they work like this:
--You set up an account like johnsmith@spamgourmet.com
--You go to sears.com and they want your e-mail address.
--You give them sears.johnsmith@spamgourmet.com.  You do nothing else; you don't need to create the address.
--They handle your order, sending maybe three emails to let you know the status.  The account is created when they send the first e-mail
--After a set number of e-mails, spamgourmet.com starts silently throwing them out.  The account self-destructs.

Now this is a very brief description of what spamgoumet.com does.  There are many issues they address with SBE.  Read up more at their web site.