20 ways to detect a bulk mail message

Before the days of OutLinker, I optimized my inbox by diverting “bulk mail” to a separate OutLook folder for reading “in bulk” at a later time rather than having them provide mid-day distraction or swelling an otherwise full inbox. In this case I’m referring to legitimate bulk mail from vendors I’m largely interested in hearing from, as well as those who have obtained my address.

In order to achieve this, I set up an OutLook rule which looked for key phrases in the body of the message. Legitimate businesses will almost always provide “opt out” links or instructions a condition of successfully making it past spam filters. The text associated with this opt-out option is diverse and continues to evolve. I suspect this is somewhat intentional as means of avoid crude spam filters or rule-based systems such as mine.

After several months of experimenting, I had come up with the list below as the phrases typically associated with bulk mail:

  1. “unsubscribe”
  2. “opt out”
  3. “outopt”
  4. “register now and save”
  5. “register now & save”
  6. “further emails”
  7. “in the subject line”
  8. “adjust your preferences”
  9. “to stop receiving such messages from”
  10. “to be removed from”
  11. “address-book”
  12. “email communication preferences”
  13. “from out mailing list”
  14. “prefer not to receive”
  15. “if you no longer wish to receive”
  16. “if you do not wish to receive”
  17. “if you do not want to receive”
  18. “excluded from this list”
  19. “subscription”
  20. “receive these messages”

If you have suggestions to improve the list above, please comment below…

The latest version of OutLinker now incorporates these rules and will automatically flag bulk messages as you read them and recommend you consider un-subscribing. Down the road perhaps other actions could be taken (sort to bottom of list, button to move to a “bulk” folder, etc.).

Outlinker Form with bulk mail detection

It is an open question whether you should risk exposing your address as active by un-subscribing. If you trust the messages is from a reputable vendor who doesn’t want to deal with the wrath of unhappy customers, it is probably safe to unsubscribe.

If you take the approach of using OutLook rules to implement the strategy above, you want to be careful in setting up such a rule to exclude messages forwarded from “helpful” collegues (look for “fw:” in subject line) or that originate from your organization (look for domain name of sender). You will have occasional false positives, so you want to scan your bulk folder frequently.

Side note: This version of OutLinker also includes a version check button you can use to see if updates have been made since you last downloaded the program.

1 Comment »

  1. ActivityOwner said,

    March 15, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

    New version uploaded today that fixes several bugs and adds automatic prompt for version check each month. It also tells you how many other messages are in current message’s conversation thread.

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