Posting to SPAM-L

The SPAM-L mailing list will be shut down as of May 11th, 2009. Please read this post for more information and an explanation.
This FAQ will be kept indefinitely for historical purposes but updates will be rare, if they are made at all.
[Edit: Some folks have set up a successor to the list at (SDLU). I have no current involvement with that list, but I encourage folks to check it out!]

This section deals with the posting guidelines for SPAM-L. Please read this section before posting.

What should be posted?

Discussion of spam-fighting and prevention techniques, discussion of ongoing legislation and the pros/cons of same, and other spam-related discussion.

Posting spam you receive is OK, as long as you follow these guidelines:

  • Post it with one of the topics listed in the topics section on the SUBJECT: line.

  • Don't just post it to SPAM-L. You should send it as a CC or BCC of a complaint, unless you don't know where to complain. Asking for help is A-OK, and will almost always get results.

  • Don't simply forward the spam. No one on the list is interested in receiving the spam itself. The best technique is to BCC: the list on your complaints to the spammer's admins, their upstream, etc. This is primarily to inform the list readers so they know what to watch for.

  • Don't post a spam that someone else has already posted to the list, unless the one you received is different in some way (different headers, injection point, etc.) that makes it worth seeing again.

  • Don't post the entire spam! No one on the list wants to read the whole thing, mainly because we're not interested in the spam itself, only in who to complain to. Posting the whole thing simply increases the spammer's distribution of their excrement. The only exception to this should be in instances where the spam is very short, or if the spam is of interest as a whole (the latter case is extremely rare -- most of the people on the list have seen it all.) ;-)

  • Post the spam with quoted headers, or don't post it at all. Include the headers with the spam, so that others on the list can, if they wish, assist with determining the origin of the spam. Headers are also needed by the admins of the offending/abused site to prove that the dirty work actually did involve their site.
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Some posting guidelines

Here's a few other guidelines for posting to SPAM-L:

  • Please don't post flames, threats, and insults. If you must do this, spare the list your wrath and take it to email; none of us are interested in a flame-war.

  • Discussion of things like "Why can't I spam?" and "Spam isn't really so bad, just..." etc. are probably not going to be well received. We're all on the list to fight spam, and we'd rather talk about that than debate the merits of it. Debating the merits of spam, as one list-reader put it, is now the equivalent of "Flogging the greasy spot on the pavement where the dead horse used to be". (Posted to SPAM-L by John Mozena, although he stated that he got it someplace else. :-)

  • We're here to discuss email (SMTP) SPAM. Now on occasion it is useful to reference non-SMTP SPAM, but only as it relates to diagnosing, deciphering, interpretting, preventing, blocking, terminating (NUKE) of email SPAMMERS and those that would support them.

  • If you post frequently to SPAM-L, please consider the value you are adding to the knowledge of your fellow subscribers. Remember what was recently said: there is no need to preach to the choir.

  • If you are REPLYing to SPAM-L, please learn how to edit your quoted postings. Often times deleting all of the quoted text and just keeping the significant SUBJECT: RE: line is all that is required by most participants, especially those subscribed in DIGEST mode. (Quoted text to establish context should be kept in, though.)

  • Keep signatures short. 5 lines is usually considered the maximum.

  • Limit your posting to 200 lines; larger postings will be automatically rejected. If you have a large posting, abstract it and provide a URL or autoresponder to it. (If you have to go to extra trouble to split a long post into smaller ones, then perhaps you should re-think posting it in the first place.)
Off-topic posts, etc. are also generally frowned upon; although we all like the occasional joke to liven up our days. :-)

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How much/often can we post?

There is a limit of 8 postings per day per subscriber, and each post may be up to 200 lines long.

If you find this limit to be too low, then it would be helpful to consolidate multiple messages into one, especially if they are on the same topic and/or read the list more frequently.

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Please do not feed the trolls

On at least one occasion, a spammer has shown up in SPAM-L and caused considerable disruption by posting messages like "why not hit delete" (he obviously was too good to read this FAQ before posting), calling us all sorts of names, and just causing general disruption.

The best way to deal with such an individual is to ignore them, and they will usually get mad, and leave the list on their own. Of course, if they are creating excessive disruption, feel free to e-mail your friendly list owner and the matter will be looked into, and the troll be unsubbed from the list if absolutely necessary.

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So how do we keep the trolls out?

In order for a troll to show up in SPAM-L, he has to first find out about it. Therefore, logic dictates that if he does not know about this mailing list, he won't get on it and cause trouble. Therefore, I strongly recommend that you do not mention the SPAM-L mailing list when initially contacting a spammer or their ISP. If the ISP turns out to be anti-spam however, feel free to refer them to the list as we could always use another list member.

Actually, contacting a spammer directly isn't recommended either, the full reasons for which are explained in another section

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A word about using profanity

Since a large number of the members of SPAM-L are sysadmins and UNIX gurus, it's safe to say that this mailing list can be considered a professional resource with all the rights and responsibilities thereof. An important part of acting in a professional manner is using profanity very sparingly. There are many, many ways to communicate your message without having to resort to vulgarity, no matter how upset you may be at the spammer who crashed your mailserver and caused you hours of downtime.

Also, since people are using search facilities on the web more and more (employers, potential customers, etc.), and SPAM-L is archived, using excessive profanity could come back to haunt you someday.

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Signal and Noise

For those who aren't too familiar with messaging forums on the Internet, signal is referred to on-topic posts which contribute to the value of a list whereas noise is anything off-topic, such as personal remarks and flames.

As for why one should bother staying on-topic, while it might be a little satisfying to flame some unresponsive ISP (I speak this from experience :-), it just adds noise as opposed to signal, and the only effect it will have is to convince people new to the list, such as ISP Abuse people, that the list is unprofessional and not worth reading, and the list loses a potential ally.

If you really need to chat with someone or flame them, please take it to private e-mail for the sake of the list.

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How topics work

There is a list of topics which one should place at the beginning of the SUBJECT: line of messages to SPAM-L. This helps people determine more easily what the message is about, plus it facilitates LISTSERV's topic-sorting mechanism. However, topics do not apply in the digest or index form of distribution.

Be sure to have have a colon and a space ": " following the topic so that the LISTSERV will recognise that posting as belonging to that topic. Also, a message can have multiple topics like:

Subject: ABUSE,ABUSE-RE: My correspondence with AGIS
and the message will then belong to both topics.

There are "implicit" topics too: ALL, NONE, and OTHER. If a message is posted without a topic, or with an undefined topic, it will automatically fall into OTHER.

You should also be aware that unlike on other lists, on the spam-l list, the "other" topic is, essentially, the bit-bucket. By default, a new subscriber's topics options are set to "-other", and many existing subscribers have removed "other" from their list of subscribed topics.The only people who see "other" messages are those who read the list in digest and those who have explicitly subscribed to "other". If you have a message that doesn't seem to fit in any other topic, use "misc". That topic was explicitly created as a replacement for "other", because so many subscribers were complaining about untagged messages in the "other" topic. There were a number of long and sometimes acrimonious discussions about the problems with "other" until "misc" was created several months ago. The complaints could be under any topic; the announcement of the creation of "misc" and the rationale behind it are almost certainly tagged "meta".

To arrange to receive messages that are only in specific topics, send the following command(s) to the listserv:

set SPAM-L topics: all|(+|-)topic


SET SPAM-L TOPICS: ALL		(To get all the topics)
SET SPAM-L TOPICS: -FAQ		(To stop getting postings of the FAQ)
SET SPAM-L TOPICS: +NUKE	(To start getting NUKE if you didn't 
Oh yes, if you are replying to a post, please re-topic if it is necessary to prevent from perpetuating the mis-topiced thread.

The topics for SPAM-L

"I sent the following nastygram to".

"I received the following response from". This topic can also be used to mention ISPs which are unresponsive to spam complaints.

A built-in that should ONLY be used if it fits each and every explicitly defined topic. If someone posts using this topic and you are set to receive any posts, you will receive that post.

Mail blocking/filtering discussion/issues.

This topic no longer exists, please use SPAM instead.

Text related to law/statutes or pending litigation.


If you need assistance in either decoding a received SPAM (not SPAM-L) message or need assistance in contacting a service provider/system administrator.

If you wish to share a humorous spam or some other spam-related humor.

What the popular press has to say about SPAM.

Discussion about the use, operation, and management of SPAM-L itself.

This topic no longer exists as of 28 Aug 1998, please use another.

This topic was created on 29 Aug 1998 to supplant OTHER. Explicitly used when others are not more appropriate.

Setting your topics selection to NONE is pretty much the equivalent of setting yourself to NOMAIL.

A report of a spammer losing their account/webspace.

A message will fall under this topic when it is posted with either no topic, or one that does not exist for the list. In the future, all new subscribers to SPAM-L will have NOT have this topic assigned when they join to provide incentive for list members to use topics.

This topic was created on 14 Mar 98 to replace CC. It is used for reporting spam. Please do not use it for sending the full text of a spam unless it's for some extreme spam, such as one that threatens people who try to complain about it, or something similar.

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Just how do I post to SPAM-L, anyway?

Having read the rest of section 2, you are now ready to post to SPAM-L. To make a post to the list, send e-mail to

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How do I receive my own postings to SPAM-L?

By default, new subscribers to SPAM-L will see their own postings to SPAM-L. To change this default, e-mail the single line of text:

which will not send you copies of your own posts.

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How can I distinguish posts to SPAM-L from other e-mail that I get?

Since you may get large amounts of e-mail from other mailing lists, you may wish to have some way to tell messages from SPAM-L apart from other e-mail. If you are using a UNIX system with Procmail installed, the following recipe will store e-mail from SPAM-L in a separate folder:

:0 :
Or, you can send the command SET SPAM-L SUBJECTHDR to which will prepend the Subject: headers of all postings to the list with the text [SPAM-L]. For example, a subject line of:

Subject: MEDIA: Cnet article on spam


Subject: [SPAM-L] MEDIA: Cnet article on spam

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Should I forward every spam I get to the list?

No. See the section titled What should be posted for posting guidelines.

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I just posted a spam I got, and got flamed. Why?

Well, if it was from someone other than a list member, it's a good bet that

  1. they're the spammer,
  2. they are a spam-haven domain, or
  3. you got a highly underpaid, highly overworked sysadmin (or BOFH :-) on the other end of your complaint, which is one of about 3,000 they got today.
If you get flamed (chastised?) by a list member, you probably violated one of the posting guidelines above.

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I just posted something to the list, and it got rejected, why?

Recently, a limit of 200 lines per message has been imposed on SPAM-L. This took place because of a few very large files which were posted to the list over the last few months.

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Can we advertise anti-spamming products/services in SPAM-L?

There hasn't ever been much advertising of anti-spam products/services in SPAM-L so here are a few pointers that it is suggested you follow. This section will be revised as necessary. I'm also open to comments regarding this section.

  • Blatant advertisering and/or press releases of anti-spam products/services by list members is prohibited.
  • However, placing a mention of your product in your signature file and/or posting an informal announcement when you release or upgrade your product/service is perfectly acceptible. Obviously, this does not mean that you should use a 25 line signature; 2 or 3 lines should be sufficient.
  • I will also be happy to list your product/service in the resources section of this FAQ.

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People can't verify my PGP signature, why?

It seems that the LISTSERV software munges postings made to the list in some way. Since verifying a PGP signed message involves computing a hash and comparing it to a signed hash, any change in the message will cause the verification to fail. Since I use PGP whenever I send out e-mail, my postings will always fail to verify.

Greg Sabino Mullane reports that part of the problem has to do with the LISTSERV software converting tabs in messages to a series of 8 spaces, which will in turn produce a different checksum for the message.

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Please don't CC SPAM-L on complaints

SPAM-L is not any sort of a political action group. The list exists for informational purposes and discussion only. The reason why we say this is so that a list member doesn't complain about a spammer and CC the list, to try and imply some sort of a threat if the site being e-mailed doesn't comply and deal with their spammer.

Not only does CCing SPAM-L on complaints go against the fact that we're not any sort of an "action" group, but it also opens the door to possible other problems as well. For example, if the person you complain to is a kook, we could end up with a kook on this list, which has already happened at least once. Another problem is that if the admin replies to you to defend himself (maybe the spam was forged or he already nuked the spammer), and gets a bounce from the LISTSERV, it's only going to annoy/confuse them, and that certainly won't help things.

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