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on February 20, 2009
I am not a spam expert but an expert on Bayesian. I found this book excellent on spam (history, filters, etc). However, on page 75-76, I couldn't recognize that the Bayesian combination (Paul Graham) formula AB/(AB+(1-A)(1-B)) is related to the Bayes' Theorem P(A|B)=P(B|A)P(A)/P(B). So I went to Paul Graham's website [...] where I found that Paul got the formula from [...]

It turns out that the formula is correct only under two stringent conditions: 1) the tokens (the most spamy words) in a spam email are independent (not related); 2) a spam-filter user should have roughly equal number of spam emails and legitimate emails over time. One can go to the links to find more details.

But I still think the formula very usefull and it should be called "Paul Graham's Combination Rule" instead.
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on June 25, 2008
This is one of my favorite NLP books because it offers an extremely readable introduction to Bayesian statistics in a very applied context. If you don't have a strong background in statistics and/or text classification, this book is a great way to get an intuitive feel for how Bayesian classifiers work. If you're a developer looking to do some coding, what's explained in the book is easy to translate into code. I recommend this book to upper-level undergrads and graduate students in linguistics who take an applied computational linguistic class I teach.
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on August 7, 2007
There is too much (for me) about marginal matters such as the history of spam and minute details of various methods.
I was looking for a clear exposition of the principles of filtering and the corresponding mathematics but this
I can't find. The term "decision matrix" is used a lot without being defined.The stuff concerning Bayesian filters on page 76 is quite meaningless. It's all very disappointing.
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on January 19, 2007
This book provides the history of spam, so we know how it all started, as well as the reasoning and theories behind the current spam technologies, whithout getting bogged down in minutia. I found this book quick and enjoyable to read. Very informative. Highly suggested if you are a sysAdmin (like me) who has or will build a spam filter, or wants to know how they work and why. Good for programmers as well looking for the theories.
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on January 3, 2007
Reading this book was fun. I was doing some research on spam and found this book was exactly what I was looking for. This book covers (almost) all aspects of spam, including the history, the current status, the principles of anti-spam systems, statistical algorithms, case studies, etc. This book is a good start point for understanding spams and means to stop them, although it does not contain a lot of in-depth technical details. I was amazed by the author's style, which was quite energetic and entertaining. This book made my research a pleasant experience. I strongly recommend this book for those who are interested to know how spams came and how we fight them.
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on February 20, 2006
Awesome read. For those who are in the SpamAssassin mindset and are considering DSPAM, this is a definite must!
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on September 18, 2005
Ending Spam from Mr. Zdziarski is a well written BASIC and easy to understand INTRODUCTION to get a technical overview of todays spam fighting solutions on the market.

Also it is written on the cover that it is f.e focused towards developers, network admins etc. I would consider the target customer to be IT Managers, or other curious people who want to get an overview.

Thats what it does and it does it very well in my eyes.

The book provides simplified, abstract overviews of some available spam filters solutions.

The book is provided into 3 parts

- An Introduction part to spam filtering (Chapter 1-4)

- A part describing "Fundamentals of Statistical Filtering" (Chapter 5-9)

- an the third part describing "Advanced Concepts of Statistical Filtering" (Chapter 10-14)

Its a bit confusing that Chapter 4 has the same title than Part II. So perhaps Chapter 4 should have been part of "Part II" ?

The Chapters which I found most interesting were:

Chapter 4 "Fundamentals of Statistical Filtering"

Chapter 7 "The Low down dirty Tricks of spammers"

Chapter 9 "Scaling in Large Environments"

I am sure the author could have easily filled the book with Chapter 7 alone. The book is very entertaining and has a nice motivating writing style. You might at times find some rant about the spammers which I have chosen to ignore as it doesnt contain any valuable information or anything which I didnt know already. While I might agree to some of the authors views, I believe that the rant does unfortunately do exactly the opposite in my eyes and does give spammers credit to how they do their work.

I personally was actually looking for a companion book to "The Book of Postfix" to help me further explore new anti spam technology.

I was hoping to find overview charts, being able to compare different solutions,features, (dis)advantages. So in this sense, I was actually looking for workshop style instructions, tuning advice, troubleshooting advice etc.

The authors does explain f.e (Chapter 14) Collaborative Algorithms but he does not go into detail which products support the feature and how to perform the setup. He does provide some weblinks in his book from which the interested reader might further investigate the topic.

From reading the Chapter10 on "Testing Theory" its easier to conclude why the author doesnt go into more detail. If he would have done so, the book could have been easily 2-3 times the size.

I assume, this is partly due to the fact that the anti spam technology /products/market is still fairly young .

Summary:

"Ending Spam" gives a very BASIC INTRODUCTION to the current available Anti spam technology and some chosen products. After you have read the book you have a first vague idea what type of solutions exist. You will actually need other books to intensify the "knowledge" you have gained here.

The fact that the book is written in simple terms makes it easily acessable for a wide market, however if you are a technichian you will perhaps find that the book just doesnt contain enough "meat" for you.

I would still recommend the book for Managers which need to know only the rough details, beginners, or a first time read for newcomers.
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on September 12, 2005
The problem of spam is of enormous significance. You may spend only a few minutes a day deleting unwanted unsolicited e-mail. Yet multiply this time spent by the number of individuals dealing with the same task and you have unwanted work of an extraordinary magnitude. In Ending Spam Jonathan A. Zdziarski provides a highly readable, while at the same time, technical treatment of the problem of spam. The reader of this lucid work will acquire background in the history, theory and current direction of spam detection technology.

Does the average computer user need to know about Bayesian filtering techniques and external innoculation? The answer is "yes" and here's why: Increasingly, the technologies used to handle spam are implemented by ISPs at the mail server level. That means that ISPs may be making decisions about what e-mail messages are delivered to you. That is, they may very well censor your mail when they suspect that it is spam. If spam filters always detected actual spam, that would be just fine. But as Zdziarski shows, the problem of spam analysis is a difficult and constantly changing problem in computational linguistics. In order to understand the challenge of e-mail flow and delivery, a problem that affects each and every user of e-mail, one must be acquainted with the variety of spam delivery techniques and spam detection techniques available to both ISPs and individual users.

Although this is a technical work, it is highly accessible, and its value goes beyond covering spam. The author writes clearly and with enthusiasm about the intellectual challenge posed by spam analysis. The theoretical and technological issues covered in the book go well beyond the narrow (but still very important) topic of spam itself. Anyone who is interested in how the analysis of the syntactic properties of language can be mined for semantic, i.e. meaningful information, will be interested in this book.
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on September 5, 2005
Jonathan A. Adziarski's Ending Spam: Bayesian Content Filtering And The Art Of Statistical Language Classification provides information on the math approaches used by modern spam filters, their algorithms, and open-source options for ending spam. Zdziarski interviewed many authors of the best spam filters for ENDING SPAM: his insights will help both programmers and network administrators seeking solutions to spam issues.
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on August 29, 2005
I am not an anti-spam expert and I don't speak fluent Bayesian, so a book like this needs to be written down to my level in order for it to make any sense at all. Jonathan Zdziarksi does a good job of addressing advanced, complicated issues, but putting it in terms that readers with an ounce of computer knowledge and experience can grasp.

The first few chapters of the book, possibly too much of the book, are devoted to an overview of the history of spam and the traditional techniques used to detect and filter spam. It is a good overview and helps to provide some foundation, but readers trying to learn Bayesian filtering or Markovian discrimination should probably already have an understanding of the essential concepts of spam.

Overall, I think this is a very good book. It is written with a style and content that is not so simplistic that you can't learn anything from it, and yet not so complex that you can''t learn anything from it either.

Spam blocking is essential in order for email to remain a viable form of communication. Getting 100% spam-blocking is virtually impossible as one person's spam is another's legitimate email, but reading Zdziarski's book wil definitely put you on the right track.
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