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Reporting spam can help you get less spam, but you need to use it properly, and realize just who you're reporting spam to.
When you have junk/spam in Hotmail, & you click "Report & Delete", does Hotmail really report it?
Yes and no.
The intent behind that button is to reduce the amount of junk mail you might get in the future. However I'm guessing that it's not doing what you think it is.
The question is who's doing the reporting, and who's getting the report?
If there's a "Report & Delete" button on your Hotmail it's there for you to report the spam to Hotmail.
And that's as far as the report goes.
(This actually applies to all the services - GMail, Yahoo and so on. In fact, I'm not seeing a "Report & Delete" button on my Hotmail account, but the same principals apply with the "Junk" button, "Report Spam" button or anything else that allows you to indicate that a particular message is, in your opinion, spam.)
Hotmail doesn't report it to someone else, because there's no "someone else" to report it too. Junk mail comes from many different places, and spammers typically do an excellent job of hiding. That's one of the reasons that junk mail is so incredibly difficult to stop.
So if the report only goes as far as Hotmail, what good is it?
The intent is that is allows Hotmail to adjust its own spam filters. If many people report a particular type of email as spam, then in theory Hotmail can use that information to say "if I see email that looks like this in the future, since so many people think it's spam, I'll mark it as spam to begin with for everyone".
Sometimes that means the mail will be redirected to your spam folder. Sometimes that means that you'll never see the mail at all.
When used properly that "This is Spam" button can help your mail provider more accurately block incoming spam.
But that's all. It doesn't do anything about the spammers themselves, or stopping them from trying to spam in the first place.
Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't touch on a pet peeve of mine, and a problem that many legitimate mailing list providers face every day. It's that part about "when used properly".
As you know, I publish a weekly newsletter. As I've written about before small handful of people mistakenly click on the "Report as Spam" button each week. In some cases it's an honest mistake, as the "Spam" button might be too close to the "Delete" button and people can miss. In other cases it's a mistake of understanding - the "Spam" button is not the correct way to unsubscribe from a newsletter that you explicitly signed up for.
The problem, as you can see from the discussion above about how the "Spam" button works, is that a few people calling legitimate mail spam by mistake can cause the email service to think that it must be spam for everyone. As a result, other people using the same mail service could stop getting the email they actually asked for, email they don't consider spam at all, and email they actually want.
So use the "Spam" button if you like, but use it carefully, and know that all you're doing is telling your mail provider, like HotMail, that you think a message should be considered spam for everyone.
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