Nobody's perfect: Gmail and spam

Spam is of course a modern blight, but until recently I thought I'd found the closest thing to a perfect solution. This was the spam filter built into Gmail. Compared with any of the other email services on which I've maintained accounts -- Yahoo, Hotmail, the Atlantic's in-house system, until recently AOL -- Gmail seemed better by both measures of anti-spam effectiveness. It had very few "false negatives" (spam it should have trapped but mistakenly let through) and virtually no "false positives" (messages I wanted to see but that it mistakenly trapped).

Or so I thought.

The Atlantic's own spam filter is so "false-positive" ridden that I have to check the spam folder every day, and almost every day I find a legit message. The few previous times I'd checked Gmail's spam filter it was, reassuringly, 100% spam. But today I happened to check it -- and found three "real" messages I had been waiting for. Hmmm. At a high-concept level, this is a reminder of how hard it is to devise an absolutely perfect screening system for spam, and of how a very small lapse from perfection can make a system seem "unreliable." Gmail's filter still seems better than the others -- but now I know that I have to look through its spam folder every so often too.

Or I could just say: hey, I already get enough mail, who cares!