diary at Telent Netowrks

Of course, the Wiki markup rules started life as simple things,#

Wed, 03 Jul 2002 15:08:59 +0000

Of course, the Wiki markup rules started life as simple things, and it wasn't until later that people realised they could do things like typing indented-but-not-preformatted text by typing TAB : SPACE TAB at the start of the line (and possibly also typing the entire paragraph on one line; I forget whether it makes a difference in that specific instance. it does for italics, though)

This reminds me of some other software I've been using recently that starts out with a simple set of rules which combine in dizzyingly unpredictable ways to do things you would never have dreamed sensible. I'm talking about spamassassin here, of course.

I've never been entirely clear, it must be admitted, on how best to use all the weird gnus options to keep copies of outgoing mail, and eventually came to the conclusion that the simplest answer would be to Bcc it all to myself. This has the neat advantage that I can then use gnus splitting to filter incoming mail to some regular correspondent into the same folder as mail from said correspondent, and then I have both sides of the conversation in the same place. It has the (fairly innocuous) side-effect, though, that my outgoing mail loops through spamassassin before coming back to me, so I get to see how spammy my mail looks. Well, look at this

X-Spam-Status: No, hits=-98.4 required=5.0

body     Standard signature delimiter present     SIGNATURE_DELIM    0.488  

A positive score for a signature delimiter? "- - SPACE \n", so rarely correctly implemented that it became favoured all over Usenet as the choice "get a real news reader" stick with which to beat Outlook users (and another great example of why whitespace sensitivity is a dumb idea, fwiw) is now suddenly an indication that the mail was sent from some bulk mailing program that injects fake unparseable received headers, has the wrong system date, and probably still thinks X-UIDL is a header that should be provided by the sending host? I find this not entirely plausible.

From conversations on IRC, I understand that the actual scores for each rule are computed by feeding a large pile of known-spam and another large pile of known-nonspam into a genetic algorithm and letting it work them out. This sounds like really great news for the stability of weights on each rule ...

I wish I could find my neural networks book. It was possibly the most boring book ever written about what should be an interesting subject, but I desperately want to be able to liken spamassassin to a neural network with only one neuron after the kind of particularly vicious overtraining that should have the owner in court on animal cruelty grounds, and I really could do with a reliable source to tell me whether it's a remotely fair comparison.