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Ending Spam:Bayesian Content Filtering and the Art of Statistical Language Classification

© July 2005 Tony Lawrence

The title makes this sound like ultra-heavy geek territory. A review of chapter titles seemed to confirm that impression: "Fifth Order Markovian Discrimination" - Oh, my!.. I visualized page after page of unintelligible mathematical symbols swimming past my glazed over eyes. I was also having trouble raising my enthusiasm for other reasons: I've read a number of books and articles on spam recently and the thought of another on the same theme was just not ringing any chimes.

Fearing the worst, I took a deep breath, dove in and was instantly surprised. The first part of the book was genuinely delightful: a well written history of the origins of spam. It then segues to the techniques that have been used to identify spam, and moves to the current methods. Markovian Discrimination turned out to be a technique I've used in other programming efforts, and the author explains it and everything else in simple and entertaining language. There's nothing here that any competent programmer can't grasp.

I'm a little hesitant to call this book entertaining, although it actually is. I only hesitate because saying that might give the impression that there is more fluff than substance, and that's not the case. There is a lot of substance here, both in theory and in practical advice. And although the subject is definitely spam, some of the techniques and methods discussed here apply to other programming challenges as well.

Overall, worth reading, even by non-programmers wanting to understand more about what current anti-spam efforts are all about.

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