Technically Speaking: Junk Email

Whatcha gonna do with all that junk? All that junk inside your… junk email folder? It’s a fair question, so we should probably discuss why junk email folders exist and how to most effectively manage them.

When I was in college in the mid 90s, I got my first email account and would excitedly punch up the St. Thomas VAX system whenever I had a chance, hoping I would have a message. I went days without a single one, and when I saw that a new email had arrived, I wanted to jump for joy. By the time I graduated, I had multiple internet mail accounts, and the messages were starting to become more of a burden than a novelty. Even then, I was receiving just a few each day.

Fast forward to now. I have email accounts with Children’s, UNMC, Google, Apple and Microsoft and receive (literally) hundreds of messages every day. One of the most notable ways I manage to get through them is that I make extensive use of junk email filters. In fact, I have one entire account that I use for junk email. Junk emails are messages that users never even want to read. Our Office 365 accounts have built-in junk folders and automatically route messages there that fulfill one or more of a set of criteria. Without these, I’d be sorting through emails endlessly, but by making good use of them, I don’t even see half the messages I receive.

Does this message look like it’s sent to people on a mailing list? Junk it. How about that one?  Does it look like spam or a phishing scheme? Junk. Sounds great. But sometimes the filter messes up and messages wind up where they shouldn’t. This not only results in unwanted messages infiltrating inboxes, but also in wanted messages getting sent to junk folders.

IT leadership has heard from multiple sources that users’ junk filters have been getting inappropriately aggressive recently. We are investigating the cause, but until we find it, we recommend periodically checking your junk folder to make sure Outlook is filtering properly. I usually check mine once every few weeks and will sometimes find a message from a listserve or distribution list that I actually need. What should you do if you find the same is true?

In your junk folder, right-click on a message and click Junk. This will bring up a list of choices for you to take, including telling Outlook that it made a mistake.

You can also customize the “aggressiveness” of your junk filters by clicking on Junk Email Options (above). This will open the following window, where you can customize to your heart’s content!

If you’re having problems getting the junk email filtering process to work for you, please submit a ticket via the MyHelpDesk portal. All I ask is that you don’t send Pulse announcements straight to your junk folder! 😂  And fear not—none of you are in my junk filters! Thanks for all you do!

Stephen Dolter, M.D., CMIO

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