Gary Robinson

Gary Robinson

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Gary Robinson is an American software engineer
Software engineer
A software engineer is an engineer who applies the principles of software engineering to the design, development, testing, and evaluation of the software and systems that make computers or anything containing software, such as computer chips, work.- Overview :...

 notable for his mathematical algorithms to fight spam
Spam (electronic)
Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately...

.

Fighting spam with algorithms


In 2003, Robinson published an article in Linux Journal
Linux Journal
Linux Journal is a monthly technology magazine published by Belltown Media, Inc. of Houston, Texas. The magazine focuses specifically on Linux, allowing the content to be a highly specialized source of information for open source enthusiasts.-History:...

which discussed mathematical approaches for fighting spam which led to work along with Tim Peters on the SpamBayes
SpamBayes
SpamBayes is a Bayesian spam filter written in Python which uses techniques laid out by Paul Graham in his essay "A Plan for Spam". It has subsequently been improved by Gary Robinson and Tim Peters, among others....

 project which began in 2002. The SpamBayes approach was notable because it assigned scores to both spam and ham (useful emails) and used an algorithm
Algorithm
In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function. Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning...

 to guess intelligently whether an incoming email was spam; the scoring system enabled the program to return a value of unsure if both the spam and ham scores were high. His mathematical approaches were also used in projects such as SpamAssassin
SpamAssassin
SpamAssassin is a computer program released under the Apache License 2.0 used for e-mail spam filtering based on content-matching rules. It is now part of the Apache Foundation....

. SpamAssassin combined a Bayesian
Bayesian probability
Bayesian probability is one of the different interpretations of the concept of probability and belongs to the category of evidential probabilities. The Bayesian interpretation of probability can be seen as an extension of logic that enables reasoning with propositions, whose truth or falsity is...

 statistical approach using a text-classifier rule-based approach to whittle down spam. Spamming is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited, undesired bulk messages, according to David Anderson, who quoted Robinson's approaches in 2006. Robinson commented in Linux Journal
Linux Journal
Linux Journal is a monthly technology magazine published by Belltown Media, Inc. of Houston, Texas. The magazine focuses specifically on Linux, allowing the content to be a highly specialized source of information for open source enthusiasts.-History:...

 on how fighting spam was a collaborative effort:


The approach described here truly has been a distributed effort in the best open-source tradition. Paul Graham, an author of books on Lisp, suggested an approach to filtering spam in his on-line article, “A Plan for Spam”. I took his approach for generating probabilities associated with words, altered it slightly and proposed a Bayesian calculation for dealing with words that hadn't appeared very often ... an approach based on the chi-square distribution for combining the individual word probabilities into a combined probability (actually a pair of probabilities—see below) representing an e-mail. Finally, Tim Peters of the Spambayes Project proposed a way of generating a particularly useful spamminess indicator based on the combined probabilities. All along the way the work was guided by ongoing testing of embodiments written in Python by Tim Peters for Spambayes
SpamBayes
SpamBayes is a Bayesian spam filter written in Python which uses techniques laid out by Paul Graham in his essay "A Plan for Spam". It has subsequently been improved by Gary Robinson and Tim Peters, among others....

 and in C by Greg Louis of the Bogofilter Project. The testing was done by a number of people involved with those projects. --- Gary Robinson, 2003.

Online music


In 2010, Robinson was the chief technology officer at FlyFi, an online music service owned by Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

-based Emergent Discovery which uses his anti-spam programming techniques along with collaborative filtering
Collaborative filtering
Collaborative filtering is the process of filtering for information or patterns using techniques involving collaboration among multiple agents, viewpoints, data sources, etc. Applications of collaborative filtering typically involve very large data sets...

 technologies to help make music recommendations to web users. His blog Gary Robinson's Rants has been quoted by others in the computer and online music industries and cited by academic papers. Robinson helped develop recommendation engine technology which applies high-power mathematical techniques using software algorithms to have a computer guess intelligently about what a consumer might like. For example, if a consumer likes music by artists such as the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and the Talking Heads, the computer software will match these preferences with a much larger dataset of other consumers who also like those three artists but which cumulatively has much greater musical knowledge than the single consumer. Accordingly, the computer will find music that the user might like but hasn't been exposed to, and therefore hopefully offer intelligent recommendations. But the mathematics behind such comparisons can become quite complex and involved. Robinson studied mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 at Bard College
Bard College
Bard College, founded in 1860 as "St. Stephen's College", is a small four-year liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.-Location:...

 and graduated in 1979 and studied further at the Courant Institute
Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
The Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences is an independent division of New York University under the Faculty of Arts & Science that serves as a center for research and advanced training in computer science and mathematics...

 of New York University
New York University
New York University is a private, nonsectarian research university based in New York City. NYU's main campus is situated in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan...

. In the 1980s, Robinson worked on an entrepreneurial start-up dating service called 212-Romance which used similar computer algorithms to match singles romantically. The New York City-based voice mail dating service created community-based automated recommendations and used collaborative filtering technologies which Robinson developed further in other capacities.

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