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It's a Morlok/Eloi thing.
April 12, 2004 8:06 PM   Subscribe

Viral marketing done well: First, identify your market of choice. Second, offer an online petition about an issue that is important to them. Make sure that your privacy policy allows you to send the visitor email. Each target should be encouraged to spread the petition's address amongst their friends, selecting other similar marks better than you ever could. Better still, the suggestion to visit your site will come from a trusted source. Third, take your list and sell access to it. Is it still spam? If you do your job right your mark won’t even know they’ve been hit until the email starts to roll in, and perhaps not even then. There’s nothing to be ashamed about, right?
posted by snarfodox (97 comments total)

 
Those Winnipeggers are a tricky bunch. All that flat prairie land and millions of mosquitos leads to schemes aplenty.
posted by loquax at 8:13 PM on April 12, 2004


Was SpammingForJesus.com taken?
posted by mathowie at 8:15 PM on April 12, 2004


Nice bit of research.
posted by Rob1855 at 8:17 PM on April 12, 2004


So I was also going to post "hey, can you prove any of this snarfodox?" then I checked out millionforchrist.com. It doesn't do anything besides take your email and name, and ask that you spread the message of the site. There's no petition list of signatures, comments, or anything.

It's pretty sick to think someone is taking advantage of others' faith to further their questionable business goals.
posted by mathowie at 8:19 PM on April 12, 2004


Nice bit of "connect the dots" research. Any way of getting this to a wider audience - perhaps the folks at MillionForMarriage?
posted by FormlessOne at 8:20 PM on April 12, 2004


I have to acknowledge mote who also picked this up from this thread. I thought it deserved discussion as a FPP.
posted by snarfodox at 8:23 PM on April 12, 2004


Pretty sleazy. My bet is that it's just the tip of the iceberg.
posted by anathema at 8:26 PM on April 12, 2004


Jesus works in mysterious ways.....
posted by lometogo at 8:32 PM on April 12, 2004


What, you mean through hijacked proxies? *grin*
posted by fvw at 8:40 PM on April 12, 2004


Help us mobilize 1 million believers and see what God does next...

50-75% OFF your Printer Ink- Ink Blowout Sale!
posted by eddydamascene at 8:46 PM on April 12, 2004


50-75% OFF your Printer Ink- Ink Blowout Sale!

(Soy milk projected from nose).
posted by moonbird at 9:05 PM on April 12, 2004


I did not know Chris Tucker had a million fans.
posted by bargle at 9:29 PM on April 12, 2004


They're denying it. Who knows, perhaps it's legit?
posted by John Shaft at 9:41 PM on April 12, 2004


Their denial sounds straightforward, acknowledging right out where people can see this discussion, that yes, the guy owns the other site and what it is....

As militant an atheist as I am, I think we might be wrong here.

(and I think we were way off base on the last discussion on this one, too, for that matter, since they haven't shown any anti-gay tone either.)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:51 PM on April 12, 2004


All right, who is...THE MOLE?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:58 PM on April 12, 2004


Realistically, would someone invite the wrath of God to sell an inkjet cartridge?

Best rhetorical question, ever!
posted by anathema at 9:59 PM on April 12, 2004


JOHN! I CAN SEE YOUR HOUSE FROM HERE!
posted by quonsar at 10:10 PM on April 12, 2004


The disclaimer specifically references this thread now, stating: "Don't get me wrong, Metafilter is an amazing site. We're just horrified at the implication that some of the users made in their post. Realistically, would someone invite the wrath of God to sell an inkjet cartridge?"

While the disclaimer states that no third party spam will be sent, it does acknowledge that some data harvesting is going on: "We also collect demographic and profile data that we may use to tailor your experience here. Based on this information, we may display content we feel you might interest you. We may make summary information available to research firms and business partners." However, individual reader info won't be disclosed.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:10 PM on April 12, 2004


If they let you opt-out of receiving email, why don't they ask you for that preference upfront? I don't see it in the email they sent either.

Looking at the survey site, it's clear this person is an internet marketer. To me the privacy policy doesn't disclaim them from doing anything but eventually allow you to opt-out (which, again, I can't see any way to do). They claim to hate spam, but there's nothing about them saying they'll never spam you, just that they won't sell your email to anyone else (which is easy to promise since they have their own email networking software in-house). They don't say anywhere that they're a non-profit or using the emails for only non-profitable means.

Here are some questionable passages of the privacy policy:

We may make summary information available to research firms and business partners.

Oh that's just great. Jesus would have wanted him to share your personal info with business partners.

* Our company (owner of this website)
* TheBetterCompany.com (developer of the website and host)
(These parties will hereafter be referred to as "We")


Why would a marketing company and the christian website be considered together? So the marketing company can send you email and they can still stick to the claim that they never shared your info with another company, but they actually did, by releasing all your info to the marketing company behind the site.

All the messages of the christ site are "email everyone you know about this, and share this link to sign up with others" while the message of the marketing site is "We will help you increase your sales and lower your costs."

I'm usually one to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I've never met an internet marketer that doesn't value huge user databases over all else and do anything they can to get email addresses from people. I still stick by my opinion that this is all a sham.

Someone that truly loved Christ could easily write a privacy policy that doesn't open up all your data to a marketing company and expose you to marketing from them. Someone that truly loved Christ would make it very clear exactly what your email would be used for (it is never spelled out clearly). Someone that loved Christ would be upfront about their intentions. It all seems so vague, when if you think about it, setting up a site of this magnatude and a project with such a lofty goal, you'd think the aims of the project and use case would be the first thing you'd spell out and make clear to all.
posted by mathowie at 10:10 PM on April 12, 2004


Realistically, would someone invite the wrath of God to sell an inkjet cartridge?

Obviously, they don't get the same spam I get.
posted by milovoo at 10:12 PM on April 12, 2004


JOHN! I CAN SEE YOUR HOUSE FROM HERE!

Um.

No, sorry, that one went over my head. Sorry if I'm being dense.

I might be wrong, of course, they may be dirtbags. I'm just saying it's being presented as fact rather than theory, when it may or may not be so.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:15 PM on April 12, 2004


Ah. My bad, sorry Quonsar. (Google is my friend)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:18 PM on April 12, 2004


This conclusion comes as no surprise when I've been reading a book on paranoid schizophrenia all night, but in the privacy policy, SPAM is rendered in all-caps in all instances.

From spam.com "Proper Trademark Use Guidelines. Please Do: Always put the trademark SPAM in all capital letters."

So if you read the site in question's privacy policy, it is saying "You will NEVER receive a SPAM [the luncheon meat] advertisement [but you will receive advertisements for ink jet cartridges, diplomas, nigerian email scams, herbal viagra, discounted viagra, brand name prescriptions at low prices, virgins with donkeys, virgin donkeys with discounted viagra, etc]"

but again, i've been reading about jumps in conclusions for a little while tonight.
posted by loukas_c at 10:29 PM on April 12, 2004


ok, look. people just don't apologise to quonsar (lower case). it's just not done. :-)

but man, that damn joke from almostcool is like, one of my favorite mefi moments of all time!
posted by quonsar at 10:36 PM on April 12, 2004


Well, I might risk the wrath of god to sell an inkjet cartridge if I didn't believe in daddy, spook, and junior.

Just sayin'.
posted by kavasa at 10:37 PM on April 12, 2004


jesus wants you to take viagra
posted by quarsan at 11:13 PM on April 12, 2004


Some of the things we've done is brought flowers to hospital wards, magic tricks for terminal kids in the hospital, inner city outreach dinners, handing out candy downtown at lunch, etc.

Awesome! Say, you www.millionsforchrist.com folks are obviously checking out this thread - explain how these admittedly wonderful sounding activities came about from your project - heck, give any details about them at all - and I bet you'd get a huge apology for the misunderstanding from all the nice folks here.

Otherwise, just expect more snickering about the cynical, evil irony of the very choice of your domain and tld.
posted by freebird at 11:22 PM on April 12, 2004


Our site's registration area asks visitors to supply contact information, such as name and e-mail address. We will only use this information to send you materials from our servers. Materials may include items such as the occasional update, relevant information and prize/contest notification.

Fortune 500 companies use prize promotions because they work! Research proves it! Can you afford to miss this?
posted by eddydamascene at 11:50 PM on April 12, 2004


It's pretty sick to think someone is taking advantage of others' faith to further their questionable business goals.

Yeah, who the fuck would do that?

coughgeorgebush&dickcheneycough
posted by The God Complex at 11:52 PM on April 12, 2004


jesus wants you to take viagra
posted by quarsan at 2:13 AM EST on April 13


i'd just like to point out that i am not quarsan.
posted by quonsar at 11:55 PM on April 12, 2004


From the Privacy Policy:

Use of Online Survey Information

We will never share survey information with anyone. We may use aggregate results when deciding the direction of our website and our effort


If they sell the survey data, that is not sharing, right? So, let's say that the direction of the website might move into an effort to . . . promote religious entertainment to non-believers. It would certainly help the effort of the website to share that information with producers of religious content. Sounds like a pretty kosher transaction.

With the popularity of Gibson's Passion and other religious entertainment on the horizon, marketing sound aggregate data from online surveys of a highly targeted demographic could send this guy into early retirement.

I wonder if whatwouldjesusthink.com is taken?
posted by necessitas at 11:57 PM on April 12, 2004


Ask the people throwing these unfounded accusations if they were in India doing missions last month? Ask them if they visit a nursing home every Thursday and work with children every week? We do.

You don't hate BABIES, do you?
posted by danny the boy at 12:00 AM on April 13, 2004


Wow, they've updated their privacy policy again. Two hours ago, it said: "We also collect demographic and profile data that we may use to tailor your experience here. Based on this information, we may display content we feel you might interest you. We may make summary information available to research firms and business partners."

Now it completely replaces this earlier policy with a contradictory one: "We do not ask for any demographic information on this site" and "We will never share survey information with anyone. We may use aggregate results when deciding the direction of our website and our effort." (Which, as Matt noted, still means that the marketing arm can use the information to direct its own efforts.)

It's a moving target, folks!
posted by onlyconnect at 12:14 AM on April 13, 2004


The creator of the millionforchrist.com site emailed me and I pointed him to my criticism.

He said he was taking the comments to heart and chopping out all the parts of the privacy policy that were carried over from the survey sites, so he'd be cutting stuff. He seems to want to dispel the confusion I had with the goals and aims of the site and said he would do his best to make things clearer.

I'm feeling better about the site now that I've heard from him -- it doesn't seem like it is solely built to grab emails, but I remain skeptical of anyone in the precarious position of doing charity work but at the same time being in internet marketing.

It's like if you're in a church and a new member shows up and he really likes the church and wants to throw a benefit. Say this new member is a local businessman or politician. If they throw a benefit for the church at their business or say, campaign offices, there's a slight conflict of interest there that someone could exploit. A noble person wouldn't while an opportunist would, it just depends.
posted by mathowie at 12:32 AM on April 13, 2004


FASCINATING!
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 12:40 AM on April 13, 2004


it seems to me, given the previous privacy policy, that he did indeed start this site up with at least a side benefit for his marketing company.

it was only when he got caught that he changed the policy. otherwise, why did he write what he did in his earlier privacy policy?
posted by quarsan at 1:00 AM on April 13, 2004


onlyconnect> Now it completely replaces this earlier policy with a contradictory one: "We do not ask for any demographic information on this site".

They don't have to ask for any demographic information, they already know what to put under 'religion' in the database for each signatory. More than enough to do a whole lot of targeted advertising. No need to sell the list either, just send your product information to thebettercompany.com and they'll handle the mailing for you. That's where the big pile of cash pictured on this page comes from.
posted by snarfodox at 1:04 AM on April 13, 2004


Actually, the old privacy policy appears to have been lifted from the TOTALLY FREE MONEY MAKING OPPORTUNITY that's here.
posted by swell at 2:34 AM on April 13, 2004


Well, this fellow has an awful lot of sites, such as fastfoodchallenge.com and zerosickdays.com (and many more) that all show essentially the same privacy policy as the earlier version of millionforchrist.com.

Zerosickdays.com, for instance, again makes the promise that e-mail addresses will not be sold to a third party or added to an unsolicited bulk e-mailing list. The only companies that will have access to the information are: "Our company (owner of this website and the business it promotes); TheBetterCompany.com (developer of the website and host); Optimum Gravity Inc. (contest facilitator)" - which are all the same company. So I am assuming that by entering your email at zerosickdays, you have "solicited" marketing messages from thebettercompany/zerosickdays, and since it didn't come from an outside party, the terms of the privacy policy are technically adhered to.

Then again, perhaps I'm wrong, and it's not about spam at all. Perhaps these sites are really selflessly promoting zero sick days and a reduction in fast food consumption among the poor of India and in the children's wards and nursing homes.
posted by taz at 3:31 AM on April 13, 2004


Even with their changes, they are still using 'SPAM' instead of 'spam' wherever it has any legal effect, and their words generally have legal wiggle-room. Why? I'm definitely suspicious of anyone trying so hard to not flat-out say, "We won't use or sell your information to send you unsolicited email."
posted by bafflegab at 5:41 AM on April 13, 2004


fastfoodchallenge and zerosickdays are already unavailable ... quick, try
321research.com
before it goes too!

I don't suppose there's a reverse whois, is there?
posted by carter at 5:49 AM on April 13, 2004


They were online surveys that lured you into giving up more and more information about yourself (male or female, etc.) with the promise of some sort of payoff or prize at the end. For the fast food challenge site, for example, you had to agree to receive their e-mails for 14 days regarding products and strategies for weight loss by eating at 5 fast food restaurants, and at the end of 2 weeks if you had lost 5 pounds, your name would be entered into a drawing to receive free fast food for a year. The site said it trusted you regarding the weight loss and would not try to independently verify it, so basically they lure you into filling out the survey, and getting 14 days of product ads re fast food, by promising you a chance at free fast food. Way to lose weight!
posted by onlyconnect at 6:05 AM on April 13, 2004


Good Faith (pardon the pun) efforts to tweak the privacy agreement aside, this still smells like total B.S.

Ask the people throwing these unfounded accusations if they were in India doing missions last month? Ask them if they visit a nursing home every Thursday and work with children every week? We do. And we will keep doing it.

Classic "attack the attacker's credibility" move. What does it have to do with the issue at hand? Nothing. So why bring it up?

The privacy policy still says:

We allow users to opt out of receiving e-mail from us or our partners. (emphasis mine)

and

Our site's registration area asks visitors to supply contact information, such as name and e-mail address. We will only use this information to send you materials from our servers. Materials may include items such as the occasional update, relevant information and prize/contest notification. WE WILL NEVER DIVULGE THE INFORMATION TO AN OUTSIDE PARTY NOR USE IT IN A SPAM AD CAMPAIGN.

Connect the dots here. MillionForChrist and BetterCompany presumably share servers. The wording of this makes it perfectly OK for another BetterCompany "company" to send you emails about a Swell New Contest.

The "More Information" page is deliberately vague as well.

The picture on the top left shows us working with wonderful children in an inner city downtown park.

The lower picture is a kids camp that we volunteer at every year.

Which park? Which camp? When? Who is "us"?

If MillionForChrist were truly legit, they should have no problem identifying themselves by name and putting up a clear, concise policy. They've done neither. Walks like a duck, talks like a duck...
posted by mkultra at 6:48 AM on April 13, 2004


I'm sorry, but what's the difference between marketing and religion, again?
posted by ulotrichous at 7:45 AM on April 13, 2004


1) Submit spam trap address.
2) Watch for spam.
3) Sue under CAN-SPAM.

I mean... we know who this is, after all. If the information is misused, we have some recourse.
posted by VulcanMike at 8:07 AM on April 13, 2004


Matthew 21:12

And Jesus went into the temple of God,
and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple,
and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers

posted by the fire you left me at 8:11 AM on April 13, 2004


...handing out candy downtown at lunch, etc.

does anyone else find this rather creepy?
posted by Miles Long at 8:43 AM on April 13, 2004


WWJD? Market it. For sure!
posted by bmxGirl at 8:47 AM on April 13, 2004


Sorry, with every privacy policy revision, with every denial, this guy just looks more guilty to me. It should have been clear to him from the very first post exactly what was wrong with his policy, and even after multiple revisions, the same problems are still there--just reworded.

I think we can all agree that he runs what appears to be a sleezy internet marketing company. Maybe he really is a christian wanting to do God's work too, and maybe his intentions are pure, and maybe he's using his knowledge of internet marketing to reach more Christians than he could otherwise. Maybe millionsforchrist is clean as a preachers sheets. But, c'mon...

1. An ideological site pops up asking for e-mail addresses to reach some sort of "goal"
2. Further, despite having a "goal", the site seems to have absolutely no purpose other than to gather e-mail addresses.
3. Whoops! Turns out the guy who runs this also runs what appears to be a sleezy internet marketing company that has run other sites to harvest e-mail addresses, too.
4. Whoops! Also turns out the privacy policy seems to explicitly allow the marketing company to send you spam
5. Whoops! A popular community blog site connects the dots.
6. Whoops! When caught, he "fixes" his privacy policy and posts a rebuttal.
7. Whoops! His privacy policy still allows his internet marketing company to send you spam


I could be wrong, and if so I'll send the guy a personal apology--but if I do it I'll definitely use a throwaway spamcatcher e-mail account...
posted by Swifty at 9:27 AM on April 13, 2004


VulcanMike - won't work 'cuz they're Canadian.
posted by swell at 9:34 AM on April 13, 2004


It's like if you're in a church and a new member shows up and he really likes the church and wants to throw a benefit. Say this new member is a local businessman or politician. If they throw a benefit for the church at their business or say, campaign offices, there's a slight conflict of interest there that someone could exploit. A noble person wouldn't while an opportunist would, it just depends.

You've hit on the essence here Matt - and its actually a tricky question. Business owners quite often not only do not draw hard lines between the personal and professional, but may in fact believe that the two should be mixed. This is just a single instance of a much bigger principle - it happens to involve religion, and marketing, but the same thing happens with a whole host of beliefs, in all sorts of other business arenas.

Look, for instance, at Starbuck's ... now marketing its own Visa card ... that in addition to giving the typical rewards program, asks us "Will having another credit card make the world a better place? In this case, it just might. Because, between March 1st and May 31st, Starbucks will give $5 to The Earth Day Network when you make your first Visa purchase using your Duetto™ Card." (You won't get spam as the result of this ... but you will get put on a whole host of snail mail mailing lists).

Is this questionable? Linking a liberal cause with a credit card marketing campaign? Same essential principle as linking MillionForChrist and BetterCompany. Many, many companies mix beliefs and causes with business - for a variety of reasons.

Another example ... there are some "Green" funds out there ... mutual funds or investment companies who's major pitch is that they only invest in a "socially responsible" way. With these folks there is no line between business and belief ... the belief is the business. Do they also want to make money - for both themselves and their clients? Damn right. Do they but marketing lists, and sell their own client information to others? Damn right. In fact they do everything that any other investment or fund managers do (in fact, many of them also run others funds that have nothing at all to do with socially responsible investments).

Cynics, of course, will say that there is no genuine belief involved at all - that these beliefs are all simply marketing tactics, pure and simple (which is sort of what is implied in the FPP). Some of them may be, but in many cases, I think it is more complicated than that. It is quite possible for companies to truely believe in the causes - and at the same time actively integrate those causes into business.

In this particular case ... I actually don't think this guy is simply a slimey spammer ... his response to Matt, the changes he made on his site (including removing the BetterCompany from the definition of "We") ... well, anyway, he does not seem to have the mentality of a true spammer (most of whom would have just responded by saying "up yours you MetaFreaks, I can do any damn thing I want").

The guy does run a business that offers companies marketing services - including the use of "surveys" to market products and services. This is hardly a groundbreaking tactic ... hell, I have to subscribe to a good number of online publications dealing with IT and security, and I probably get a half dozen "surveys" in my inbox every week. What the guy does in terms of marketing may be something you personally find questionable - but it is hardly unusual, or new.

The real issue seems to be the view that he is using the millionforchrist campaign as just another one of the survey campaigns ... instead of the (equally possible) view that he is a businessman that designs surveys for a living, and he has decided to use his professional skills to do something that serves a personal cause (and his response to this thread - to me - seems to suggest that this may, indeed, be the case).

Many Christians do this - from plumbers and carpenters that do maintenance on churches for free, to printers that print church materials, etc., etc. And it is not just religion ... it is all manner of people, with all manner of beliefs (religious, social, political, & etc.), that decide that part of the skills they develop professionally will be given to the causes they believe in personally.

I don't think this whole issue is quite as black and white as it appears at first look.
posted by MidasMulligan at 9:36 AM on April 13, 2004


Handing out candy at lunch struck me as peculiar, too. I can just imagine the inspirational wrappers: Eat me, god loves you. Why would a million Christians mobilize to hand out snickers to lunching downtowners?

Do you think they will have a turf war with the Hare Krishnas? Or will passersby be treated to a candy-and-flowers combo?
posted by necessitas at 9:47 AM on April 13, 2004


his response to Matt, the changes he made on his site

You know, I worked as a senior/lead systems engineer for various large ISP's for years. We had fraudulent websites, and people spamming Usenet and E-mail through us. And, in spite of all appearances, early on we gave these people the benefit of the doubt. And we'd call them and tell them they couldn't do what they were doing anymore. And they'd so, "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry! I'm not a spammer, I'm not a spammer! I'll fix this, right away, I had no idea! A thousand apologies!"

Then the next day they'd be spamming again, with a slightly different tactic. And they'd dance and twist and turn when we got them on the phone... but, no matter what, as long as we believed them and left the accounts on, they'd keep spamming.

In the end, we had to adopt a new policy: if it looks like a spammer, it is--terminate the account on the first offense.
posted by Swifty at 10:10 AM on April 13, 2004


So, is our own ChristFollower the person who runs MillionsForChrist? S/he joined MeFi on April 2 with a screen name and description that are overtly Christian, and then shortly thereafter posted the original FPP about the site.

Then s/he knew immediately when this thread popped up. Just wondering...
posted by tippiedog at 10:15 AM on April 13, 2004


...and he/she has bene notably absent since.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:50 AM on April 13, 2004


I defy anyone to genuinely claim that someone with a site solely collecting email addresses, with a "flexible" privacy policy, running a direct marketing organisation that sells Viagra without prescription (to people who aren't married?!?!?!) is anything other than a spammer.
He'll be setting up "Millions for Mohammed" next ...
posted by Pericles at 11:42 AM on April 13, 2004


It looks like the images on the "More Info" page come from another of this guy's sites:

http://www.radiochallenge.com/info_01.htm
posted by gwint at 11:48 AM on April 13, 2004


.. and the google cache of vote4jesus.com shows a very similar site that has the old privacy policy, explicitly allowing "Our company (owner of this website and the business it promotes), TheBetterCompany.com (developer of the website and host), Optimum Gravity Inc. (contest facilitator)" to "to send you materials from our servers. Materials may include items such as the occasional update, relevant information and prize/contest notification. WE WILL NEVER DIVULGE THE INFORMATION TO AN OUTSIDE PARTY."
posted by Pericles at 11:50 AM on April 13, 2004


You da man, gwint! I was scouring Google Images for those pics. Save that page before it disappears!
posted by mkultra at 12:34 PM on April 13, 2004


Wow. Excellent catches, Pericles and gwint. Where I was inclined to side with MidasMulligan and give this guy the benefit of the doubt before, it really does appear to be a scam.

It's weird, though, the "Paul" contact listed as a manager at the 321 site has a bio that has occasionally oddly religious undertones: he is "blessed" to work with Pepsi and Kitchen Aid, and is "involved heavily in community and outreach programs." No picture of his face, though, which seems dodgy.

Overall, given the Pericles and gwint links, this site and organization seem dishonest and shady.

I agree it would be good to know what happened to ChristFollower, whose did previously show some knowledge about ad agencies in addition to making a weird allusion to the creators of the MillionforChrist site.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:59 PM on April 13, 2004


Wow, these things are everywhere!

radiochallenge.com
zerosickdays.com
eatandwin.com
satisfactionreaction.com
sendthisout.com
vote4jesus.com
321research.com
smilewinnipeg.com
betterhospitals.com
fastfoodchallenge.com
canadian-online-pharmacy.com
betternewspapers.com... and more.

[Oh, and Pericles, thebettercompany.com appears to be a DBA for "Optimum Gravity, Inc." ]

Ok, so let's look at betterhospitals.com. It purports to be about "improving healthcare everywhere!" It's a survey/prize winning site. It asks a grand total of five extremely insightful questions along the lines of "How would rate the friendliness of the staff?" What's more, it doesn't even appear to be sponsored by any specific hospital--you get a free form dialog box where you're asked to give the name of the hospital, right before it asks for your e-mail address "so you can win prizes!" (This dialog box appears to be the same one at the end of all of his surveys, by the way--just usually it's a "comments" box.)

What possible use is a suvery like this? The questions are worthless and vague, it doesn't even request any real demographic data, and it's not even for a specific hostpital or geographic area...

But, this guy also happens to run lowerdrugprices.com and canadian-online-pharmacy.com. Both of which are online pharmacies. What better way to find out people who need drugs than to setup a site offering prizes for people who've just been in the hospital, right?

Real marketing companies care about demographics--the only request common to all of his survey sites is for your e-mail address.
posted by Swifty at 1:30 PM on April 13, 2004


No picture of his face, though, which seems dodgy.

Googling "Paul Emmer" eventually led me his ryze.com page, there's a photo of him on there. On it, he says:
I believe that "service to others is the rent that we pay for this beautiful world we live in." I have a sense of fun and adventure and many believe I have a sense for business, especially marketing (helping people sell more product to more people more often for more money). Our company has an amazing product for businesses that can also turn into an amazing opportunity for individuals. It is a "survey that sells" that makes customers feel listened to, helps a business educate their customers and boosts customer referrals. We have clients using the system in both North America and Japan. We are looking for people/companies to help us either market the product or set up branch offices. We live by the words - Have Fun, Make Money, Help Others. Hope everyone reading this is having an amazing day! Cheers!
posted by lia at 1:30 PM on April 13, 2004


Slow down, Junior MeFi Detective League! I wouldn't be so eager to smear ChristFollower as the owner of MillionsForChrist just yet. Let's look at the "evidence":

S/he joined MeFi on April 2 with a screen name and description that are overtly Christian, and then shortly thereafter posted the original FPP about the site.

A site called MillionsForChrist seems like something a Christian would post, don't you think? I'm sure the website has been mentioned in church bulletins and from pulpits across the country. Doesn't necessarily make ChristFollower the owner.

Then s/he knew immediately when this thread popped up.

A spammer would definitely be watching their referrer logs. I'm not surprised that the owner of the site knew about this post shortly after it hit the front page.

...and he/she has bene notably absent since.

It's been 24 hours since ChristFollower last posted. I've gone months without commenting.

But good work on determining that MillionsForChrist is a spam site. That site's privacy policy page no longer mentions Metafilter by name. Probably afraid that people would visit this site, read this thread, and come to the same conclusions.

It's pretty sick to think someone is taking advantage of others' faith to further their questionable business goals.

Amen, Matt. What's really sad (and I swear I don't mean this as a slur on churchgoing folk) is the people this is targeting are probably not that knowledgable about internet privacy and spam. I can see my grandmother getting an email from a friend about MillionsForChrist and being so caught up in the positive spirit of the site that she wouldn't stop to think she was signing up for a lifetime of religious-themed spam.

I'm surprised the owner of the site hasn't tried to label us as demons, determined to stop Christ's good work on Earth. Trust me, it'll only be a matter of time.
posted by turaho at 2:04 PM on April 13, 2004


Trust me, it'll only be a matter of time.

Err... it'll only be a matter of time until MillionsForChrist;'s owner says that.

Not that it'll only be a matter of time before MeFi stops Christ's good work on Earth.

Sorry, didn't mean to reveal our super-secret anti-religious agenda!
posted by turaho at 2:11 PM on April 13, 2004


Slow down, Junior MeFi Detective League! I wouldn't be so eager to smear ChristFollower as the owner of MillionsForChrist just yet. Let's look at the "evidence":

Matt mentioned earlier that the owner of MillionsForChrist (presumably Paul Emmer) had sent him an email, so I guess he can compare IPs from that and ChristFollower's posts.
posted by lia at 2:16 PM on April 13, 2004


Matt mentioned earlier that the owner of MillionsForChrist (presumably Paul Emmer) had sent him an email, so I guess he can compare IPs from that and ChristFollower's posts.

I too was curious how the ChristFollower member could have known about this new petition site, so I looked this up earlier today and I didn't want to say anything about it, but yeah it's true. The same IP used to make the first post about the site was the same IP that the owner of millionforchrist used to email me. I blocked the account from posting anything more here.

So the person is more savvy at marketing than we thought, using MeFi as a way to advertise their business by breaking the cardinal sin of MetaFilter, by acting like a disinterested party that grouped their new site with another somewhat controversial petition site. Astounding.
posted by mathowie at 2:21 PM on April 13, 2004


No shit. I stand corrected.
posted by turaho at 2:31 PM on April 13, 2004


For the record, the pic or Paul Emmer at Ryze.com does look like the same guy in the "charity" photos linked at the Christ site and radiochallenge site linked by gwint above.

On preview: Holy crap. That really sucks. It's like he just registered here to market to us and the rest of the web. Ick.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:41 PM on April 13, 2004


Wow. That's pretty clever. I was thrashing it out from a different angle ....

There are a bunch of links over at linkfilter posted by user crazycanadian. One has the same God vs. Gays theme as the original post [Google cache, post disappeared]. Others include rxpetition.com (which looks a lot like MFC and the others here) and ismelgoingtohell.com (which currently has its root dir unreadable, like several others here). CrazyCanadian had also posted some religious philosophy comments which sound a lot like ChristFollower's profile.

Couldn't quite complete the circle, though.
posted by swell at 3:10 PM on April 13, 2004


What a dick. How awesome that this got found out, though. A very cool performance by Metafilteria.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:14 PM on April 13, 2004


Go Junior Mefi Detective league! And mathowie!

*dances around with blue and yellow pom-poms*

Ra-ra-ra
posted by asok at 3:18 PM on April 13, 2004


Do you think he was aiming for some sort of delicious, delicious ZING with this comment, from the original thread?

[on review: onlyconnect already drew that conclusion, sorta.]

We'd have to ask the people who made them...

What a total bag of shit this guy is.
posted by cortex at 4:14 PM on April 13, 2004


Another righteous victory for the


eh, loses something on the blue...
posted by NortonDC at 4:33 PM on April 13, 2004


Is this questionable? Linking a liberal cause with a credit card marketing campaign?

Well, there is a legitimate organization that does this, but admittedly that's not the point of this thread.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:13 PM on April 13, 2004


he who lives by the mefi , dies by the mefi.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:25 PM on April 13, 2004


I too was curious how the ChristFollower member could have known about this new petition site, so I looked this up earlier today and I didn't want to say anything about it, but yeah it's true. The same IP used to make the first post about the site was the same IP that the owner of millionforchrist used to email me. I blocked the account from posting anything more here.

Yeah. I was willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, and presume there might be innocent explanations ... but ... what an asshole.

Dude ... if you're reading this ... many of us here on MeFi bicker with each other, and even have periods of deeply hating each other ... but its the charming hatred of brothers and sisters, who know there are some lines that ya just don't cross.

You just crossed one of them bucko. And not only didja get found out ... but I'm gonna make certain the folks in the conservative circles I travel in know what your game is.
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:47 PM on April 13, 2004


Surely someone here lives in Winnipeg and can spend some time hunting this arsehole down. Please give him a big kick in the ass from me.

You can probably start by calling up the Junior Chamber of Commerce and asking for him by name.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:17 PM on April 13, 2004


Please give him a big kick in the ass from me

Please don't. Physical confrontation or harassment is a terrible idea. Leave the guy be, he built a site and some shady businesses and it pretty much speaks for itself.
posted by mathowie at 7:43 PM on April 13, 2004


Aw, man.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:20 PM on April 13, 2004


I feel a Nelson Muntz coming on.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:24 PM on April 13, 2004


Please give him a big kick in the ass from me.

A good face-wash would be more Winnipeg-style, but unfortunately the snow has all melted. I don't think there's any point in harassing him, but I've crossed his name of the invite list for any potential Winnipeg meet-ups :)
posted by teg at 8:24 PM on April 13, 2004


For the record, my saying way back that maybe this guy was not so bad?

No, he was. I take it back.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:35 PM on April 13, 2004


. . . and I would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for those MEDDLING KIDS!
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:44 PM on April 13, 2004


Checking the "growth" link of Millions for Me! shows a contrite whine:

I ant to admit a failing in my character to everyone. In my excitement to promote this site, I decided to get an account at two weblogs. One of the rules of these weblogs are that you can't put posts that promote your interests. I didn't honor that rule and posted a deceptive link to drive people to this website .. I have shamed myself. I have been a very poor representative for our Lord when witnessing to others. I was trying to do good but in fact, I did so much damage it's sad. I am very sorry and ask for everyone's forgiveness. I also went to the other weblog and confessed and apologized to everyone. .. I also learned that it is critical to be fully honest, holding nothing back.

You know, I'm filling up. Really. Particularly as he writes "Although some of the more malicious comments hurt our feelings, we forgive the people who made them.". Hallelujah.
posted by Pericles at 1:13 AM on April 14, 2004


lying is a sin. Nyah!
posted by dabitch at 2:19 AM on April 14, 2004


He says he posted deceptively on two web sites (and says he confessed at the other after being busted on MeFi). Anyone konw what the other web site is?
posted by tippiedog at 7:16 AM on April 14, 2004


MetaFilter: the charming hatred of brothers.

(Good comment, Midas.)
posted by languagehat at 7:21 AM on April 14, 2004


Well, after reading a few of the guy's sorrowful wailings on his website, I'm feeling a bit more charitable toward him. It looks like he really is a religionist who got carried away with the fervour of his idea to do good.

He appears to be sincerely contrite. Good enough for me.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:23 AM on April 14, 2004


Anyone konw what the other web site is?

The other site is linkfilter. Sleuthing credit to swell.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:23 AM on April 14, 2004


fff> ... It looks like he really is a religionist who got carried away with the fervour of his idea to do good.

To do some good marketing? He hasn't explained how getting one million signatures on his website will 'help' anyone or anything except his bank balance.
What do you think the odds are that he is going to collect a huge, valuable list of email addresses, spam that list, pocket the bulk of the resulting cash and spend a few weekend hours handing the scraps to poor people to massage his conscience and make himself look a little bit less unsavoury to his friends?

fff> He appears to be sincerely contrite. Good enough for me.

And yet he is still collecting email addresses for his spam list. Hey five fresh fish, I've got a bridge to sell you. I'll give the proceeds to disadvantaged people as soon as I take out an 'administrative fee'. (Please note: I've got a lot of administration.)

This kind of attitude is why I don't really feel too sorry for anyone stupid enough to take the bait.
posted by snarfodox at 4:53 PM on April 14, 2004


snarfodox, irony doesn't travel that well on the blue, but fff was joking. You're arguing with an atheist with strong views on religionists.
posted by quarantine at 8:55 PM on April 14, 2004


I stand corrected, but that means I have a spare bridge if anyone is interested...
posted by snarfodox at 9:05 PM on April 14, 2004


Wow...Go MeFi Junior Detective League. Cookies for everyone!
posted by dejah420 at 9:13 PM on April 14, 2004


Actually, on reflection, what was I thinking? This is five fresh fish we're talking about, after all.

While I don't necessarily think that what this guy has done is 'bad' per se, it is very predatory. It annoys me more than a little to see even the faintest indication that the prey didn't get the message from the first set of scars.

To take the analogy a little further, what does please me immensely is the fact that this particular financial predator thought that he was stalking a docile herd until the herd turned around and stomped him. I'm not sure how much he learned from the experience though.
posted by snarfodox at 9:16 PM on April 14, 2004


I wasn't joking. I was, however, high on paint fumes. And at the time, what I read did seem like sincere contriteness.

I guess I'm a softy.

As for quarantine's comment, while I am a staunch atheist with strong views about religion, that doesn't preclude the possibility of forgiveness.

I hope the asshat really has learned a lesson, and won't be using spam as an income. If not, I sincerely hope he gets hit by a bus.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 PM on April 14, 2004


Sorry, fff, that was arrogant of me to be certain of your intention. Let me note, however, as a cultural observation, that's the first time I've heard someone say "Good enough for me" non-sarcastically in a very long time.

[And here I delete 10 minutes worth of writing that came out way too bitterly.]

[And here I delete the subsequent 10 minutes of a personal anecdote that no one would give a shit about.]

Instead, I'll just offer the following scattershot questions:

1. Isn't his apology now way too bloody convenient? Spam, lie, lie, lie, whoops!, be sanctimoniously contrite. As in, if Karl Rove did this same thing we'd see the whole project as engineered from the beginning?

2. Are Christians really supposed to trust a guy who just now figured out that the Lord wouldn't like him lying?

3. A professional internet marketeer? Who wants 1M email addresses to "build [God's] kingdom"?

4. Even if the spamtrap addresses never get spam, who is to say that they wouldn't had he not been caught in a lie?
posted by quarantine at 12:12 AM on April 15, 2004


A couple of my family members fell for this shit, my sister to the lure of free movie tickets, my mother to a "genealogy database." After keeping one email address free of spam for 3 years, I know get a handful of junk emails daily.

I felt like such a tight ass chump having to tell my family members that they were not allowed to give out my email address without my permission.
posted by mikrophon at 6:34 AM on April 15, 2004


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