Ironic Spam article
December 23, 2001 9:46 PM   Subscribe

Ironic Spam article Does anyone find it ironic that a NY Times article on the horrors of spam is accompanied by one of those ads that automatically plays annoying music and requires you to find and then click on the off switch every time the page loads?
posted by Poagao (8 comments total)
It's also ironic that at least once a week I get spammed by -- who required me to provide my email address in order to view their content.
posted by coelecanth at 10:27 PM on December 23, 2001

"If you're saying `unsolicited' is the problem, I would ask you to think about my favorite example: Here's a one-dollar coupon on Tide sent to everyone in America," said Bob Weintzen, president of the Direct Marketing Association. "I don't think too many people would be upset about that."
The spam lobby just doesn't get it. If unsolicited email is approved, you won't get just one dollar-off coupon from Tide. You'll get one from Tide. And one from Whisk. And one from Cheer. You'll also get them for Charmin, Angel Soft, Scott, and Kleenex. You'll receive coupons from Levis, Lees, Wranglers, and CK. You'll receive hundreds and hundreds of these wonderful dollar-off coupons in your mailbox every week. That's the world that the spam lobby wants to create for us.

The right solution is to ban unsolicited commercial email, and switch to permission-based, opt-in e-marketing.

Besides, if there are enough people who want 500 coupons in their mailbox every week, then some clever entrepreneur will create an opt-in service for them to request that.
posted by chipr at 1:21 AM on December 24, 2001

Spammers want the same priviledges that have caused the postal service to be inundated with bulk crap for decades, and since there's potential wealth there, or at least the illusion of potential wealth, it will continue.

I'm tired of getting junk mail every day, both online and offline, but I see no way the little guy's gonna be able to stop the tidal wave of spam. Not this time. Not so long as there's someone out there who's gullible enough to actually read spam and buy. There will be no stopping it.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:40 AM on December 24, 2001

And spam, which I pay for, resembles advertising supported content in which way?

coelacanth: if you provided your e-mail address, you are not being spammed. You are receiving legitimate opt-in advertising mail. Go change your profile.

The difference between spam and junk snail mail is that bulk mailers subsidize the USPS, which keeps first-class postage down. When spammers send to me, they stress evey ISP through which they pass, they generally use throw-away accounts they don't care about losing, they fill up my mailbox and all of the other mailboxes on my ISP, forcing them to buy more servers, which I pay for. I don't see the subsidy here: I see receiver-supported advertising, or in plain English, theft. That's not even counting the open-relay mail servers whose SMTP services they steal during off-hours and the enormously expensive time that ISP admins have to devote to tracking down and dealing with AUP violators.
posted by dhartung at 3:02 AM on December 24, 2001

coelacanth: if you provided your e-mail address, you are not being spammed. You are receiving legitimate opt-in advertising mail. Go change your profile.

Of course coelacanth has no way of knowing whether the NYT or any other website which promises not to mail you isn't already selling the email address to marketers. He also has no guarantee that if things ever go south at the NYT then they might break their agreement and start openly selling his email address. Web-based business nearing bankruptcy have done it before so its not unprecedented.

The problem here isn't these mysterious email harvesting spammers its the requirement by almost every commercial and non-commercial website to request your personal email account for "registration purposes." That's the ironic part right there. Why does any site need my email unless it wants to spam me? Look at most registration forms, even if you don't click on the 'send me more info' button the form won't go through without an email address. Even when sites don't need your email they ask for it. Hmmm, funny how that works.

Yes, you can make eighteen accounts, play with webmaster@, etc or you can call the NYT and other sites on their potential harvesting programs. Also, when sites harvest for "registration" like this its very easy for some support or sys admin to make a quick buck by copying all these addresses every week or so onto a zip disk and selling them off. Another reason for them not to even ask for it unless you specifically want to be on their mailing list.

I was just reading about a small project regarding spam. Someone kept making new accounts with non-obvious names like and then counted the days, or even hours, before the first piece of spam entered his inbox. That's without telling anyone the email address.

There's definitely lots of negligence and even out-right fraud by a lot of sites. This problem is not limited to usenet scanning, web spiders, or open SMTP ports.

Worse, even marketers can't get their heads out of their asses to see the bigger problem. If they want me to buy tide with a financial incentive the worst possible way I can imagine to do it is by putting the message in my email. There are functional outlets for this kind of incentive like the peel off coupon right on the package or working straight with my grocer. Mr. Marketer can't see that when I'm at home with a PC I'm not thinking about buying tide and I'm certainly not putting on my shoes and getting ready to go because of something that popped in my inbox.

All this guy is saying is, "You can be bought off." Yes, I agree, but his example reminds me of that site a little while back used as a logo, "But I don't want my toothpaste mailed to me." Spam is almost never appropriate. If I wanted to be part of some coupon network I'd sign up for it.

Worse, it seems congress has a soft-spot in their hearts for spammers or just fail to understand the issue and have let this practice go on without control or appropriate punishment.
posted by skallas at 5:31 AM on December 24, 2001

I was just reading about a small project regarding spam.

At camworld? Or a different project?

I'd be interested in seeing hard numbers, if there are any to see. Not that I doubt hotmail addresses are sold as part of the registration process, just because seeing the numbers would be interesting.

Why does any site need my email unless it wants to spam me

I think the biggest thing, from a commercial standpoint, is to keep track of customers, keep customers updated and trying to convince people to come back.

I honestly doubt the majority of companies care too deeply about what your email address is, but if the company feels their web site is mission critical - and how many companies don't think that? - then perhaps they want to be able to keep you updated regarding upcoming downtime.

Perhaps they want a near-unique identifier, to act as a way to deter multiple accounts. Or a way to provide you with your password should you forget it. Or to update you about your order. It's not all about being able to spam you, and from a business standpoint* that avenue of connection with customers can be a fundamental piece of data.

*this is not justification, merely an attempt to answer why the company thinks having your e-mail address is important.
posted by cCranium at 7:38 AM on December 24, 2001

Your e-mail address might be needed for sending you a password you forgot, or to update you to changes in terms of service that you signed up for. In this case, these e-mails would be both acceptable and necessary.

So what to do? Well, what I do is I give my friends and family a completely seperate e-mail address for them to e-mail me at. Other addresses get dumped into other boxes, but that address isn't posted on the web, it's only on my hard copy contact cards. That one box, I have not gotten any SPAM yet.

On the other hand, my bhoppe address at my domain is so deluged with SPAM. This was the address I was using for years, and now with the recent spikes, I use it as my general sign-up mail box, what I put in for everything sign-up necessary, from my newsletters and daily comics to freeby accounts, and even some services I use.

Personal e-mail goes in one box, the address shared only with those I know.
posted by benjh at 8:57 AM on December 24, 2001

Postal spam frequently comes with a Postage-Paid envelope. I don't need 500 credit cards, I don't care that I'm already approved. I grab a nice permanent marker and write PLEASE RECYCLE on it and put it - original folded up envelope and all - back into the envelope and send it back.

Email spam can be checked or you can subscribe, for a small fee, to Spam Cop, and they will auto-notify the ISP and everyone else who might care that their servers are being used to spam.
posted by Nauip at 1:20 PM on December 26, 2001

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