April 6, 2010

Spam-O-Matic

Addendum: When I wrote this, I thought I was being original with the title. It turns out that the name is in use commercially. Oops! One real company has a product to filter your spam, and uses the "Spam-O-Matic" name. To be clear, I wrote about a product that contributes to the spam problem and is totally different. Sorry for any confusion. 

Buon giorno. For years, I've been telling people in person, through e-mail and in my Weblog that they should "clean up" e-mail messages before they forward them. Not only as a courtesy to their readers (we often have to scroll though a load of crap before we finally find the message two thirds of the way down), but to cut down on spamming.

"How do personal messages forwarded with e-mails add to spamming, Cowboy Bob?"

I knew you couldn't resist asking.

Here's a letter that I got from a company, asking me to review a spammer's tool:

Dear Bob,

May I ask you to write a review for Jet Email Extractor 6.5.130759 tool on your blog? I will give you a registration code in exchange.

Here is the link:

(deleted)

You may place this link alone without description or on existing post or create new post with a short description (language and text is up to you)

Here is brief information about our Product:

Digeus Jet Email Extractor is a great helper in conducting email marketing campaigns. Every email campaign requires large lists of email addresses. It's almost impossible to extract the email addresses manually. It was designed to collect targeted email addresses of potential customers to boost your sales and revenue.

Digeus Jet Email Extractor will build huge targeted mailing lists. It connects to lots of news servers and retrieves email addresses from the headers of each and every article in chosen target-related newsgroups.

Benefits:

* Captures email addresses at very high speed. Multithreaded. Average speed is 100,000 emails per hour!
* Extracts not only user's email but also name. Your direct marketing will be personalized! Adding personalized content to email marketing messages is great benefit
* Automatically removes duplicate and incorrect email addresses
* Extraction is strongly targeted to specific audience (you choose your audience by selecting target-related news groups);
* Exports the results into text file (mailing list)

For more information please visit (deleted)

Sincerely,
Barbara Stuart
Tech Writer
Digeus, Inc

Can you believe the nerve of these people? Obviously, Babs here does not read my material. One simple fact is that I hate spammers. (If they give me crap about this, I can publish the full message headers and give her a real headache.) It's one thing to send out group mailings to people that you think may be interested in what you're saying. It's quite another to send out sales letters to people you don't know. That's clear-cut spam.
This particular puppy seems to be targeted for action in Usenet. But Usenet is dying off, so no wonder this mail extractor is marked down. Funny, too, that one of their other products is for the user's computer security. Yeah, right. They make a Spam-O-Matic, and people are going to think that their "security" isn't full of holes?

What I want to emphasize is that this is only one tool! There are extractors for that e-mail that people send to each other. Yes, that's right, those things you send with the Subject Line looking like "FWD:FWD:FWD:FWD: Subject: I Want You To Fall for the Same Hoax I Just Bit Into".

Plus, you left everybody else's e-mail address in there — a spammer with a utility just picked up a nice, fresh new set of addresses with the help of you and your friends. That's right, I said it! You come to me for the truth, so don't fuss when I give it to you, capice?


It's time to learn some safety and courtesy when you send out a group mailing.

Think about it. Didn't you just send a "Forward this to twenty people or God will drown a kitten" message just yesterday?

See that "Forward" button? Fuggedaboudit. Well, sometimes I use it to keep the subject line, but I delete the "FWD" stuff out of there. It's useful for attachments, too, like Uncle Don's "Hot Babes of Brazil" video; I don't have to re-attach it to the new mail if I start with the "Forward" button.

Copy and paste. It's a skill you should have picked up in your first week of using a computer. Click, drag, highlight. Then, CTRL+C (for copy). Open a new e-mail, click in the body of it, and CTRL+V (for paste), or a right-click and select "paste" from the drop-down menu. No, don't copy the addresses, Clyde! Just the real content that you want to send.


Load up the "BCC" field. That's the "Blind Carbon (or Courtesy) Copy" area; nobody knows who else gets the mail (family, friends, lovers, friends of lovers, business associates, etc.). Not only is your mail much, much tidier (as my own mail recipients know), but it's safer for them, and spammers get nothing from it. I've had people tell me that they don't want other people seeing their e-mail address, so this trick solves that problem, too.

Send it to yourself. Most mailers will not let you get away with leaving the "To:" field empty, so that's why you send it to yourself. Even better, you can send it to your auxiliary e-mail account. You know, the one you use to sign up for things because you're forced to use a valid address. Oh, please! Don't tell me that you don't have a throw-away account...

Everybody with me on this? Let's do our part to keep the Internet clean — at least, in this area. You're also protecting your friends and yourself. Plus, you're causing a great deal less irritation online.

Want to practice? Send this article to your friends using your "BCC" field (or yes, you can use the e-mail icon at the bottom of the article). They need edjamakating. (But if you do copy and send the text, I'd appreciate some credit; paste the URL from your browser in the message, if you don't mind. Tanks a lot, Pal! Tanks a lot!) Happy tidy e-mailing!

2 comments:

Nate @ Practical Manliness said...

Great post!

I completely agree, and, besides, I hear that the FTC is starting to at least talk about cracking down on spammers.

Personally, I use double opt-in methods to verify that my email newsletter is only going to people who asked for it.

Thanks again for the excellent article!

Stormbringer said...

Thanks, Nate! Hey, here's one for you: What is a gentlemanly approach to spamming? Or even, how to be an old-school gentleman in Internet times. Just a couple of ideas for your newsletter. The one that I get. That I asked for. And is not spam.

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