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Spam is a Problem for You? Really?


By Ken Magill

Every time I publish a piece taking issue with anti-spammers’ view of how a perfect email world should work, I hear from one or more of them complaining about the volume of spam in their inboxes.

To which my general reply is: “Really? You’re having problems with spam? Now? Who’s your inbox provider, Acme?”

Then I picture them lying at the bottom of a ravine with giant springs on their feet and a sign that says: “Yikes.”

Seriously, have they not heard of Gmail? I get maybe one unsolicited email in my Gmail account a month. Maybe.

I have a Yahoo! account that is almost as pristine. In fact, I once purposely polluted my Yahoo! address by signing up for some win-a-free-iPod type promotions.

After the predictable commercial-email onslaught arrived, I spent maybe an hour opting out. Then I reported as spam email from those who didn’t honor my request. The result? A newly clean inbox.

Last week I took an informal survey of friends and family. They don’t have spam problems, either.

“Every once in a while, I get something I have to deal with, but I haven’t really been paying attention so I can’t really tell you how much spam I get,” said my sister.

Translation: She isn’t getting enough spam in her inbox for it even to register with her.

Yet, after I published a piece last week arguing that when building a permission-based email list, fully confirmed opt in is not only not always necessary, it’s sometimes just plain wacky, the predictable complaints surfaced.

“I love it so much! Now I get to unsubscribe dozens of times! Yaaaaaaaay! /sarcasm,” tweeted Eli Kellendonk.

Unsubscribe from what? What are you doing that results in so much unsolicited email?

Ellendonk lists his interests as world news, tech, web design, gaming and beer.

The gaming and beer parts tell me we at least could find some common ground. Or maybe just get drunk and forget what we were arguing about.

But why are tech guys always seemingly the only ones drowning in spam?

“Experts estimate that at least 95 percent of all email received in North America is spam, leaving Internet service providers struggling to come up with ways of combating this flood of garbage,” wrote computer service technician Dave Moore this week in the Norman, OK Transcript. “This sorry state of affairs means that the real fight against spam is left largely up to you, the end user.”

And this sorry piece of reporting is utter nonsense.

The spam filters at Hotmail, Yahoo! and Gmail are nothing short of astounding. And in the rare instances where they fail, their “report-spam” buttons work just fine.

It is certainly not left to end users to battle spam. They are worth way too much in ad revenue for ISPs to leave them battling spam on their own.

This isn’t to say spam isn’t a problem. It is, a malicious one. But it’s a problem for ISPs, not consumers—unless, that is, they go into their spam folders and start clicking on links.

When anti-spammers complain they are drowning in unsolicited email from non-criminal sources, they defy belief.

They also make it more difficult to have a serious discussion about where email problems truly originate and how to make granny’s inbox cleaner and safer.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: David
Date: 2013-01-02 16:22:14
Subject: SPAM, Not a problem

Like you I feel it is much less of an issue than it used to be. In my opinion, certain individuals/groups despise the SPAM practice and make more of it than it is nowadays as they feel so strongly about it. They still complain as the problem still exists. By comparison, I am on the DO NOT CALL list but still get solicitations by phone occasionally, but you won’t hear me complain as this is barely on the radar compared to what it used to be like (let's not get into permission and whether or not I am a customer of the caller). The point being, it doesn't mean I won't get calls that annoy me on occasions but it won't be the topic of conversation at dinner parties. Just as when I get the occasional SPAM email in my inbox I am not overly concerned at the time I spend dealing with it. Not the issue it was…which was your point.
Posted by: Janet
Date: 2013-01-02 14:56:46
Subject: Spam?

Actually, if I have a complaint, it's that the filters _overdo_ it, and I spend time running quickly through my spam folder for stuff that shouldn't be there. I sure don't get much (if any) spam in my Inbox.
Posted by: Peter
Date: 2013-01-02 14:15:53
Subject: Astuonding? Really?

I have to disagree with you, Ken, on the spam filters at Gmail. It was good but recently has really suffered. While you may only get one piece of spam a month in your inbox, what about the ones that are not spam that end up in your spam folder? That is the bigger issue and one that isn't addressed here.