What is spam? Really?
Posted by tim in The internet sucks! on July 12, 2005

In the midst of migrating to a different ISP, my parents required new e-mail addresses. Sure, we could have paid the ISP to handle notifying all of the past contacts and to forward received mail to the new addresses, but what about the free tools we already have access to?

I'm not talking about any über hardcore corporate applications, mail servers, etc... I'm talking about that little program that everyone uses to send their mail already: The POP/SMTP client.

The process was different for each parent, because they both maintained different kinds of address books, and they both used different software. (My mom uses Outlook Express and my dad uses Mozilla Thunderbird.)

The first time around, I was encountered by the new mail provider, Craftstream, blocking bulk mailings. There was a limit in place as to how many messages could be sent per hour, which was intended to cut down on bandwidth abuse and spam.

The second time around, it was the receiving mail provider's issue. They had blocked access from the sending account.

Before round three started, I got the bright idea to export my parents' address books to tab-delimited text files, parse the file with a PHP script, and send individual messages. At last! Success! One parent down and another to go.

I modified the message, edited the script to read the next address book, and fired it up. OH CRAP! I forgot to change the "From" header to my dad's new email address; I was sending out his message from my mom's address.

After I fixed this error, I ran the script again. This time, I found that AOL and CompuServe had blocked my IP address from sending so many messages in such a short period of time. But these were legitimate messages! They were properly formatted by the RFC821 standard, sent to legitimate contacts, and were not sent more than 4 times!

Okay, so I had problems. I'm past it. It brings up a very valid point, though:

What about the church member that is in the hospital with some life threatening sickness. Let's say the person was about to go under the knife for a highly intensive operation, and someone from the church was keeping a large number of individuals up-to-date about the situation.

The church has approximately 300 members, and 40% of them have requested to be notified by e-mail of the happenings, as they happened.

10:06 AM: Anesthetic 10:15 AM: First cut 10:23 AM: Surgeon's Diagnosis 10:28 AM: Progress Report 10:35 AM: Progress Report 10:38 AM: Something minor went wrong 10:40 AM: The snafu has been resolved 10:43 AM: Progress Report 10:50 AM: Finishing Up 11:05 AM: Surgeon's Final Report 11:30 AM: The Recovery Room 12:00 Noon: All is well

Now, let's say an email was sent to all 120 church members at each point in that little operation. That works out to 1440 messages, total.

Using the same kind of scenario as what I dealt with earlier, the first message would not have made it to all 120 members, because 10 of them were on AOL, 4 were on CompuServe, etc... But wait, that's not spam!

This is the 21st century. We communicate [with masses] through the iternet, using mediums such as AOL and CompuServe... Why can we not keep in touch with everyone? Why are our reports of well-being being labeled as "spam"? Is it because we've all become so worried about getting 2 or 3 extra messages in our inbox? Is it because we don't know how to practice safe computing, and how to keep our e-mail address safe from malicious users?

My personal opinion is that spam blocking rules have become too strict, and that we are all too worried about "privacy", when we get messages about Viagra and Rolex watches. Suck it up, people. I have real e-mail to send, and your whining isn't making it easier.


Interesting point, at work we mass mail news to people who require information on new courses that we offer. Many complain they cannot access the links we provide (which is probably AOL blocking access with its all-in-one super duper control panel).

I found this fantastic mailing script also, spurts out 4500 emails in about 3mins (and thats staggered). :D

  • Posted by Matt (Guest) on July 13, 2005 at 01:50:03AM

I once spammed some guy I know with magazines (real ones) including things like a barbie mag etc... :D

  • Posted by Sean (Guest) on July 13, 2005 at 05:18:29AM

Spam rules will be as strict as the AUP forced on us by the server providers.

  • Posted by Jason (Guest) on July 19, 2005 at 12:13:38PM

Yes, but what do they define as spam? Would something like the scenario I suggested above be considered spam? I bet it would be.

Don't get me wrong, Jason, I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at the whiny society that has no tolerance for anything, but tolerates everything.

  • Posted by tim (Guest) on July 20, 2005 at 11:20:15AM
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