Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Spam “Cures” Are Worse than the Disease: A Rant

Grrrr! If you think e-mail is reliable, you’ve just been lucky so far. The only way you can know for sure that e-mail has reached its destination is if you get a response. Nothing else is sure–and people don’t realize this!

For several years now, I’ve encountered increasing difficulties in getting mail through. For a while, I couldn’t even e-mail my own mother! More of a problem–I had a client in Poland where e-mail between us was so unreliable it ended up causing them not to work with me anymore.

Far too much legitimate mail is undelivered, filtered to trash, or simply lost forever. And I, for one, am totally sick of it.

Today, I tried to respond to someone who had answered my note about a possible speaking gig. It was blocked, with a 550–we-think-this-is-spam-so-we’re-not-going-to-send-it message. And yes, I plugged it into one of the popular spamcheckers and got a clean rating. At least this time, I actually got notified that my mail wasn’t going to leave my server (this doesn’t always happen). Then I copied the entire contents into an attachment, deleted the text, and added one line about why I was sending an attachment–and that was blocked! I will have to call my recipient on Monday

Yet somehow, even though probably at least 5 percent of my totally legitimate inbound and outbound mail never arrives, I get at least 20 up to 100 or more total crap junk spam jobs every day: “Nigerian scam” letters offering to pay me a percentage of some huge transaction…messages about account security from banks I’ve never done business with….offers to extend the size of various body parts I may or may not happen to have…procurers of various mind- or body-altering chemicals, legal or not.

Why in heck can this total crap clog up my mailbox while the real stuff is blocked?

It’s time for a movement of resistance. E-mail is extremely broken and it needs to be fixed. It was at one time the most effective means of communication ever devised, and it’s dying a long slow death.

Let’s take it back! If we can send astronauts to the moon, surely we can figure out a way to block the real junk and let through the real mail. The automated tools don’t work. I’m tired of having my business interfered with by floods of junk mail and blocked real mail. I’m tired of spending huge amounts of time and effort trying to get blocked e-mail to go through, and more time deleting all those spams. I’m tired of my ISP deciding what I can and can’t read, and guessing wrong all the time. I’m tired of challenge-response systems that put undue burden on their correspondents. I’m tired of spam-filter solutions that work for a year or two and then get completely bollixed up. I’m tired of having to send only a teaser about my newsletters and forcing my readers to click to the web. I’m tired of missing important mail that does get to my inbox, but doesn’t get seen because too much garbage piles in on top of it.

And I’m wondering if it’s time for some kind of mass movement or campaign to members of Congress (or the national legislature that governs you)–or SOMETHING!

P.S. In my fifth book, Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World, I have a section called “Spam: The Newbies’ natural Mistake,” in which I demonstrate mathematically that spam is a really bad idea from the spammer point of view as well as from the user.


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