December 7, 2006
The Viral Marketing That Doesn't Build Goodwill: Spam

People are always talking about the value of viral marketing, spreading word throughout the Internet. But one thing they aren't referring to is spam. It's the lowest common denominator, advertising gone wrong, the thing that gives proponents of viral marketing a bad abuse of power. But what about the free speech rights of the spammer?

We all have to deal with spam messages. Spam filters for our e-mail help. They help a lot, actually. But they also sometimes catch legitimate correspondence as well that I have to dig out of all the rest of the lint. And then there's all those people I've e-mailed over the years who have never gotten in touch with me, that I'm sure didn't respond because my e-mail got stuck in a filter as well...(Please don't ruin this dreamworld I've built for myself.)

For anyone who runs a blog, though, it's even more frustrating, perhaps. I've learned all I could ever want to know about Tramadol....If you haven't heard, his/her "life's been pretty dull recently," "mind is like a void," and he/she believes "today was a complete loss." I wish someone would give me some Tramadol for having to deal with all their spam.

Lewis Wallace with the Furthermore blog over at Wired followed up on the New York Times story from Brad Stone, who writes that "worldwide spam volumes have doubled from last year, according to Ironport, a spam filtering firm, and unsolicited junk mail now accounts for more than 9 of every 10 e-mail messages sent over the Internet."

They've found ways to avoid bad reputations as senders by invading other people's computers to send e-mails out and have then embedded the words that would normally flag an e-mail for a spam filter by putting it in a picture instead of as text.

And for those of us who wonder what the incentive for sending this junk out, considering that we just delete it every day, often without looking at it, keep in mind this paragraph from the story: "Though the scam sounds obvious, a joint study by researchers at Purdue University and Oxford University this summer found that spam stock cons work. Enough recipients buy the stock that spammers can make a 5 percent to 6 percent return in two days, the study concluded."

Wallace writes that Bill Gates' prediction that spam would be defeated by this year has not come true. He says, "If he still believes that, I've got some tramadol (and some Propecia, and some free MP3 ringtones) he might be interested in."

But what about their rights for communication? They have messages to share. And particularly enjoyable is getting their spam messages on my BlackBerry, where the pictures are replaced by those nonsense text stories that go something like this: Mr. Mickles walks through the deleterious environment. He asked himself, "Why would Molly carp?" The clown jumps. Children scatter the seeds all over the earth. "What are you thinking?" she asked, lip quivering. "Cattle in the marketplace," he quipped.