Industrial Spam

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-02-05 Print this article Print

If I havent given up by now, there are always the e-mail newsletters to sift through. I dimly recall why I signed up for many of these in the distant past—often by mistake because I failed to uncheck the auto-subscribe box on a form I was pointed to by a former friends IM about checking this cool video out. Invariably, the video requires RealPlayer, which sets off another blizzard of upgrade e-mail requests while obliterating my media player preferences in the background. Ive long since stopped trying to unsubscribe from these time-wasters. All that does is tell them youre alive and pushes you to the top of their red-meat list. So I ended up deleting them day by day until it finally occurred to me that I should just write a rule to take care of that. Now the demon has me firmly in its grasp.
Writing a filter is useful the first time; less so when you have to install it on the laptop, at home, and on your wifes, daughters or mistresss machines; useless if you arent allowed to install it on the server by a beleaguered IT; and life-draining when you evaluate the actual information you signed up to receive in the first place.
A brief commercial for RSS: E-mail newsletters were originally attractive because they allowed me to quickly review new stories without having to travel to Web sites to find out if anything interesting had been posted. RSS lets you subscribe to a feed that lets you know only when new content has been posted. Now back to hell. With my junk filter now reprogrammed, I turn to watching return receipts and bounced mail messages roll in from vendors, developers, PR folk and many others who share one characteristic: I didnt send them anything. Instead, Im getting attacked either by servers responding to spoofed e-mails or by a virus harvesting address book lists on local machines. This recursive wave of spam-about-spam modulates like earthquake aftershocks. The peculiar personalized nature of many of these address list bombs makes it ever so more annoying, as I receive e-mail from people I havent heard from in years but who unfortunately chose the "Add Sender to Address Book" option. You can pay now or you can pay later. Next page: Bills Three Wishes

Steve Gillmor is editor of's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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