• United States

When is spam spam?

Jul 13, 20042 mins

* Take responsibility for distinguishing spam

There’s no question that spam – broadly defined as unsolicited commercial e-mail – is a major problem for most individuals and corporations.  In fact, regardless of whose numbers you believe, a very substantial percentage of WAN bandwidth costs can be attributed to the largely useless transportation of offers to enhance or reduce the size of various body parts.

Nevertheless, the OSI Layer 1 through 7 costs associated with spam tend to pale in comparison to the Layer 8 costs – the human interaction costs.  Regardless of how effective your spam filter is most of us spend at least several minutes per day deleting messages that sneak through.

The side of spam that is seldom addressed, however, is the cost associated with inaccurate spam reporting.  This is fundamentally an educational problem.  Too many e-mail users either don’t understand the meaning of spam or they don’t read the agreements when they sign up for services.  Consequently, they end up reporting legitimate mass-mailers as “spammers” – and well-meaning spam filtering services end up complaining to the legitimate mailers and threatening them with blacklisting.

For instance, Network World Fusion and Webtorials are major mass-mailers – at the user’s request.  In the case of Webtorials, users sign up via a confirmed opt-in procedure where they are informed multiple times that a condition of access to the site is receiving e-mail.  This is not spam; it’s a notification of new materials.  The distribution of this newsletter is a similar situation.  And every message provides at least one opportunity to opt out of the list.

Nevertheless, some individuals end up reporting these services as “spammers,” resulting in the system administrators having to spend countless hours responding to these inaccurate complaints.

We’re as fed up with real spam as everybody else is.  At the same time, we want to encourage you to make sure that you – and those whom you educate – understand the difference between spam and legitimate mass mailing.  Otherwise, we all run the risk of losing a critical benefit – the ability to have e-mail-linked online communities.