Neil's News

Ethical Spam?

27 March 2004

I hate spam. I'm targeted for over 300 spam messages every day. If it weren't for a dual combination of server-side (SpamAssassin) and client-side (Mozilla) filters, email would be totally unusable. Much of my work day is dedicated to fighting the various blacklists in an attempt to keep email from Digital Routes from being wrongly blocked as spam. Spam is pure evil.

Then I receive something which muddies the water. It's an email from KwMap, a new search engine which features an unusual algorithm. The email suggests that I submit my website to their database. By any definition, it is spam: I didn't ask for the mail, I don't have a business relationship with them, it is bulk mailed to hundreds of thousands of webmasters. But on the other hand, it was advertising a free service which is both useful and interesting. A service which wouldn't be practical to market any other way.

The conclusion is that spam itself isn't evil. It's repetitive garbage that's evil. I don't want mail-order diplomas, lower interest rates or larger breasts. Unsolicited commercial email that was actually well targeted would be genuinely interesting. I do want to hear about companies offering Moo plugins or used space suits. Heck, I'd even pay for such mail. Unfortunately it is unlikely that any company could figure out what would or wouldn't interest individuals. Especially someone like me.

Update: Shortly after posting this, KwMap shot themselves in the foot by sending the same email to webmaster@every-domain-on-our-server. Once was good. 250 times is excessive.

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