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        Another AHBBO Article
        All About Spam

        © 2013 Elena Fawkner

        Spam.  It's the bane of anyone who conducts business online.
        It's becoming such a major headache that law-makers the
        world over are struggling to legislate it out of existence, alas
        without much success.  For the time being at least, it's here to
        stay, so let's take a look at the dreaded stuff -- what it is, what
        it isn't, what you can do about it and how to avoid doing it
        yourself.

        WHAT IT IS

        What it is, is the registered trademark of the Hormel Foods
        Corporation (see http://www.spam.com).  It's canned meat, very
        popular with the military so I understand.

        Purists, however, will tell you that, in the Internet context, spam is
        either a single article posted repeatedly to large number of Usenet
        newsgroups or email sent to a large number of addresses.  In its
        previous incarnation, for an email to be spam it had to be sent in
        large quantities.  That was the key characteristic.  Now, of course,
        the definition has broadened and the focus has shifted from one of
        quantity or volume to recipient-consent, more particularly the lack
        thereof, regardless of the number of recipients.

        The term "spam" comes from a famous Monty Python sketch. 
        As explained by Hormel Foods itself: "Use of the term "SPAM" [in
        the Internet context] was adopted as a result of the Monty Python
        skit in which a group of Vikings sang a chorus of "SPAM, SPAM,
        SPAM ..." in an increasing crescendo, drowning out other
        conversation.  Hence, the analogy applied because UCE [unsolicited
        commercial email] was drowning out normal discourse on the Internet." 
        For the rest of spam.com's interesting position statement on the use
        of its trademark in this fashion, see .

        A good spam analogy is the unsolicited telemarketing calls that
        invariably come when you're in the middle of dinner.  The difference
        between spammers and telemarketers, however, is that
        telemarketers don't have the gall to expect you to pay to receive
        the call (other than in terms of your time).  The spammer, on the
        other hand, does indeed have the gall, and in spades.

        The generally accepted current definition of spam encompasses
        five categories of email. 

        1.  Unsolicited ads sent via email to any number of recipients (even
        one).  Some people would not agree with this definition on the
        grounds that if it's only sent to one (or only a few), then it is not sent
        in sufficient quantity to qualify as spam.  Personally, I don't give a
        flying fig how many OTHER people are receiving the same rubbish,
        I only care that I am.

        2.  Unsolicited bulk mailing, regardless of its nature.  This would
        include bulk mailing of the latest round of dumb blonde jokes, not
        just commercial advertising material.  Again, I don't really care
        what kind of rubbish it is, only that it is rubbish and it's landed
        in my inbox.

        3.  Off-topic postings to mailing lists, newsgroups or other forums.
        I would agree with this definition where the off-topic posting was
        commercial in nature, frivolous (such as jokes) or completely
        irrelevant (such as religious sermonizing to a completely
        disinterested group) but wouldn't consider it spam if, for example,
        someone belonging to and regularly contributing to a mailing list
        related to cats posted an "off topic" message with a question
        about their sick dog.

        4.  Using mailing lists or newsgroups in a manner outside the
        volume or frequency its readers signed up for.  It's one thing to sign
        up for an ezine, it's quite another to be bombarded with the ezine
        owner's advertising messages three times a day, every day.

        5.  Adding someone to a mailing list without consent and requiring
        them to opt-out.  This is particularly annoying.  Not only has
        someone had the temerity to arbitrarily add you to their list without
        your consent, they require YOU to take a positive step to get off it!

        I would add a sixth category, and if you're an ezine publisher
        you'll know *exactly* what I'm talking about:

        6.  Signing up for an ezine using an autoresponder address so
        that the ezine publisher receives your advertising every time they
        send the ezine that you signed up for.

        Whether you agree with the above definitions or not, they all have
        one common thread ... whether the recipient consented to receive
        the mail.

        That's a good rule of thumb and you won't go far wrong in your
        business mailings if you ask yourself this question every time
        before you send a message:  did the recipients (and each and
        every one of them) consent, in some form, to receiving this mail? 
        Now, obviously, not every one on your list has specifically emailed
        you and asked to be added to your mailing list.  For example,
        most list members will have subscribed themselves to your ezine
        by completing a form at your site, or website visitors will have
        indicated consent to receiving updates about your site by supplying
        their email address when submitting a survey that clearly stated
        that by submitting their email address they consent to receiving
        email from you from time to time.

        And NO, for our purposes, it doesn't change the character of a
        spam email to include removal instructions.  It's spam when it's
        sent to someone who didn't in some way ask to receive it.  The
        wrong is in the *sending*.  Period.

        You've no doubt been the recipient of (way too much) email that
        starts out "This is not spam [just love these].  This message is
        being sent in compliance with H.R. Bill 12345 which states that
        the sender of an email cannot be prosecuted for sending
        unsolicited commercial email if the email contains remove
        instructions." 

        In the first place, to the best of my knowledge, such a bill has not
        yet passed into law (although several do finally appear to be close
        to proclamation).  In the second place, the provisions of such
        legislation will be relevant to whether the transmission of the email
        concerned is *lawful*.  The issue of spam as it relates to you and
        me and our online businesses is about more than whether it is
        lawful. It is about whether it is good business practice to make the
        recipients of your advertising bear the cost of your sending it without
        asking you to do so in the first place. 

        Whether it's lawful or not, it's just NOT good business practice and
        people have every *right* to object to paying ISP fees for the privilege
        of receiving junk mail.

        WHAT IT ISN'T

        Bulk email sent to an opt-in list is not spam.  What's opt-in?  Simply,
        it means that the recipients "opted" to receive email from you by
        taking some positive step such as providing an email address for that
        purpose, or by confirming they wished to subscribe to an ezine (or,
        in the case some third party subscribed them without their
        knowledge, failing to unsubscribe themselves) when the publisher
        sends an acknowledgement of subscription including unsubscribe
        instructions in case the person had been subscribed by a third party.

        Just because it's sent in bulk doesn't make it spam (under the
        currently accepted definitions).  I publish an ezine each week and
        send it to my opt-in list of several thousand people.  That's not
        spamming because, to the best of my knowledge, each person on
        my list signed up to receive it.  The fact that several people on my
        list may have been signed up by malicious third parties as part of
        a concerted mailbomb attack (with the intent that the recipient be
        flooded with mail from all quarters) doesn't make ME a spammer
        unless I know that the person didn't subscribe, wanted to be
        removed and I failed to remove them ONCE they gave me the
        correct email address used to subscribe them!  To protect yourself
        from this type of complaint, see "How to Be Sure You're Not
        Doing It" below.

        Whether it's spamming to send email to someone just because
        they've emailed you first is a gray area.  Some people staunchly
        maintain that they're free to email you anything without fear of
        being guilty of spamming if you send them anything first.  Personally,
        I don't subscribe to this theory.  If I subscribe to your ezine, I don't
        think that entitles me to bombard you with my advertising.  On this
        view, it follows that those "subscribers" who have signed up to my
        ezine using an autoresponder address that sends an ad in response
        to mailings of the ezine, are spamming.  (And if I can be bothered
        one day when I'm very, very bored to find out who you are, you'll be
        booted from here to Kingdom come.)

        By the same token, how is one to initiate a business transaction
        if no-one can make the first move?  I receive, on a fairly regular
        basis, email from people wanting to do business with me.  These
        emails are, without question, commercial solicitations -- they're
        making me a business proposal.  Spamming?  Not in my book.
        If someone takes the time and trouble to select my site or me
        as a prospective business partner, they'll get a considered
        response.  But send the same message to 1,000 of us (such as
        an invitation to participate in your new affiliate program) and
        you've just crossed the line.  Where that fine line is is not easy
        to determine.  It's easy to say from the edges what's spamming
        and what isn't but the closer you get to that fine line in the middle,
        the blurrier it becomes.

        HOW TO REDUCE IT

        So, now that you know what spam is, how do you reduce it?

        => Spam Filters

        The first way is using spam filters.  These are the equivalent of
        caller ID to weed out the telemarketers (all those "unknown
        caller" calls you get).

        Three spam filters recommended by the authoritative zdnet.com
        (http://www.zdnet.com) are Novasoft's SpamKiller which filters
        email against an extensive listing of known spammers, subjects
        and headers (free trial, thereafter $29.95 to buy); Contact Plus'
        SpamBuster which comes with an editable list of 15,000
        spammers (free trial, thereafter $19.95 to buy); and Fundi
        Software's Mail Guard which previews messages and blocks
        those from defined sources at the source (free to try, $20 to buy). 

        => Filter Function

        In addition to these commercially available spam filters, your
        existing email program already probably provides a filter function. 
        These built-in filters can normally be set up to filter emails with
        particular words or characters in the subject line (such as $$$$$,
        FREE!!!!) as well as emails without your email address in the "To:"
        field.  Make sure to make a list of ezines and mailing lists you
        are a member of before finalizing your filters though, otherwise
        you'll delete everything without your email address in the
        header.

        => Protecting Your Email Address

        An often-recommended (but, as I will explain, dubious) strategy
        is to protect your email address from harvesting by putting in
        some obviously-to-be-removed characters in your email address
        where it appears in the "From" field, for example,
        yourname@isp.nospam.com .  The theory is that a human (as
        distinct from a spammer's email-address-harvesting robot) wanting
        to respond to your email will know enough to delete the "nospam."
        part of the address.  In theory that's all very well.  In my experience
        though, there are plenty of people out there who are clueless when
        it comes to this sort of technicality (many of whom are your
        prospective customers) and will not understand what's going on
        when their mail to you keeps bouncing.   A VERY good way to
        lose prospective customers.

        => Never Reply

        NEVER NEVER NEVER respond to spam or act on the "remove"
        address.  At best the address probably won't work.  At worst, you'll
        confirm to the spammer that your address is valid and mail to it is
        being read.  The result of which, of course, is more of the same.

        => Use Separate Email Addresses

        Use a separate email address when posting to newsgroups and
        mailing lists since these are rich sources of email addresses for
        spammer-harvesters.

        => Go Big Game Hunting

        Spend all your time hunting down spammers and prosecuting them
        to the fullest extent of the law.  There is NO END of resources
        devoted to that very subject.  There are people out there, I kid you
        not, who have made it their life's work to track down the source of
        every single piece of unsolicited email they receive.  You too can
        join this most worthy cause.  Of course, you will put yourself out of
        business in the process because instead of spending your time on
        productive business activities you're spending it tracking down the
        source of all of your spam email.  But, of course, if you put yourself
        out of business you will no longer need an email address and need
        never bother with spam again!  What a clever little vegemite! 

        So, if you're bored out of your tree and have absolutely NOTHING
        better to do with your time and figure that spammer-hunting is at
        least as worthwhile an expenditure of time as watching Oprah or
        Blind Date, be my guest.  I recommend the CAUCE ("Coalition
        Against Unsolicited Commercial Email") website at
        http://www.cauce.org as a good place start your new crusade.

        => Avoid Providing Your Email Address

        If filling out forms online, avoid giving your email address if at all
        possible.  If that's not possible, then made sure you check "no"
        next to the box that asks if its OK to send mail to that address.

        => AOL Users

        If you're an AOL user, delete your member profile.  These profiles
        are a rich source of personal information ... a spammer's dream.

        HOW TO BE SURE YOU'RE NOT DOING IT

        Here's a few rules to help keep you on the straight and narrow:

        => DON'T send anything (except genuine business proposals to
        carefully selected individuals), especially commercial advertisements,
        surveys, questionnaires etc. to anyone who hasn't given their
        permission to receive it.

        => DON'T send chain mail.  I don't care what the mail says will
        happen to you if you don't pass it on.  What will happen to you
        if you do is worse.

        => DO use the BCC field to send bulk mail to your opt-in list,
        NEVER the CC field.  By placing the email addresses of your
        recipients in the BCC (blind carbon copy) field, those addresses
        are "blind" or hidden from the view of the recipients.  If you put
        them in the CC field, everyone can see everybody else's address.

        => DO be selective when it comes to your email source.  Don't
        fall for the million addresses on this one $9.95 CD hype.  There
        are reputable sources of email lists you can rent or buy if that's
        the way you want to go.  Try http://www.postmasterdirect.com
        as one example.  Remember: you get what you pay for.

        => DO state your terms of use of email addresses clearly.  If
        it's a condition of receiving your ezine that your subscribers
        accept daily ads from you, say this up front at the place on your
        site where the prospective subscriber provides their email address.

        => DO verify email addresses/subscriptions by emailing subscribers
        to confirm receipt of their subscription and providing them with a
        way of unsubscribing if someone else subscribed them.  Some
        publishers require the subscriber to email back an acknowledgement.
        That's called "double opt-in" which is even safer.

        => DO keep a record of all subscribe requests if you publish an
        ezine so you can prove, in response to an unjustified spam
        complaint, that the recipient did, indeed, opt-in to your list.


        Although spam appears set to be an unfortunate fact of Internet
        life, by utilizing the above techniques you will minimize much of
        the inconvenience, distraction and just plain hassle that goes
        along with it.  Hopefully one day in the not too distant future,
        someone, somewhere will finally come up with an effective means
        of eradication.  Until then, we'll all just have to keep putting up
        with it.

        _________________________

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        ** Reprinting of this article is welcome! **
        This article may be freely reproduced provided that: (1) you
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        Here's the resource box to use if reprinting this article:

        Elena Fawkner is editor of Home-Based Business Online. Best business ideas and opportunities for your home-based or online business.

        Copyright 1998-2017, AHBBO.com. All rights are reserved. Tuesday, 26-Jan-2021 03:10:30 CST

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