Surely you have received one of those e-mails that try to sell a product guaranteed to enlarge your penis, or that advertise a porn site, or that offer an opportunity to make quick money or earn an academic degree without actually having to study for it. I receive several of those e-mails every day, and maybe so do you. Out here on the Internet, such e-mails are called spam. The people who send them are called spammers. Everyone I know hates spam. Everyone I know hates spammers.
You have just sent me an e-mail in which you invite me to check out the new site attached to the bookstore you run in Tokyo. Your message has the subject line “Nice Blog!!” and in the body of that message you both marvel at the time and dedication that must have gone in to the making of Tawawa and you express your delight at our recent posts on the University Festival.
This makes you a highly unusual spammer. Spammers don’t usually read the sites they spam. You are also a book seller, which is a profession for which I have the utmost regard; book sellers, in my humble opinion, are right up there with the librarians. Still, as much as I appreciate your praise of this site (thanks, by the way!) and as much as I’d probably like you if I met you in real life, you are a spammer. The dedication you put into your spamming ironically makes you a less despicable spammer (and as a book seller you can’t be a true scumbag in the first place), but that doesn’t change the sad fact that you are a spammer. Spammers suck.
As for your offer to link to Tawawa: please feel free to do that. I regularly check the the Tawawa referrer logs and I usually go to the sites that link to us. Occasionally I even link back to them if I think the Tawawa readers might find them either entertaining or profitable. As a matter of policy, however, I do not follow the links that spammers send me, so cannot express an opinion as to wether or not I like your site; I haven’t seen it.
All I can do is offer some business advice: don’t spam weblogs. The practice is more likely to scare away existing customers than to attract new ones.
It’s almost as if the new etiquette for blogging demands some rules borrowed from those older civilizations, like England and Japan, where every relationship begins with a proper introduction, preferably from a mutual friend or acquaintance.
No. I’m perfectly OK with everyone showing up on this site, with or without a mutual friend or acquaintance, if they come here to join a conversation rather than to advertise their business.
You may say I was too quick to denounce the guy as a spammer — I’ll retract my statement if he shows up on this site, reads the above (which I didn’t send as an e-mail) and assures me that similarly worded messages (except for the site-specific bits) didn’t go out to other weblogs in a deliberate effort to drum up business.
I see how you dislike spammers from your statement, “Hello Josh”. I have two questions though, Mr. Ammann.
Is she or he really a spammer? As you said, the supposed spammer is different from the usual one. I think most spammers are using some software to automatically collect e-mails from bulletin boards. Afterwards, they send spams to e-mail addresses they got by automatical software again, I think. So.. if she or he made some comment on tawawa and sent you an e-mail, I’m afraid the guy cannot be defined as a spammer.
(Or..the guy just pretended to browse tawawa. But if the word “tawawa” appears on the e-mail you received from the guy, this means Josh made the message by him or herself…)
Is Josh is his or her name? “Josh” is used as a derisive interjection, isn’t it? I guess you called the supposed spammer Josh so as to insinuate stupidity of spreading spams. If it’s correct, personally I like the implicit message.
The Tawawa contact addresses are availabe only on the contact page. They’re encoded using the Hiveware Enkoder, an excellent piece of software that renders address links virtually unreadable to the spam robots that travel across the Web and pick up unprotected mail addresses. Ever since Tawawa started back in April this year, I haven’t received a single piece of spam to an address protected by the Enkoder — except for this one.
The message contained the line “It was good to read about your university festival!!” To the best of my knowledge, spambots aren’t yet intelligent enough to come up with something like this.
“Josh” is not an interjection: it’s the short form of Joshua, a fairly popular male given name. The message contained this name plus a surname in the signature line. The only similar English interjection that I can think of, and which is probably what you had in mind, is “gosh”, which is simply a variant of “god”.
Now, was it spam? Spamhaus defines spam in the following terms:
The word “Spam” as applied to Email means Unsolicited Bulk Email (“UBE”).
Unsolicited means that the Recipient has not granted verifiable permission for the message to be sent. Bulk means that the message is sent as part of a larger collection of messages, all having substantively identical content.
To be Spam, a message must be sent Unsolicited AND Bulk. Unsolicited Email is normal email (first contact enquiries, job enquiries, sales enquiries, etc.), Bulk Email is normal email (newsletters, discussion lists, etc.). ONLY the combination of Unsolicited AND Bulk is Spam.
There is no question about the “unsolicited” bit. Whether it was spam or not depends on the “bulk” issue. If Josh only meant to send me a couple of nice words about Tawawa and added his bookstore’s URL as an afterthought, then, clearly, the message wasn’t bulk. If, on the other hand — and this strikes me as far likelier — he looked up a few weblogs in Japan and sent each of them a complimentary note about one of their most recent entries and added his link, then that would qualify as “a larger collection of messages, all having substantively identical content,” even though he spent more effort on putting a single message together than a spammer usually does.
I think most spammers are using some software to automatically collect e-mails from bulletin boards. Afterwards, they send spams to e-mail addresses they got by automatical software again, I think.
Yes, that’s what they do. On 30 August I saw the first mention of a new type of spam robot
that trawls the Web looking for weblog (Movable Type, in particular) comment scripts and then posts spam as entry comments. The Japan Bloggers
mailing list has had a couple of discussions about those nasties in recent weeks.
I didn’t do anything about it because Tawawa wasn’t affected — until today. This morning I found five Viagra ads posted to five different entries on this site. I deleted them and installed Jay Allen’s MT-Blacklist, a piece of software that should prevent the spambots from posting comments. We’ll see if it works.
I think you misunderstood me. I think you did the right thing. I’m in favor of blogging etiquette. I’m thinking that the blogging equivalent of an introduction is when someone links to your site and others follow the link.
But like you, I welcome anyone who shows up by whatever route if they contribute to the topic at hand. They’re like people at a cocktail party who wander up to your group, listen for awhile, and then join the conversation.
Before the robot spammers, the people who most annoyed me were people who left comments on a post that they’d obviously not read, just to leave a link back to their site. They’re like the people at a cocktail party who wander up to your group, interrupt the conversation, and begin talking about themselves.
I received email from the very guy, Josh, a few days ago. The mail had the subject line “Nice blog kiyo!!!” and in the message he praised my blog and talked about his trip to Hokkaido he took five years ago. After that, the URL of his bookstore. On that point, as you did, I thought it could be a kind of spam mail. But anyway, I went to his site to see what it’s really like. The site is a quite simple one with a lot of photos that illustrate stuff from making bookshelves to the small party of the opening day. I’m not sure if he can be categorized as a spammer, but he doesn’t seem to have any evil intentions, to my eyes at least. Sure, he must want to let his bookstore known widely, but it’s only a local small one. What does he get to send a “spamming” message all the way to Hokkaido to me?
Anyway, I think you might want to see his website. It won’t hurt.
Oh, and I sent him a thank-you note. ;)
I think you misunderstood me.
Not really. I just somehow got into the habit of deliberately misunderstanding people in order to cajole them into explaining themselves better or more fully. Occupational hazard right there. =)
The cocktail party analogy works for me, although not every individual case may be as clear-cut as you suggest.
Let’s be honest about this: once you’ve managed to put your site together you’re all hot and bothered to have visitors who read your stuff and possibly comment, so the link back to your site, and the slightly improved Google PageRank that results from the link, is a powerful incentive even behind the most pertinent and thoughtful comment you leave on somebody else’s site or post to a mailing list. As a consequence, there’s a big gray area between a legitimate message and “spam”. The dividing line gets somewhat blurry.
Now Kiyo-san says Josh didn’t overstep that dividing line. I disagree. If someone sends me their link in the body of an e-mail message which apparently is part of a whole series of similar messages to other people, that person is spamming me. Approximately one out of four messages I got in the last couple of months was spam, which, judging from what I hear, isn’t such a bad ratio. It still bothers me a lot.
No, I don’t think Josh is “evil” — rather, he strikes me as incredibly naive. Maybe I should have reacted with a better grace and told him privately instead of making this big production out of what, after all, was a very minor incident.
Josh — if you’re reading this — next time you like a weblog post, or disagree with it, or whatever: comment on that post directly! You’ll get a real-live link back to your site out of it, even if your site isn’t a weblog, fancy that! If the urge comes upon you to contact a site via e-mail, place your link beneath your signature and make sure the body of your message contains something a bit more substantial than a pretext for sending that link.
I’m still not sure whether the guy should be called a spammer or not.
Not so negative points about him:
1. At least he browsed and read some parts of my website.
2. He commented something about it.
3. He didn’t ask me to link to his website.
4. There were no weird scripts working behind on his site.
5. No gross business thing or the like was mentioned in his site.
Compared to the real nasties including comment spam we’ve seen lately, what he did didn’t matter so much to me.
So, Rudolf-san, you regard him as a spammer largely because his website address was included in the body of his message? How would you have reacted if he simply had put the address below his signature? Or something like “By the way, I have a website, too. Can I link to you?”?
That said, honestly, I didn’t have a good impression about his sudden mentioning of his site URL in the message body, either.
If he really likes our weblogs, he is sure to come back and post some comment, which I don’t think is likely to happen. But I do hope he will. More so because I sent a thank-you note to him. LOL
I would have to agree with kiyo of in most regards. Sure if you’re going by pure technicalities and the very definition of unsolicited mail - then Josh’s email was indeed spam (or at least leans that way). But in kiyo’s case he also wrote about his own experiences (maybe he did the same for you?), this sounds like stuff that would not really be out of place on the comments box I think.
I don’t think it’s so wrong for Josh to want to promote his site, who among us doesn’t feel the same way? It’s a labor of love and the more people reading it the better - however, he went bout it the wrong way. If he’s a relatively new webmaster, naivete and desperation are good enough excuses too me.
fyi: about that email encryption.. Typepad also does that too automatically when you create a link to your email on the sidebar - pretty nifty; just found out. I actually get much less junk mail than you, but I think it’s more a reflection of my site’s popularity :D
Oh I love being called upon to explain myself. I’m a long time believer in Blake’s “Without contraries (there) is no progression.” and “Opposition is true friendship.”
I don’t think of Josh as a spammer. I think he’s simply writing letters of inquiry to people with potentially similar tastes/situations whose readers might be interested in what he has to offer. It’s interesting how different each of our reactions is. Based on this guy’s personal approach I would tend to, like Kiyo, check him out. Maybe he has something worth offering, worth introducing him to my readers.
Those of us who blog, know that leaving an interesting on-topic comment sometimes invites readers to follow our link and find out what we’re about. But it’s still a pretty new medium and people not used to it may do things that offend unknowingly. Ignorance or malice? Personally it would bother me only if he continuously bombarded my site, like the spambots do.
This guy was presumptous. He attempted to leverage a relationship with you that he doesn’t have. That’s why my first analogy of “having an introduction” came to mind.
The quantity of e-mail spam I get doesn’t correlate to Tawawa’s (alleged) popularity. Tawawa uses the Enkoder, and the protection offered by that software has yet to be breached by a spambot; Josh obviously copied the address by hand.
The spambot stuff I do get arrives at my university address, which, from way back in the age of innocence, is out there on USENET as well as on a few old, unprotected Web pages that still sit around on the university server although I no longer link to them. It might be a good idea to clean up or remove those pages.
> Oh I love being called upon to explain myself.
How d’you mean? :P
you regard him as a spammer largely because his website address was included in the body of his message?
No. I regard him as a spammer because (a) I think his “message” was a mere pretext for sending the link and (b) because the “message” looked like a form that went out to others with ” substantively identical content” except for the one specific reference to the university festival. I also regarded him as a spammer because (c) the offer to link to this site looked fishy. Everybody knows that you don’t need permission to link to a site (except for a few clueless corporations that, a few years back, objected to the practice of what they called “deep linking”, ie linking to pages other than their main page. Guffawing ensued). So, if somebody talks about linking to you before they actually do it, it’s perfectly normal cynicism to assume they have a link exchange in mind (Tawawa doesn’t do link exchanges, thank you. We link to the sites we like, and so should everyone else). Acting on your suggestion, I have since visited Josh’s site and found that he actually links to weblogs without a reciprocal link from them. So I herewith drop charge (c) while upholding the other two.
How would you have reacted if he simply had put the address below his signature?
I would have thanked him for the kind words and pointed out that it’s OK to link to this site (or any othe site, for that matter), but that we don’t do link exchanges.
Here’s the message in full:
Came across your blog while surfing through other japan blogs. Looks good!! I like it. It looks like you have put some hours into it!!
It was good to read about your university festival!!
I have just opened a used english bookstore in Kichijoji, Tokyo. Check out our new wiz bang site.
We would love to link you if your interested.
and i will continue to surf your site!!
Open 11am - 8pm
Ever since I read your original post, I’ve been in a kind of dilemma. That is, to what extent can we bring forward information about his email here? It’s a moral thing. If it’s about a corporate spammer or the like, I wouldn’t hesitate to disclose the content of the email and denounce it. But what about this case? To me, he seems like a regular guy. (And that’s why I sent you my first comment via email.) Now that you’ve shown his email message here, even though his surname and URL are omitted, I can’t help wondering about its validity. So, I’d like to hear your, I mean you and other people as well, views on this before going any farther.
Coincidentally, last night my husband was reading a sales and marketing book (he’s a software architect, not a salesman, but sometimes he likes to study those strange creatures from afar). And it explained exactly why Josh’s approach was what every good promoter needs to do. It wasn’t directed at bloggers or even email—it was written before the internet, to salepeople to encourage them to make contacts through mail and phone calls.
I still don’t consider it spam. Spam is impersonal and site-irrelevant. It’s garbage that doesn’t go away even when you ask nicely and even not so nicely. It’s junk that clutters up your site despite your efforts to eliminate it.
Josh was just making a “cold call”. I don’t link to people who ask me to, either. In fact, people who have to ask, I find, usually have sites that don’t tend to interest me.
Do you think the personal nature of most blogs makes this kind of marketing feel more invasive?
> It’s a moral thing.
Your distinction between “corporate spammer” and “regular guy” doesn’t hold up — by and large, established companies with a reputation to look after don’t spam; most of them know better. I can send you my spam folder for empirical proof; you’d be hard pressed trying to find too many “corporate spammers” in that sample. Spammers are regular guys.
Wait until U.S. Congress passes legislation (which, in all likelihood, it is going to do shortly) that says opt-out spam isn’t spam. Boy, then you’ll begin to see corporate spam .
None of that speaks to the moral issue you raise, however. The moral issue you raise is wether I violated Josh’s privacy by posting that messsage.
Well, did I?
The answer to that question depends on your classification of the message: if it’s a commercial message, then it’s nonsense to claim I violated the sender’s privacy by publishing it. If it’s a private message, then, of course, you have a case.
In the message he sent you, Josh talks about the trip he made to Hokkaido and the good time he had there. That’s information about his private life. I’d say he volunteered it as a peg on which to hang his commercial message, but I’d be reluctant to re-distribute it without his consent. (And I’d still say he spammed you. I’m pig-headed.)
Obviously, there is no such private element in the message he sent me. You might still say that he writes about his experience as a reader of Tawawa, that he shared this experience as a private citizen, and that this act of sharing is worthy of privacy protection in itself.
I don’t buy that. What he “shares” is the insight that it takes “hours” to keep a weblog afloat, which is something that applies to every weblog , and, believe me or don’t, I knew that already. Honest, I did. The only bit of “personal experience” the message contains is that the sender found it “good to read” about something that had recently been posted to this site. Is that worthy of privacy protection? I guess it might be in certain contexts, but not if he sends it along with two instances of a commercial link. In that case, the message becomes exceptionally well-targeted marketing with an exceptionally personalised hook.
> Do you think the personal nature of most blogs makes this kind of marketing feel more invasive?
No. I’m not even sure of the “personal nature of most blogs”. Some are very personal, others aren’t.
Either way, the Net has a long-standing antipathy towards spam, and that antipathy is much older than the weblog phenomenon (weblogs with commenting functionality didn’t exist until Greymatter came along almost exactly three years ago ). Consider spam as defined by the Jargon File (a hilarious document, by the way; take some time and browse some of the other entries!): this goes back to USENET and suggests that mere irrelevance is enough for a message to be classified as spam.
> Spam is impersonal and site-irrelevant
Yes. We disagree on what is “personal” and what is “relevant”.
I’d also maintain that these criteria are sensitive to context. In an environment where, according to Spamhaus, “Spam is now 60% of all email traffic on the Western Internet and is forecast to reach 70% by January 2004”, I may be forgiven for getting a bit impatient and raising the bar on what I consider “personal” or “relevant”.
Sidenote #1: I’ve just removed all e-mail links from comment bylines throughout Tawawa.org because I’m not convinced the “encryption” offered by Movable Type is good enough.
Sidenote #2: Oli Studholme, a talented young Web developer living near Matsusaka, a few kilometres south from here, has just posted his brief guide on how not to get Chain Email, Viruses and Spam. Recommended reading.
Could you define “spam” as briefly as possible, please?
Spam is UCE - unwanted commercial email.
Unwanted means you didn’t ask for it and don’t want to get it. Commercial means the sender is trying to make money somehow by sending the email (ie hopefully you will buy something, or for weblog comments the spam will increase the ‘rank’ of the page in Google).
Generally the idea of email being sent in bulk is associated with spam - very few people will reply to an email saying “Cheap Viagra”, so the spamming company has to send _a lot_ of emails to make any money. Unfortunately sending email is practically free, so this isn’t a problem for the spammer.
Everyone hates spam, because it wastes time and money. If Dubya talked about it he’d say “Spam is evil, and spammers are all bad men”. Whether the email this discussion is about is spam is border-line for me. Technically it _is_ spam (Unsolicited commercial email), but compared to normal spam advertising porn it seems almost benign. I think this is more a case of someone who doesn’t know much about the internet (and it’s customs/manners) being told he should promote his new webpage as much as possible. I would have been happy to ignore it, but some of us hate spam even more than normal ;-)
By the way, I live further from Matsusaka than Matsusaka is from Tsu - maybe you should have said “near Ise”? Talented might be pushing it too ;-)
peace - oli
Correction: Oli is a rather talented young Web developer who lives near Ise.
And he sounds reasonable to me.
Kiyo-san, can we simply agree to disagree?
By the way, my handle is “Kiyo”, not “Kyo”. ;)
Both instances of the typo on this page have been duly emended.
Dang, Take a week off from reading blogs and I miss a great conversation!
I have a little insight into your spammer (and I would agree that that is spam). I feel I may have to take a little of the blame for it too.
Josh runs a new used bookestore in Kichijyouji nearby my office. I stopped by a few weeks ago to check it out. I met his wife (though not Josh) and talked a bit. They looked like a nice business, and very small, probably hard to get off the ground, and I saw a definite benefit for them to have a web-site where we can browse their impressive stock of used books online, so I offered to help with what I can, and left my name and my url in case they were interested.
A few weeks later they had their site up and running (I had nothing to do with it) and he sent me the same email as you recieved. Since I had actually spoken with his wife, and been to the store, and left my contact info, I didn’t see it as spam. (However, since then I know that they have also sent that mail to at least one other person who is on my blogroll, and now you too.)
I looked at the site and suggested that if he made a blog out of it, with regular, interesting posts about books, they could join a growing community of foreigners in Tokyo, and I suspect some of us would benefit from his used book store as well.
I also mentioned that having a blog would most likely put his site at #1 on google for used books in Tokyo. I wasn’t promoting any type of search engine optimization techniques, just simply stating a fact, that if he had interesting content, and was a part of the blog community in Tokyo, his google rank would also increase.
I suppose I should have taken some time to explain what being a member of the blog community means, and given him a little etiquette background. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that his spam was simply a misguided newbie effort. While to most of us it is fairly obvious that simply asking someone to “exchange links” is not the way to go, many “Web-Marketing” books advocate writing to web-masters and offering to exchange links, as though it were a common practice.
Maybe it’s a good thing you didn’t find this conversation earlier — your story may have settled the question before the discussion got well under way.
We cannot allow you to get off the hook lightly for unleashing this bookseller on the rest of us. Some punishment is in order.
Please bare your posterior and somebody fetch me my spanking cane!
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