The New Holy War on Spam-Are You a Spammer?

Canned lunch meat aside, it seems no one likes spam. But lately there seems to be a McCarthy era war on spam going on. To a point where we are all affected, and we all may be accused of being spammers. Yes, even you.

What is spam? Well everyone has a slightly different definition according to their motives. Here are some different types of spam, kindly explained to us by Andrew Brown of Pisys, a leading IT support company in Aberdeen.

Originally, spam referred to bulk unsolicited emails. Junk mail. And no one will argue that junk email is a bother. The solution was that every software company feature anti-spam protection, usually including a seperate folder to hold the multitudes of spam we recieve. But it seems there was a little problem with that. It was up to the software company to define spam, and each one is different. The result is that many good emails are thrown in the spam folder.  It is regular practice now for all of us to at one point check our spam folders to make sure we didnt miss anything important.And we usually do.

This lead to legitimate companies having to inform us that we should look in our spam folder, to see if there was correspondence from them. So now, instead of looking for spam in our good folders, we have to look for spam and good emails,  in our spam folder.

Another curious fact is that everyone seems to think that everyone else, is a spammer. I recently opened a blog on a blog site. I left my usual  profile information and in the occupation box, I entered “internet marketing”. One hour after I opened the account I got a letter from the blogmaster. It told me that I was a spammer and that I wasnt welcome on their site. Mind you, I never made a post. So I wrote to the blogmaster and told him I was’nt a spammer, and asked why he thought I was.  He replied that his super spam sensitive software had detected the presence of spam. He then apologized for wrongly accusing me.

Ezinearticles is one of the top ezine directories on the internet today. They have strong anti spam policies in place. BUT, if you put an article on Ezinearticles, you cant promote the article with social sites like Digg. Digg and others will not let you bookmark anything from Ezinearticles.The reason? They consider Ezinearticles to be a spam site.

Getting confused? I know I am.

Then comes the biggest atrocity to ever hit the internet. Captchas. The most insidious form of torture known to man.

The purpose of Captchas is to ask a question that cannot be answered by a bot. The thinking here is that this will cut down or eliminate the use of automated programs to post spam. First Captchas started off simple. Small four letter words or symbols. Easy for a real person to answer, but impossible for software. Or so they thought. Early captchas were something like “Water” or “G7FQ”, but i guess the developers didnt think this was difficult enough for the automaters. They began to make these Captchas longer, more words, more bizarre, etc. Its to a point now where I probably answer 1 out of five Captchas incorrectly. And, if you cant get the answer, you may not be able to get to your work. The Captcha people began adding strange spellings, unusual characters. They even began turning the letters upside down. Some of the Captchas are somewhat amusing. I resently had to enter “Quaalude Nightmare”. I wonder who writes these things ? In any case Captchas are now an internet way of life. But do they help with spam?

Not very much at all.

For one thing the real spammers all use De-Captcha services. For pennies, the real spammers can avoid entering any Captchas like the rest of us. These services are integrated right into the very software they use to spam. So really the only ones that have to suffer the horrible aggravation of Captchas are you, me, and little old ladies trying to buy a bird house on Amazon.

So this is just part of the new holy war on spam. Everyone considers the other guy a spammer, we must take more time to check our spam folders and tell our legitimate customers that they might not see our emails, and to waste time playing the game of idiotic crosswords. I would say I spend a lot more time dealing with anti-spam than I ever did with actual spam.