Gray Watson Personal Thoughts 2003.01.21
Helping the Spammers

[ I have taken down my petition and removed most of my complaints about Palmgear after they completely reworked their site and have removed the mailto links. Thanks to Kenny West from Palmgear for responding to my complaints and congrats to Palmgear for a much better interface. Unfortunately, since then no less than 2 other sides spidered Palmgear and have propagated my email address onto their sites. Sigh. ]

Recently I published a couple of stupid JFile databases for Palm users to Palmgear.com, one of the most widely used Palm software houses. As always, I gave a MailNull email address personally created for the site so they could contact me. Within a couple of days, I was getting spam mail to this address because Palmgear publishes mailto: links to the developer on its pages.

This is criminal. Palmgear is aiding and abetting the spammers. How easy is it to spider the Palmgear site and harvest the email addresses? Any fool with perl or the wget utility could do it in a couple of hours. This doesn't take into account the industrial strength spiders which walk the web every millisecond of every day searching for email patterns. And why not?! Fools who post their email address to the web are the reasons why the barriers to entry into the spam email market are a couple thousand of dollars, if that.

It is sites such as Palmgear which are one of the main reasons why email spam is so prevalent. They feed the email spiders their much sought after nourishment. I'm sure that the spammers would pat the Palmgear engineers on their backs if they could. I have sent mail twice now to Palmgear support to have them fix this problem. Both times an autoresponse said that they'd respond to my mail within 24 hours but I've heard nothing.

There are other sites out that who are equally guilty of this offense. The Mozilla bug interface, for example, contains a wealth of email addresses. I've resolved never to post another bug to it because I get spam mail on the email address within 48 hours of it going up, guaranteed. The GCC source tree is another place where email addresses can easily be harvested. There are numerous mailing list mirrors which do not obfuscate or remove the email addresses of posters. Mailing lists in general are a danger and should never be posted to except thru a MailNull address. Feel free to nominate other sites that we should start a petition against.

To show you how fast and well the email spiders do their job, let's do an experiment. [ So I created 2 email addresses specifically for this page, one in a mailto and one in html comments. ] Let's see how long it takes to get spam mail on it. I'll bet that I get spam to this address long before I get a hit from any search engine on the page.

[ So it took the spammers 2 months to find both my mailto link as well as a "hidden" mail address in the HTML comments. Since then I've gotten 96 emails or a little less than 1 per day. I did lose my bet however since a Google search on one of the products I got spammed about hit me only 10 days after this page went up. ]

[ I just came back (4/9/2004) and took down the alias. I'd gotten 1056 spam to the address, with the message per day rate accelerating to 8-12 per day. I'm also going to add an experiment and write a new address 'billsmith2 at 256 dot com'. We'll see if the spammers find this too. ]

I have a number of rules which I follow religiously to protect my email address. I encourage you to read them and take them to heart. Vigilance is the price of accessibility.

FYI, here is a fascinating article from Wired.com about Spam's Allure.

Also, I've republished this fabulous research from MSNBC on the trail of spam.

Spam Mail Via Palmgear

I have received messages with the following subjects at the email address that I created specifically for Palmgear. It looks like it is mostly the same spammer given the art theme.

All About Marketing

[ Found on the Internet. ]

People have asked for an explanation of marketing. Perhaps the following analogies will help clarify things.

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy. You go up to him and say, "I'm fantastic in bed."

That's Direct Marketing.

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy. One of your friends goes up to him and pointing to you says, "She's fantastic in bed."

That's Advertising.

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy. You go up to him and get his telephone number. The next day, you call and say, "Hi, remember me? I'm fantastic in bed."

That's Telemarketing.

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy. You get up and straighten your dress. You walk up to him and pour him a drink. You ask, "May I?" and reach up to straighten his tie, brushing your breast lightly against his arm, and then say, "By the way, I'm fantastic in bed."

That's Public Relations.

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy. He walks up to you and says, "I hear you're fantastic in bed."

That's Brand Recognition.

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy. You talk him into going home with your friend.

That's being a Sales Rep.

Your friend can't satisfy him so he calls you.

That's Tech Support.

You're on your way to a party when you realize that there could be handsome men in all these houses you're passing. So you climb onto the roof of one situated toward the center and shout at the top of your lungs, "I'm fantastic in bed!"

That's Spam.

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