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WHO COOKED THIS!? HOW DID IT ALL START?

Written By: Beka Ruse

The modern meaning of the word “spam” has nothing to do with
spiced ham. In the early 1990′s, a skit by British comedy
group Monty Python led to the word’s common usage. “The SPAM
Skit” follows a couple struggling to order dinner from a menu
consisting entirely of Hormel’s canned ham.

Repetition is key to the skit’s hilarity. The actors cram
the word “SPAM” into the 2.5 minute skit more than 104 times!
This flood prompted Usenet readers to call unwanted newsgroup
postings “spam.” The name stuck.

Spammers soon focused on e-mail, and the terminology moved
with them. Today, the word has come out of technical
obscurity. Now, “spam” is the common term for “Unsolicited
Commercial E-Mail”, or “UCE.”

———————————-
WHY DOES BAD SPAM
HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?
———————————-

Chances are, you’ve been spammed before. Somehow, your
e-mail address has found it’s way into the hands of a
spammer, and your inbox is suffering the consequences. How
does this happen? There are several possibilities.

BACKSTABBING BUSINESSES –
Businesses often keep lists of their customers’ e-mail
addresses. This is a completely legitimate practice and,
usually, nothing bad comes of it. Sometimes though, the
temptation to make a quick buck is too great, and these
lists are sold or rented to outside advertisers. The
result? A lot of unsolicited e-mail, and a serious breach
of trust.

RANDOM ADDRESS GENERATION –
Computer programs called random address generators simply
“guess” e-mail addresses. Over 100 million hotmail
addresses exist how hard could it be to guess some of
them? Unfortunately for many unsuspecting netizens not
too hard. Many spammers also guess at “standard”
addresses, like “support@yourdomain.com”,
“info@yourdomain.com”, and “billing@yourdomain.com.”

WEB SPIDERS –
Today’s most insidious list-gathering tools are web
spiders. All of the major search engines spider the web,
saving information about each page. Spammers use tools
that also spider the web, but save any *e-mail address*
they come across. Your personal web page lists your e-mail
address? Prepare for an onslaught!

CHAT ROOM HARVESTING –
ISP’s offer vastly popular chat rooms where users are known
only by their screen names. Of course, spammers know that
your screen name is the first part of your e-mail address.
Why waste time guessing e-mail addresses when a few hours
of lurking in a chat room can net a list of actively-used
addresses?

THE POOR MAN’S BAD MARKETING IDEA –
It didn’t work for the phone companies, and it won’t work
for e-mail marketers. But, some spammers still keep their
own friends-and-family- style e-mail lists. Compiled from
the addresses of other known spammers, and people or
buisnesses that the owner has come across in the past,
these lists are still illegitimate. Why? Only you can
give someone permission to send you e-mail. A
friend-of-a-friend’s permission won’t cut it.

———————————-
STOP THE FLOOD TO YOUR INBOX
———————————-

Already drowning in spam? Try using your e-mail client’s
filters – many provide a way to block specific e-mail
addresses. Each time you’re spammed, block the sender’s
address. Spammers skip from address to address, and you may
be on many lists, but this method will at least slow the
flow.

Also, use more than one e-mail address, and keep one “clean.”
Many netizens find that this technique turns the spam flood
into a trickle. Use one address for only spam-safe
activities like e-mailing your friends, or signing on with
trustworthy businesses. Never use your clean address on the
web! Get a free address to use on the web and in chat rooms.

If nothing else helps, consider changing screen names, or
opening an entirely new e-mail account. When you do, you’ll
start with a clean, spam-free slate. This time, protect your
e-mail address!

———————————-
STAY OFF SPAMMED LISTS
IN THE FUTURE
———————————-

Want to surf the web without getting sucked into the
spam-flood? Prevention is your best policy. Don’t use an
easy-to-guess e-mail address. Keep your address clean by not
using it for spam-centric activities. Don’t post it on any
web pages, and don’t use it in chat rooms or newsgroups.

Before giving your clean e-mail address to a business, check
the company out. Are sections of its user agreement
dedicated to anti-spam rules? Does a privacy policy explain
exactly what will be done with your address? The most
considerate companies also post an anti-spam policy written
in plain English, so you can be absolutely sure of what
you’re getting into.

———————————-
THINK YOU’RE NOT A SPAMMER?
BE SURE.
———————————-

Many a first-time marketer has inadvertently spammed his
audience. The first several hundred complaints and some
nasty phone messages usually stop him in his tracks. But by
then, the spammer may be faced with cleanup bills from his
ISP, and a bad reputation that it’s not easy to overcome.

The best way to avoid this situation is to have a clear
understanding of what spam is: If anyone who receives your
mass e-mails did not specifically ask to hear from you, then
you are spamming them.

Stick with your gut. Don’t buy a million addresses for $10,
no matter how much the seller swears by them! If something
sounds fishy, just say no. You’ll save yourself a lot in the
end.

———————————-
THE FINAL BLOW
———————————-

The online world is turning the tide on spam. In the end,
people will stop sending spam because it stops working. Do
your part: never buy from a spammer. When your business
seeks out technology companies with which to work, only
choose those with a staunch anti-spam stance.

Spam has a long history in both the food and e-mail sectors.
This year, Hormel Foods opened a real-world museum dedicated
to SPAM. While the museum does feature the Monty Python SPAM
Skit, there’s no word yet on an unsolicited commercial e-mail
exhibit. But, if all upstanding netizens work together,
Hormel’s ham in a can will far outlive the Internet plague
that is UCE.

About the Author

Beka Ruse fights spam as the Business Development Manager
at AWeber Communications. Ad tracking, live stats, and a
strict anti-spam policy: Automated E-Mail Follow Up,
From AWeber. http://www.aweber.com/a/p163/lsp.htm

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