I don’t know about you but I have become somewhat disappointed with my spam of late. Don’t think I’ve been abandoned by spammers or anything as drastic as that. No, it’s simply the quality and the subject matter that I find disenchanting. In a word, spam has become boring.
I have a rather equivocal attitude towards spam. It irritates me, of course, and I have spent unconscionable amounts of time playing with filters and writing my own in the hope of eliminating it. On the other hand, on a slow day I have to admit that the regular drip, drip, drip of spam is reassuring: it shows that the email system is still functioning and I haven’t been disconnected.
It is fashionable to refer to spammers by all sorts of insulting euphemisms, most implying that they are stupid. Let’s be clear: spammers are anything but stupid. Those who send out the actual emails, filling them with spelling mistakes, breaking the HTML so that the damn thing doesn’t even display, getting your name hilariously wrong, etc., yes, they are stupid but they are just the foot soldiers as it were. The generals, the organizers of spam who work behind the scenes, are a very bright bunch.
If you don’t believe me, reflect for a moment on how hard it is actually to stop spam coming into your inbox. The main weapon these days is the “naive Bayesian filter” and this is the best technique so far but even that doesn’t offer a complete solution. It has to learn what is spam and lets some through during the process. One way in which spammers show their cleverness is in coming up with new patterns of spam designed to fool the naive Bayesian filter until it has learned that they are spam, by which time the spammers will have designed something else. I sometimes think that if these chaps were to direct their talents into socially acceptable domains they would become heroes rather than villains. The trouble is that they would be poor heroes instead of rich villains. Aye, there’s the rub.
As I was saying, spam has become boring. Today’s crop contains “enlarge your dong”, “buy these killer shares”, “buy our meds”, “buy ripped-off software”, “a tired girl would like to chat with you” and “a bank with which you don’t even have an account wants to check your account details”. A serious case of déjà vu. Have spammers run out of ideas or what? Come on chaps, we need some new topics. (That reminds me: I haven’t heard from Miriam Abacha lately. I do hope she’s OK.) What? No, I’m not going to suggest any new ideas: that’s your job.
I don’t doubt that some of you are reading this with a frown of disapproval, thinking “Spam is a serious business and shouldn’t be joked about.” I agree that it’s serious but the problem isn’t really the spammer, you know: it’s all the silly people who respond to their blandishments. If no one bought from spammers, they would go away. It is that simple but simple problems are often the hardest to solve, especially when they involve daft people.
So spam will be with us for a while yet and we might as well have fun with it. Accountants can tot up the costs of dealing with spam, amateur programmers can design spam filters, those of a vengeful spirit can track the spammers down and try to prosecute them, poets can fashion spam messages into works of art and I can feel assured that my email is working and all’s right with the world.