The more things change


I was doing some research about the evolution of the this-is-spam button for a blog article. In the middle of it, I found an old NY Times report about spam from 2003.

At the same time, the argument is intensifying over what represents legitimate e-mail, particularly when it ends up being blocked by an antispam filter. Last November, AOL threatened to block e-mail from Gap. Even though Gap said it only sent e-mail to people who explicitly signed up for its mailing list, AOL said that many of its members reported Gap mailings as spam. When it investigated, AOL found that Gap had been offering people a 10 percent discount for providing their e-mail address. Nearly a third of the addresses collected were fake, but they often belonged to other people who did not want the Gap e-mail.
“You can’t underestimate the power of people to make up an e-mail address to get a 10 percent discount,” said Matt Korn, AOL’s executive vice president for network operations. NY Times April 22, 2003

And, yet, 9 years after that article was written the Gap was still collecting email addresses at the register and still getting fake addresses. While the Gap was not mentioned directly in my article confirming addresses for transactional mail they were one of the SBLed retailers.
Can mailers really not get past doing the same exact things that got them blocked in 2003? I’ve been writing here for almost 7 years now, over 1600 blog posts. It’s almost depressing that many of my early posts are still relevant. Mailers are still making the exact same address gathering, sending and delivery mistakes they have been. Ken Magill even mentioned the same thing this week in his newsletter article Umm, What Year is This?.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love the job security. But some days I wish we could move past advice I was giving to people 10 years ago and get on to new things and challenges.

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  • Yeah. And the guy who posted on Ken’s comments was straight out of 1999 as well. “Spam traps are useless, they’re all malicious sign ups or mistakes”. Sigh. Wow.

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