the markITeer

(un)defining spam

Posted by the markITeer on June 1, 2007

Each workshop on e-mail marketing and spam, I start with a seemingly simple question: “What is spam?”.
This is how it mostly goes:

[markITeer]: Does anybody know what spam is?
[John]: Of course: emails I don’t want to receive.
[markITeer]: So if your best friend sends you an email that you didn’t want to receive, it’s spam?
[John]: no… spam is about emails I don’t want to receive from people I don’t know
[markITeer]: So if a friend of your best friend sends you that same email, mentioning your best friend as a reference, you would consider it spam?
[John] hmmm… no….
[Tom] I think I would
[Lydia] Doesn’t spam always have some commercial message?
[markITeer]: So spam is a commercial email you don’t want from somebody you don’t know? Suppose you were looking for a new car six months ago and you received an incredible offer for the car of your dreams from a garage in your town (someone you didn’t know personally). Then according to this definition it might not be spam. But if you would receive that same email now, after you bought your dream car, it would be?
[Lydia]: hmmm… maybe… I don’t know.
[Tom]: Couldn’t you say that spam always involves large volume sendings?
[markITeer]: So you judge an e-mail you receive by how many people received it?
[Tom]: hmmm… no
-silence-
[markITeer]: Anybody?

And that’s why spam filters will never be perfect…

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