Spam In The Offline World And What We An Learn From It

Rob Dee

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I once received an unsolicited envelope from England. It contained an unsolicited advertisement for a clairvoyants services. She wanted to sell me a magic rock or something. Had the same message arrived online it would have been in my spam folder quicker than I could have read the first paragraph(or line probably). But the fact it came on paper, and was sent from such a distance, something about that made it more personal and I did read the entire message.

I once received an unsolicited envelope from England. I ONCE received an unsolicited envelope from England. One time. Once. Yet every day I receive dozens of unsolicited email messages. Maybe there is something in that.

Some time ago I placed a ‘no circulars’ sign on my letter box and have since received no junk mail through this medium. Even before this the junkmail I received was very low - a piece or two per day. Why is this? Simply because it costs the supplier to deliver their circulars. It costs them to print them, and it costs them to get some kid to walk around putting them in my letterbox. Furthermore, if I did get angry at them for ignoring my ‘no circulars’ sign - it is very easy for me to track them down and complain to them.

For a number of months I received a fax from Dell every monday morning. After some time I rang them up and asked them to stop. They did.

Why is spam so rare and so easy to avoid in the real world, when it is so difficult to avoid online. The answers are all placed through the above stories, by producing physical product and mailing it, or faxing it, the marketers are incurring a cost. Furthermore, because they advertise products that require me to either mail to, or visit a physical location, they are accountable for the advertising they do. If they breach advertising laws, I am able to make complaints, and they are liable for those.

Email is free, it can easily be made anonymous and it directs you to an equally anonymous location. Online transactions can be made without even having an idea of what country the merchant you are buying from comes from, let alone a more specific location.

There is a lesson here for future mediums of communication. unfortunately I can see at least one being as beset with spam as email is. Voice over IP(VoIP) allows for very cheap phone calls using Internet technology. For those on the same network, communication is free. With services such as skype you can sign up for a free account and start talking to users on the other side of the world for free. Skype phones can replace regular telephones and Skypeout allows you to call people with regular phones.

Free, anonymous communication. Guess where that is heading.

Rob Dee has spent several years managing an internet cafe and has had to listen to complaints about spam on a daily basis. For the longest time he simply felt it was something that needed to be accepted, but finally he created the website in an effort to educate the masses on ways of combating spam e-mails.


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