Every day, I get spam in my mailbox.
I don’t really mind the spam in Chinese. Or the spam in Spanish. Or the spam in French. Or even the spam in Russian. I just blip it. I don’t know why somebody sent it to me, but I don’t care one way or the other. I just delete it. It doesn’t take much time.
Then there is spam that asks me to click a link. I don’t click on links that are sent by strangers. So, I blip it.
I used to get a lot of spam from the heads of African central banks, which offered to let me have several million dollars. I don’t get many of these any longer. This is good news. It indicates a somewhat rising level of sophistication on the part of people who receive email. But it took 15 years.
What really bothers me is ideological spam. It bothers me for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it is sent repeatedly. It is not a one-shot deal. It is not some hustler trying to lure me into a stupid con. It is sent out by a well-meaning, ideologically driven, obsessed person who thinks I care what he thinks. I don’t care what he thinks.
I don’t care how smart he is. I don’t care how great the cause is. I don’t care what he thinks. There are reasons for this. Let me list a few of them. First, the person has invaded my privacy. Second, he has added me to his mailing list. Third, he thinks I should support his ideological cause. Fourth, he has no Internet savvy. He does not understand that email that is sent out without an “unsubscribe” option is flagged by most ISPs, and it is going to be bounced. The person does not understand the basics of direct mail marketing in the 21st century. Fifth, since he does not understand the basics of direct-mail marketing, he is going to waste his time and therefore his money. He does not understand what he is doing.
Why should I want to read stuff sent by somebody who does not understand what he is doing?
First, anyone who compiles a list of people who have not specifically subscribed is in the spam business.
Second, anyone who sends out unsolicited emails on a regular basis to the same list, when the emails do not offer an unsubscribe option, is in the spam business.
He may believe in his cause so dearly. He may want everybody to believe in his cause. He spends hours a day trying to get enough information to send out his daily dose of spam. He is absolutely convinced he is doing his cause a tremendous favor. He is in fact wasting his time.
More than this, he is probably alienating people on the list.
The classic mark of a person who is caught up in this self-delusion is a reply to somebody who tells the person to take his name off the mailing list. You would be astounded at the outraged letters that I have received over the years, or the begging letters, or the pleading letters. They all say the same thing: “How on earth could you possibly have unsubscribed to my tremendously important daily — or more — e-letter?”
For him, it is not spam. For him, it is life-and-death. But for virtually everybody else on the face of the earth, it is spam. They don’t care about his dearly beloved cause.
The mark of the ideological amateur is the belief that strangers he has added to his email list, unsolicited, will read what he is sending. Even more astounding, he believes that they care what he is writing. They don’t care.
I have been in the email business for about 15 years. I have learned in the school of hard knocks. I have a very large mailing list. On every letter that goes out, there is an unsubscribe option. I never see who has unsubscribed by means of the option. I don’t have time to waste to see who has unsubscribed to my emails. Anybody who has a mailing list large enough to have any influence does not have time to waste time responding to people who have unsubscribed. He doesn’t want to see their unsubscribed requests. He wants a computer program to handle all this for him.
So, the classic mark of somebody who does not know what he is doing, and who has no influence whatsoever, is the person who personally responds to an unsubscribe request, telling the guy who wants off his list what a terrible mistake he is making. Such a response is a neon sign that says the following: “I have a tiny list and no influence.”
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)