The online home for Greg Leedberg, since 1995.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Spam Has Ruined Everything

Yes, spam has ruined everything, for everybody, in more ways than you realize.

Spam annoys me daily, since I've had a relatively public email address over the years. My email used to be all over my website and in the WHOIS information for my domain. I've done a good job of removing it and instead using a feedback form, but the damage has been done. I routinely get ~60 spam messages a day, which is actually down from the peak of ~200 just about a year ago. Apparently Microsoft's lawsuits have helped a bit.

Inbox spam annoys most people, but that's not actually the point of this post. The fact that people get spam actually has hurt me in other ways that probably don't occur to most people.

You're probably (maybe?) familiar with my Billy and Daisy projects. I started those project way back in late 1999, and they met with some pretty surprising success right from the start. Lots of people seemed interested in them, so as a courtesy to those interested, I started a 100% opt-in mailing list, where I would send messages whenever I released a new version of either program. It was pretty successful. Hundreds of people signed up, and whenever I would send a message out about a new release, there would be a surge of traffic to my website, and I would get several emails from people about the new release.

However, spam has ruined this innocent service. When I released Billy 4.1 in January of 2004, I observed the activity I summarized above -- surge of traffic, lots of emails. However, just the other day I open sourced the Daisy program, and sent out a message. Not that much time has passed since January 2004, but I was shocked at what I observed. There was absolutely no unusual spike in traffic, and I received just a single email. There's still a lot of traffic to my site and the programs are still popular, but this mailing list announcement had almost no impact -- a complete turn-around from just a couple years ago.

It seems that with the huge increase in spam people have been suffering from, more and more people are forced to use spam filters, with increasingly loose rules about what is spam and what isn't. Of course, a mailing list annoucement looks quite similar to spam. It seems that my good-intentioned annoucement largely got eaten up by pro-active spam filters.

I've also noticed that over the past year or so, the number of new subscribers to this mailing list has significantly dropped off. The odd thing is, traffic to my site and downloads of Billy and Daisy have actually increased significantly over the same period of time. Not only are the list messages getting eaten by spam filters, but people are so afraid of spam that they are no longer opting in to mailing lists which they might have signed up for a few years ago.

It really is quite a sad situation. My mailing list, which was very much appreciated by users in its hey-day, has been rendered near-useless. And all because of scum spammers who don't seem to realize that bombarding people with unwanted advertisements doesn't help move their product, and only ruins everything for everybody.