Rethinking the ‘Never Unsubscribe’ Rule for Spam

Discussion in 'Mail Chat' started by roundabout, Sep 4, 2011.

  1. roundabout

    roundabout VIP

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    Rethinking the ‘Never Unsubscribe’ Rule for Spam

    Appearing in the NY Times
    by David Pogue

    When it comes to junk mail, the rule, for 15 years, has been: Never respond. Don’t even try to unsubscribe, even if they give you instructions for doing so. You’re just letting the spammer know that your e-mail address is “live,” and that you’re a dummy who actually opens those messages and reads them. You’ll wind up getting put on even more spam lists as a result.

    Well, I think it’s time to revisit that advice.

    I use Mac and Windows, but my main carry-around machine is a Mac laptop. Onto it, I’ve installed an amazing antispam program called SpamSieve. After reading countless glowing reviews, I gave it a try, and found it indispensable. It works with all Mac e-mail programs, and does an astonishing job of putting all spam from all my accounts into the Spam folder.

    I still have to pore over it, though. Every now and then, a piece of legitimate mail winds up in there.

    Now, my e-mail addresses are fairly public. I do have one private address that I never, ever use on the Web. (That’s how spammers get your e-mail address, by the way — they scour the Web for e-mail addresses that people type into forms online. Which is why you, too, should have a separate e-mail address that you use only for private correspondence and never use when, for example, ordering products or signing up for things.)

    But since my addresses are public, I get added to every mailing and spamming list under the sun. And even with SpamSieve’s assistance, it’s gotten out of control — the amount of time I have to spend double-checking the spam folder is growing year after year.

    So a couple of months ago, I decided to try an experiment: I’d violate the old rule. I’d deliberately try to unsubscribe from every spam list. And I’d report on my findings.

    First, the good news: it worked. An awful lot of the spam comes from “legitimate” companies. Now, I don’t consider spamming O.K., ever, and I think these companies should be ashamed of themselves. But “legitimate” means that they’re real companies with real Web sites and names and addresses — and, almost always, real Unsubscribe buttons at the bottom of the spam.

    The best Unsubscribe button by far is the one provided by something called SafeUnsubscribe. I don’t know much about it, except that it’s a service offered by a company called Constant Contact, and it claims to have 370,000 customers — companies who pay to use SafeUnsubscribe.

    Bottom line: When you see SafeUnsubscribe at the bottom of the message, click it. You land on a Web page that basically says, “O.K., that’s it. We’ve taken you off ALL mailing lists.” One click.
    These 370,000 companies, clearly, are the ones with a guilty conscience. “We’re going to spam you, but gosh, we feel bad about it — at least we’ll make it easy for you to get off our lists!”

    I like SafeUnsubscribe because it (usually) knows, and fills in, your e-mail address. What really irks me is the other ones: spam with an Unsubscribe button at the bottom — and when you click it, you go to an unsubscribe page when you have to type in your email address! You spammed me, you idiot — you already know my e-mail address!

    Those “dumb” unsubscribe buttons mean that I have to go back to my e-mail program and look up which address they spammed, then go back to the Web page and paste it in. When you have 30 of those a day, it’s exhausting.

    Anyway: after a couple of months of this, I’m happy to report that, as far as I can see, not a single one of these companies has contacted me again. Unsubscribing in 2011 really works.

    (Note that I’m talking about spam with an Unsubscribe button at the bottom. The ones pitching you Viagra or bigger body parts won’t unsubscribe you — and don’t pretend that they will.)

    The corporate spam, in other words, is usually easy to stop.

    Now, the bad news: That spam isn’t very much of the total volume. I’m still inundated by the less responsible spam:

    – All kinds of messages in Russian and Asian languages. (Hint: Dudes, you’re wasting your time.)

    – A million, zillion e-mails from a firm called Rodman & Renshaw (not sure if it’s really them, or someone impersonating them).

    – The usual phishing scams — fake e-mails from banks (that I don’t even have accounts with), asking me to log in to correct some kind of error.

    – A million “I was in the U.K. and I was mugged, old pal! Can you help me out?” scams.

    – Variations on the old Nigerian scam: “I’ve just come into possession of $50 million, and I need your help getting it out of the country…”

    – Invitations to have my product manufactured at a company in China.

    – A lot of weird ones where the entire message is a single Web link. Do they think I’m some kind of sucker?

    In any case, I think it’s time to revise the old “Never respond” rule. It’s true that you should never, ever respond to a piece of spam by rewarding it with a purchase. Don’t ever click “click here” — you’re only encouraging them.

    But my experiment (confirmed by my Twitter followers) is that clicking legit-looking Unsubscribe buttons does reduce the spam flow, if only from actual companies.

    And perhaps best of all, it gives you a fleeting, illusory feeling that you actually have a way to fight back.

    Source:
    http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/01/rethinking-the-never-unsubscribe-rule-for-spam/
     
  2. mx10

    mx10 VIP

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    round, thanks for posting this. i really hate the retarded myth that still persists that unsubscribe buttons are a scam.

    a few years ago the ftc was giving a talk at an email conference and said in their testing 97% of unsubscribe buttons worked: as in took you off the list and didn't cause you start receiving more mail. the room erupted into laughter at how unbelievable and ludicrous this proposition is.. like the ftc was lying to them about it or something.

    myths suck, once you get a meme going people will never disbelieve it no matter what you put in front of them.
     
  3. afc_pmc

    afc_pmc New Member

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    I really think the nytimes should rename themselves to behindthetimes, since their hot news stories regarding the internet is always some old guy that just figured out something that most of us have known for years. If they actually spent time researching, or even "thinking" they would realize that sending email costs money and of course we don't want to mail people who will never read our messages.

    What's more interesting though, and a complete ironic double standard, is how these so called legit companies like the nytimes, the big G, H and A all take this huge stance against us and 3rd party offers. OMFG you are trying to sell something? So what that this email user specifically asked for messages to be sent to them (90% of the time anyway lol), you better not dare send them something to buy, we can't trust you!!!

    They spend literrally billions of dollars trying to block us, warn their users to avoid and report us, support anti's attempts to lie, cheat and steal from us as justification because of how evil we are for sending them a link to purchase something, but as soon as you log in to a free email account from these companies there is a HUGE banner on the top of the page, another HUGE banner going down the side, "safe" promotions from the hotmail or google team, and don't you dare slip and move your mouse over one of these huge ads, because it will grow to 10 times the size, start a video that plays sound and screams at you to BUY BUY BUY, you even have to be careful where you click to close some of these ads or it might pop up another page to the advertiser.

    Makes you think huh? You know how many times I see ads on the email account page that is the SAME OFFER that I just mailed out that was considered spam or a scam? Apparently its only a scam if these mega rich "free" services aren't getting paid on it. Same with this reporter douche bag writing an article saying to never buy from an email message, "oh please don't encourage them", INSTEAD buy some "legit" ads from our newspaper so they can continue to pay me 100k+ a year to not have a fucking clue what I am talking about.

    Did I cover it? No, I'm not finished ...

    Since we at these major email providers are so helpful, and smart, and we want to "protect" you from "unwanted" ads, we have decided to have our programs read your emails for you automatically (and store what they are about), also track every email's content that you click a link on, and we will even put a link next to each of the million ads we show you to like / dislike, because even though we say constantly how 3rd party offers are really really bad, we want to figure out what you like so we can show you "more relevant" ads to you. Yes, that's right, we know you don't want these ads, we know you would immediately shut them off if we gave you an option to do so, but don't mind any of that, we want to help you (pats themselves on the back and praises themselves) to only see stuff you are "interested" in. Then they brag to you in their newsletter, which of course is whitelisted, emails you actually didn't opt in to (sounds like spam to me) telling you how awesome we are because we have violated your privacy so much that we actually know more about what you like than you do!

    Funny how I don't spy on the people in my email lists, don't force them to see my ads, nor expand the ad (of course to "help" you see it better), I ask their permission to send them email, or prompty stop if they simply click an unsub link, I don't allow advertisers to hyjack my pages so their browser doesn't redirect to a page they didnt click on, and dont have huge flashing video effects screaming for attention, but yes Mr. Pogue, you got me, I must be the illegitimate douche bag in this situation, you and your rich friends couldn't possibly be hypocrites, that would just be silly to think.

    Oh ya, and go fuck yourself too.
     
  4. Fun4uoc

    Fun4uoc VIP

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    Great post, +rep given.

    Jesus, how long have you had that all bottled up inside, I bet it felt great to get it out.:35:
     
  5. roundabout

    roundabout VIP

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    Great read, we should have this framed ;)
    +rep
     
  6. DKPMO

    DKPMO VIP

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    At least he is drawing a clear line between compliant offers vs. phishing and viruses.

    To have this distinction highlighted in major media is Big Fucking Deal.
     
  7. DAgent

    DAgent Moderator

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    +rep

    I wish we could see this guy on B Maher's show making his point -- outstanding
     
  8. chillbrah

    chillbrah VIP

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  9. afc_pmc

    afc_pmc New Member

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    Thanks for the comments and rep boosts guys :)
     

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