October 15, 2002

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


If my email count was any indication of my popularity I should be running for President of the United States, if not ruler of the Universe. Every week the number of emails seems to keep rising exponentially. Sadly, most my email is not from friends, relatives, or even my enemies. No, most is Spam.

If you are lucky, your email is basically a private matter. You share it with a few friends and family and so maybe you are limited to only one or two Spam emails a week. With most email programs you can set them up to accept only email from addresses that you already approve. I would love to be able to do that, but I have an Internet business that depends on being able to answer email queries. Thus my email address is out on the Internet where any Spam advertiser can and does send their trash to my computerized mail box.

I am endlessly promised free cars, dates with gorgeous babes, an at home job where I can make $25,000 a day, larger breasts, better sex, diets that promise 10 pounds a day weight loss, free car insurance, and other amazing services and products. On a typical morning I will get around 150 email messages. Typically, only 20 will be of importance. The rest are pure unadulterated Spam.

As much as I believe in the freedom of speech, I find it very hard to believe that our democracy depends on the ability of someone trying to entice me to a porn site. I have become a firm believer that we need a federal law to limit Spam.

At least with the postal service, a business or person who uses the post office to advertise their product, must and does incur some costs. Ink, Paper and address labels do cost money. Postage adds another fee as well. This forces the advertiser to measure the cost of advertising to his gain in sales and thus helps keep junk mail to a reasonable limit.

This is not so with email, whereas a mailed postcard may cost a business around 25 cents a piece, the cost of email is measured in thousands of a cent.

For $29.95 you can get a CD Rom with over 25,000,000 email addresses. The cost of running a computer is probably less than 5 cents an hour and in that time an email program can send out tens of thousands of email Spam messages. Any twit can create millions of messages a day to try and find one or two duped customers.

What galls me most is the time I waste. On average it takes me about 5 seconds to determine and dump an email message. At 100 junk messages a day that is 500 seconds or a little over 8 minutes a day. All over America there are millions of people wasting many minutes each day. I check email 7 days a week which brings my wasted time to almost an hour. Based on a 40 hour week, that translates to 2.5% of my work week that is wasted.

Now I am fully aware that email programs have filters. I use Internet Explorer and it allows you to create rules which will block incoming email. One of my early rules was to block any email with the word "Free" in it. The trouble is that does not block email with the word "FREE" or "free". So now when I create a rule I always type in all 3 versions. As fast as you develop a rule to block Spam, the spammers get smart. Now they use "F R E E" or "F-R-E-E" and this would get by my rules. Thus it is a never ending battle. I am up to 177 rules on my email program. I write about one new rule a day. Without going into dirty words, here are a sample of some words I now block; phone, low interest, get rich, inches, fat, low rates, DVD, make at least, earn money, adult, casino, stock alert, creditors, and cash prize winner - just to name a few.

There are companies that will filter your email for you. They email back the sender and request a response within 1 day or they will not send on the email on to you. They maintain a list of your approved email contacts and send those on immediately. Since most Spam senders do not use the address that they used to send the message for replies, the Spam dies. However, for an internet retailer this solution is not possible as it adds a stumbling block to sales.

I do not even bother to use my address block feature because Spam senders change their email address for sending Spam as often as they like. Email addresses are disposable and easy to get.

Ultimately, for the sake of our sanity I think a federal solution is needed. I would like to see a law that would force all email providers to charge anyone who emails more than 10,000 emails a month. Thereafter, they would have to pay a small fee for every email sent. Say, 2 cents a piece. This would end Spam in its tracks. Much of this Spam is being done by what I would call fake businesses or businesses that prey on the weak. Many are just pyramid schemes where individuals send out the same email and the parent company pays them a percentage commission for any real sales.

I realize this could be a Pandora's Box, since government is always looking for more money. I know the United States Postal Service has been hinting it would like to be the beneficiary of these fees. Plus, it would not be too long before they decide 2 cents is too little and 10,000 emails are too many. Thus I feel trapped as to a solution to this huge time waster. I also realize that email addresses would have to be registered with the government and the 10,000 email limit would have to be for all the email addresses you own. Plus the government would have to monitor the Internet for Spam and track down computers that are vomiting Spam using "borrowed" email addresses in the "from" space. Only this would stop or control crafty Spam masters who would change the "from" address every 10,000 emails. With so many ways to mess with the Internet, it is really a complicated process to control Spam. Needless to say I am in favor of extreme prison terms for those that are caught. Chopping off the Spammer's hands would be too good for them in most cases.

For now, I will keep composing my rules until it will probably take a super computer to wade through them in order to get the good messages to me in an hour or two.

Meanwhile, if you want to get hold of me via email just don't put in the subject line "I'm rich with cash off stock and casino winnings and half is yours for FREE" because I never will see it.

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