[Mailman-Users] what constitutes spam?

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Thu May 3 17:33:24 CEST 2012

On Thu, Apr 26, 2012 at 4:39 PM, Anne Wainwright
<anotheranne at fables.co.za> wrote:

> I recently sent an invite to an unknown third party.

Normally I agree with Brad Knowles on this kind of thing, but this
time I can't go 100%.

People regularly do make contacts with third parties that they have
not previously met, with the intent of arranging mutually beneficial
activities.  Heck, if you think about it, that's what you're doing
every time you make a first post to a mailing list.  There is nothing
wrong with that in general, and there is nothing (morally) wrong with
that when done by email, to recipients carefully selected for high
probability of getting some interest.  (From this point of view,
"double opt in" is just a useful, fail-safe litmus test for recipient
interest, not the moral imperative some seem to think it is.)
Obviously you think your mailing has passed that test.

That said, it's bad business IMO (except in cases like a double opt-in
mailing list where every person has explicitly indicated interest in
receiving list posts).  What *you* think isn't what really matters.
When done by mutual acquaintance, by phone, or even by form letter,
there are significant costs to making such contacts, especially when
you do the phoning yourself.  You must really value the recipient to
go to such expense, even if small.

There are no such costs to email, which means that using email as a
medium puts you in company with some real scum, who send out
unsolicited email indiscriminately, sometimes laden with malware or
phishing URLs.  It's unfair, I suppose, but I'm not surprised if you
get classed with the scum on the basis of the only information the
recipient has about you as a businessperson: an email that they didn't
ask for.

There's another problem.  The ISPs are a pretty quick-on-the-trigger
bunch, too, as a couple of posters have noted.  But if you're not
running a double opt-in list, you're not going to be able to get them
to change your minds about your list.  Everything I know about them,
they'd rather lose half their clients' mail than get a complaint about
spam.  And their customers are not well-informed enough to doubt the
ISPs when they blame somebody else for any problems with mail.  Except
spam -- it's obvious to the customer that the spam is bogus, why is it
so hard for the ISP?  You see their incentive, I suppose, and it works
against legitimate businesses unless they follow the ISPs' rules.

I conclude that for an honest business, anything is a better way than
email to make first contact with a third party who doesn't know you.


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