[Mailman-Users] what constitutes spam?

Anne Wainwright anotheranne at fables.co.za
Fri May 18 23:50:37 CEST 2012


Have been offline for a goodly while hence tardy response to the thread
that I started. comments lower down, but thanks to Brad, Richard, Mark,
& Stephen for their input.

On Fri, May 04, 2012 at 12:33:24AM +0900, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
> 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.
I have sinned and stand repentant. I hate spam as much as anyone and we
get plenty to deal with. Somehow the Viagra and get rich emails didn't
seem to stand on the same level as a once-off invite. But as pointed out
clearly an unasked for email from an unknown party is just that.

In the light of the spam that we receive, which varies from worldwide
mass mailings (viagra supplies from pharmacies in the USA, say) to lesser
attempts (local suppliers of this & that product or service) there
is no fuzzy line where the definition of spam rests, and much against my
normal judgement where I see things in shades of grey, I am forced to make
this a black and white decision on the basis of the definitions of spam
made in the replies.

So will make sure that this doesn't occur again and will make clear the
distinction to other staff handling these issues.

As an aside, I have to ask whether the 'invite' feature in Mailman has a
function. If one has to have been in existing contact such that you can
ask them if they would not object to an invite then one is in fact at
the point where you can ask them point blank if you can subscribe them. 

Typically someone may query whether we have a specific book title, or
whether one listed on an online catalogue is still available. The usual
drill if this is unavailable is to say so and then recommend that they
join our mailing list for which we will send details (an 'invite') on
the basis that it may show up on a future catalogue. I do not see this
as sending spam. Maybe you differ?

I guess this may be considered a bit off-topic, comments welcome
direct if you feel this is so.


> Regards,
> Steve
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