Spam from gmail

Robert Kern robert.kern at
Thu Feb 25 01:58:17 CET 2010

On 2010-02-24 18:39 PM, Ben Finney wrote:
> Steve Holden<steve at>  writes:
>> Spam is, at least from my point of view, UCE: unsolicited commercial
>> e-mail. So anything that isn't commercial (like those "send these to
>> ten of your friends" emails) isn't spam (but it might just as well
>> be).
> That excludes things like the religious screeds, or any other one-way
> "get this message in front of as many eyeballs as possible" message.
> Spam is better defined as unsolicited bulk messaging. Whether it's
> commercial in nature is irrelevant. The content is relevant only in that
> it's unsolicited by the vast majority of its many recipients.

That said, in the context of USENET or mailing lists, a single off-topic post to 
a single group/list from a regular contributor is not usually considered "bulk 
messaging" or "spam". There is already a perfectly fine word for that: 
"off-topic". Only when it gets cross-posted excessively or repeated verbatim 
indiscriminately does it usually get designated spam.

I think there is an important distinction to be made between isolated off-topic 
messages and spam. It's not just about finding commonly agreed meanings of terms 
in aid of clear communication. There is a substantive difference. The repetitive 
nature of spam dictates what you can do about it. With spam, you can killfile 
people, or filter out certain hosts, or use statistical filters, or require 
registration or first-post moderation, etc. With the occasional off-topic post 
from a regular, you ask them not to do it again and subject them to unending 
threads about what spam is or isn't.

But you only break out the comfy chair for the very worst of the offenders.

Robert Kern

"I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma
  that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had
  an underlying truth."
   -- Umberto Eco

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