Spam from gmail

Steven D'Aprano steven at
Thu Feb 25 02:30:00 CET 2010

On Thu, 25 Feb 2010 11:39:08 +1100, Ben Finney wrote:

> 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.

Not quite.

I've read tens of thousands of messages to comp.lang.python, and 
solicited perhaps some hundreds. Are all the rest spam? I should say not!
I haven't solicited them: at no point did I say, explicitly or 
implicitly, "Hey strangers all over the world, send me messages asking 
questions about Python" but I do welcome them.

(In fact, I'd be annoyed if everyone started sending the questions to me 
personally instead of to the list.)

I think it is foolish to try to create a water-tight definition of 
"spam". It is clearly a fuzzy concept, which means sometimes right-
thinking people can have legitimate disagreements as to whether or not 
something is "spam".

For example, I happen to think that the OP's message about Fascism is off-
topic but not spam. I think Joan is guilty of a breach of etiquette for 
failing to label it [OT] in the subject line, and she should have 
directed replies to a more appropriate forum (a mailing list, another 
newsgroup, a web forum, anywhere but here). But in my opinion, it didn't 
cross the line into spam. I wouldn't be the slightest bit tempted to 
killfile her, or flag the message as spam, in my mail/news client.

If other people feel differently, well, that's your personal choice. But 
please don't try to tell me that *my* line between spam and ham is wrong, 
and that *yours* is the only correct one. 

(That last response is aimed at a generic You, not Ben specifically. 
Stupid English language, why can't we have a word for generic you?)


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