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Mon Nov-6th-2006 // Filed under: Spam Patrol

I don’t know. I realize that spamming is a cheap way of advertising in that you don’t actually need to, well, do anything except send out spam — doesn’t cost anything, and if even one dumbass out there decides to go for it, what the hell, you’re already turning a profit, pretty much. But, of course, everyone hates spam and everyone is aware of it, so it’s getting increasingly difficult to accomplish even that. And spam filters are getting to be pretty good, now, so it’s not like much of it is getting through, so the spammers add more and more nonsense to their messages in the hopes of fooling the filters.

Unfortunately for them, this makes the actual messages more and more nonsensical, as evidenced by this message I received — among numerous other pieces of spam, I’m sure you’re shocked to hear! — today, titled “your invited”. Well, of course my invited!

Hello, Ponera homotaxial
That librarian drinks milk.
Call us right now if you would like to make upto 3 grand. wisdomful annoyingly
Those photographers buy juice.
800-217-xxxx lademan senescence
Those managers keep a monkey.
Kind Regards, trilemma
Fidel Kinsella ampullary
I called him George. They set an alarm clock. Jack has already missed working. They get the TV repaired. Pete takes a bath. Cathy has practiced writing.

(I nixed that phone number, obviously, just on the off chance that there’s someone with a terminal case of the stupid out there. I’d like to think that someone wouldn’t be reading Fun Pastimes, but let’s be honest here — the for Stupid Children part just might attract some.)

I’m kind of fascinated by spam, as you can probably tell. Not so much by the spam itself, but by the underlying mechanism of, well, stupidity that the system thrives on. Just this whole “add nonsense to fool the filter” formula they rely on is just so twisted; the more they do that, the less credible they appear and the less effective they become, and the only way they can make up for it is by increasing volume.

I would love to see some kind of reliable statistics on how many people still fall for this crap. I mean, I have no problem believing that there’s someone out there who’s dumb enough to look at the above message, think “Hot dog, I can get up to three grand, and wisdom annoyingly no less!” and call the number. That someone would probably then end up paying for something they don’t want or, if there is any justice in the world, wake up in a bathtub full of ice in a trailer park somewhere with a missing kidney and an ornery sexually transmitted disease that has a voice like James Earl Jones and a hankering for heroin.

I have a hard time believing, however, that idiots like that are that common. I mean, falling for the old Nigerian scheme is one thing — okay, so you’re a fucking moron if you think that a beautiful Nigerian heiress wants to you to go and get fifty million dollars that his dear and departed daddy left in an account in Denmark or something, but at least there’s something there. Likewise, the popular pump-and-dump stock schemes (that apparently work fairly well) are also pretty transparent, but at least I can understand that someone really believes that he’s lucking out when he gets an awesome e-mail stock tip from someone he’s never heard of. Just like I understand that some people believe that a remote healer can cure their cancer or that Uri Geller is a genuine psychic, as opposed to a fucking tired old one-trick pony fraud. Compared to that level of stupidity, believing in spam — a certain type of spam — is really no big stretch of imagination.

Even so, though, surely the text above is just nonsense! Even if you’re fairly dumb and extremely gullible, wouldn’t the fact that you have to work your parser overtime just to pick out the actual advertisement from the bullshit be some kind of a hint? Then again, if you’re very stupid, I guess that could make all reading experiences seem like that. “I don’t understand this shit about monkeys an’ all, but it sez here I can make me three grand so I guess I’ll call ’em.”

I’d love to know if this kind of shit actually works on people, rather than just on some very rare and exceptional individuals. Maybe there is a mass of e-mail enabled people going through their lives in that kind of a confused haze, just waiting to be picked clean. It’s fascinating and scary.


7 Comments

  1. “More than a quarter have bought software through spam e-mails and 24% have bought clothes or jewellery.”

    “The research, which covered 6,000 people in six countries and their attitudes towards junk e-mails, revealed that Brazilians were the most likely to read spam. A third of them read unsolicited junk e-mail and 66% buy goods or services after receiving spam.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4084871.stm

    Comment by Janne Jalkanen — November 6, 2006 @ 1162822712

  2. Awesome! Thanks, man. Very interesting.

    That’s from 2004, though, and doesn’t quite answer my question about whether people actually fall for the kind of complete nonsense the e-mail I quoted was composed of. I may well be wrong, but at least I don’t remember the spammed advertisements of that time being so comprehensively camouflaged in random crap. I mean, given the choice between an e-mail message that at least looks like an e-mail message and a chaotic collection of impenetrable phrases with a phone number thrown in, I know which I’d consider more credible, if I was more favorably disposed to spam…

    Comment by Mikki — November 6, 2006 @ 1162823300

  3. Do you use an HTML-capable email client? Many of the spam messages are built so that they contain a graphic image, which replaces the random text. If you are old-skool or have sensibly turned off image loading, you won’t see them.

    Comment by Janne Jalkanen — November 6, 2006 @ 1162823985

  4. Also, I don’t think that stupidity has exactly decreased since 2004 ;-)

    Comment by Janne Jalkanen — November 6, 2006 @ 1162824017

  5. Heh. I well aware of the picture attachments that sometimes accompany these spam messages, but really, most messages don’t even have them. (I’m enough of an old fart to prefer to read my e-mail in plaintext but of course I see that the attachments are there, when they are.)

    As for the amount of stupidity in the world… well, yeah. No argument. =)

    Comment by Mikki — November 6, 2006 @ 1162824423

  6. Then again, if you’re very stupid, I guess that could make all reading experiences seem like that.

    That was very funny indeed.

    Then there’s the possibility that the spammers have just trained their software on a very accurate sample of email data. And the majority of email users in the world consist of people called “Thaddeus Edwardsd” and “SAVANNAH Stout” who write pages and pages of ungrammatical nonsense to each other all the time.

    Comment by --- — November 6, 2006 @ 1162834362

  7. That actually makes a twisted kind of a sense. I’m afraid this discussion is reminding me of the wonders of misanthropy all over again. =)

    Comment by Mikki — November 6, 2006 @ 1162836040

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