October 23, 2002

  • Thought

    Well, it looks like the “DMA giving in” on Spam is not exactly what it seems. From my understanding of reports I’ve read over the last day or so, the DMA is calling for legislation, which is good, because we’re at that stage now.

    But they are suggesting (as they always have) that unsolicited e-mail is okay as long as you have a real From and Subject line and provide a street address.

    The idea is that this law would get rid of all the dubious spam that gets sent, but would also clear the way for “legitimate” companies to spam anyone they wanted to. This was always their position and it is dead wrong.

    The DMA should follow the strategy of the CMA which has had a very enlightened policy since 1997 (disclosure: I was one of the authors of the CMA policy).

    This Wired News article called “Spam So Bad the Spammers Balk” gives a good overview.

October 22, 2002

  • Thoughts on Spam as a Marketer and a Human

    Alexander Bosika wrote recently about the DMA’s decision to “crack down” on spam. Since he baited me to comment, I’ll fall for the trap.

    Spam is a big issue that I tend to look at from two vantage points.

    1. As an individual.

    2. As a marketer.

    As an individual, spam is certainly a huge issue for most people. I think the issue has been somewhat exaggerated by the fact that the people comment on spam (journalists, pundits, those active online) also tend to have the most exposure of e-mail addresses online and therefore tend to have their e-mail addresses harvested and passed around a bit more. Good luck using your inbox effectively if you used your main e-mail address to register a domain.

    Still, for those less highly involved in online issues, spam is still a big problem for them. And certainly, the rise of hard-core spam with really raunchy subject lines doesn’t give anyone comfort that things are getting better.

    As an individual, I use Spamnet by Cloudmark. This is the best solution I’ve seen to date, building on the P2P concepts of Napster and some clever pattern recognition algorithms. The software is still buggy (it’s in beta), but it is getting close to primetime and more and more I’m seeing it listed as one of the options people list when talking about “fighting spam”. My guess is that 9 months from now (if not soon), Cloudmark will be the Google of spam-catching.

    So as an individual I see Cloudmark as a gift from above and use it constantly, even with the bugs in the beta version.

    As a marketer, Cloudmark scares the crap out of me. Because it allows users to determine what is spam, it has a tendency to give “false positives”. A False Positive in this context is a legitimate opt-in e-mail marketer getting labeled as spam. Cloudmark tends to be better than most, but the false positives it gives are very interesting. Because people vote on each message in real-time rather than identifying in advance which IP addresses or domains to block, you see the internal workings of people’s feelings on e-mail marketing.

    When the NYT sends me a book or movie updates, they always get through. As soon as they send a “special offer to NYT subscribers”, it invariably gets dumped. Amazon new release listings tend to get through Cloudmark, but the “affiliate updates” which contain a lot of promotional information, some of it for partners, gets labeled as spam.

    This means that marketers need to live in constant fear of having any given message deemed as low enough value to be spam, even if every name is legitimate. And the problem will only get worse as these tools become more prevalent and more effective.

    My guess is that e-mail marketing will change radically in the next 9 months as Cloudmark hits critical mass. When it tips, everything will change.

October 16, 2002

  • Thought

    Usability (and Google) fans might enjoy this Good Experience interview with Marissa Mayer, Product Manager at Google. She was their first full-time usability person and offers interesting insights into how Google has managed to stay simple while adding features.

October 12, 2002

  • Thought

    Jakob Nielsen is of course always a sharp cookie. But in this recent article he focussed on the usability of e-mail newsletters and came up with a must read for any e-mail marketer or online publisher.

    Keep it simple!

  • Thought

    Here’s a NYT article called Online Fans Start to Pay the Piper.

    The article covers the increased acceptance of paid online music services like listen.com. This makes total sense as Listen is making baby steps to the musical nirvana — the day that we have a true celestial jukeboxes — all the songs you’d ever want, easily and instantly accessible via a simple, powerful interface.

October 4, 2002

  • Thought

    I stopped attending Internet World in 1998. (I started attending in 94). So this ClickZ article called “Internet World — R.I.P.” wasn’t a shock to me, but it did make me a bit sad.

    While the need for a universal “everything Internet” conference is probably not realistic anymore, I pine for the days when I could know pretty much everything important about doing business online.

    Here’s a representative quote from the article:

    “The economy” is too simple an explanation of why visitors and exhibitors alike stayed away in droves. From a marketing perspective, Internet World makes no sense.
    “It’s simply not targeted,” Topica CEO Anna Zornosa shrugged after surveying the sparsely populated hall, “everyone here is only talking about how empty it is.”

October 3, 2002

  • Thought

    If you’re not from Toronto you may not know that our “New York City run by the Swiss” is often used as a body double for major US cities, particularly NYC. In fact over 1,365 films were shot in Toronto in 2001.

    One of the more disconcerting aspects of Toronto substituting for NYC is that it is not uncommon to be driving down the street and see a classic NY Yellow Cab driving down the street followed by an NYPD cruiser. Occasionally you’ll step onto an otherwise ordinary street in Toronto’s financial district and see street signs in MPH instead of KPH, or USA today newsboxes on the corner.

    For those of us who have spent any time in New York, this can cause a bit of vertigo. There are times where you have to stop and think why what you see isn’t quite right.