Saturday, May 24, 2003

A Public Service Announcement

I'm amazed at how many people don't know much about e-mail spam. Here are a few facts for the less web-savvy:

The important one: automated web spiders pick over websites and extract the addresses from web mail links (a link that says mailto:someone@somewhere.net). The spider's handler then dumps the addresses onto a CD and sells them to spammers. If your e-mail address appears on your web page, you'll start getting spam eventually. To get around this, a lot of people (us included) put something in the middle of the mailto address that makes it invalid. Some people do something like mailto:someone-nospam@somewhere.net or mailto:someone@somewhere.nospam.net, with the understanding that people who really want to mail them will be savvy enough to remove the nospam. We go another route; our mail links point to name@glover mountjoy.com , and anyone who wants to send us mail has to take the space out of the middle of the address.

Wild trivia: Hormel, which owns the trademarked Spam™, doesn't object to the word being used for bulk e-mail. Actually, they do object, but they realize there's nothing they can do about it. What they can do something about is using the image or likeness of their product. If you sell spam-blocker software, that's fine; you can even call it Spam Blocker. But you can't put a picture of a can of Spam™ next to it.

You may notice that most spam has a notice saying that you somehow opted in to their mail list. They're kidding; if you go to most of the websites you get in your spam, there isn't even an option to opt in. They got your name by buying a list of e-mail addresses from another spammer.

Congress has tried to regulate spam. It hasn't really worked, but it resulted in all that "this e-mail isn't unsolicited" verbiage in fine print at the bottom of your spam, as well as (usually) a link to have your name removed from their mailing list. In some states, it might be possible to actually sue someone for sending you spam; this means that many of the functioning opt-out links will actually remove you from the mail database (your e-mail address doesn't tell them what state you're in, so they don't take the chance). Of course, some of the links do the opposite--they actually add your name to another e-mail list of high-potential clients (that is, people who actually read their spam, instead of deleting it from the inbox in bulk), which the spammer then resells. Questionably legal, but no one's won a court case on it yet so it'll probably keep happening.

Depending on your browser's security settings, a website that uses cookies can actually get your e-mail address from your browser without you even knowing it. As a rule, there's no real reason to tell your browser your e-mail address; go to your Preferences in Netscape, or your Internet Options in Internet Explorer, and remove your e-mail address, or at least make it spamproof by sticking a few obvious spaces in it. If you use Netscape for both browser and mail, you need to leave your address as is. And in any case, check your browser's security settings.

It's nice that the website you visit has a privacy policy. But it may not be a good one; try wading through the legalese and actually reading it. It's pretty common that the privacy policy says that they'll share your e-mail address with a few select business partners and advertisers (read: anyone who wants it) unless you take a bunch of steps and fill out some forms.

That's it for now; have a great day!

(Update: just thought I'd mention that most of these were aimed at a specific person who I know reads this page. It's someone who doesn't take well to direct advice, but I figured this would work.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

France-bashing

According to the latest Reuters poll, over 40% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein is directly responsible for the September 11 attacks. People scare me.

I'm irritated with this whole notion that we've been getting a lot of recently, that supporting our troops is the same as supporting the war. I checked the dictionary: support, transitive verb; to uphold or defend the interests of. Explain to me how supporting the interests of American soldiers requires putting them in harm's way half a planet away from their family and friends. I do support our troops--I want them here!

Quote of the Day from Molly Ivins: "It's overly simplistic to say this war is about oil. But it's naive to think we'd be in Iraq if their principal export was, say, kumquats."

Quote of the Day from The Onion: "The French I can understand, but when the GERMANS don't want to fight? Take a fucking clue!"

In a perverse way, I'm enjoying the recent France-bashing. The French reasons for opposing the war are exactly as honorable as our reasons for supporting the war; I don't hold that against them. I oppose the war, too--and I hate having to agree with the French. For the record, I disliked the French long before it was trendy. I've managed to rid myself of every other prejudice I've picked up in my youth, but I still can't shake my general distrust of all things French. I have a few reasons:

  • General French arrogance about the innate superiority of All Things French: wine, cheese, cars (believe it or not!), cuisine, sea coasts, fashion, art, architecture, etc.
  • The French assumption that French culture is superior to all other world cultures.
  • When I was in Paris, I noticed a lot of people who spent time sneering at us for being American. We're nice guys, and we don't deserve that.
  • The whole concept of the Language Academy irritates me. For those of you unfamiliar with this, the short version: the LA is a cultural policing agency whose goal is to keep foreign words out of the French language. They fine businesses who use non-French words in advertisements and magazines, no kidding.
So I don't want to sound like I'm jumping on the France-bashing bandwagon. I think it's silly that restaurant owners are pouring French wine down the drain and that the House of Representatives took time to vote on renaming the French fries in their cafeteria. But it does make me a little happy that France isn't in everyone's good graces.