Is it getting harder to write good spam?

I never look at the email Gmail flags as spam. I just delete it, or let Gmail delete it. If some non-spam email gets tossed, no big deal. But this morning a subject line caught my eye. “Stop Sending Me Your Photos!”

This struck me as mildly clever. Someone is sending a stranger my photos? Gadzooks! — or — Did I mistakenly send photos to wrong person?! — or — I better let Jackie know it wasn’t me sending her photos.

I don’t know why it is so hard for some people to ignore ALL email from strangers? Do such come-ons tap into some latent loneliness?

It occurs to me there are people whose job it is to craft email messages and subject lines that will entice recipients to open. I’d love to get half a dozen of those folks in a room for a discussion. How’d they get into that line of work? Where do you get your best ideas? Can you always spot spam?

Seperating the Twitter wheat from the chaff

I think I mentioned trying TwitBlock.org, a website that scans your Twitter followers and ranks them for “spamminess.” Higher the score, more likely to be spam. Looks at things like how many people you foll0w, how many times you’ve tweeted, and so forth. It’s not perfect but it’s better than nothing. And my rule of thumb is, “When in doubt… block.”

I’ve heard from one acquaintance who wanted to know why I blocked him. I unblocked and the pot’s right now. But there are sure to be more. Just ping me.

Bambi358 is following you

I just did a little Twitter house cleaning, blocking about 60 followers who looked … suspect. My criteria for blocking is very scientific and includes –but is not limited to– the following:

  • Anyone who follows 500+
  • Anyone with a number in their name
  • Anyone trying to be anonymous
  • Overly cute names
  • Just about any business (unless I know you)
  • Anyone who uses the terms “SEO” or “social” in their profile bio
  • Glam shot photo icon

If I blocked you and you’d like for me to reconsider… you’re way too needy. But email me and we’ll talk.

[10 hours later] The Twitter spam is coming way too fast. I’ve blocked almost 100. Giving serious thought to protecting my account.

Shutting the in-box

Leo Babauta says he’s done with email. Sort of. It’s really an interesting idea and I can imagine giving it a try if self-employed:

“After more than 15 years of dealing with email, of checking email multiple times a day, of responding over and over throughout the day, of deleting spam and unsubscribing from newsletters and unwanted notices, of filtering out messages and notifications, of deleting those dumb forwarded jokes and chain mails …I’m done. I’m done, because email takes up too much of my time. I’m done, because I don’t like being at the mercy of every incoming request, because I would rather spend my free time creating than replying to emails.”

Leo plans to set up an auto-responder so his correspondents won’t think he’s dead and use Twitter as his main form of communication. For longer conversations he’ll go with IM or Skype. If he needs to collaborate, there’s Google Docs. Friends and family can just pick up the phone and call.

I hope it works for him. Someday I hope to give it a try, too. And for the record, your best bet for reaching me is commenting here or the Gmail address in the sidebar. The work email address is the last thing I check. [via @steverubel]

Twitter spammers: No clue. No pride.

I really hate to think that spammers will be able to destroy Twitter in the same way they’ve destroyed email. Okay, maybe not destroyed but made it a pain in the ass to use. And I haven’t gotten much spam on Twitter but know it’s coming.

Here’s the latest. I know nothing about Shorty Small’s –other than they are clueless– but will, in the unlikely event I find myself in Branson, avoid it and encourage you to do the same.

They search twitter for any reference to “Branson” and then put a little commercial in your Twitter stream. In the example to the right, you’ll notice the business didn’t know (care?) that I was poking fun at Branson. BBQ spam. Yum!

Are radio commercials spam?

A little preface here: Most of the food I ever put in my mouth was paid for –directly or indirectly– by radio commercials. My father was a radio guy and for many years I wrote and produced radio “spots.” Lots and lots of them. Some were good, some were just the right length, if you know what I mean.

Spam150So when Seth Godin –one of the keynote speakers at the recent Country Radio Seminar in Nashville– refers to radio commercials as “spam,” it’s a problem for me. I’m a regular reader of Mr. Godin’s blog and have purchased and read a number of his books. I think he understands marketing in the 21st century as well as anyone.

So what’s spam and what’s not?

When you get your hands on my email address and send me an unsolicited email trying to sell me something (or get me to give you money, or visit your porn site, etc) …without my permission, we call that spam. You invaded my inbox without my permission.

When I turn on my local radio station, I know there will be commercials. They pay for the music/news/weather programs for which I tuned in. I’m giving tacit permission for the the station to try to sell me something on behalf of their advertisers. Value for value. That doesn’t sound like spam to me.

And if every commercial I heard was talking about something I cared about, something of interest… I’d probably pay more attention and the commercials would be worth more to the advertiser.

This is how cable TV programs work. If I’m watching HGTV (House & Garden), there’s a pretty good chance the commercials will at least marginally relevant.

I’m sure a lot of radios stations attempt to do this when and where they can. But it’s tough. They’re trying to reach the largest audience they can and will sell a spot to damn near anyone (preachers and politicians pay in advance).

Given the choice, most of us will choose NOT to listen to a poorly produced or irrelevant message. Commercial or otherwise.

So are are radio spots spam or not?

Only the listener can answer that. And he or she does, every time they punch the button to another station. And keeps punching it until they find a song or talk show they like (at least more than the commercial). Or pull out the iPod.

Seth: “The growing productivity divide”

Knife150I stopped being surprised by what people didn’t know –and didn’t care to learn– about “the Internet” a couple of years ago. My analogy was online ignorance was like not knowing how to use the telephone. As always, Seth Godin makes the point more clearly and forcefully with a little quiz:

  • Can you capture something you see on your screen and paste it into Word or PowerPoint?
  • Do you have a blog?
  • Can you open a link you get in an email message?
  • Do you read more than five blogs a day?
  • Do you have a signature in your outbound email?
  • Do you have an RSS reader?
  • Can you generate a PDF document from a Word file you’re working on?
  • Do you know how to build and share a simple spreadsheet using Google Docs?
  • Do have a shortcut for sending mail to the six co-workers you usually write to?
  • Are you able to find what you’re looking for on Google most of the time?
  • Do you know how to download a file from the internet?
  • Do you back up your work?
  • Do you keep track of contacts using a digital tool?
  • Do you use anti-virus software?
  • Do you fall for internet hoaxes and forward stuff to friends and then regret it?
  • Have you ever bought something from a piece of spam?

“Can you imagine someone who works in a factory that processes metal not knowing how to use a blowtorch? How can you imagine yourself as a highly-paid knowledge worker and not know how to do these things… If you don’t, it’s not hard to find someone to teach you.”

I don’t use an email signature but frequently sign smays.com which is almost the same thing. And, for now, no need for anti-virus software on the Mac.

Anyone reading this almost certainly knows how to perform these simple tasks. If you don’t, find someone to show you. Quickly.

PS: If you were only going to read 3 or 4 blogs… Seth Godin should be one of them.

Mass media advertising moving toward “mass personalization”

One of our news directors forwarded a very interesting article by Graeme Newell, a “web marketing and revenue specialist” for 602 Communications. The article (“Hiding – The Latest Challenge in News Marketing”) touches on how social networks (My Space,Facebook, etc) will change (are changing?) how mass media advertising works (or does not work).

Mr. Newell explains how difficult it will be for companies to advertise and market to those who choose to communicate with only those on their “friends” list. That’s a gross oversimplification of one of the articles key points. Here’ are a few of my take-aways:

“Spam” will grow to include any message that does not come from a trusted source.
As consumers get more and more overwhelmed by the amount of communication in their lives, smart technology will help them prioritize and eliminate all the time wasters in their daily routine. These systems will filter TV ads, email, text messages, web interaction, phone messages and all other forms of personal communication. The trend will be that if I don’t know you, then I don’t want to talk to you.

Technology will seek to eliminate “interruption” advertising
There is an adage on the internet that if you obstruct the flow of information in any way, the community will not fight you, but simply go around you. You will quickly find yourself irrelevant. As technology gets better and better, tools will continue to arise that simply eliminate unwanted interruptions like mass advertising and promotion. Holding people hostage and forcing them to watch a non-targeted ad is not going to be tolerated in the future. The audience will demand that the ads they let in be customized to their individual tastes and desires.

Mass media advertising will move towards a system of “mass personalization.”
People want products in their lives that share their priorities, interests and values. As mass markets continue to splinter into ever more fragmented and specialized groups, consumers will expect advertisers to follow their lead. Technology will allow truly personalized ad communication with millions of people – all of it customized to the emotional and intellectual needs of the buyer.

Now that everyone (online) can –theoretically– reach everyone else, we realize we really only care about hearing from our friends (or select acquaintances). Social networks –augmented by technologies like text messaging– make it possible to do so.

If I ignore most of my email and rarely turn on a radio or TV (without the Tivo filter)… how will advertisers and marketers reach me?

I’m sorry I can’t link tot he full article. I can’t find it online but will keep searching.

Movie computers

Computer usability expert Jakob Nielsen has compiled a top 10 list of the most egregious mistakes made by moviemakers. My favorites are:

The Hero Can Immediately Use Any UI
Break into a company — possibly in a foreign country or on an alien planet — and step up to the computer. How long does it take you to figure out the UI and use the new applications for the first time? Less than a minute if you’re a movie star.

Integration is Easy, Data Interoperates
In the show 24, Jack Bauer calls his office to get plans and schematics for various buildings. Once these files have been transferred from outside sources to the agency’s mainframe, Jack asks to have them downloaded to his PDA. And — miracle of miracles — the files are readable without any workarounds.

Remote Manipulators
In Tomorrow Never Dies, James Bond drives his BMW from the back seat with an Ericsson mobile phone that works as the car’s remote control. And 007 drives fast, while also evading bad guys.

You’ve Got Mail is Always Good News
In the movies, checking your mail is a matter of picking out the one or two messages that are important to the plot. No information pollution or swamp of spam.

“This is Unix, It’s Easy”
In the film Jurassic Park, a 12-year-old girl has to use the park’s security system to keep everyone from being eaten by dinosaurs. She walks up to the control terminal and utters the immortal words, “This is a Unix system. I know this.” And proceeds to (temporarily) save the day.