Spam Spammity Spam. It’s Well Worth Studying.
Yahoo! has been instructed not to filter my e-mail for spam. I want to see everything. What are the new trends? How many millions does Mme. Obi-Wan Kenobi want to transfer into my bank account from Darfur? What is the current method of spelling V*I-A*grA?
“One mathematically minded blogger who looked into it,” wrote Michael Specter in the Aug. 6, 2007, New Yorker, “found that there are 600,426,974,379,824,
381,952 ways to spell Viagra.”
Specter’s 4,600-word article is almost the last word on spam—a monumental discourse on the history, arithmetic (amount of spam and the ROI needed to make a profit), how it works and some of the key players.
Like all who write about spam, Specter’s outrage shines through, albeit far more subdued than most. But then The New Yorker is more into politesse than polemics.
Specter’s research revealed that almost 2 million e-mails are sent every second—roughly 171 billion a day, of which 90 percent are most likely spam. For spam to make a profit, the spammer needs an average of just 15 responses per million.
Being an old junk-mail junkie—and a former collector and analyst of junk mail as well as a consultant and occasional creator of junk mail—I don’t look on spam as an affront.
Rather, I see it as a challenge.
How could that 15 responses per million be upped to 100 per million?
Spam Spam Spam Spam Spammity Spam.
Spam—as applied to junk e-mail—is generally credited to a Monty Python 1970 television skit. (See YouTube hyperlink below).
The origin of the word “spam”—a contraction of “spiced” and “ham”—is equally nutty. In 1936, Jay C. Hormel of the Hormel meat packing company that desperately needed a name for a new canned meat product it had developed that was concocted of processed ham with spices added. On Jan. 31, 1936, Hormel threw a boozy New Year’s Eve party for company executives, friends and family. One of the celebrants, Ralph Daigneau, a Hormel VP, invited his brother Kenneth, an actor in the radio soap opera, “The Romance of Helen Trent.” Ken also opened on Broadway in three plays that lasted collectively a total of 30 performances.