Humans don't spam

June 6, 2003

Halt, who goes there?

Earthlink has announced a new policy where anyone who sends an e-mail to one of its users will get challenged unless pre-approved, or known to the recipient. Evidently, according to this MSNBC story anyone not on a recipients list of pre-approved senders would be asked to fill out a short form.

The idea behind the system is to force people to prove they are human before a message is delivered. The theory is that spammers won't bother to fill out the form and thus their messages will go undelivered. This, of course, would prove what we have known all along – spammers are not officially human.

But many critics think the idea is dumb. They say it is too simplistic and that it will hurt things like e-mail lists, the story says. I personally can't wait to see the day that some enterprising spammer develops a program to fill out the form and makes the entire system useless.

Notes from the who is eating whom file

Well, just days after PeopleSoft announced it was buying J.D. Edwards & Co., Oracle announced it was buying PeopleSoft (See our story). Oracle announced the $5.1 billion bid this morning in a conference call. It said it would review the PeopleSoft/J.D. Edwards deal after it digested PeopleSoft. Today would have been the day to own shares of PeopleSoft, as the stock price has just shot up since Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison made his intentions clear.

Here are other stories on the subject:

  • Oracle's archived Webcast (Registration required.)
  • CRM Daily.
  • Bloomberg News.
  • April 30, 2003

    Siebel vs. Salesforce.com

    On CRM Forum there is an interesting piece comparing and contrasting Siebel with Salesforce.com CRM products. The article, written by Michael Gentle, a Paris-based consultant and author, makes some great points about CRM packages in general.

    For instance, Gentle said that the success of a product often depends not only on the size of the company looking to implement it, but also how ready the company and its customers are to embrace CRM. He goes on to point out that many companies probably have more use for Salesforce.com's product than they do for the heavyweight CRM applications that come from Siebel and others.

    This is definitely a piece to look at if you're thinking of using a CRM technology.

    What's marketing without a little SPAM?

    We might find out pretty soon now that Sen. Charles Schumer, R-N.Y., has filed legislation to enact a "no-spam list" similar to the Federal Trade Commission's do-not-call registry. This is also while the FTC is holding a three-day spam-a-thon in D.C. beginning today. But wait, there's more! I can't forget that Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., introduced a bill that would offer a bounty for anyone who tracks down a spammer. And even more! (I feel like I am selling Ginsu knives now.) Virginia has enacted a law that targets people who use fraudulent means to launch spam campaigns from that state.

    Is this a good or a bad thing?

    Do you think I'm kidding to ask such a question? I'm not. We had a number of comments this week from readers who defended spam and the right of companies to spam. They said it was a freedom of speech issue. This brought a heap of ire from those who said their kids' e-mail boxes fill up with pornographic and other unsavory kinds of spam. Good point, I think.

    But I also noticed another Reuters' story that the FTC, in a lead up to spam-a-thon 2003, says two-third of all spam is fraudulent. And check out Computeworld's article on the same topic.

    And this morning, I got a press release from AOL spokesman Nicholas J. Graham that AOL has blocked 2.3 billion spam messages on behalf of members. That's a lot of spam.

    "By blocking well over 2 billion spam emails daily, AOL is now stopping about 67 spam emails per account per day from landing in the email inboxes of its members. At this rate, AOL's anti-spam filters are preventing more than 24,000 spam emails each year from going to each of its members' accounts, which also works out to blocking 1.6 million junk emails every minute from going through to its members," the release said.

    OK, but now it's time to put the devil's advocate hat on. Remember, these thoughts, by definition, come from Satan even though I know that is not the origin of the term. But I digress.

    How long will it take for a federal court to strike down these anti-spam laws? I don't know the answer but I just figure if the corner convenience store can fill itself with pornographic magazines under the protection of the First Amendment, how long will it take for spammers to sue for the same protection. I ask this because the key phrase in the First Amendment in my mind is "Congress shall make no law…" Well, Schumer and Lofgren are members of Congress and they are trying to make laws that say who can say what and when and how they can say it.

    If you have thoughts or opinions on this issue, you can e-mail me brian_sullivan@computerworld.com or visit our forums and share your thoughts with the world.

    Old Stuff

    Secrets of success from online gaming

    There's an interesting article in the E-Commerce Times about the lessons mainstream business can learn from the online gaming industry. At first I was a bit skeptical, but then I started thinking about the points being made in the article and what I already know about online gaming.

    The gaming folks cater to a loyal and sometimes rabid base of customers who want results now and aren't going to wait around if something goes wrong. My son plays these games online, as do some of my colleagues. All of them are tech savvy and unforgiving when glitches happen.

    So, I thought that your average online click and mortar (does anyone still use that term?) could probably learn a few lessons in smooth operations, customer satisfaction and technical know-how from these guys.

    E-commerce aid for the Third World

    It seems the government is getting into the e-commerce act again. The Commerce Department announced an initiative to help entrepreneurs in developing countries get e-commerce operations off the ground. Andrew Natsios, who I haven't seen since I covered him as a state rep. in Holliston, Mass., will be one of the point men. As much as I remember Natsios being a great guy, I still think I'm going to file this one under "we'll see." If you want more details, here's the press release.

    Too much CRM

    And now onto one of my favorite topics: CRM. A new study by Gartner says that a little more than 40% of all CRM software licenses purchased lie around unused. I can't say that I'm shocked by those numbers, which are in a story in CRM News. The blame falls in a couple of areas, including vendors who sell more licenses than companies can use and companies that discover CRM is too hard for their people to use once it is installed.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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