June 22, 2009

How Can Spam E-mail Still Exist?

How is it that spam e-mail can still exist in today’s society? I understand that it is an effective and cheap way to instantly reach tons of people – it sounds like it would be a great form of advertising – but it has proliferated and degraded to the point where I would think that it would lose all of its effectiveness and basically die off. However, by definition, spam e-mail continues to work to some degree, otherwise people would stop sending it. If you sent out 100 e-mails every day for six years, and no one ever responded, you'd stop doing it, right? So, that means that someone, somewhere, is responding to these ridiculous e-mails.

Here are some of the "exciting" spam e-mail subject lines that I've received recently: lose weight; save on Viagra; save 85% on printer ink and toner; and get started with an exciting career in culinary arts. Save on printer ink and start a career in culinary arts?? Are they serious? Do people really respond to these things? They must. OK, fine – I can see how there would be someone who is genuinely interested in saving money on toner cartridges. But this internet thing is not a new invention. We've been at it for a while now and people should be well aware of the dangers of opening spam e-mail and what it might contain (viruses) and what it might do to your computer.

I can understand why the very first person to ever receive an e-mail that tells them they can save on laser printer supplies would open it. But, are people so naive today that they continue to blindly open unsolicited e-mails? Even if I wanted to save on printing supplies, you'd never get me to open an e-mail that was clearly spam from someone I didn't know (and it's not like these e-mails are coming from Hewlett-Packard or something, they are coming from scary places like "kris.tieboyletsf@ca-i-rtadmin-yk.net"). I’m far too fearful to actually open any of these e-mails, because I’m concerned that as soon as I do, it will read: "HA! You’re not saving on toner ink at all – you're dying a slow cyberspace death as I infect your hard drive with the latest incurable virus!"

Again, I understand why some people may open and respond to general advertising spam e-mails, like those listed above. But what about the crazily-written spam e-mails? Some of these are so poorly written that they become extra scary. Take a look at this real life spam e-mail subject line I received eight days ago:

"Get All Microosft Products Very Qucikly And Eaisly"

First of all, I guess that "Microosft" doesn’t make spell-check software, huh? Or maybe they do, but you can't get it "qucikly" and "eaisly"? Sixty percent of the words that have more than 3 letters were misspelled in the e-mail subject line written above (by the way, as I typed that sentence in Word, it self-corrected the entire thing – I had to go back and rewrite all the misspelled in order to present it as it was actually received by my inbox). Are you telling me that people actually open that e-mail?? Maybe the e-mailer is trying to purposefully attract people who are stupid enough to NOT realize that 60% of the sentence was misspelled? I can understand why Microsoft is misspelled – maybe they are purposely trying to avoid copyright infringement or avoid being detected by filtering software – but what about "quickly" and "easily"? You can't spell those words?? Is this e-mail really from a human being, and is this person actually selling any products (Microosft or otherwise) with this e-mail? Would anyone in the world actually trust and attempt to buy anything from this person?!

Here is another one from last week:

"Stunning Ofefrs On Genreic Viagra. Blwoout Sale!"

At least this time only 50% of the words that contain more than three letters were misspelled. What confuses me is that they spelled “Viagra” correctly and that was the most difficult word in the entire sentence! Are they misspelling things on purpose? Is a horribly misspelled e-mail for Viagra opened more frequently than a properly spelled one? Is it more attention getting? Is this some sort of amazing, evil, illiterate advertising genius at work here?

While the above examples are really ridiculous, it's the porn-related spam e-mails that are especially fucked up and make zero sense. Again, here is another true life e-mail title for you:

“Verifys photo serieso SexzyalyjExpnljcitl 0d43810975756257”

How is this subject line supposed to entice me to open this e-mail, let alone click on anything within it? When I first started reading it, I thought it was in Spanish or something and I got excited – "Hispanic porn... AWESOME!", but then I got to "SexzyalyjExpnljcitl", which I guess is supposed to be "Sexually Explicit", but when you get to a point where eight of nine consecutive letters are consonants, you are either in Russia or reading a very dangerous spam e-mail.

Maybe the author was trying to evade filtering software by scrambling the phrase "Sexually Explicit", but still making it somewhat recognizable, but what's with the crazy string of numbers at the end? Surely that is the prison serial number of the convict who sent it to us, right? Even if I do love porn and I was willing to overlook the creative spelling of "sexually explicit", the numbers have to be a major red flag, right? And if you loved porn, why would you open this e-mail when you can go and safely Google "sexually explicit", if you really wanted to? Why does an e-mail like this exist or get any traction with the porn public?

At this point, spam has gotten so pervasive that I think most people have developed a venomous hatred towards it as it has clogged up our inboxes over the years. The first thing you do when you open your e-mail is delete all the spam, right? We all have closed and cancelled e-mail addresses because they got too deluged with spam. So how can this be an effective advertising medium? How are companies that sell massive lists of e-mail addresses still in business? The answer is that it must be effective on some level, and that, to me, is scary. Who the hell is opening these e-mails and what the hell is wrong with them?? They are ruining it for all of us.

Do you want to take e-mail and idiocy to a whole new level? What about the wealthy foreigner who needs help moving millions of dollars from his homeland (often Nigeria) and promises a hefty percentage of the fortune as a reward for assisting him? Of course, you have to pay a fee to get the transaction started. Who the hell falls for this? Actually, thousands of people have lost millions of actual dollars in this scam. You would think that the people who sitting at home who received this e-mail would have to ask themselves how this alleged Nigerian prince (or whoever it is) got their personal e-mail address and why the sender feels that they are qualified to assist with this transaction? The people who fall for this scam are probably unemployed and aren't even qualified to get a job, let alone move millions of dollars through international borders. Let's say you really were a Nigerian prince and you really did need to move millions of dollars, what do you think would be the very first thing you would do?... I'm sure you would elect to blindly e-mail a 63-year old widow in Minnesota for help, right? Of course you would.

Another spam e-mail that people we know have inflicted on us is the hoax that is some variation of:

"Hello, everybody. My name is Bill Gates. I have just written an e-mail tracing program that traces everyone to whom this message is forwarded to. I am experimenting with this and I need your help. Forward this to everyone you know and if it reaches 1000 people, everyone on the list will receive $1000 at my expense. Enjoy. Your friend, Bill Gates"

I received a million of these forwards (in one form or another) from friends and family. Either Bill Gates was giving away his fortune or Disney was giving away free trips or Old Navy was promising free gift certificates or Coca-Cola was giving away free cases of soda... all in the name of forwarding on an e-mail. There is no sick kid that is going to get $0.01 towards his surgery for every time his heart-felt story is forwarded to someone else. I can't believe people can be so stupid and naive. Do you really think this is how Microsoft tests its software? And did you ever stop and ask yourself how Bill Gates was going to send you $1,000 after you forwarded the message?... was he going to send it to you by e-mail??

It just goes to show that humans are blindly driven by outright greed and a love for free stuff. The title of these e-mails are always something like: "I don't know if this is legit, but I could use $1000, so here it is." So, in other words: "Somebody is probably playing me for a fool, but any chance of getting free money is just too much to pass up, so I'll inflict this on everyone I know, just in case." Gee, thanks a lot.

can people be that stupid to fall for this stuff?! How is it possible that anyone can think that the above e-mails can be real? But the worrisome thing is that we all know someone who IS that stupid! The reason why you have seen these e-mails from Bill Gates before is because someone you know sent it to you in the first place. Some friend or family member forwarded it to you. Some of these "stupid people" are your own flesh and blood. Some of these stupid people are you!

The next time that I plan to buy a new computer, I am going to take my old computer and use it to open up all these spam e-mails, and then I am going to click and download everything inside them in order to see what happens. I wonder how many I will get through before my computer completely crashes. Maybe it's the computer companies themselves that are sending all of this to us, in order to ruin our equipment and software and force us to buy more of it all (because, believe me, no one wants to voluntarily "upgrade" to shitty Windows Vista).

But, the good news is that if you forward this blog to ten different people in the next three hours, then good luck will come your way within a day, otherwise dire things will befall you...

June 10, 2009

Blog Comments Reveal All

I think I am going to retire as Minister of Common Sense and take up a new job as Blog Comment Executioner. I am becoming increasingly confident that an individual's rights to live in our society can be fairly judged by the comments that they leave on blogs.

Obviously, I write a blog, and I love it when people leave comments. Mostly, it proves that people actually read it and care (one way or another) about the post. It's nice to know that I'm not wasting 100% of my time. For the most part, the comments left on my blog are interesting and rational. But, my god, have you seen the comments some people leave on some of the more popular blogs?! They can be out-and-out terrifyingly stupid.

My new job as Blog Comment Executioner would be to read comments posted on blogs and, based solely on the content, I would have the full authority to remove that person from society.

Take this following comment that was left on a blog as an example. I was very interested in the whole Eminem/Bruno MTV Movie Awards fiasco that happened a few weeks ago. I was trying to figure out whether Eminem was in on the gag or not. For a variety of reasons, my hypothesis was that Eminem was in on it (and it has since been revealed that he was). But at the time, I wasn't certain, so websites like The Superficial and Perez Hilton can be good for researching this kind of thing.

I came across this woman's comment about the situation: "This story is incorrect! it was not Sacha Cohen who landed on him it was another guy by the name of Bruno and it was not one of Cohen’s characters… This was a different guy completely. I know what Sacha Cohen looks like." Clearly, this woman is so stupid that it's beyond rehabilitation and, as a result, she should be removed from society. Unquestionably, she is a danger to herself and others.

I'm not going to fault anyone for not knowing who Eminem or Bruno is, but this woman was so certain about her thoughts and understanding of the situation that she posted them publicly as a comment to a blog! And she couldn't have been more wrong about it all. Bruno is not one of Sacha Baron Cohen's characters?? You know what Sacha Baron Cohen looks like, and that wasn't him?? This lady is so disconnected and stupid that you don't even respond to her. You ignore and dismiss her, like how you would do to a crazy homeless person talking to themselves on the street.

Blatant stupidity is rampant in blog comments, as is horrific grammar and sentence structure. But, the really frightening stuff is the stupid and ignorant racist, homophobic and political views. Check out one of the comments I found:

This one is in response to having Obama nominate Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court:

"One more minority who was given an ivey league education (yes -GIVEN - she didn't pay for it) who wants to punish white America for all the past racial inequalities she "thinks" she has suffered from. Where is the gratefulness? Where is the "get down on your knees" and praise this country for "gifting" you with this opportunity. She makes me sick."

Jesus, that was opinionated... and stupid! First of all, I love the "ivey league" comment. It's "ivy", not "ivey", you dumb ass. That is why you couldn't go to an ivy league school... because you couldn't spell it. I also love how working and studying for your whole life in order to EARN a scholarship is now considered a "gift" that wasn't "paid" for. And it's so ridiculous how the writer ends their rant, with a "She makes me sick." Really?? Imagine you had a child who earned a scholarship to one of the greatest schools in the country (Princeton), graduated with the highest honors possible (summa cum laude), then went to one of the best law schools in the country (Yale), and ultimately was nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States (all of which Sonia Sotomayor has accomplished). Imagine this child of yours comes home for Thanksgiving and you venomously hiss at her, "You make me sick!" How fucking stupid and ridiculous is that? How fucking stupid is the blog comment writer??

There are a million other examples that I could cite. Who are these people, and why do we let them live among us?! I just don't even know how to respond to this kind of thing (other than by exercising my powers as Blog Comment Executioner).

I enjoy writing my blog and reading comments and e-mails from readers. I just hope I never get too popular that I start attracting the masses, because it's pretty clear that they are idiots. I really hope they represent the minority of our population... but I'm not so sure that they do.