Chopped Pork & Ham …

July 6th, 2010

… is better known as SPAM, a sort of tinned meat. It’s a strange foodstuff, something I thought of as a product of the irretrievably grim British food rationing of the 1940s and 50s. But it turns out to be American, and some people eat it because they like it.

When Monty Python satirised the unimaginative British cuisine of the 1960s, they did a sketch in a restaurant where every dish was spam-based. This tickled the funnybones of early computer folk, and they would type “SPAM” over and over again to edge unwanted visitors off their primitive bulletin board sites. Once the verb “spamming” was coined, the force was unstoppable.

The key word of course is “Unwanted”. I do not want endless emails from China offering me Canadian pharmaceutical products (can’t see how that works) nor do I need any more chances to enlarge my manhood.

But if I sign up to an organisation, register with a business, give a company my details, join a club or become a member, I would expect to hear from that organisation. Especially if I’d paid a membership subscription. If I didn’t, I may simply forget about it — but if I’d paid, I’d want to know why I hadn’t heard from them.

Enter fotoLibra. It’s not compulsory to sign up to fotoLibra, just highly recommended. If you do, we will email you. And as a picture buyer or seller, what we send will be of interest to you. If it’s not, there’s a link at the bottom of every email which you can simply click on to be removed from our list. It also has our address so you can write and complain if we fail you.

What I’m saying is that we do not send out spam. People have signed up to fotoLibra, and we email them. Our problem is that a LOT of people have signed up to fotoLibra, and we simply cannot write to everyone individually, so we have to do what computers and email clients are very good at — sending one message to lots of different people.

Surprise, surprise. Lots of our innocent, requested emails get classed as spam. Of course we are to blame for some of it — we should never type the subject IN CAPITALS (apparently that’s popular among real spammers); HTML formatted emails (which ours are) send out alerts; bulk mailings are an obvious no-no. Trigger words such as ****, !!!! and %$%$ will often lead to blocked mail, even if used innocently.

Someone who will remain nameless recently sent out a fotoLibra Picture Call for photographs of guitars. Unfortunately she added an extra word commonly used in the publishing world to describe such books. Bang, bang, bang. Down came the shutters. The vast majority of ISPs blocked the mailing. As a result we only have 12 pictures of guitars to answer the call. Memo to self: get her to resend the call today WITHOUT the funny words.

Nevertheless it’s frustrating for us to mail people with information they genuinely want and then find our mailings are rejected. Some filters seem to be fairer than others, and I was particularly impressed by one company which sent us this message:

Your message was waitlisted.
Please add yourself to my Guest List so your messages will be delivered to my Inbox. Use the link below.
Click here to deliver your message
Boxbe ( prioritizes and screens your email using a Guest List and your extended social network. It’s free, it removes clutter, and it helps you focus on the people who matter to you.

Now that really does seem to screen out the professional spammers. HOWEVER — and this is a big HOWEVER — a quick search on the internet reveals a lot of people slagging off this company for spamming people themselves. I won’t be using it as a result, but it may suit some people.

So. Here’s our problem. Where is our solution?


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