Geeklist spamming people

I had never heard of Geeklist until last week, when I received an email from them and then read the story about their promotion of “brogramming” and abusive response to being called out for it.

The email came first – and as I had never head of them this –

Hi, my name is Jenny and I work for Geeklist, sorry to bug in advance! I noticed you have your email listed on github, so I wanted to reach out and send you a quick note (only this once and never again I promise!). We recently added integration with Github‘s API and wanted to see if you are interested in testing it out and give us feedback, perhaps you can add Groovy-Life or valext?

I realize this comes out of nowhere, but this might be interesting way to connect with other awesome geeks too (mabye), would love to hear feedback in general on that as well.  We have a ton of geeks in our system already ranging from Matz the creator of Ruby awesome geeks building great products

If you are cool with this and want to check it out go to:********** and use this code: ******

We are only sending this to a few people, so let me know if you wish to invite others! thank you so much and sorry to bug you!

– made me think they were a genuine community effort. I made a note to have another look.

But having read about their attitude to women that other other look is now a good deal more sceptical – though even I thought it odd they suggested I added a program designed to analyse the XML output of a hardcore debugging tool.

And, of course, the first thing I noticed on a second look was the subject line:

RE: Quick question / your work on Github

As I have never written to Geeklist about anything and had never even heard of them before the email turned up it is obvious that this email was not “RE:” anything. It is spam from some spammers trying to cheat spam filters and will be treated in just the same way as the occasional other bits of spam mail that get through the filter.

I hope others will follow a similar course of action.

I would not have minded if they had actually badged the email as what it really was – as they say my email is on Github and if you consciously post your email it is because you want or expect people to get in touch. But the crude attempts at psychological manipulation – hi my name is jenny – and above all the dishonest subject line mean it is straight to the WPB for them.

Does email have a future?

An email box folder littered with spam messages.
Image via Wikipedia

To anyone who sits, as I do, in front of an email program every day waiting for something new or who, again as I do, carries around a BlackBerry, awaiting the next instruction, the title of this blog might seem slightly silly.

But I know my children, who are never away from the computer, hardly ever touch email and although email is undoubtedly the first of the social media it is the one least regarded by any campaigner or professional communicator.

And reading on in John Naughton‘s A Brief History of the Future: Origins of the Internet it is very difficult these days to share his excitement about the medium – even though I too was once a True Believer. Naughton writes of email’s “hypnotic attraction” and of people “raving about the wonders of email”: does anyone (at least in the West) feel that way today?

Perhaps it is familiarity that has bred contempt, especially when so many office workers can feel like slaves to the system. Perhaps it is the poor quality of most (all?) email clients: the multitude of clicks to read attachments and close messages and so on can be wearing.

But there is more I fear. Spam has taken a terrible toll on email’s credibility. It seems strange to think that little more than a decade ago it was actually quite rare. Now it is so ubiquitous that I doubt that even the fine range of cruel and unusual punishments I would happily subject spammers to would suffice to kill it off (even if it killed some of them). Surely one of the reasons why other social media are popular is because they do give you more power to shut off the spammer (they also have better interfaces generally, also).

But the ability to email anyone for a legitimate reason seems to me to be a positive thing: MPs and others in public office, for instance, should not find it too easy to cut off the flow of public information.

But it is also plain that SMTP email is not up to the job. We have resisted a paradigm shift because the installed base was so high, but actually the whole thing has been crumbling beneath our feet.

What to replace it with? Could a system of distributed public/private key verification work? (Users sign emails with private keys while the signature is verified by a public key – if public key and email address do not match the email is junked and bad senders can be excluded by blacklisting their address).

Maybe, but there seems to be little commercial imperative in it, so it will either arise spontaneously or be sponsored by government and that might raise other concerns.

Seven years of spamming

How a botnet works: 1. A botnet operator sends...
Image via Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago Microsoft did the world a favour, taking down the Rustock botnet and reportedly reducing the volume of spam email worldwide by a third.

Thew new chief botnet out there is “bagle” – and this is not such a great story. Because the bagle botnet – generally thought to have, at least originally, to be the work of one person – has been running for over seven years.

It is incredible to think that one criminal could engage in this activity – almost by definition in plain sight – and get away with it for so long.