April 19, 2006
Three years ago, around the end of April 2003, I started getting hammered with annoying spams from a mysterious company called Amazing Internet Products, which was advertising human growth hormone, government grants, and penis pills.
Those hundreds of spams led me to write a couple articles in the summer of 2003 about Amazing Internet's amazing profits and the company's colorful co-founder, former neo-Nazi leader Davis Wolfgang Hawke.
My research eventually grew into my book Spam Kings, which was published by O'Reilly in October 2004. Around the same time, I launched this blog dedicated to the book and to news in the world of kingpin spammers.
I've enjoyed the past 18 months of trading notes about the spam scene. But due to the demands of a new (non-spam-related) job, I'm going to have to pull back from blogging and probably won't be posting any further updates. I'm also likely to disable comments and trackbacks, since I won't have time to clean up after the blog spammers.
Contrary to what some spammers might think, I never saw myself as an anti-spammer. My role was just to chronicle the spam scene, which I see as a fascinating intersection of entrepreneurism, crime, technology, and vigilantism. As a heavy user of the Internet, however, I admit that I'm rooting for the day when crooks, frauds, and freeloaders run out of ways to abuse the system.
Three years used to seem like an eon in Internet time. But as I look back to that summer of 2003, I am amazed at how little of substance has changed in the spam scene.
Hawke and his company are gone, and I no longer receive as many HGH or "make penis fast" spams. But in their place are new spam operations touting penny stocks, Hoodia, replica watches, and mortgages. More email in-boxes are protected by spam filters, and more anti-spam lawsuits have been filed and won. But despite such progress, my spam folders are still filling up with hundreds of spams each day, and many of the same names are on the Spamhaus list of the world's biggest spammers.
I blush to admit that when I sent the final Spam Kings manuscript off to O'Reilly in August of 2004, I worried somewhat that the book might be obsolete before it came back from the printers. Looking back, I realize that was just the naive fretting of a first-time author. As I wrote in the book's introduction, "Study the rise and fall of one spammer, Davis Wolfgang Hawke, and you will learn all you need to know about the intractability of the junk email problem."
I hope you've enjoyed this blog. My special thanks to Spam Kings readers.
Posted by brian at April 19, 2006 1:22 PM
Thanks for all your efforts, Brian--I enjoyed the book and have enjoyed the blog.
Posted by: Jim Lippard at April 19, 2006 2:37 PM
Many thanks for all your hard work, Brian -- yours has been a unique and valuable voice in this ongoing (nearly 12 years!) conversation, and I look forward to whatever you're working on next.
Posted by: J.D. Falk at April 19, 2006 3:04 PM
Yep -- you've certainly done us all a service with the book, and this weblog. Cheers!
Good luck with whatever the new job may be ;)
Posted by: Justin Mason at April 19, 2006 4:41 PM
I am saddened to read this fairwell. I will miss your blog, but if you keep your old posts blog online a while, it would be helpful in my research. Your book was very interesting. Some of your recent posts even helped me in identifying spammers on our network. Some of your more recent contributions have been invaluable to this Abuse agent who works at a large ISP. I enjoyed your book. Best of luck in your new endeavours! We hope to see you online reporting other subjects which are just as interesting in the near future.
Posted by: Abuse Desk Agent at April 19, 2006 5:00 PM
Thanks Brian for all that you've done. Best of luck in your new adventures.
Posted by: Some Dude at April 19, 2006 8:53 PM
Best of luck on your new adventures.
Too bad, I was hoping to see your take on the latest in social network "spam" apps like ours
Posted by: joe at April 19, 2006 9:01 PM
I can only hope it was my emails for hawke that inspired ya brian ;) been an entertaining read, well done.
Posted by: some person at April 19, 2006 9:43 PM
WTF? I have come to depend on your site to know WTF is going on. I would be willing to pay $20 a month if it would keep you posting.
I am a former spammer who quit the biz 100% in early 2003.
The FTC, and the lawsuits, and Virginia lockinga motherfucker up was all it took for me. Today's spammer just don't have the ethics us old timers who quit had. I know that sounds funny but it is true. Today the only people left are a bunch of rip off mother fuckers who should be shot on sight!
Posted by: Satan at April 20, 2006 12:36 AM
Nooo! Don't do it! Don't stop! This stuff is way too interesting for you to hang it up. I can't believe I'm losing one of my favorite blogs. How can we convince you to keep going? :)
Posted by: Matt Cutts at April 20, 2006 12:41 AM
Good luck with the new job Brian. I will miss your blog postings and fascinating insights into one of the wackier sides of the internet. Cheers, Graham
Posted by: Graham Cluley at April 20, 2006 4:23 AM
Everyone, thanks for your comments!
Posted by: Brian at April 21, 2006 1:31 PM
Sorry to see you go. It's a shame, there's not really much in the blogosphere about spam.
Oh, and thanks for including me in your book. ;)
PS: You could have at least asked! haha
Posted by: Rob Mitzel at April 21, 2006 3:02 PM
Brian, you have enough support from the guys here who would like to see you stay.
Why dont you just farm out the screening of the blog spammers, and have any other support/help you need from these guys.
You can treat it like a magazine, have editors, and guest writers, etc....
You have a cult following of some sorts, and who knows, you might just sell a few books too while you are at it.
Think outside the box, and you can make it work.
Posted by: Just me at April 21, 2006 5:16 PM
Thanks for the great blog!!!
Posted by: Martijn at April 22, 2006 2:45 AM
Brian, I just found out your blog will end.
Just me has some good feedback there about keeping comments enabled and your blog somehow active.
I personally would hate to see you pull your blog. Give some serious thought to this. Either way, thanks for your research and good luck.
Posted by: Marn at April 22, 2006 9:38 AM
Sorry to hear you're leaving, but thanks for writing such an awesome book. It was a delightful read... hopefully it's not the last book you write.
Posted by: SG at April 22, 2006 10:42 AM
Oh, MAN. This is one of my favorite blogs. Sorry to see you go, but I totally get the gotta-focus-on-the-job thing.
Good writing, good research. Hope to see you back again some day.
Cheers from Seattle.
Posted by: Weave at April 23, 2006 2:13 AM
Hey Brian it's a shame this blog is coming to an end. I always visit this site to enjoy seeing what the other scumbag spammers are up to.
Besides, it's even more of a shame you won't be contacting me again under false pretenses and then printing inaccurate information about my history, while stealing images off my sites without getting prior permission, but oh well, life must go on.
I must say I did enjoy this blog. Any chance you'll change your mind?
Sanford (yes it's me)
Posted by: Sanford Wallace at April 23, 2006 2:26 PM
I knew it was only a matter if time before a spammer came and pretended to actually be sorry.
Too bad the only thing that came out was Waah Waah Waah!
Posted by: Eik Corell at May 3, 2006 3:53 AM
keep posting, this is probably the best investigative journalism i've seen on anything. i think you could start charging subscriptions for news if it really came down to it, even spammers demand this info
Posted by: HG at May 4, 2006 7:26 PM