A Weblog About Topics and Issues Discussed in the Book Spam Kings by Brian McWilliams

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February 28, 2005

Spam Kings review at ZDNet UK

Author and journalist Wendy Grossman has an interesting review of Spam Kings today over at ZDNet UK.

I've followed Wendy's work for years, and especially enjoyed her 2003 article for Reason magazine, "The Spam Wars." (The article included one of the snappiest lines I've ever read on the subject of spam: "Junk e-mail is like seasickness: If you don't get it, you don't really understand how bad it is.")

Wendy's review of Spam Kings says readers will enjoy learning about who's behind the spam problem, as well as about the anti-spammers on Nanae and at Spamhaus.org who are trying to drive junk emailers out of business. But she seems disappointed that I offered no silver bullet for solving the spam problem:

Most of us don't care who's sending it -- we just want it to stop. And that's why, somehow, this book's early promise is never quite fulfilled. You learn a lot of fascinating stuff about the people involved, but there's still no way to use this knowledge to end spam. We know the US's CAN-Spam legislation hasn't done it (as The Spamhaus Project predicted), and we know there are real limitations to the blocking and filtering technologies that are the current state of the art. So now what?

I'm not sure what Wendy means when she says Spam Kings' "early promise." In the book's introduction, I state outright that Spam Kings is "descriptive, not prescriptive." There are already dozens of technical how-to guides about stopping spam. I set out to write something quite different: part business case-study, part cultural history. My goal was to tell a good story that puts the spam wars in context.

Ironically, Wendy's 2003 Reason article concluded that technical, economic, and legal solutions to the spam problem all have "major drawbacks." Her proposed alternative: something she called the "community solution." Wendy was a bit vague on the details, but what she proposed sounds an awful lot like what anti-spammers on Nanae and at Spamhaus are attempting to do.

Posted by brian at February 28, 2005 4:08 PM


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