[Off Topic] SPAMMERS sometimes don’t know that they are… Some advices

This is ported from my old weblog. Originally published August 28, 2006

In the past to years, and even before, I used to get tons of SPAM of different types from my FRIENDS and members of yahoo groups I’m subscribed to. Of course this used to get me annoyed, and in most cases, the sender didn’t know that what s/he is sending is sort of SPAM, so, I used to send individual emails to these friends about it, and I got sick of how many messages I have to send weekly.

I thought I should send some general message to some of those, without turning myself into a SPAMMER as well! So, I started with a group whose main topic is Dr. Ahmed Khaled Tawfeeq, a great Egyptian writer who was originally known for his very special horror series. Sort of, I tend to consider some of the messages sent to that group SPAM, and I wrote about it. After finishing the message, I thought I should drop it here for general benefit.

Subject: Regarding the unrelated messages sent to this group

Hello all,

Hope you’re doing great.

This is Mohamed Meligy, an Egyptian computer engineering student and web application developer, and (most importantly) a member of this great group for a quite number of months now. I’m writing this message as a big fan of the group and of Dr. Ahmed in general; a fan who also has a technical background.

This message is about some other messages group members get, which have nothing to do with the main topic of the group, or even the group itself. This group is named after Dr. Ahmed, and therefore, a new group member would expect to find in our archive some information about this great writer, his workings, news, etc…, or maybe even about his field (writing), the other writers Dr. Ahmed himself likes to read, and so; at least, some messages about the community of fans Dr. Ahmed has. Of course, as any other group it’s expected from time  to time, to have some message related to the group itself. Maybe a real life meeting for some of us, a new feature supported in the groups page, someone of the group has some big event and we are sharing him/her in it, or even some message about a certain group policy to be applied, as this one is.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case in our group! Yes, thankfully, many messages are, but, we still have other non related messages. Anyone wants to write anything and spread it just puts all his/her friends emails and all the groups s/he knows and clicks "Send"; but guess what ? This is one type of SPAM (also known as Junk Mail). Organizations all over the world are fighting SPAM and helping massive email servers (like Hotmail, yahoo and gmail) block the emails of the SPAM senders. Sure you don’t want our group email address to be blocked, are you?

So, some examples of SPAM are advertisement. This is the most direct one and many people help spread it. Some site says that you’ll win a laptop, cash, or whatever if you send a message to at least certain number of people. Some site you subscribe says why don’t you invite your friends to it, etc… I think you know what I’m talking about in here, so, let’s just stop talking about it.

The other type is false stories. Someone says that Some shape of a flower or something looks like saying "Allah", or that Bill Gates has become a Muslim and tells you to forward this to all you know. In fact, you have to think a 1000 time before you forward a message to say to you "forward me" to even ONE person. Most of those are usually SPAM; and for the example I mentioned about false news, unfortunately, many messages like these (especially the ones with Arabic or Islamic nature) were proved to be made by Turkish and Jewish people to make fun of Arab and Muslims.

Do you like to be laughed at? Do you like to be spreading some false news? The bad thing about this is that false news appears to be false soon or later, and when they are, people get VERY disappointed. It’s like people needed prove that Islam or Arabic nature s a good thing. Hey, do we need false news to prove that Islam is right???!!!! And what about when all know this news was false, wouldn’t that mean that Islam is not right?????? Of course NO, but some weak hearts might think so, that’s why bad guys keep sending such messages, and some of us help them just because they don’t know!!

The last type I’ll be talking about here is religious messages. OK, how can for example Islamic messages be SPAM?? Let me tell you; it’s not only that some Islamic messages tell you false stories about those who didn’t forward them (sad ones, like getting ill or annoyed or lost someone they loved and so), or who forwarded them (happy ones, like having problems solved and so), but also even if the message didn’t contain any of this, it could still be SPAM!

The problem with these messages is they are unexpected, and in many cases repeated (more than 10 copies sometimes, not from the same person or to the same group of course). For example, when I check my inbox, I usually have either work emails (most of these separate email address anyway) messages from technical sites (like Microsoft Developer Network), messages from my friends telling me some news related to work or some arrangements, messages from my family members abroad welling me to tell something to the other relatives in Egypt, and so. As you see, these are all important messages and some of them are URGENT. My inbox is already loaded with many new messages every few days although I have good SPAM filtering and use custom filters to put messages automatically in folders (or labels, because I’m using Gmail). Finding soo many other non very important non urgent and sometimes repeated messages is over loading on me, and sure is the same for you. These messages sometimes make me not realize the URGENT messages and provide suitable response quick enough, and this is bad. All I think then usually is:

If I didn’t ask you to send me this message, and I didn’t expect you to send it (or any message of the same type), and sometimes if I don’t you as a sender personally in the first place, WHY for God sake are you sending me this message????

I hope you now know what I’m talking about. I hope my words are not disappointing to you, and I’m sorry for the long message, but I’ve been sending MANY direct responses to SPAM sent by people who are not supposed to be SPAMMERS that I got sick of it. So, I’d like to end this by giving you some advises (or call them requests) to help reduce SPAM:

  • When you’re sending mail
    • If you want to spread something, look for a group that’s interested in your topic and send to it. so that you can guarantee that that your message is sent to the right audience (by the way, there’re many Islamic groups out there). If you don’t find a group, create one, and send it’s URL to your friends (But PLEASE, send it ONCE only, otherwise it’s advertising SPAM)
    • Don’t send the same message twice, especially when you’re sending to someone you don’t know that well. Only send twice if you request a confirmation on the message, and it’s urgent one, and you don’t get confirmation after a period of time.
    • Don’t give your friends’ emails (or your email username and password) to ANY site to send them invitations or so. This will most likely will be used by the site to send SPAM to them. If you really like the site, it’s OK to send them about it yourself I guess. Oh yeah, try not to leave your own or your friends’ email in public pages ( like forums), because there’re people and software that collect emails from such places to send them SPAM afterwards.
    • When you are sending something to a number of friends who don’t know each other, don’t put them all in your "To" or "CC" field. This way all your friends will see all the other friends’ emails. So, if some friend comes sometimes and send a message to any of the other friends s/he doesn’t know, and the the friend doesn’t like it, this other friend will blame YOU for it. To avoid this, put one address only in the "To" field (doesn’t matter which), and put all the others in the "BCC" field. This way, each friend will only see his/her email ONLY.
    • If you get some message from someone who didn’t follow the previous advice, don’t use this and send mails to all the mails in the "To" and "CC" fields of the message (unless you’re sending a related non-personal replay), because, if you do, most of those people (at least) will be VERY annoyed, and may block you as a SPAMMER.
  • When you are receiving mail
    • If you get some cool news, PLEASE be 100% sure it’s true before you tall anyone about it. Learn to choose the right source for making sure (that’s usually the most famous sites on the topic of the message).
    • Use Filters: In most email hosts like Hotmail/yahoo/gmail (and email programs too, like Outlook), there’s an option to make filters on emails that automatically do a certain actions to the messages that match the filter. Use filters to put the messages with the same topic in folders (or labels if you’re using Gmail), so that you can see less messages in your inbox and know what messages is about what topic without reading all the messages you get. By the way, messages with the same topic are usually sent from the same sender(s) or have the same certain keywords, or a certain prefix in the message subject.
    • If you get a messages from unknown sender, and you think it’s SPAM, BLOCK the sender. Most likely s/he is a SPAMMER no more, and you’ll get nothing from him/her other than SPAM messages. (yes, it’s not a risk, this is a tested approach). If you get this message as a member of a group, move to the next advice.
    • Help your friends: If you get an expected message from a friend or a group member who doesn’t know that what s/he’s doing is SPAMMING, send him/her a short note to tell him/her about it. End this note with a polite request that if s/he is not convinced, s/he shouldn’t include you in such messages anymore.
    • Don’t leave your primary email in many sites unless your email host has a powerful SPAM filtering (Gmail is sort of good in this). If you receive many messages from some site, group or forum, check if you can change some option in that site to disable at least most of these mails, if not, send a short note to the site admin as a reply to any of these messages, if this all doesn’t work, don’t be very sorry when you mark this site email address as SPAM.
  • Thank you very much,

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