The Nigerian scam goes to Korea

If you love spam ‘literature’ like I do, here is  the latest of the Nigerian sequel.

Your Active E-mail made you a Beneficiary

Dear Sir/Madam,

This is to notify you that you have been chosen By the seven-member committee to fulfill Chairman Chung Mong-koo’s promise to donate One trillion won (US$1.1 billion) to charity, contingent to a suspension early this month of his three-year prison sentence for embezzlement and breach of trust. The ruling meant that the 69-year-old chairman will not be thrown back into jail as long as he remains clean during the next five years. In suspending the prison sentence, the Seoul High Court ordered Chung to fulfill the pledge of donations. Chung, want this money used for the protection of the environment and to build art and cultural facilities.

As one of the final recipients of this Cash Grant/Donation for your own personal, education and business development. The Hyundai Company is the world’s largest shipbuilder and 6th largest automaker and owns Hyundai Group, the parent company for all Hyundai Motor. The company has decided to randomly select email addresses that would benefit from this donation. Based on the random selection exercise from internet service providers(ISP) and millions of Super market cash invoices worldwide, you were selected among the lucky recipients to receive the award sum of US$2,000,000.00 (Two Million United States Dollars) as charity donations/aid from Hyundai Group.

You are required to expeditiously Contact the head of committee (HOC) below for qualification documentation and processing of your claims, from Monday through Sunday. On contact with head of committee (HOC), You’ll be given your payment pin number which you will use in collecting the funds. Please endeavor to quote your pin number QN(HM-145-5611) in all discussions.
***********************************
Head of committee: Mr. Imran Khand
Email: xxxxxxxx
***********************************
On behalf of the seven-member committee kindly accept our warmest congratulations

 

What twitter considers as spam

The recent update  of twitter’s  Terms of Service, brought to my attention this page from twitter support :  The Twitter Rules. Is it not a long read but it is quite educative as to what twitter considers as spam or spamming behavior.

It is interesting to note that there is no rigid definition of spam:

What constitutes “spamming” will evolve as we respond to new tricks and tactics by spammers

Instead, the following  14 points list of spamming behaviors is cited.

  • If you have followed a large amount of users in a short amount of time;
  • If you have followed and unfollowed people in a short time period, particularly by automated means (aggressive follower churn);
  • If you repeatedly follow and unfollow people, whether to build followers or to garner more attention for your profile;
  • If you have a small number of followers compared to the amount of people you are following;
  • If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates;
  • If a large number of people are blocking you;
  • The number of spam complaints that have been filed against you;
  • If you post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account
  • If you post multiple unrelated updates to a topic using #
  • If you post multiple unrelated updates to a trending or popular topic
  • If you send large numbers of duplicate @replies
  • If you send large numbers of unsolicited @replies in an attempt to spam a service or link
  • If you repost other user’s content without attribution.
  • If you have attempted to “sell” followers, particularly through tactics considered aggressive following or follower churn.

The one  in bold has a special interest.

If your updates contain mainly links  you are considered a spammer!

Well this is news!

There’re thousands of accounts in twitter that do just this. How? By linking a blog feed to a twitter account. In such a case all twitter updates are links back to the blogposts.  Leaving aside the fact that these might not be appealing accounts to follow, considering link-posting as a spamming behavior  contradicts the presence of major media organizations in twitter and there are no signs that twitter actually objects their presence.

But if link-posting is ok for, say, CNN why would that  be bad for blog xyz with the 20 followers? The rule becomes a size discrimination.

Another notable notion in this rule is that twitter seems to still attribute value to the personal updates.  For me personal updates are irrelevant but that is not the issue. The issue is that one should have the right to write about the things he truly cares. If drinking coffee with his spouse is one of them, that’s fine. But if not, that should be fine too.

Besides, in order to have personal updates you must have a person too. With all these business accounts, what sort of personal updates is to be expected?

The twitter follower fallacy

Crowd at Lincoln's second inauguration, March ...
Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

There’s been much a discussion lately about the value of having hordes of twitter followers, sparkled mainly by the Twitter‘s  Suggested Users List. Jason Calacanis came to the point to offer Twitter $250K to be  one of the top 20 Suggested Users for two years.

The argument is simple: the more followers you have,  the more people receive your message,  the more power you have to market you ideas, products, services, or even yourself.

This sounds like good old marketing. Is it, really?

My personal experience of twitter and all the other social media is that the social experience does not scale. You cannot actively follow more than a few dozens of people. You cannot subscribe and read more than a few hundred feeds. You cannot subscribe to hundreds of youtube channels and watch even half of them.

By actively following, I mean, paying attention regularly or even occasionally to the message  ‘broadcasted’. I will not delve into the territory of the entailing  ‘conversations‘  because  it is even less scalable.

It doesn’t take to0 much brains to agree to this observation. Even if you are paid to follow other people’s updates, there is only so much you can take and do.

So why people like Jason glorify a practice that can bring little back?

Because it can bring back more than a little but only if two conditions are met:

  • 50% of twitter users follow only 10 people or so. If you happen to be  one of those they follow, their attention is guaranteed.
  • Not all twitter users are equal. There are people that had a big audience before joining twitter, Calacanis being one of them.  And others that have a bigger audience, who  are not even active twitter users (:think Madonna) . These celebrities  will receive preferential treatment in people’s attention, even if they are crammed among hundreds of others.

Besides, there is little trick that lots of people play,  that adjusts their social experience to their  true capabilities: twitter clients like tweetdeck allow segmenting and  grouping those you follow. If out of the thousands you follow, you are indeed interested in just fifty, you only have to include these fifty in a special group and interact/follow only with them.

In this way, you can follow back without hesitation every single one who follows you, and ignore him for ever after that.

To summarize, a big crowd of followers is valuable if the crowd’s  attention is more or less guaranteed, and this applies only to those of your followers that follow a small number of people or were actively following before twitter.

And here starts the fallacy: actively seeking thousands of followers regardless of their profiles or regardless who you  are does not bring back any profit. It does only pollute the twitter experience with daily twitter spam, driving gradually people away from this medium.

You might argue back that the twitter growth does not concede  with my statement. I can only argue back that a tanker starts turning from the προς  and it takes quite a distance before the turn becomes observable.

Update 24/3/2009: Just saw a somewhat related post here.

Why I won’t quit Qwitter

One Last Boom

Image by ViaMoi via Flickr

Qwitter, the recently launched service that notifies twitter users who is unfollowing them, has created tremors in the blogosphere. Most posts I have read consider qwitter an unnecessary nuisance or even plainly harmful (to the peace of mind at least).

I beg to differ and I’ll try to explain why.

When one has a few thousands of followers on twitter, he probably really knows only a few dozens of them. He ignores who and why  follows him (he probably does not even care), while he rarely engages in a spammer cleanup activity.

Before Qwitter one would look at the total number of his followers and if a notable difference was observed, he might wonder why, but never go to looking who actually started or discontinued following him.

But getting emails that say: “such and such xxxstopped following you on Twitter after you posted this tweet … (implying that there might be a relationship between the two facts), then these emails have an alarming effect. They become personal. They stir emotions. They upset. Justifiably? Well, no. Unless one has a fair idea who is unfollowing him. But for a big  number of followers this is impossible.

Now, in my case, my current number of followers allows me to be able to distinguish whether someone is a spammer, or a true follower. And qwitter has been helpful in making me recognize certain patterns of behavior among true followers and spammers.
I don’t follow back any spammer so they have no reason to follow me for a long time. They do not have any kind of relationship to retain with me, so after adding up for a while in the number of people they are following, they have to get rid of me, to bring their follower/following ratio down to a more ‘acceptable’ level. And this is precisely what they do: after a while spammers unfollow those who follow.

When receiving a qwitter notification, I can immediately recognize  whether  the ‘person’ unfollowing me is a spammer or not, because, as I said, I know all my true followers by name.

In the past few weeks that I use qwitter only one non spammer has unfollowed me. But then again wasn’t he? Because along with the obvious spammers there is a category of aggressive twitters who want to attract followers by all means. So what they do is practically the same with what spammers do, only more clever: they follow others in the hope the others will follow back, but they do it while keeping all the time their following/follower ratio balanced in order not to be considered as spammers, and follow people with whom they had a light interaction before, so that they are not considered completely strangers.

These are the things that qwitter helped me realize. Maybe too obious, maybe trivial. But from a hunch to a proof, there is always a distance to cover. And, for this distance, qwitter has been my vehicle.

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Akismet goes Statistic!

Seventieth anniver...

Image by Getty Images

via Daylife

Care to know how much spam you missed? Not really.

But it is an educating exercise nevertheless. And if you happen to have a hosted wordpress blog, then Akismet, the spam filter, can be of use as  Akismet now comes loaded with stats.

Since I happen to own one (hosted wordpress blog), I had a good look at it.

Confusing!

The canned meat in the picture above is ham. But ‘ham’ according to Akismet is a comment that is the opposite of spam. A proper one.

This leads to a ham to spam ratio calculation.

Still there?

If ham were spam none would starve (commentwise, I mean). See this yummy pie from my Greek blog stats and you will understand.

Jokes aside, Akismet does a pretty good job. Yet, for me, it is not the overall stats that are of interest.

The new Akismet offers an insight into two other more important metrics:

  • Missed Spam, the spam that made its way to a post.
  • False Positive, the real comments that were mistaken for spam.

Of the two, I value more the second, because it reveals a real problem: I am sure you have experienced the small frustration of leaving a comment and seeing it disappear. This can drive a new visitor away for good. That’s why I would like these stats to include the actual comment links. An examination of a relatively large number, might reveal a pattern as to why this happens, a pattern that can be reported back to the Akismet team.

I only hope the team is listening 🙂

A Nigerian scam (=spam) classic.

I don’t remember how many years back was it when I first saw the original nigerian scam mail. You know, the type of ‘I have so many million dollars and I want to get them out of the country etc’.  If there was a spam hit parade this would be Nr 1 for years.

It is so legendary that it does not even annoy me anymore to receive such spam.

Perhaps Google’s gmail antispam filter feels the same way, otherwise it wouldn’t let pass this one. There is a slight variation here. The originator is from Ghana, not Nigeria, but, what the heck, it is pretty close. I copy it for you below (syntax and spelling  are intact):

from Ben Goodman <ben_goodman20gh@yahoo.com>

reply-to ben_goodman25@hotmail.com

to ben_goodman20gh@yahoo.com

date Thu, Aug 7, 2008 at 3:36 PM

subject Regards

mailed-by yahoo.com

From: Mr. Ben Goodman
Accra, Ghana.
Hello Dear
I got your contact during my search for a reliable,honest and a trust
worth person to entrust this huge transfer project with My name is  Mr. Ben. k .Goodman, Branch manager of a financial institution here in Ghana. I am a Ghanaian married with two kids.
I am writing to solicit your assistance in the transfer of $ 7,597.864.00 Million United States dollars only. This fund is the excess of what my branch in which am the manager made as profit duringthe 2005 financial year.
I have already submitted annual report for that year to my head officehere in Accra Ghana as I have watched with keen interest as they will never know of this excess I
have since, placed this amount of $ 7,597.864.00 Million United States dollars only to an Escrow Coded account without a beneficiary (anonymous) to avoid traceAs an officer of the bank, I cannot be directly connected to this money due to civil service code which formits civil servants from owing or operating foreign currency account coupled
with the fact thatthe fund is huge thus I am impelled to request for your assistance to
receive this money into your bank account on my behalf I intend to part 30% of this fund to you while 70% shall be for me.
I do need to stress that there are practically no risk involved in this. It’s going to be a bank-to-bank transfer. All I need from you is to stand as the original depositor of this fund so that the fund can be legally processed to your name and be transferred to your account. If you accept this offer, I will appreciate your timely response to my private mail: ben_goodman01gh@hotmail.com
With Regards,
Mr Ben Goodman

I like the name particularly: Goodman. An attempt to appeal to the subconscious as a  good man.

More puzzling than ‘how did gmail let this pass’ is ‘how can there be such spam today’. It seems that there is no shortage of fools, nor there is going to be anytime soon…

A question of spam

By <a href=
By major_clanger

Spam is the single most annoying thing of the internet. Being so widespread, it is no exaggeration to say  that it can bring the web to a halt. When it comes to email, this statement is as close to truth as it can get.

Needless to say that there is no truly efficient antispam technique. And the reason I write this post, is just to declare provocatively, we need none.

Let me explain: Most of the spam fighting efforts are focusing on blocking the spammer’s way. We care about not letting them send mail messages or bait trackbacks to our blogposts, to deter them from faking twitter followers or friendfeed commenters.

As every crime story lover knows, what betrays the murderer is the motive. When it comes to spam, if we exclude pure malice, the motive is always one: to advertise.  In the end of the spam trail, always lies a legitimate or semi-legitimate ‘business’, that wants to attract customers. And there is where the collective antispamming effort has to focus.  Fighting down those who benefit from spam, fights down the financing of spam, and therefore spam itself.

 This kind of approach to fighting spam entails three levels of envolvement. The individual’s level, the community’s level and the authorities level.

  • The individual’s responsibility is to bring to the attention of the community the existence of a spammer.
  • The community’s responsibility is to expose the benefiting party and create a negative publicity for it that counterweights the whatever benefits of spamming.
  • The authorities’ responsibility is, first to pass legislation that makes such an activity illegal, and then, aided by the community reproach,  to crack it down with whatever means.

At least, for the authorities of the countries of the world, this would be a welcome new activity next to their favorite passtimes of chasing bit torrents, cracking down free speach, and wiretapping conversations.