This is not a blog. So sue me!

Crikey, things are looking up!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

And now...Stupidest Spam of the Intertubularities Award for June 2012

Of late I've been able to ignore most of the spam that my email accounts receive because of pretty good spam filters. So I haven't been getting annoyed enough to go off the deep end about it.

However of the spam that does make it through, there are two kinds that make me sad:

1. Accidental spam. Someone somewhere has an email account that has the same address as mine, if you ignore the punctuation character. firstname.lastname is thus equivalent to firstnamelastname. The Lady Sue, for she is indubitably one, is very much into lady-like pursuits; quilting, knitting, pressing flowers and cooking...(Everyone who knows me, is now chortling, knowing I am not the delicate lady at question)...Lady Sue has subscribed to many of these sweet girlie-interest email lists and websites, bless her.  And yes, the dolts who provided some of these organizations with their registration web pages (or possibly the dolts who program the database backend) has somehow got the algorithm wrong. first.last became firstlast, and I get these lovely offers to quilt my cat or weave my woof etc.

No problem, you say. Just click on unsubscribe. Ah, but there is the difficulty, dear reader. The unsubcribe button asks for my email address, and whether I enter first.last or lastfirst I get an error message saying that this address is not subscribed. Now I might be an old developer put out to pasture in her declining years™ but I can tell that there are actually two problems here - two or more application pieces that both probably call up the same or similar database code, and I bet that there's a regular expression at the root of the problem.

The old adage in CompSci circles was 'Some people, when confronted with a problem, think "I know, I'll use regular expressions." Now they have two problems.' It is not my point to explain why these have been such a thorn in the side of the body of software development, suffice to say that they are a geekish delight and a trap for both the godly and the ungodly. Worse in person-millenia-wasted than the 'Array Index from Zero' problem, and 'A Character String is Just an Array of Characters' problem.

It is not unmanageable, or particularly vexing, just very sad. These mistakes and the lack of adequate testing have made two persons unhappy. The lovely fragrant Lady Sue (your customer!*), who is not getting her email newletters on hot topics in the World o' Quilting, and me.

The interesting thing is that this has been going on for years, and there's no way of stopping it from my end short of creating an email filter on the word 'quilting' or somesuch and ignoring it. This only works because I am not a lady who uses quilting-type words much. The sources of the emails vary widely, as email lists and website frameworks are shared, dipped in batter, deep-fried, wrapped in newspaper** and sold to anyone who wants one.

Intractable problems of this type, while not terribly serious in the example above, were normally ascribed to sclerotic bureaucracies in the horrid old days before the internet was a gleam in the eyes of the sainted Al Gore. Clearly, we now live in an age where you cannot even find a person to complain to and there is no mechanism to fix it. An example of the free market working its special magic.

2. Spam from Social Networks. Now this is real spam. Not malware-type installing nasty poo on your computer spam. Irritating, but not malicious. I believe that there will come a time when we will all regret the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Orkut, and other forums that we are subscribed to using a prime email address as a key data item. I predict that, as the hunt for non-existent revenue from these sites gets every more urgent, these things will get nastier and stupider.

I have a confession. I got onto Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Wikipedia etc. just to be the first on my block to play with these. I am such a show-off. And to get the username SueW or SuW. I was interested in the technical side (yeah right). And I crafted a lovely wiki Simple English article about...never mind. 

I do not use these sites as tools in my daily life, so I have set them to email me every time someone sends me a direct message. Same with comments on this non-blog, or replies to comments I make to other people's blogs. 

So I got 15 messages in one day when everyone said Happy Birthday to a friend on a FB group. Fine they're important. I got over 100 spread over four days when another person (who has hundreds of 'friends', is not a noob and should know better) asked all her FB friends to 'Like' something so she would win a contest. Ow. OK. Delete all like this.

Now it gets stupid to the point of nasty. A while ago there was a story about LinkedIn having 'lost' about 6 million passwords. (The fact that they were storing passwords that could be unencrypted easily is bad enough, to actually lose them looks like carelessness***.)

Yesterday I got am email from LinkedIn, who have recently taken to spamming with an eager weekly email entitled LinkedIn Toady :-) or (Things You Stupid B-School Turkeys Need to Know to Advance your Careers) or somesuch. Yesterday the email was entitled: How to Check if Your LinkedIn Password was Stolen...

I mean WTF! If you bxggers have lost my identifying information and password, I`d like a personally addressed, grovelling apology! 

So, LinkedIn, you are the lucky recipient of the first Stupidest Spam of the Intertubularities Award. Just drop dead, guys! I mean that most sincerely.

Regrets, I a have a few, and most of them are Social Media...****

* or, at least, your customers' customer. 
** This is a joke, who the heck has any scrap newspaper around the house these days? My lovely and talented life companion uses a 1996 copy of the Globe and Mail Business section to catch bits when he trims his beard, but otherwise the only newspaper in my house is stuffed inside the walls.
***Stolen joke alert. O. Wilde prop. 
****Fair dinkum use, Paul Anka. 

No comments:


St Lawrence Rowing

Test content from SLRC