This is just some musings ‘inspired’ (if that’s the right word) by a comment I received on a throwaway post. WordPress had just told me that it had blocked the one-hundredth piece of spam that this blog had received. That’s more or less five pieces of spam for every posting. I was surprised by how little I was surprised, if that makes sense.
Over the last twenty-plus years, I’ve installed, maintained and administered several different email systems based on a variety of different software technologies. I don’t claim to be an expert on any of this stuff, but I know a few things. In particular, I got to watch the rise of spam; twenty years ago it was essentially unknown, while today it’s ubiquitous. (Note that I haven’t defined spam. The definition is somewhat elusive, but the one on Wikipedia isn’t bad but doesn’t cover a couple of things. But everyone knows what it is — loosely speaking, it’s a ‘thingy’ that you received that you didn’t ask for, sent by someone who wants something from you.)
People have been trying to understand (and fight) spammers and spam for, well, many years. While it can be slowed down, I’m of the opinion that there is unlikely to be a technical solution to it because it’s not a technical problem — it’s a social problem. If there was the will (and it has to be a collective will — see Roger Ebert’s Boulder Pledge, for example) to stop it, it would be stopped. That hasn’t happened and since some of the spam techniques are very, very old (the Wikipedia page I mentioned above makes reference to spam telegrams from the 1860s and much 419 spam is little more than a rehashed version of the Spanish Prisoner con which is at least 400 years old) I suspect that there isn’t much chance of it going away any time soon.
In the current context, spam is ‘sent’ as comments. The spammer wants to
have his particulars published in as many places as possible to that he’ll “look” more important. There is a certain amount of irony in that a measurable fraction of blog comment spam (at least as received here) advertises search engine optimization techniques and “services”.
Remember Rule 1.
And now WordPress says it’s blocked 101 pieces of spam.