A Cracked Look At The Impact Of Spam

from the you've-got-some-insight-on-your-comedy dept

As you may know, I'm a pretty big fan of Cracked.com. They also share a lot of values with Techdirt. Recently, they published an angry tirade against spammers that's also an interesting look at how years of steadily-increasing crap have shaped user habits and expectations online. Examples include things like browser toolbars, which are almost universally hated and yet still bundled with lots of software and foisted upon users during the install process, often through a confusing combination of checkboxes and accept/decline buttons:

Can you imagine how we would jump down the throat of any real-world business that tried that shit? Imagine ordering your lunch at McDonald's, but when they got to the "fries" question, they phrased it as, "Don't you not want to not have fries with that?" Then, no matter how you answered that ridiculous triple negative, they told you, "By pulling forward to the next window, you are agreeing to buy fries" and shoved them into your car anyway, claiming, "No, you said you wanted them, so now you have to pay for them. No take-backs!" Also, the fries are poison.

It also takes on the fact that most web users ignore virtually all advertising, since so much of it is untrustworthy to a degree that old media rarely reached:

On TV, even if the ad is laced with misleading information (no, Axe Body Spray probably won't lead to instant female-on-male street rape), at least we know that the product is real. Toyota isn't selling you a cardboard car. If you order one of those stupid robe/blanket things, they're going to deliver that retarded, sex-repellant monstrosity to your house. The few ads that do reek of scam are the late night commercials (Enzyte, bullshit diet scams, one-year online colleges), and at least you know when they're coming. You can separate them from the legitimate products. On the net, you just have to assume that everything you see is out to screw you, the only exceptions being brands that you already know.

It's an entertaining read, and one that underlines one of the biggest ways online advertising is different from traditional advertising. When space was limited, the battle was for exposure; when space is unlimited, the battle is for trust and relevance in an increasingly uncertain and noisy world.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 5:00pm

    You know, the first quote there remembers me of GameStop employees trying to force us to get a magazine subcription, buy a DLC for a game I don't have or get a pre-order bundle for a game I have no interest in, and insisting on doing it despite saying time and time again that I don't want it (though I don't blame the emplyees, I found that the ones doing it are the managers).

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 5:02pm

    "when space is unlimited, the battle is for trust and relevance in an increasingly uncertain and noisy world"

    You almost got it, but like an 8 year old trying to understand rocket science, you are missing a few important details.

    The reality is that space is never unlimited, because PEOPLE have limited time to absorb. It doesn't matter how vast the internet is, it doesn't matter how fast you can deliver spam in any way shape or form, people only have a limited time to deal with it.

    What happens when most of the email you get is spam? You don't read "only the good stuff", you basically turn the email app off, or you white label only your friends, or you create disposible email accounts you use once and ignore.

    It isn't a battle for trust - it's a battle for the good companies and individuals to even get notices, because the spam, crap, and nonsense is burying them.

    Trust is nice, but when you stop paying attention to one source system completely because it is mostly spam or mostly worthless, then everyone else loses.

    Ask myspace.

     

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  3.  
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    Leigh Beadon (profile), Mar 7th, 2012 @ 5:06pm

    Re:

    Way to gloss over the word "relevance" in my original statement, because in that one word I already summed up what it just took you four angry paragraphs to describe.

     

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  4.  
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    Digital Consumer (profile), Mar 7th, 2012 @ 5:53pm

    Re: Re:

    ^

     

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  5.  
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    Digital Consumer (profile), Mar 7th, 2012 @ 5:54pm

    The term you are looking for Leigh is loquacious.

     

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  6.  
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    Atkray (profile), Mar 7th, 2012 @ 6:09pm

    I'm not, not licking toads.

     

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  7.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Mar 7th, 2012 @ 6:58pm

    Re:

    Do they taste like chicken?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 7:00pm

    Re:

    Not to mention that the original article goes over this point again and again. But nice work making yourself look stupid while trying to insult someone else.

     

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  9.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Mar 7th, 2012 @ 7:24pm

    Re:

    Not even cane toads? I've heard they're quite tasty! :)

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 8:00pm

    Re: Re:

    Wow, not reading that at all. I don't see you suggesting that people are dropping email because it's useless spam filled crap, or that myspace went the same way.

    You need to learn to write more clearly!

     

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  11.  
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    FormerAC (profile), Mar 7th, 2012 @ 8:06pm

    Great article, but Cracked are part of the problem

    Just about to share this article with everyone I know. I attempted to copy/paste the text "On the Net, you just have to assume that everything you see is out to screw you, the only exceptions being brands that you already know."

    And when I paste it into Notepad (because damned scammers have made me too bleeping paranoid not to) I notice they added the following to my "copy"

    "Read more: 5 Things Spammers Ruined While We Weren't Paying Attention | Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-things-spammers-ruined-while-we-werent-paying-attention_p2/#ixzz1oUiq7 RTi"

    A great big fuck you to Craked.com

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 9:03pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'm just going to say that I'm guessing that, because the article this is talking about already mentions that, I don't think the writer felt the need to.

     

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  13.  
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    [citation needed or GTFO], Mar 7th, 2012 @ 9:25pm

    Re: Great article, but Cracked are part of the problem

    Try this: http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-things-spammers-ruined-while-we-werent-paying-attention/

    The link you provided just leads to the second page since it's a multi-page article.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 9:50pm

    One of the reasons I won't allow commercials in my view on the internet. They are always clamoring for attention and I trust none. About the time you think it might be ok, up comes one of those warnings about spammers have managed to slip in an iframe with malware links.

    Installing programs are nearly as bad. Most of them I wind up saying no thank you to. I don't want the trash that comes with it.

    Maybe the first thing I do with a new computer is take out the all the crap 'pre-installed'. Most of it I don't want and the rest of it's gonna terminate in a month or two, so it's not really useful.

     

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  15.  
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    Ilfar, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 10:23pm

    Re:

    Oh the number of people I've asked "Have you got a virus scanner?", and get the response, "Yeah, it came with Nortons"...

    You got it three years ago? Have you ever actually PAID Nortons anything? You realise that's... you know what, forget it. I'm sure your trouble has nothing to do with a virus, I'm also equally sure I'm not plugging your computer into my network...

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 10:59pm

    I love Cracked but I wish Christina H. would go away. I don't understand how Cracked could still keep a person like her, after she wrote an article recently about how racism and stereotyping are wrong, but almost only when it's directed at her race, and how only white people are racists.

     

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  17.  
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    Andrew F (profile), Mar 7th, 2012 @ 11:02pm

    Solutions

    So I'd be just as opposed to SOPA-style blocking of badware sites as I would be to SOPA-style blocking of anything else, but this seems like an area where large players such as Google could really make a difference.

    When you go to a known phishing website in Chrome or IE or any other major browser, you get alarm bells galore warning you not to visit that site. I'd appreciate it if my mom's browser would warn her about deceptive checkboxes.

    At least until she learned to ignore the warnings ...

     

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  18.  
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    Josh (profile), Mar 7th, 2012 @ 11:24pm

    Re:

    So don't read her articles then. Problem solved. Also I highly doubt she said that, so please provide a link when slandering somebody.

     

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  19.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 12:12am

    Re: Great article, but Cracked are part of the problem

    And when I paste it into Notepad (because damned scammers have made me too bleeping paranoid not to) I notice they added the following to my "copy"

    Wow. I'm sorta surprised that Cracked would use a service like that.

    It's probably tynt. While it's lame that you have to opt out, you can go to tynt's site and permanently opt out of their copy/paste hijacking...

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    [citation needed or GTFO], Mar 8th, 2012 @ 1:17am

    Try reading the article that's being cited first

    What happens when most of the email you get is spam? You don't read "only the good stuff", you basically turn the email app off, or you white label only your friends, or you create disposible email accounts you use once and ignore.

    Wow, not reading that at all. I don't see you suggesting that people are dropping email because it's useless spam filled crap, or that myspace went the same way.


    Read #3 on the list. Here, I'll even cite and quote it for you since you obviously think the bold text is just there as a cosmetic design:

    A certain percentage of all human communication is sales pitches -- even before people had phones, dudes would show up at their door selling snake-oil cures and horse boosters. But email is almost entirely spam -- 88 to 92 percent of all messages. For those of you who aren't good with numbers, that's almost goddamn all of them.

    For this reason, I don't know anyone who has just one email address. Most people have a primary that they only give out to important contacts, and several more that they use to sign up for shit. That way, when they invariably start receiving messages about how to grow more hair and a bigger cock, who cares? You'll never log in to that Hotmail account to ever see them.

    Or at the very least, you'll know to take precautions when you do.

    Has there ever been a means of communication that was just totally hijacked by scammers like this, to the point that they absolutely own the medium? How many of you have a separate phone line set up to catch just telemarketers? Or a separate mailbox to catch junk mail? Or a separate home to distract door-to-door salesmen? I'm guessing not many.

    And this isn't like complaining that there are too many commercials during the Super Bowl -- we need email, it's how approximately 100 percent of us do business now.

    Yet we find ourselves having to trash accounts as they become too visible to spammers -- they'll reach a critical mass of bullshit that just makes them unusable. You can't even tell somebody your address -- if you post it on a forum, blog, website -- anywhere that is accessible by the public eye -- then spammers will find it and inundate it. If you're posting it in public, you have to spell it all out so the crawlers can't find it (like, "meatwhip at flopwhopple dot com"). It's like spelling out dirty words around a 3-year-old child.

    Of course, we do have spam filters and junk folders to help thin it all out, but the protection itself is one of the many ways spammers have fucked over the basic function of an email. Is there a single person reading this article who hasn't heard the phrase, "You didn't get my email? Huh, I sent it yesterday. Check your junk folder." Meanwhile, the main inbox is still filled with so much broken English, it looks like some straight-up Tower of Babel shit.

    And here's the thing: These are businesses, people who need us to like and trust them enough to buy their product. If any real business did this shit in real life, you'd not only boycott their product, but you'd throw elbows into the bridge of their nose until they could smell their own hell-bound soul.


    So please tell us what your argument was again? Something about E-mail not being mentioned?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    [citation needed or GTFO], Mar 8th, 2012 @ 2:07am

    Try reading the article that's being cited first: Part II

    It isn't a battle for trust - it's a battle for the good companies and individuals to even get notices, because the spam, crap, and nonsense is burying them.

    Trust is nice, but when you stop paying attention to one source system completely because it is mostly spam or mostly worthless, then everyone else loses.


    And in case you missed it the first time:

    And here's the thing: These are businesses, people who need us to like and trust them enough to buy their product. If any real business did this shit in real life, you'd not only boycott their product, but you'd throw elbows into the bridge of their nose until they could smell their own hell-bound soul.


    Since you obviously agree ("Trust is nice..."), what's your argument again?

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Paul Keating, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 3:01am

    "no, Axe Body Spray probably won't lead to instant female-on-male street rape,"

    Damn, now what am I going to do with those cases that came along with the "Jes Extender" ?

     

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  23.  
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    Paul Keating, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 3:07am

    Spam is preferred................

    I prefer spam to TV commercials. (1) email programs come with a junk mail filter - a function I would love to see on my "smart" TV,(2) those "dear trusted friend - I want you to help me screw my former company/government/etc by using your bank account to launder money" are far more entertaining, and, 3) I don't have to sit through a commercial demeaning women by playing off insecurity regarding their clothing, makeup, below-the-waste hygiene and need to catch a rich husband, followed by a news story about celebrating international women's rights day"

     

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  24.  
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    Suja (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 4:51am

    Re: Spam is preferred................

    ^^
    Agreed. With junk mail filters & Firefox no-script/add blocker I almost never see adds of any sort.

    But even with DVR I still must skip through 5 mins worth of demeaning commercials (not just to women but also intelligence)

     

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  25.  
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    Suja (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 4:54am

    Re: Re: Spam is preferred................

    *"ads" not adds, except for the part where they are bloat

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:59am

    They should talk! Cracked web site riddled with javascript and web bugs/trackers, to the degree I rarely see.

     

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  27.  
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    ASTROBOI, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:11am

    Re:

    And the endless "comments" informing us of great deals on Hong Kong trainers or dating websites that the good folks at Cracked can't seem to delete.

     

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  28.  
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    ASTROBOI, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:18am

    How about tv commercials?

    In the prehistoric 1950's one hour tv shows ran 52 minutes. There were half-hour shows that consisted of 27 minutes of content and 3 one-minute "word from our sponsor" messages. Those shows can't be shown anymore. It would require almost one third of the show to be deleted. One cable channel used to show the old 70's Dragnet shows (maybe they still do) and to avoid massive cutting they digitally increased the tempo, but not the frequency, of the soundtrack. Sgt. Friday's machine-gun delivery now sounded like a tobacco auctioneer. And unlike web ads there is no blocker. You can mute the sound, go make coffee or go to the loo but the show isn't going to resume until they have had their say. Five minutes later they will go it again. And again. Why do we download pirate tv shows?

     

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  29.  
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    Leigh Beadon (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:20am

    Re:

    I don't understand how Cracked could still keep a person like her, after she wrote an article recently about how racism and stereotyping are wrong, but almost only when it's directed at her race, and how only white people are racists.

    I know the article you mean. At the very beginning, she said something along the lines of "I suspect that many of the things I talk about here are true for people of other minorities too, but I don't want to assume or put words in anyone's mouth, so I'll talk about the things I've experienced as a Chinese-American."

    That seems totally reasonable to me. And I didn't get anything out of the article that said "only white people are racists"

     

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  30.  
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    Leigh Beadon (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:24am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You need to learn to write more clearly!

    Everyone else seems to have understood it (of course, everyone else seems to have actually read the linked article). So I conclude that it's you who needs to learn to read better. Or just be less obsessed with attacking me at even the flimsiest of opportunities (it can't be healthy buddy)

     

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  31.  
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    FormerAC (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:30am

    Re: Re: Great article, but Cracked are part of the problem

    WHOOOOSH!

    Missed the point entirely.

     

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  32.  
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    FormerAC (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:37am

    Re: Re: Great article, but Cracked are part of the problem

    Here is a link to the Techdirt article talking about the problem

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100601/0047399633.shtml

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 7:38am

    I half-expected the article to mention Blue Mountain, an online greeting card company. It was (and may still be) a legitimate online business - it's certainly a good concept, or it was. But online greeting cards, with Blue Mountain being one of the most oft-used names, was effectively destroyed when it became heavily used as a ruse to get people to visit sites that did drive-by malware downloads.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 8:16am

    Re: Try reading the article that's being cited first

    Yet again, it doesn't point out that more and more people are 100% turning off email, and only accept messages through their blackberry, or through facebook, or through IM style programs.

    It doesn't point out that all the yelling and screaming to get attention is in fact the cause of the problem, not the solution. It doesn't discuss who people tune out of entire mediums or sites when they become too piled up with the very things we seek to avoid (think myspace, and Facebook teeters on the edge for many every day - how's your farm doing?)

    Point #3 is more about people not wanting to deal with companies that spam or use aggressive mailings - but has little to do with people disconnecting from the medium altogether.

     

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  35.  
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    Leigh Beadon (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 9:09am

    Re: Re: Try reading the article that's being cited first

    I'm very sorry that the article and my post don't make the precise, specific points you want to make. I can totally understand how that would immediately drive you to lobbing childish insults in anger - it's such an egregious violation of your deluded belief that you're at the centre of the universe. I'm sure it has nothing to do with your creepy personal vendetta against me and your obsessive need to find something, anything to freak out about in every post I write.

    Perhaps, if you have so much great insight, you should take a break from your porn blog and and start writing about this stuff yourself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    [citation needed or GTFO], Mar 8th, 2012 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Great article, but Cracked are part of the problem

    Ah, I see. In that case, never mind then. Only trying to help.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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