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3/4/2003
02:07 PM
John Soat
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IT Confidential: Spam Vs. Fund-Raising--A Clear Distinction

'Spam is in many cases a technology problem,' said Symantec's CEO

That pounding sound is the drumbeat of legislative action coming from Washington and it's all about spam, the current technology bugaboo (whatever happened to Internet gambling?). "It's time to take back the Internet from the spammers. Enough is enough," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, which held a powwow last week on what to do about the intrusive E-mail. Technology leaders offered suggestions (Bill Gates sent his via snail mail), while politicos pondered legal wording. But at least one industry observer remains skeptical about Washington's effectiveness. Michael Osterman, principal analyst with Osterman Research, says proposed spam legislation starts with best intentions but eventually gets watered down due to concerns that free enterprise is being constricted. Osterman estimates that legislation will solve perhaps 2% of the spam problem by targeting the most high-profile spammers, but that the typical spammer will fly under the legislative radar. His remedy: Fight fire with fire by using anti-spam technology.

Where does spam come from? FrontBridge, an anti-spam technology vendor, last week released its top 10 list of ways spammers acquire the E-mail addresses of their victims. The list ranges from the obvious (put an E-mail address on a high-traffic Web site; post [or reply to a post] on UseNet), to the discouraging (register the address with a Web site that sells its list; reply to an opt-out E-mail or click on an opt-out link in a message), to the asleep-at-the-wheel variety (give your E-mail address to a porn site--duh!).

Speaking of lists, copier maker Lanier Worldwide hired a market-intelligence firm to find out what buyers want in their copiers, and the survey, conducted this month by Crescendo Partners, had some surprising results: Low cost was sixth on the list behind speed, performance, clearer error messages, easier-to-fix paper jams, and network connectivity. No. 10 on the list was a "better looking repair person."

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and a licensed M.D., became the first presidential candidate in the 2004 race to raise $1 million over the Internet, according to an Associated Press story last week. Dean, one of the nine Democratic candidates vying for the nomination next year, has targeted the Internet as a major fund-raising source. In 2000, Republican presidential candidate John McCain raised $1 million over the Internet in 48 hours.

It's not like that money is going to buy Howard Dean a chance against George Bush. My guess is, the contributors thought they were sending money to the dean of Howard University, which could actually use it. You can always send your contributions, and your industry tips, to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about how to raise money on the Internet, through spam or otherwise, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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