James.Ryan on 8 Feb 2001 06:02:55 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Strategic Spam

I'm glad someone has finally come out of the closet and said what I'm sure
many of us has been thinking for a long time.  I can't count how many
times I've read an excellent essay or report (often on this list) dealing
with a pressing issue which should be of concern to a broad spectrum of
people and thinking, I wish I could send this to everyone in the world
(okay, I'm exaggerating).  So many ideas that deserve worldwide
distribution languish in limited newsgroups and mailing lists, often read
only by similar people with similar interests and opinions, while those
who control the worldwide information distribution networks "spam" us
daily with Hollywood dribble and freeze-dried, purified,
market-economy-bolstering, censored journalism.

Of course, what stops me (and I'm sure everyone else) from actually
sending out such ideas, no matter how beautiful and valuable they may be,
is the fear that the act of spamming itself will sully the content and the
sender, that the militant anti-spammers, many of whom are long-time
"netizens" with an almost self-righteous sense of ownership over the net,
will flame them out of existence for the simple ACTION of spamming,
without even looking at the CONTENT.  I'm sure modesty also plays a
role--who am I to decide that a particular idea is so wonderful that 20
million people should get it in their in-boxes unsolicited.

However, maybe it is possible that the "knee-jerk" 100% absolute
anti-spamming attitude of many long-time and prominent "netizens" and
average users threatens to completely quash what could be the best chance
we have of building a large-scale worldwide media network that is not
controlled by Hollywood or the network media giants.  Are we passing up an
opportunity because we're too lazy to hit the delete key?  I mean, let's
face it, it's pretty easy to tell spam by the subject line or at the least
by the first few lines in the preview window.  I can delete 20 spams in 30
seconds.  Is "anti-spamming" legislation really supported entirely by
grass-roots organizations of everyday folks who are just tired of getting
those "get rich quick" messages?  I suspect that lurking in the background
are the television networks, movie studios and advertising industry,
lobbying for such legislation because they, too, see the possibility of
spam networks eventually rivaling their power for a fraction of the cost.  
Who knows, when we all have more bandwidth, independent producers could
spam the world with streaming video of their latest movies, writers could
distribute books and musicians could distribute their music.  If you're
the CEO of Time Warner, this would be enough to make you shiver.

Just as we accept commercial messages every fifteen minutes when watching
our favorite television programs, why not take the good spam with the bad?
The big question is, how do we convince people that accepting the "good
spam" with the "bad" is a means to a truly accessible low-cost
distribution medium, the Internet equivalent of public access channels...


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