Now that I am settled in at Ambrosia, I can start writing columns for the AT. To borrow from Gayle's former Geekette column, I'm going to call my part "Geek Boy". I thought my first column would be about me getting the Ambrosia logo tattooed on my youthful flesh, but I never got the tattoo, and at the last minute I scrambled to find a different topic. I hope I don't bore you all by writing about one issue I care very much about - Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (UCE).
Some of you have read my columns in other online publications about this subject. You may have seen an anti-spam resource as the only prominent link on my web page. Or, you may have been unfortunate enough to start talking about UCE in front of me. Either way, you know by now that I can't stand it.
It angers me when I recieve unsolicited advertisements via e-mail. I don't hate them because they're pornographic, fraudulent, or poorly worded. My objection is that I never asked for any of it. I don't mind postal junk mail as much, because whoever sent it paid for it. But junk e-mail costs me in computer processing time, hard disk space, and bandwidth. My computer is made slower because someone thinks it is his or her right to try to sell me Georgia Red Dirt in a Mason Jar.
I like my machine to be as fast as possible. If I add filters to get rid of the junk, it gets slower. If I upgrade my machine to handle the additional load of the junk e-mail, then I am paying more money to get the same performance I could be getting without junk e-mail. Either way, I lose.
Junk mailers are not protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. They may shout "Free Speech" all they want, but although commercial speech is in many ways protected, the First Amendment concerns only public discourse - it does not apply to anything private, like my Internet connection, my computer, or the walls of my house.
When someone sends a junk e-mail to my inbox, they have taken some disk space from me (among other things). Barging into my house and placing ads upon my walls would quickly be condemned as a barbarous marketing practice, but somehow it is more acceptable when the Internet is the medium. I think that's because most people don't know what junk e-mail really is.
Junk e-mail makes the entire Internet slower. That means it'll take you a little bit longer to download the Harry 1.0.1 update. Even now, all of your favorite web pages load a little bit slower than they should. Your time is wasted because any moron with a computer can get into the junk e-mail business, becoming a self-proclaimed "Internet Marketer."
Frankly, using that term for any two-bit junk mailer offends me as Marketing Director of Ambrosia. Part of my job demands that Ambrosia will continue to conduct commerce on the Internet in the most responsible manner. I did not come to Ambrosia to employ the tactics of common thieves, nor will I tolerate behavior that degrades the integrity of my profession.
Junk e-mail dilutes the effectiveness of the Internet as a marketing medium, as more people become skeptical of internet commerce. Right now, perhaps one fifth of the messages I recieve daily is junk. Imagine how enthused I'll be when 98% of my mail is junk. E-mail will be useless as a communication medium at that point. Of course, since bandwidth costs money, the price of using the Internet will also increase accordingly. Flat rate Internet access will become a thing of the past, as ISPs struggle to cope with the additional bandwidth charges.
There are no secrets to responsible marketing on the Internet. The most important rule is not to waste other people's bandwidth. Some end users pay by the minute for their access, and although this type of access is less popular in America, it is quite common in Europe.
Ambrosia is a shining example of responsible Internet marketing. We never send junk e-mail, nor do we sell your information to anyone. All of our mailing lists require a free subscription, so those who are really interested can read about our latest product offerings. We maintain a web site, which we promote in only the most ethical ways (by placing its URL in signatures at the end of messages, mentioning it whenever it is relevant to discussion in online forums, and by signing up with search engines). We try our hardest not to abuse resources that don't belong to us. Our negative impact on the Internet is essentially zero.
The 'net-friendly strategy works quite well. We have built a good reputation based on solid products, and we are not about to ruin it by stealing from potential customers via the sending of junk e-mail. By ensuring that our announcements go only to those that truly want them, we minimize complaints. David doesn't have to take phone calls from angry users. Our mail server doesn't get overloaded with nastygrams. Everyone is happy.
But the fight is not over. Just because Ambrosia is responsible doesn't mean that commerce on the Internet isn't under attack. As long as "Internet Marketers" continue to steal your computing time and bandwidth, more people will become annoyed with Internet use in general. This could hurt Ambrosia by driving potential customers away from the Internet, currently our most important distribution medium.
The easiest thing you can do to help us (besides registering all of your Ambrosia products) is to join the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail, at http://www.cauce.org/. Membership is free, and it takes only a few minutes to sign up. CAUCE supports proposed US legislation that would make the sending of junk e-mail an actionable offense, just like junk fax. While it will not solve the problem entirely, it will strike a crushing blow to the junk e-mail "industry", and restore Internet Commerce to a higher status.
Educate yourself about the issues surrounding Unsolicited Commercial E-mail, and learn how to deal with it responsibly. Write your representatives in Congress and tell them how much junk e-mail annoys you. Defend the Internet as a medium for responsible commerce, and you will ensure Ambrosia's continued existence in the shareware industry. Ambrosia (and shareware itself) cannot survive for long without a marketable Internet audience.