No common thread here at all, I'm afraid:
I hate to just repost something off SuckDot, but this study of how email addresses are acquired by spammers makes interesting reading. In particular, they conclude that obscuring email addresses on websites is entirely effective at stopping address harvesters -- even if just by writing
chris at ex-parrot.com
Harvesting of addresses from USENET was significant too, but only addresses in the headers were obtained. There's an obvious efficiency reason for that, if you're attacking somebody else's NNTP server. If you have your own newsfeed, it doesn't matter, obviously, since you could just grep through the spool files on-disk. I guess people smart enough to set up inn probably have better things to do than sell bulk email lists.
In one-sixth of cases where email addresses were given to on-line retailers, spam was sent in spite of the user `opting out' of marketing email. Quelle surprise.
I'm slightly surprised that the obscuring techniques work. There's obviously little economic reason for the spam-address-gatherers to write code to decipher them (or the common cases, anyway), since people who obscure their addresses are very likely to be unreceptive to spam, but there's so much malice in the spam debate that I'd expect some effort to harvest these addresses out of pure spite.
(You'll note that I don't bother to obscure my address on my web pages, though I do on USENET. Plainly, this is totally backwards, but there are other reasons to obscure one's address on USENET, and I find that a combination of bfilter (fast, learns) and Spam Assassin (slow, doesn't) kills almost all my spam.)
- Interesting lecture by Andrew Roberts, speculating about a future Gordon Brown premiership. (This kind of future-history speculation is probably a waste of time in general, but the thing is well written and makes some interesting points. And-- see subtitle-- it carries its bias up front.) Thanks to Anthony Wells (again) for the link.
I got a response to my letter to Anne Campbell about Kim Howells's confusion over theft and copyright infringement. (Apparently an earlier copy of this response, went astray, hence the long delay.) She writes,
Dear Mr Lightfoot,
Thank you for your letter of 21st January.
Kim Howells was right to say that the kind of activitiy that Robbie Williams was condoning is illegal and, while not constituting ``theft'' under a legal definition, is nonetheless robbing the artist of the income by which they make their living. While this may be of little concern to a multimillionaire artist suck as Williams, internet piracy could have a serious impact on less established performers.
Dr. Howells was not making a statement of Government policy except to say that the Government expects copyright law to be upheld. I see know [sic.] reason why he should apologise for this.
Splendid, though she rather misses my point -- which is that Howells should apologise for trying to mislead the public, not for disapproving of file-sharing (or, for that matter, of Robbie Williams). It's nice to see that the Government believes that copyright should be upheld, too; cf. this old story.
(There are some other issues here, in particular the suggestion that `less established' performers ever make anything out of selling recordings; and the question of what effect file-sharing actually has on sales. But obviously none of that is really relevant, because copyright infringement is still infringement, regardless of the economics. And it still isn't theft, regardless of bluster by Howells and Campbell.)
- So, I finally did buy an Apple Macintosh. Not my best ever purchasing decision.