Spam is a huge problem. I easily get a couple of hundred spam emails in a day. It is also a problem on websites that accept user input, such as this one. There is nothing sadder than a guestbook or comment section that is overrun with spam. The reason that this happens is that one poor human with a real life cannot compete with millions of spam producing robots. It gets worse when the site becomes a group site. After a while, you get kinda of a knack for spotting bogus registrations. ALLCAPS is a clue, that one is a real human. Usually it takes a look at the email address to sort the miscreants and the n'er-do-wells.
This sort of thing takes some time. Personally, I like it. It gives me pleasure to squash spammers like they was bugs. Problem is, it is not real-time.
I want my users to experience instant acceptance.
It is looking like some sort of reputation system may be the answer. Question is, how much are you willing to submit to a third party in order for this to work? Are you willing to have a single online identity?
As an administrator, I have to know this. Or guess.
On various occasions and with different groups, I have mentioned that I consider email to have passed away. Folks tend to look at me with shock and maybe a little fear. No doubt they had intended to email me with their complaints later in the day. Not to worry, I still check my inbox as often as ever, it is just that there are many more efficient ways to communicate nowadays.
It is risky for me to trust email anymore when I have something important to say. I pick up the phone with a followup if it is very important. In all truth, the fifty some odd phone calls I made in the last week were as a result of a unsuccessful USPS mailing, and not particularly due to lack of delivery.
There is not much you can do if the people are not motivated to read your message, but there have been plenty of instances where parties have been intent on communicating. This past summer I played ferry with emails several times because individuals were able to contact me but not each other. I also have a newsletter that I send out every week for half the year. I always wonder how many of the messages reach their destination.
RSS could solve the problem of the newsletter delivery problem but it has not yet caught on with the majority of users. Personal communication is a little trickier. Tantek Çelik has a good article on email usability or lack thereof, and while I agree with most of his points I don't think his methods would work with people who are not online a good deal.
I also think sometimes people are reluctant to start a conversation through IM. It can be intrusive but people do understand that you have to leave every now and then. IM does seem to be my preferred method of communication. Twitter is much more haphazard with the bits you need getting lost in all the chatter. I do see value in Twitter as well, however.
It is interesting that there are so many different means of communication to choose from. No doubt new methods will be coming along, and existing technology will be used in different ways. Who knows, someone may well discover a way to revive the old email.
The overwhelming number of domains registered every day will never add anything positive to the Internet. They will be used to host a script which will in turn list a large number of links on the home page. What's more, most of these domains will immediately be dropped during the five day grace period and the party registering the domain will pay no money at all. This is known as domain tasting. It is allowed to happen because the domains that do bring enough clicks on the displayed links to make a profit are picked up for a full year. The folks who make the rules earn a small profit on every domain registered.
I have a nice set of graphs as an example for those of you who are into that sort of thing.
There is also such a thing as domain tasting taken to the extreme, labeled domain kiting by GoDaddy's Bob Parsons. He blogged extensively about domain kiting on May 10, 2006, June 21, 2006 and June 4, 2007. What it boils down to is the registering party uses really good timing to tie up the domain for another 5 days still at no cost. They do this over and over.
The good news is that ICANN, or the people who make the rules for the .com and .net TLDs, is accepting comments about domain tasting until January 28, 2008. Please head on over there and voice your opinion.
I think domain tasting should be eliminated, or at least restricted. A small restocking fee would cut down much of the abuse. Domains used solely for advertising do not contribute to the Internet as a whole. It does cause major problems for folks who accidentally let their domain registrations lapse. Tasters tend to grab up all expiring domains, and if the former website got a fair amount of traffic the new owners would be likely to hang on to the domain after the grace period, or even demand high prices for it's return.
In related news, NetSol was recently accused of front-running, a practice similar to domain tasting. You can read a writeup at Mark Fulton's Dot Sauce, but basically NetSol was reserving every domain searched through it's server and releasing them after four days. The domains could still be registered by anyone, but only through NetSol. As far as I can tell they have stopped this practice. Domains searched at their website and reserved yesterday can still be purchased through them, but the page generated for that domain no longer says:
This Domain is Available - Get it Now!
600,000 domain names are registered daily! Don't delay; there's no guarantee that a domain name you see today will still be here tomorrow!
Buy a domain name as low as $19.99
but now reads:
This Site Is Under Construction and Coming Soon.
This Domain Is Registered with Network Solutions
A small but important change.
New searches do not seem to be reserved at all. This would have been a major problem had it continued, especially since NetSol charges many times over the going rate for domain registrations. If I am correct and this practice has been stopped, it is a positive sign that large companies will be kept in line.
My online experience is starting to be filled with too many uncertainties and inconsistencies. That is the sort of thing I might expect from interpersonal relationships, but computers are supposed to behave in a predictable manner, right? Lately getting a computer to behave like I would expect has made my alternate experiences with personalities, politics and egos seem like a sort of escape.
The uncertainties I refer to may actually have a bit of the human element added in. Mostly I am thinking something like: If I send this email, will anybody ever read it? It all depends on what the person who makes the decisions for that particular email account has decided to allow. I can increase my chances by doing a few things, and occasionally a hint will be thrown my way, but largely it is only hit or miss. Uncertainties.
Inconsistencies are anybody's guess. At the moment I am trying to predict the cost of sending a package through the U.S.Mail, and let me tell ya they are not helping. Sometimes I get a highball figure, sometimes it is even doubled, and other times I get a bargain indeed. I could do as well using a random number generator. I can't really say how I will deal with that.
On a side note, I am listening to the Goo Goo Dolls doing a cover of an old Supertramp standard. You kids don't know what you are missing.
It was a day off without the 'Net. I had been having some problems with dialup but today it went away and refused to come back. I called support after trying a few times on two computers. The first tech I talked to told me my modem drivers were outdated. I mentioned that Ubuntu is only four months old and has all the latest everything but he was not impressed, even after I told him it was a form of Linux, ya know, not Windows? The second told me to remove one of my Internet protocols, and the third gave me an alternate number to dial that did not work at all. I called the tech here in town and followed his suggestion to call the phone company; they were aware of the problem and were already working on it. I was able to dial up again early in the evening.