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This 118 message thread spans 4 pages: 118 ( [1] 2 3 4 > >     
A question of spam
When is spam not spam?

 11:32 am on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Recently I emailed a webmaster with a proposition.
A one off email.

He emailed me back with aggressive threats of what he does to spammers and who he was going to report me to and what the consequences would be.

We are both UK businesses, I clicked on his email link. It was a simple honest business proposition, not a sales letter.

My argument is that if you don't want people to email you, don't have a link.

Surely every email you receive from your site is 'unsolicited'? ... or are you soliciting emails by placing a link.

My question is did I 'spam' or is his interpretation of 'spamming' slightly distorted?



 11:44 am on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

No you didn't spam, but he may (wrongfully) take the hardline that anyone who contacts him for any reason other than what he placed his e:mail address online for, then he may think you did.

In other words, if he sells widgets and expects to receive only messages pertaining to the widgets he sells, then I think his concept of spam is more than slightly distorted ... yes.

Having said that, if you wrote to him about buying your used car at a great price, then yes ... you did send spam even if it was a one off message.

Some people define spam as anything unwanted. I define spam as anything I receive which is both unwanted and off topic to my web site. I have a wider definition of spam, but it is still quite limited. Unwanted is unwanted.


 11:52 am on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Due to the very large amount of spam I receive, my spam definition is anything I didn't ask for. I consider every single un-requested email unreliable. In times past, I would have welcomed a business proposition via email but now a phone call is the only way to get through to me.

Our companies disregard all email solicitation. Whether you call it spam or not is not so important IMO but rather did you reach the eye of the intended recipient? In your case Peewhy, you just made recipient upset, that didn't work the way you wanted and needed.

Email is not a useful method to solicit business from our organization because it doesn't reach anyone so hence does not work. If you are serious make a phone call, emails won't see the light of day. IMHO


 2:08 pm on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I wonder how these type of 'shoot from the hip' recipents deal with standard printed junk mail..probably beat up the postman!

I accept that perhaps the email recipient may not have been the person to whom the email should have landed and if that is the case, the person should be fired for acting in a manner that discredits the owner's business and I certainly would never buy any from that company based on the way they deal with enquiries.

I originally telephoned but the receptionist refused to give me the owners name, or indeed put me through and suggested I put anything I had to offer in writing.

This, I would have thought rendered it 'solicited'.

Because there is no hard definition of 'spam' it almost falls into the hands of the 'witch hunter general' to judge the crime.

Spam to me is unsolicited bulk email and I firmly believe that if you or I place an email link, we are soliciting emails.

I firmly disagree with the rubbish that does block our boxes from pedlars of filth and drugs but feel we need to define genuine related business from spam.

[edited by: peewhy at 2:24 pm (utc) on April 9, 2005]


 2:19 pm on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

>>I wonder how these type of 'shoot from the hip' recipents deal with standard printed junk mail...

Honestly, printed junk mail gets filtered too, most never gets past the mail box. Mail like credit card offers, loans and mortgages, tele companies etc. never get opened and are trashed without routing. Sorry man, too much wasted time for a possible diamond in the rough.


 2:38 pm on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I always liked junk mail with post-paid return envelopes.

I saved up a bunch of them. Once I had a 'reserve' of PP envelopes,
and lots of free time, I could something positive for direct
mail advertising.

I put each NEW pitch into whichever OLD envelope best fit the materials.

This way, all the marketers could see the work of the others,
and maybe improve their techniques.

Its the least I could do, and somebody else paid the postage. -LH


 2:40 pm on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

>>I firmly believe that if you or I place an email link, we are soliciting emails.

I don't think so and either do the Courts. The No Call lists (in US) are evidince of this... The fact my phone number is public, does not give the open access rights you seem to think are yours.


 3:37 pm on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

We, the UK don't have such laws.

We have opt out junk mail clauses and similar with cold calling. In fact we're about to get tough on door knocking cold callers but the new UK/Euro email allows for business to business communication.


 5:40 pm on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

An email should be considered spam if it is unsolicited.
Publishing your email address is irrelevent to unsolicited mail.

If your site sells red widgets and somebody emails you to ask how much postage is on said widget then you have, by definition, solicited such types of mail.

If however somebody emails you to ask if you will link to their blue widget site then that is unsolicited and therefore spam (pre-supposing no offers of link exchanges etc on site)

Lord Majestic

 5:42 pm on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

We are both UK businesses, I clicked on his email link. It was a simple honest business proposition, not a sales letter.

UK Data Protection laws allow for unsolicited emails sent to business email addresses.


 6:51 pm on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

lord Majestic's statement is correct.

Thus, does that make a business proposition (and it wasn't a link exchange) from UK to UK spam?


 7:09 pm on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Mail like credit card offers, loans and mortgages, tele companies etc. never get opened and are trashed without routing.

I'll laugh when you throw away a check that looks like junk mail as my Costco annual 2% rebate check came looking like an ad and almost hit the circular file.

The offers for credit cards, loans, etc. go in the shredder, nothing left for the ID theif to rummage from the trash. Paranoid maybe, but I've seen people dumpster diving in the area and you have no clue what they are after.

Back to the main topic, I've had a single one-off email get a wacko response like that and I wrote back to him that I hoped he didn't reply like that to everyone that wrote him a single one-off email or he wouldn't have very many customers with that kind of business manner. I've also had people sign up for opt-in mail lists that wig out when they forget they signed up.

Heck, some idiot left me a message on my phone the other day inquiring about information for my web site and when I hit "redial" to call him right back it was the same person and he screamed "WRONG NUMBER" and slammed the phone down.

The short answer is:

People are CRAZY.

Lord Majestic

 7:12 pm on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thus, does that make a business proposition (and it wasn't a link exchange) from UK to UK spam?

Yes, legally its not spam in the UK if you emailed to work (not personal) email address, I suppose if you were lead to believe that an email from website is work related then you will be okay too.

Here is more information on the matter from Official UK body that deals with issues like this:



 7:28 pm on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thanks for link Lord_Majestic I'll take a look at that.

I suppose as an afterthought the person that got my message could have got the usual willy enlargement, viagra, get ordained, become a cop, cheap software and copied me with the same threat ... maybe.

It could have been a customer enquiry.

I too have almost binned a cheque from the States because it was a computer generated commission check in dollars, unlike our UK counterparts...and it was for over $500!

I was fairly sure that my email wasn't 'spam' and still feel that it is a term grossly over-used and generally mis-used.


 10:34 pm on Apr 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Clearly the guy is an idiot.... the last thing you should ever do is reply to spam since it confirms the address is live.

Also, a single email is not spam - it may be unwanted, unsolicited, etc. but it is not spam. Neverthless, a single email can easily be mistaken for spam if it is impersonal and invites you to buy something dodgy, etc.



 1:32 am on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Jon_King, If you don't want to get e-mail from your site visitors, why do you have an e-mail address on your site? If you had a contact form, would you consider it spam if people used that, too? In fact, you've now mentioned e-mail, phone, and mail as ways that folks don't have a right (apparently) to contact you. How, then, do you communicate with your customers/associates/friends/others?

This is honestly not sarcasm, a flame, or a question with a barb on the end; it's a serious question. But if I may indulge in a bit of good-natured sarcasm, do your customers have a right to buy items from your public catalog? ;)


 8:16 am on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

MathewHSE raises a vaild point, I mentioned earlier that it is my belief that a one off email is not spam.

The term unsolicited is totally rubbish because the first email to anyone, anywhere is unsolicited. The inland revenue constantly send me unsolicited threats.

If you place an email link, it is a request, you are soliciting emails. Spam is vile and should be killed off but too many use the word for something they don't like.


 8:53 am on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

The term unsolicited is totally rubbish because the first email to anyone, anywhere is unsolicited


Also, mention has been made of the legal position, just because it may not be illegal does not mean it is not spam.

By publishing your email address you are only 'soliciting' for mail in re the confines of the site or stated aims.
i.e. For technical problems contact webmaster@redwidgets
You are not soliciting for link exchanges, viagra or stock options etc
But if your site does not work with firefox it is OK for a 1000 people a day to email you and tell you so


 9:10 am on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Sorry I didn't understand the corealtion with Firefox.

I keep underlining the fact that viagra etc are clearly spam and the senders should be clamped in irons.

Equally I accept that if the link says 'support' there is little or no point sending a proposition. (please refer to the first post)

I don't think the majority of 'spam accusers' know the real definition of 'spam' and as I have said before ...if they don't like it, it must be spam.


 9:47 am on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

You cannot break spam down to individual topics or genres. This is why the term unsolicited is crucial (and also very clear)

Nothing is gained by offering a personal opinion on a type of email as opinions vary.
If somebody wants to buy Viagra then he may welcome an email offering him the chance buy buy some.

If you want link exchanges, once again, you may welcome such emails.
The only way to define it, in an overall sense, is unsolicited email is technically spam.


 10:10 am on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

My email was a genuine product related proposition, not a link exchange request and certainly not viagra or any other form of mass spamming.

I'm concerned that people feel spamming is spamming.
Last week an individual in Virginia (US) was sentanced to 9 years in prison for sending out 10 million emails per day.

I send one email to a site that I had actually visited. One that I had searched for in relation to my proposition. A perfectly respectful genuine business proposition.

Should my crime be hard labour, nine years or death row?

Spam isn't spam isn't spam.

In a real world, had the site owner received my email as opposed to his junior webmaster, we probably would be enjoying a perfectly good business relationship and the owner would never have dreamed of calling my email spam.

One man's nectar is another man's poison.

Do you really believe that the criminals who send viagra emails research to find perfectly targeted individuals who need their drugs? This is earth calling ...


 10:25 am on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

My email was a genuine product related proposition

Was there any implication on his site that he solicits such propositions?
If there is, either actual or implied, then it is not spam. If there is no such implication then it is.

People think of spam in terms of an individual sending huge numbers of emails but..
The internet is so big that a 1000 people sending 1 email has the same effect of 1 person sending a 1000.

One of my sites is in an area with some 10 million others what if just 1% of them wanted to contact me with what they deem a genuine proposal?
If you solicit, either directly or by implication, for such advances then you have to live with it, if not then it is spam.

Got to go now, cheers


 10:46 am on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

That argument cuts both ways.

You joined the world wide web. By its very nature it is a network and businesses will network because that's what makes the money go round.

A genuine business to business email is a far cry from a mass mail viagra spam.

If you don't want business propositions, don't be in business. It's the nature of the beast.

Let's take a scenario, my uncle owned a bookshop and he left it to me, he has a thousand books that I'm happy to give to a local bookshop and whiz off an email to that effect.

Have I just spammed. Forget the word 'technically' ..is that spam?


 12:16 pm on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

If you don't want business propositions, don't be in business. It's the nature of the beast.

If you don't want your unsolicited emails to be rejected as spam then don't send unsolicited emails... it's the nature of the beast.

My business is not to keep your business in business.



 1:13 pm on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

All first time emails are unsolicited.

If I had didn't believe that my proposition wasn't of mutual benefit I wouldn't have sent it. If you care to read the threads you will note that it was a one off business proposition from one UK Business to another.

I carefully searched to find that particular business because I genuinely believed it was a proposition that would benefit the owner. As far from spam as anyone can imagine.

The idiot that sent the threat back should have been fired.
People should not be allowed to vet emails until they have grown-up.

In respect to you and your business, and I mean this with respect, I probably would never had approached you in a million years.

Business propositions are a natural way to keep the world economy growing, its the basic rule...network. The World Wide Web is a network.

I wonder how many 'spam accusers' have sent off rec link requests ... and mine wasn't.


 1:28 pm on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

If you place an email link, it is a request, you are soliciting emails.

As I said in my first reply, I don't think what you did was spam. But it would appear you don't feel other people have the right to tell you off if they think what you did was send a spam e:mail. He went off the deepend with his response ... but you appear to be doing the same.

Let it go, you have your opinion and other people have theirs! I happen to believe that by placing an e:mail link on my website ... in and of itself does not solicit e:mails from anyone other than potential clients inquiring about the products I sell.

My opinion ... so shoot me!


 1:41 pm on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)


It isn't a case of not accepting people 'telling me off'.

My point is that there is no real rule or official take on what is spam. People have different views.

I think it is incredible that some feel my email was spam and they are entitled to an opinion, as you say that particular one went off at the deepend....but many feel activity such as sending off link requests isn't spam.

We are in danger of becoming hypocritical because of this fine line.

Spam to me is sending mass emails soliciting lewd, rude and crude services.

A simple helpful one off business proposition isn't. To condone threats by return is hardly 'nature of the beast'.

Lord Majestic

 1:46 pm on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I am anti-spam as much as the next guy, but it gotten out of hand when it is not possible to handwrite an email to people who published their own email in Contact Us sections. If you don't want to receive emails from people other than people you contacted then don't post your email in contact us section.

In the UK the law is very clear on this -- unsolicited electronic communications to business addresses are just fine. Anyone who publishes email on their website under Contact Us section that invites people to contact should expect to get a message from someone they don't know.


 2:07 pm on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Very well said, Lord Majestic.

By placing an e-mail address on your site, you are inviting any non-automated, deliberate and individual e-mail as long as there's a legitimate tie-in to your site (unless your e-mail link is clearly labelled "support," "orders," etc.). If you just throw your e-mail address into your site footer with no explanation or anything, what do you expect people to use it for? Perhaps to admire how pretty that particular combination of letters looks? ;)

I get a lot of link requests via my contact form. They're obviously copied-and-pasted and not what you'd call "individualized." But they're not automated, either. I don't respond to these, yet I don't consider them spam. I have a link for "Contact," and that's what those folks have done.


 2:10 pm on Apr 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

My business is not to keep your business in business.

I think this defines best why some webmasters easily define emails as spam.

I have a business for 13 years now (not related to the internet), and I have never had any problems to contact other businesses with business proposals questions etc. In normal world this is called networking and it is vital for long term success. It can give you quality leads or even direct revenue. In normal life, many businesses are there to keep others in business.

For companies on the web however, internet is not only a communication channel comparable with the telephone, but it is also the competing ground. Webmasters using the internet as primary part of their business model--either for selling, promotion or whatever--will easily see mails from competitors as frigtening. With internet business it is far more easy to run a large business on your own than in normal world, so networking is less important.

I think that is why companies on the web sometimes define an email which contains an "honest business proposal" in normal world, as SPAM instead.

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