What Should I Allow You to Say?

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If you read my last entry (which you did not, or I would have more comments), you read my closing statement that said that I would allow all (clean) comments on my blog.  Originally I had planned to say that any comment would be allowed, but I had visions of profanity and innuendo being posted for all the world to see for eternity, so I retracted my original statement in favor of its more conservative alternative.

But the whole experience started a train of thought over the weekend (which means that I thought about it when I had five minutes of free time, not often).  Thanks to Dr. Jerz, I now know about the joys of trolls and their disemvoweled martyrs.  The idea of Firefox's YouTube Snob, however was new to me, so I decided to do a little more research on the subject.

There was surprisingly little information regarding the subject of comment filters; I had expected there to be more on the YouTube Snob than the latest update for the application.  As I discovered from Andrew Sullivan though, comment filters are notoriously unreliable.  Apparently the smallest implication of profanity or, and this surprised me, a URL causes the filter to flip out.  I should have known, because of Dr. Jerz's explanation of the captchas from earlier in the year.

The problem that I am having is that I have no experience commenting on anything outside the context of this class, so I consequentially have no experience with comment filters.  I have very little experience with spam e-mails.  The whole issue regarding unwanted and excessive messages seems to be covered up quite heavily on Google.  To makes things more complicated a search for the word "spam" does not distinguish between the internet phenomenon and the food, as I discovered, but both have quite helpful websites.  For instance, did you know that spam (the food) is made with chopped pork shoulder meat with ham meat added, and has only 170 calories per serving.

In all seriousness, the size and scope of the internet can be mind boggling.  Top Ten Reviews says that 12.4 billion spam e-mails a day - two years ago.  That meant that the average person received 6 spam e-mails a day or 2,200 a year at a cost of $255 million dollars to non-corporation internet users, and the amount of spam was supposed to climb 63% in 2007.

Or you can look at things from Robert Soloway's point of view: he was arrested for sending, self-admittedly, billions of spam e-mails.  I only say this because he was featured on the Today Show, and it shows just how rich the 'spammers' are becoming.

As a whole, not just on the toppic of spamming, I never understood the other, darker side of the internet before I took this course.  I would never have thought that things could get so out of hand on some websites that they would remove any trace of URLs, or that people could make millions illegally just by sending e-mails.  But I think that the lesson we can take away from these internet horror stories is to take the advice of Jon Postel and conservatively give away information of any kind, while consuming as much information from the internet as is healthy for a person to do so.

As for the things that I noticed particularly about comment blockers and spamming, there is this to say: don't do it, please.  It just ruins the internet for everyone.  It think the Sullivan article opened my eyes the most because it shows how little free speach everyone has after a small group of people overstep their bounds.  Making a simple mistake like putting a space in the middle of the word 'planet' or organizing your words in a way that puts three simple letters together will tear your comment to shreds.  Spamming is no different; you can put the spam blocker on, but it will also block those e-mails that are useful (or necessary to college students) that are sent to a group of people.

So perhaps we should add another clause to Postel's Law: if you overstep the bounds of releasing conservative information, you will affect the most simple (or simplest, I'm not sure which is proper) task of everyday users in ways you cannot imagine.

Thank you for listening to my ravings; you may now return to a more reputable site.



Anne Williams said:

I feel you on the spam blocking. I, as well, never actually delt with any spam before and wasn't quite sure what it entailed until i saw some of your links. And your right about spam blockers sometimes blocking emails that are important and not considered to us as "spam". How does the computer know what is spam and what isn't? Does it just block what is unrecognizable?

Jed Fetterman said:

In my experience, the computer will tag an
e-mail as "spam" if there are multiple users that a message is being sent to. I don't think that it would tag a message with two people who are receiving the message, but I do think that if it was sent to our whole EL236 class, it would be marked with spam. I do not know if our accounts do it here, but Outlook Express, which I have an account on at home, will mark a message as Spam if there are more than five people on it. I think that that is aboult all I am qualified to say on the issue.

Alex Hull said:

I chose the same topic as you to write about but I selected an entirely different angle. I really enjoyed reading your blog. While there are a few grammatical errors here and there (I'm an English major, but I'm guilty of it myself, so I'm not condemning), your writing is rich with wit and good points. Keep it up.

I had no idea that spam blockers went so far as to block something with more than five receipients. That's a bit more than a bit outrageous.

I agree with your point that spamming and comment blocking can ruin the internet for many people. Spamming has no good end to it. On the other hand, comment blocking has a good purpose but there are many things blocked that have good value in them. Where are our rights to comment when any comment can be blocked for incorrect spelling or a small use of profanity? The idea is there but not all the kinks are worked out yet.

Jed Fetterman said:

I would have agreed with you about the comment blockers before I read the sullivan article. It shows the troubles that ordinary people are facing just trying to post their ideas on the internet. H o w w o u l d y o u f e e l t y p i n g a c o m m e n t l i k e t h i s?

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