Reply All. Rinse. Repeat.

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I’ve (unfortunately) seen this happen a number of times as a byproduct of dumbasses failing to grasp the fact that desktop email clients aren’t great tools for email marketing, but never before seen it attached to out and out spam.

Rick Klau received a spam message yesterday. Not big news in and of itself, but here’s the twist: the spammer had compromised a mail server, set up his (or her) spam list as subscribers to a mailing list, and then sent the spam as a message to that list…with the reply-to address being the newsletter address.

See where this is going? Every reply to the original spam message then went out to the entire spam list. And then the replies to that reply went out to the entire spam list. And so on, and so on…

Read Rick’s original post for more amusement.

BellSouth Makes an Offer You Can’t Refuse

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The Internet Daily reports that BellSouth has confirmed that it is “pursuing discussions with Internet content companies to levy charges to reliably and speedily deliver their content and services.”

The article notes that “BellSouth has discussed its idea with MovieLink, a film-download service. [Bill Smith, BellSouth CTO] called MovieLink an example of the kind of company that wants customers to have a good experience and would view costs incurred in the strengthening of BellSouth’s Internet capacity as worthwhile.”

Am I the only one who gets an incredibly strong visual when reading that paragraph? Here’s what I see:

A man wearing a snazzy pin striped suit and snap brim hat walks into MovieLink’s offices. The diamond in his pinky ring catches the light as he taps the ash from his cigar onto the carpet of Jim Ramo’s office.

“My name is, ah…Smith,” he says, “and I represent a certain group of legitimate businessmen.”

“You’ve got a nice little business here, Mr. Ramo, and it would be a shame — a real shame, I gotta say — if anything unfortunate were to happen to your business. If, like, it took your customers a week and a day to download your movies, let’s say…I’d be real sorry to see something like that happen.”

Smith stubs his cigar out on Ramo’s desk, and looks off into the disance.

“You’re worried about things like that, am I right? Of course you’re worried about things like that. Your worries, they keep you up at night, right? Now my colleagues are prepared to help you out here. They can make you an offer that will make all those worries disappear — poof — and you’ll be able to sleep like a baby again. Like a baby. You’d have to be crazy to not want to sleep like a baby, am I right?”

Or maybe I’ve just got a very visual mind. Well, whatever…I still fail to see how this is anything other than a protection money shakedown that ends up hurting both online content providers (and pretty much everybody is a content provider online) and BellSouth’s broadband subscribers. Please explain…anyone? (And “yeah, but it totally benefits BellSouth so everbody else can go screw” isn’t really the explanation that I’m looking for.)

Patent Troubles for…um, the USPTO?

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Ah, the beauty of it all: Peter Zura’s excellent Two-Seventy-One Patent blog reports that the USPTO’s initiative to grant fewer asspatents, which is to include use of an automated “patent quality index,” could be heading for some trouble due to…wait for it, now…a patent covering “a computer-automated methon for rating or ranking patents or other intangible assets […]”. Said patent being the property of a patent holding company, of course.

It is indeed reassuring to see how our current patent system helps to “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries”…oh, wait…that wouldn’t seem to be the case here at all. How odd.

Anonymity and Accountability

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Bruce Schneier has an article in Wired News on the important distinction between anonymity and accountability, which meshes well with some issues that I’ve been mulling over about online communities.

Through my wife, I recently learned about UrbanBaby, a child/family resource site focused on a few US metro areas. One of the features that they offer is discussion boards, or course, but those boards are implemented in a really interesting way: registration/login is required to participate, and the discussions are monitored and moderated, but the the individual posts are anonymous.

The result is a fascinatingly vibrant discussion. Because the site operators can see the identity of all posters, anyone who’s abusive may quickly find themselves in a time out — hours, days, or permanent — and the operators have behavior histories at their disposal to see whether nastiness is a one-time thing for a poster or part of a pattern; on the user end of things, though, people seem comfortable asking questions and giving answers that they might be reluctant to post if their identity — even just an online handle — were tied to every post they made.

This combination of anonymity and accountability has, interestingly, made a community that feels much more friendly and personal than most that I’ve seen online: people post the way that they might make a comment into a room full of friends, just to see who responds, not worrying about whether they’ll be judged, or whether their particular clique is there and paying attention.

Interesting model, and one that seems like it could have a lot to offer to some of the more struggling fixed-identity communities on the Web.

Opinions on FeedLounge (or other Web-based RSS readers)?

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So FeedBurner tells me that a number of you feed subscribers out there are using FeedLounge. With the sad demise of SearchFox I’m in the market for a new Web-based RSS reader.

Because I’m still a devotee of FeedDemon (the best RSS reader on the face of the earth), I’m going to take a look at NewsGator Online again for all the exciting synchonization goodness and whatnot, and perhaps see whether Bloglines has made any changes since last I looked; since I’m not at all familiar with FeedLounge, though, I’d be interested in hearing a bit about it from current users.

And as long as we’re talking feed consumption, while I don’t think that any other Web-based readers (or standalone apps, for that matter) currently facilitate the attention-focused “river of news” consumption style that I’ve come to love about SearchFox, it would be great to be proved wrong on that. Please let me know if you’ve got any recommentations.