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Milestones in the Annals of Junkmail 242

Posted by timothy
from the your-royal-highness-you-are-getting-a-dell dept.
fdc writes: "Web pages are a great source of postal addresses for direct mailers. Judging by some of the addresses we've seen recently, it's evident that the data is harvested not by humans, but by computer programs that scan web pages for names and addresses. Several weeks ago we (the Kermit Project at Columbia University) announced a new release of our Kermit 95 communication software for Windows -- SSH, secure FTP, etc; cousin of C-Kermit for Unix (search Freshmeat). Since this was a major release, we chose a new icon for it: the Columbia crown. A web page explained that this is the emblem of Columbia University: the crown of King George the II of England (1727-1760), who founded Columbia in 1754. JUST ONE WEEK LATER guess who received a postcard from Dell."
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Milestones in the Annals of Junkmail

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  • whew (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by r00tarded (553054)
    so my cat fluffy *didnt* order those dells. whew!
    • by dknj (441802)
      Lets see, a poster copies a website word for word and they get a front page post. I copy a review word for word and get modded down.

      -dk
  • just doesn't have the same ring to it.
  • Dude... (Score:5, Funny)

    by InterruptDescriptorT (531083) on Sunday July 07, 2002 @04:57PM (#3838141) Homepage
    Thou art getting a Dell!

    ---
    I'm tired of waltzing for pancakes. -- Gwen Mezzrow
  • Was this about Kermit or Junkmail?

  • maybe now people will instead of type their address write it in ascii code or something like somebody(at)something.com instead of somebody@something.com to fool the bots.
    • Re:new techinques (Score:3, Insightful)

      by scott1853 (194884)
      It would be very easy to interpret such simple encoding with a bot. I would think that such bots already exist that filter not only that but removing NOSPAM from e-mail addresses which seems to be another popular attempt at keeping a public e-mail address semi-private.
      • where they can't even interpret the coding to do page widening...hence the second part of my sig...
      • Re:new techinques (Score:2, Informative)

        by fdc (587295)
        No, the point was that postal addresses (not email) addresses were being picked up, and in a fairly sophisticated manner. I believe the Web page in question is http://www.columbia.edu/kermit/k95.html [columbia.edu] which contains our postal address (near the bottom) and also mentions King George II (near the top). The address harvester recognized the postal address (no big accomplishment) but also picked out "King George II" as a name. Which I suppose it could be!
      • I would think that such bots already exist that filter not only that but removing NOSPAM from e-mail addresses

        That's why my next email address will actually be something like "myname.NOSPAM@whatever.com". Somehow we must continue to prove that we're smarter than the machines! ha ha
    • Oh geez...the owner of somebody@something.com is gonna be pissed!

      Kickstart
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Forsooth Royal Dude, you're getting a ye olde Dell!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    But that's what I always write when asked. Poor dudes at the postal services.
  • You should be glad that AI has come this far. For an intelligent agent to be able to harvest addresses by clicking through web pages, and then mailing out postcards is truly an advancement of the technology.

    Remember, there are good points to everything, even things like this which under normal circumstances could be described as "alienating our rights."
  • by Gorobei (127755) on Sunday July 07, 2002 @05:02PM (#3838162)
    There are no clear King George + address on the web-page. This just looks like a prank database addition by someone at Dell on a slow day (probably a Kermit user, tho.)
  • Ask Dell about it... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FurryFeet (562847) <joudanx.yahoo@com> on Sunday July 07, 2002 @05:02PM (#3838164)
    Really, contact Dell and ask for an explanation. I think we'd all love to hear what kind of lame excuse they try to come up with in order to avoid admitting that they harvest spammable addreses from the net :)
    • Seriously, I think he makes an excellent point. I'd *love* to hear them try to explain this one away with their cooperate-speak. They'll prolly try to sell it off an as honest mistake, that the guy responsible has been summarily punished, etc etc.
    • Companies like Dell don't harvest addressess. They deal with direct marketing companies who either do the harvesting, or who buy large lists from email addressess from companies who swear up and down that they lists contain only people who asked to recieve information about this sort of thing (whatever this sort of thing may be).
      • Well then (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Let's definitely contact Dell in that case, then. Don't you think they'd be very interested to learn that the marketing firm they were buying their address lists from populates their database with information that is largely completely inaccurate?
      • by jelle (14827) on Sunday July 07, 2002 @06:10PM (#3838435) Homepage
        "Companies like Dell don't harvest addressess. They deal with direct marketing companies"

        Hiring a marketing company to do some work in your name makes you liable for whatever they do in your name.

      • Companies like Dell don't harvest addressess. They deal with direct marketing companies who either do the harvesting, ...

        Actually, nobody involved here did any "harvesting" of any addresses. "Harvesting" implies that they did something to earn their list of addresses, something akin to sowing and nurturing a field of crops. They did nothing of the sort.

        A better term for such behavior would be something like "scraped" or "dredged", something more appropriately descriptive of the indiscriminate collecting of addresses on a large scale. It's a change in usage that I would like to see happen. "Harvested" seems to have become something of a de facto standard term for the practice, unfortunately.

        There is a place for "harvested" in describing a list of addresses. This would be an appropriate term for a list of addresses built up by (confirmed) opt-in, i.e. everyone on the list knowingly consented to be on that list, for whatever the purpose of that list is.

        However, unlike agricultural harvests, a harvested list cannot be sold or given away. The moment it is transferred to someone other than the harvester, it's junk, it's garbage; it's beyond useless, in fact, as it would be counter-productive if ever used.
      • Mafia bosses don't kill people, they just hire assassins who do the killing for them.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      It may require a bit of looking around. I used to work for the company that actually ran Dellhost...not just the servers, but also the technical support side. At that time (2001) The only relationship between Dell and Dellhost is the name and the fact that they actually used Dell servers (or so they claimed.) Otherwise, Dellhost is run by a completely different operation (and not a very good one either, but i may have a bit of angst against a former employer. :-)

      • It may require a bit of looking around. I used to work for the company that actually ran Dellhost...not just the servers, but also the technical support side. At that time (2001) The only relationship between Dell and Dellhost is the name and the fact that they actually used Dell servers (or so they claimed.) Otherwise, Dellhost is run by a completely different operation (and not a very good one either, but i may have a bit of angst against a former employer. :-)

        Yes, they did actually use Dell servers. I also worked for Interliant briefly, but not in the DellHost division (though I did support the DellHost teams). And you're right, it wasn't all that great of a company to work for. The pay was above average at first, but then the organization took a serious downhill slide and starting laying off most of the employees that they had acquired in mergers. Fortunately I got out before they popped. It wouldn't suprise me that they tried to solicit business from King George II.
  • Why would direct mail companies choose to use automated programs like this?

    Let's look at what these programs give you:

    1. A ton of results.

    2. 80%(and probably a whole lot more, I'm just being conservative) of those results are probably false due to all those AOL member pages that haven't been updated in years, people who put up fake info, info that is out of date, etc.

    Wouldn't this be bad for the direct mail companies? Clients that hire them want to reach as many real people as possible. The direct mail companies that use the methods mentioned in this story can never provide their clients with what they want, the ability to reach real consumers.

    The Direct mail companies probably know this and either, are planning on changing it or don't care and are just interested in spamming as many people, real or not, as possible.

    Direct mail companies interested in doing what they promise should think about the way they collect information in order to provide better service if they are a real company not just looking to spam everyone alive, or dead in this case.
  • are incompatible...

    Dude, [userfriendly.org] you're going to hell!
  • by SeanTobin (138474) <byrdhuntr AT hotmail DOT com> on Sunday July 07, 2002 @05:18PM (#3838238)
    I would just love to throw out a page with addresses like:

    Zephram Cochrane
    c/o Phoenix Research Institute
    186000 Miles Avenue
    Central, Montana 01701

    Seven Nine
    2349 Tendara Street
    Unimatrix, CA 79301

    John Kelly
    2032 Gravaton Ave.
    Mars, NC 02376

    Tobin Dax
    2135 Bajor Parkway
    Symbiant, UT 02230
  • Spam ... (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by halftrack (454203)
    What an intuitive way to get spam published on slashdot.
  • by Snowgen (586732)
    Isn't it a Federal felony to read the post card if you're not King Geoge? Never mind scanning and posting someone else's mail on the web without their permission! :)
    • I think the mail fraud laws say that you aren't allowed to open the mail of others.

      I don't think they say anything about reading it, which would explain why credit statements are often sent in security envelopes.
    • Actually no. Receiving mail under a pseudonym is not illegal. The assumption is that unless you are a tennant of the address you cannot open the mail [unless the company has some policy, e.g. registered mail].

      I mean I can subscribe to Maxim as "Joe Dirt" .... :-)

      Tom
  • I sent this letter to the kermit project address. Maybe someone here can answer it for me:

    --Begin--

    Computers are stupid and would not be able to aggregate a name on one page to a snailmail address on another without human help, yet I can't find where King George and this address were listed near each other. Any ideas from which page this name and address were gleaned?

    thx :)
    very funny otherwise
  • I was once asked if I could put Charlie Root
    on the line. The person had aparently recieved
    some email from him. This is the default real
    name for the root user on FreeBSD.

    l8r
    Aaron
  • Because that is all that fool Geordie could read.

    Stands Scotland where it did?

    If you don't get it read up some history.
  • ahahahahahahahaha ... that's the funniest thing i've seen in a long time.
  • Use raster data for your contact information, and where it can't be done (like for DNS entries) use sites like myprivacy.ca .
  • Occams Razor (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KFury (19522) on Sunday July 07, 2002 @05:48PM (#3838354) Homepage
    It seems much more likely that someone on the team was registering for something somewhere and, wanding to avoid stupid spam, put in the clever King persona instead.

    Promptly forgotten, it was a surprise when Dell, seemingly unrelated to the registration account, sends email to that profile.

    More than likely someone on your team remembers it now, but finds the alternative 'harvesting' explanation so funny he's keeping quiet.
    • Re:Occams Razor (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KFury (19522)
      'sends email to that profile'

      Err, snail mail, rather.

      And it might not have been someone on your team at all. People use false data for setting up accounts all the time. Maybe they just thought this would be funny.

      Heck, they were apparently right.
  • joke (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Patrick13 (223909) on Sunday July 07, 2002 @05:56PM (#3838380) Homepage Journal
    I know they really got the card. But I bet someone on the staff filled out a form somewhere and put down King George II as the contact. Looking at the page that they cite, a: doesn't not have their mailing address; b: refers to George II, not King George II. No machine inferred that this was King George's mailing address. Someone just fluffed a form with dummy info.

    I get mail addressed to "Ramon Mamon de la Chiflada" (you have to speak Spanish to get it) because my son wanted to be a member of "Cheeto town" [cheetos.com.mx], and I didn't want him to be on a mailing list for the rest of his life.
    • I don't speak Spanish, but I googled Spanishdict.com :-P

      Funny.
    • See this [slashdot.org].
    • I get mail addressed to "Ramon Mamon de la Chiflada" (you have to speak Spanish to get it) because my son wanted to be a member of "Cheeto town" [cheetos.com.mx], and I didn't want him to be on a mailing list for the rest of his life.

      Yes, but it sounds like your son has bigger problems... Cheeto Town ?

      • Yes, but it sounds like your son has bigger problems... Cheeto Town ?

        come on, he's 3 and he got some free stickers, a cheeto town passport, and a little game in the mail.

        Don't get jealous because you have to live in Mexico to get it. ;p

  • many moons ago i created a ficticious organization whereby i could register .orgs. the organization name was "The Organization for Sarcasm and Satire (T.O.S.S.)" and you wouldn't believe the mail i got, including free samples of pens & stationary with my 'company name' emblazoned on it.

    the best was probably getting a phone call telling me that i could receive (for a nominal fee) a copy of the dunn & bradstreet report about my company. the poor telemarketer didn't seem to understand that if i paid $49.99 for that report, my 'business' would immediately be $49.99 in the red...

  • ...of some fun I had with AOL, where you could fill in a web form and have them send a CD to your house (which is valuable when you're covering your ceiling with them [gregcorp.com]. It wasn't long before Seymore Butts started receiving AOL CDs [gregcorp.com].
  • You dirty colonist rabble with your General Washingham. The Quartering Act stands.
  • by Ryu2 (89645) on Sunday July 07, 2002 @07:44PM (#3838748) Homepage Journal
    For me, postal spam it's not as bad as email, because it doesn't cost you in disk space or bandwidth.
  • by Fat Casper (260409) on Sunday July 07, 2002 @07:53PM (#3838796) Homepage
    Is whether or not ye King gets a pre-approved credit card application. Make sure the bills are sent c/o the office of Exchequer.

  • Here we go:

    The Devil
    1 Microsoft Way
    Redmond, WA 98052


    Jack Fuck-me-in-the-ass Valenti
    MPAA
    15503 Ventura Boulevard
    Encino, CA 91436

    Just to start off with a few.

    • I just put this one up on my website, in an unlinked page:

      Frigginspammer, Ima
      One Dell Way
      MSC8424
      Round Rock, TX 78682

      If Dell picks it up, or anyone else, then they are using a harvester because this page isn't linked from anything.

      There are many possibilities for this type of thing. I keep record of those companies who send me unsolicited ads, like Dell. Just because I give them my email address (because they required it when I ordered something), it doesn't mean they can send me spam. Instead of talking to the brick wall, I just make sure to go sign up for all kinds of newsletters on the web, and use sales@dell.com, or support@dell.com as my email address.

      Kind of a take-off of the old order-20-magazine-subscriptions-and-"bill-me-later " for one of your "friends".

  • He was Hanoverian [britannia.com]....

    Geck, erhalten Sie ein Dell!

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