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Message Posted: Thu, 04 Jan 2001 @ 21:37:36 GMT

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Subj:   Re: Is Advertising to List Members SPAM?
From:   Jay Selkie

To start with, I'm sorry that this has spilled-over to the TDATA-L list. Hopefully my response will help you understand my position and the action that I have taken.

The TDATA-L Discussion Group is operated as private list. Anyone can subscribe to the list, but membership to the list is at the discretion of the people who own the list. The list is paid for by the list owners and not a commercial organization. The cost of the list is not a minor issue to us. The TDATA-L list was created based on our ideals and like any ideals, they can be a whim one moment and completely inflexible the next. We try to be even-handed, but we don't promise perfection.

The TDATA-L list is a place where people can discuss problems, share issues, trade gossip or simply complain - but all of it must concern the Teradata product. The only big limit that has been put on the TDATA-L list is that we don't sully ourselves with what we consider to be spam. Spam in broad terms is mail that has been received unsolicited and unwanted - generally of a commercial nature. Our definition of spam was provided by a an anti-spam organization and we think that it pretty much sums-up the situation.

Also considered as spam is the taking of the e-mail addresses of those people who post to the TDATA-L list and then targeting unsolicited commercial e-mail at them. This isn't the case of saying "There's Debbie, I wonder how she's doing in her new job" or "I'll drop Vasco a note to see if he still needs somebody for his team". Instead it's the case where somebody has gone deliberately from TDATA-L posting to TDATA-L posting, extracting the e-mail addresses and then sending those people an unsolicited e-mail saying that "The world is a better place because of me and, for a reasonable fee, I'll spend time with you and make your world a better place also".

From my point of view, a person who does this is somebody who has thrown our good intentions (and ideals) aside and is simply taking names from us for their own commercial benefit. Put yourself in our position: You've created a forum (at a significant cost) that you're willing to share with other people, of like mind and at no cost. You have then promoted the list with your own time and at further expense. Then just as your list is beginning to work as envisioned, somebody starts harvesting your hard work for their own benefit.

That's the situation that we have found ourselves in. We are certain that somebody has gone from TDATA-L posting to TDATA-L posting for the purpose of gathering the e-mail addresses contained therein. They have then used those addresses to send unsolicited spam. In truth, we can't identify the specific person who collected the addresses, but we do know who used them. That resulted in the action that we took.

We aren't happy that it has come to this. Obviously, we wish all people would share our ideals and the spirit of the TDATA-L list. You'll notice that we have given quite a bit of latitude to various postings in the past, so I don't think that we are fanatics. But the TDATA-L Discussion Group is a private forum and we feel completely justified in defending it (even to the point where we have been threatened with litigation - go figure).

I sent the 'Admin Comment' to the list so that the members would know that an offense had occurred and that we enforced our rules. The offending person wasn't mentioned because we didn't want to embarrass them further. Only one other person has ever been removed from the TDATA-L list (also for sending spam) - it's not done lightly.

How do we know that some of the names were taken from the TDATA-L postings? As list owners, we belong to other forums serving list owners. The two most frequent issues are spam and ISP problems. It's pretty common for an ISP like Hotmail to be having problems while all other ISPs are doing fine. It's the normal procedure for list owners to create additional e-mail accounts with different ISPs so that such problems can be monitored and resolved (I call them cross-check or CC IDs).

When I created these CCIDs, I gave them various names. The different names are used so that they can also act as spam buckets. With only a couple of exceptions, the CCIDs are simply lurkers. The couple of exceptions are when I was testing the path from a problem ISP to the TDATA-L server. In those cases, rather simple notes were sent to the TDATA-L list.

At this point, it should be obvious: One (or more) of those CCIDs received the same piece of spam. The previous time that this happened, the archives were switched from public to private and a warning was sent to the TDATA-L list (this occurred on 8/23/00). On the next occurrence, the offender was removed from the list (where the offender was the person who sent the mail to the CCID). There was no extending circumstances, the removal was based solely on spam being sent to a CCID using an address taken without permission from the TDATA- L list. As far as I'm concerned, everything else being offered in way of excuse is just hyperbole.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the CCIDs did not attend Partners. They haven't made any requests for literature. They don't have any friends. They have never been out of my immediate control, I'm the only person who knows who they are. The only place their names have ever appeared is on the TDATA-L list. For spam to be sent to a CCID, somebody took the e-mail address of a CCID posting from the TDATA-L list and used it for the spam.

That is, and will be, cause for removal from the TDATA-L Discussion Group. Period. No appeals. This isn't a popularity contest were everybody gets to vote, it is a privately owned and managed forum with a specific purpose (and Rules of Conduct) as dictated by the list owners. I'm sorry that sounds harsh, but it's to the point. Once again: Before reacting to the words, consider how the TDATA-L list has actually been managed to date.

You might also keep in mind how seldom we have sent membership drives to the TDATA-L list - with only a couple of exceptions, we have played by the same rules that we expect of others. If there were dual standards, don't you think that the list owners would be making more of an effort to recover their investment?

When it comes to spam, and if you hate it like I do, you might consider looking into joining one of the anti-spam organizations (like www.spamcop.net). They aren't a cure, but some progress is being made.

The beta's that have been offered on the TDATA-L list were offered as being free of cost. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's a whole lot different than receiving a note claiming to have a service and a product for sale.

Some of the beta announcements have pushed the boundary of spam more than others. As a result of this flare-up, I'll be making changes to the TDATA-L list over the next month or so. The "Welcome" letter is being re-written and will be re-distributed to the list. There will also be a policy for how beta announcements will be distributed. Until I have a chance to post that policy, please do not distribute any postings about beta's. In the mean time, if you have a beta announcement, please send it to me. I'll see what we can work-out. That's not a promise that it will be posted, but it will be considered.

Again, I'm sorry that this has spilled over to the TDATA-L list. I consider it disruptive and destructive to the list. Thanks for sticking with me this long, but I felt that things weren't going to settle down until I made our position clear. In the future, this kind of thing is a matter for the list owners and should not be distributed to the list. And yes, depending on circumstances, it will be grounds for removal from the TDATA-L list.

Maybe we can all get back to work now.



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