How Not to Respond to Public Spam Allegations

I admit it. I'm loud. I have opinions. And I'm not shy about sharing them.

Sometimes, I highlight bad actions taken by bad actors. I also highlight bad choices made by good guys. Sometimes people spam out of malice, but certainly, sometimes people spam out of ignorance. Sometimes companies have a long history of bad practices, or a long history of combative relationships with anti-spam groups and ISPs. Sometimes people are just new to email marketing. Sometimes there's even a language barrier involved that makes somebody sound like they're promising to keep spamming, when that's not really what they mean. Sometimes a company has an overzealous marketing manager that needs to be reigned in (or jettisoned).

Keep in mind that if I post something about a company's actions, I realize that any of these things are possibilities. I'm highlighting what I observed; that a company spammed me or my friends. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet, whenever I highlight that I receive spam from a company,  invariably, somebody reaches out to me, directly, or indirectly, wanting to tell me a story about it. I am not really interested in those stories. There is too much spam and too many stories; I just don't have time to listen to them all.

Here's a few examples of the kind of stories people want to tell me. To save some time, let's consider this a FAQ and if you want to tell me a story about your spam problem that I highlighted, I'll just point you here, and everybody involved can save the time and use it for something more constructive.

Q: They're not bad guys, if you only knew them…
A: OK. I agree that they're probably not bad guys. I wasn't telling the world that they're bad guys. I was telling the world that I received spam from them. If Jesus and Santa Claus formed a limited-liability partnership to send me spam, I would be noting (publicly) that Jesus and Santa Claus sent me spam. It might even be friendly spam filled with pictures of puppies and kittens. It's still mail that I didn't ask for.

Q: We just need some help understanding the rules.
A: Great people like Laura Atkins and Mickey Chandler are available to consult for you on what the rules are. Start with this rule: Don't add somebody to your list unless they ask to be added. Beyond that, I don't have the time or inclination to consult for you. It's nothing personal; I'm just too busy.

Q: Here's my phone number, can you give me a call ASAP so we can discuss?
A: No. Everybody who does this wants to tell me that the person who sent the spam is really a good guy and they just need help understanding the rules. I'm already in agreement with you on both of those points, so we really don't have anything to talk about. I would be a very, very rich man if I had a dollar for every time somebody wanted me to take their call so they could explain their business model to me, because they think I WOULD UNDERSTAND, IF THEY COULD JUST EXPLAIN.

Q: But we're not breaking the law…
A: I didn't allege that you're breaking the law. I pointed out that I received a piece of unsolicited mail from you. Depending on the jurisdiction, you probably sent that mail completely in compliance with applicable law. Legality of spam is not the point.

Q: Could you please consider taking down your blog post/tweet/comment?
A: No. I think it accurately reflects what transpired. Everybody gets complaints once in a while. You're not going to die. Instead of trying to hide the evidence, why don't you consider a more productive response? You could respond in the appropriate forum - engage in the appropriate social media dialog with the complainant - explain that you're going to specifically take action X to address the issue.

In a nutshell, just try to fix the issue, tell me you're fixing the issue, and tell me what you're doing to fix the issue. That will make us friends. You don't have to try to get on my side. You don't have to "try to explain." I realize spam happens. But there's only one question I want answered: What are you doing to make sure this spam doesn't happen again?

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