Rich Kulawiec Booted from SPAM-L

The current owner of SPAM-L, a long-time anti-spam discussion mailing list, announced on September 3rd that long-time subscriber Rich Kulawiec's ability to participate in the list has been terminated.

This appeared to be in response to Rich's caustic and threatening comments made to a fellow subscriber, an employee of a company called Marketo. After receiving negative feedback regarding the comments he made to the Marketo employee, he responded with a statement, made publicly to the list, that included the phrase "summary execution." Here is an excerpt from one of his posts on August 24 (emphasis added):

"Morever, I think my remarks were extraordinarily forgiving and magnanimous: as you may recall, I'm on the record advocating the death penalty for spammers, so my *preferred* solution would be the summary execution of every single Marketo employee.  However, in the interest of collegiality, I've generously refrained from asking them to make that happen, and have only asked that they take the basic steps that everyone in civilized societies takes when they're doing something wrong: stop it, admit it, apologize for it, and make it right.  That's a pretty massive concession on my part -- more than collegial, it's damned generous."

Discussion on the list suggested that the list owner felt that this was "the last straw," saying that Rich had seemingly violated the list's rules for collegial behavior on multiple occasions.

What say you, internet community? Were Rich's comments appropriate? Was removal from the list in response appropriate? Personally, I do think that his comments merited this result. A line was crossed; the conversation seemingly turned from a simple disagreement to a potential threat of physical violence. I know that I am not the only person who wondered if that Marketo employee (or other employees) should be concerned for her safety after what could be perceived as a veiled threat.


  1. There's a lot going on here.

    One is that RSK has been on spam-l for at least as long as I have. This post was not really anything out of the ordinary for him. Given that history, I don't actually think RSK was calling for violence against a group of employees nor do I think he would actually act on his statements.

    But much of that belief comes from watching RSK bloviate for years and years. I know it's all smack talk and so it doesn't really bother me.

    Now, when spam-l moved it was touted as a collegial place. No more making "on the lamb" jokes or poking at a certain former New Zealander for having to flee the law in the middle of the night. And, as has become clear, no more over the top rhetoric of the type RSK is known for.

    RSKs statement was, to my mind, definitely uncollegial and warranted a smack from the list moms. They also gave me a bit of a whack for something I said in that thread and while what I said was some of the same type of rhetoric RSK uses, it was over the line.

    I also think that if the statement was made by someone I didn't have a history with I would wonder how serious I should be taking the threats. Given the person the language was directed at was mostly new on the list, there is no history. That person doesn't know this is "just RSK being RSK" or if this is some crazy nutjob with a grudge and a gun.

    RSK, despite being right much of the time, pushes the limits of polite company. His attitude has had him in and out of my filters for years. I put him in, he says something useful, I take him out, he then starts down one of his rants and I get tired of it and put him back in. Repeat.

    On one level I'm sad he's gone because he did bring value to the list. On another level, though, I'm not. He was warned, repeatedly, that his behaviour was over the line. It's not like the list owner woke up one day and tossed him off on a flimsy pretext.

  2. The anti-spam community HAS TO turn its back on the assholes and idiots who make us all look bad by heaping abuse on the few marketers and deliverabilitators willing to engage in civil discourse, just as the email marketing community HAS TO publicly shun ill-conceived outlier ideas like suing ISPs who won't put their mail at the top of every user's inbox.

    Otherwise, there'll never be any trust between the various parties.

  3. Laura: Absolutely right. But when people regard said New Zealander as some sort of grey-beard expert to who respect should be shown, it is always just to ensure they have context the pontificator in question. I should note his behaviour has improved markedly since the change.

    As to RSK, good riddance. He can continue to contribute to blacklist discussion lists with his data without having a soapbox to publicly perform his primal scream therapy to an audience.
    Jd; yUP! I'd really like to see people who work at ESPs take umbrage with others in the community who are weeing in the well water.

  4. Thanks for reporting on this situation, Al. I also thank all the many SPAM-L members who have privately emailed me supportive words.

    While I am fairly new to the SPAM-L list, I am not new to the antispam world. I expect disagreement on the internet, and I appreciate the collegiality with which it is generally handled on SPAM-L.

    I have been and continue to participate in the SPAM-L forum because I believe that the solution to the spam problem requires discussion of all the stakeholders in email. Getting marketers involved in antiabuse discussions is critical, and I'm happy to be a member of SPAM-L as a means of furthering this goal.


Comments policy: Al is always right. Kidding, mostly. Be polite, and you're welcome to join in, even if it's a differing viewpoint.