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Bon Journal


These days it's easier to subscribe than to unsubscribe. With the speed and efficiency of information technology, getting on a mailing list is dead easy. But getting off it is dead hard. Such is the story of Hotel California....(song)

I can almost feel the agitation, frustration, and anger of the unfortunate subscribers trying in vain to unsubscribe. I am a victim of spam, many of which don't even offer the option of "unsubscribe".

Many "unsubscribe" engines respond to an email message with the subject "unsubscribe" and nothing else. By typing a message in the body of the text or embellishing the subject field with anything beyond the mere one word of "unsubscribe," the subscriber is at risk of enraging the unsubscribe engine. This explains the erratic behaviour of some subscribers who send email after email, each sounding more and more desperate and irate.

I wonder if anyone bothers to read the text of unsubscribe requests. It would surely reveal why someone wants to unsubscribe. Instead, the spam engines continue to spew out unwanted email to those desperate to get off the mailing list. It's so much easier to give someone what he doesn't want than to listen to him and figure out what he wants.

Because we have the technology, we exploit it to find the poor victim who would buy our products by hitting as many targets as possible -- never mind whether they want it for not. Like direct mail, it's cheap and furious. Like direct mail, it becomes junk mail. Burdened by unwanted information, the customer retreats into his cave. So the only way to find him and lure him out is by the same methods that cave men used. Technology isn't everything, and we shouldn't ignore the message in the "unsubscribe."

21 March 2002 Thursday