By the Numbers

Being a numbers guy, I want to share some stats about this blog:

3 years, 1 month: the amount time I’ve been blogging
457: the number of posts
123,300: the number of words written (enough for a decent sized book)
1,272: average number of posts viewed per week (the most was 2,954)
14,718: the number of views of my top read post

Some things I’ve observed:

  • Posts receive most of their traffic within a week of being posted, but some are still being read a year or two later.
  • Most traffic is not a result of followers, subscribers, or newsfeeds, but of search engines.
  • Of traffic in a given week, most is not for recent posts but older posts.
  • Despite all of the traffic, the Google ad to the right generates only a few pennies of income a month. (Google ads are worthwhile on my Websites, but they’ve been a bust on my blogs.)
  • Soon after this blog was setup, I turned off the “track back” feature. Aside from never fully grasping it’s purpose, I was receiving thousands of spam track backs for every legitimate one.
  • Recently, I also turned off the comment section. The ratio of spam comments to real comments has escalated, now being at over 100 to one.

Double Opt-Out

When I receive spam email, I do what most people to; I press delete and move on.

However, there is another type of email, which most people also call spam.  It is the poorly targeted message from a legitimate and viable company.  When I receive these, I respond as a responsible Netizen (a “citizen” of the ‘Net) and attempt to remove myself from their mailing list.  Usually this is by following their unsubscribe link or possibly by replying to their message and asking to be removed.  Most are happy to comply.

Today, when unsubscribing from an unwanted message, I encountered something new.  I would call it a “double opt-out.”

I  unsubscribed as normal, but I wasn’t finished.  I then received a follow-up email message confirming my request to opt-out.  I needed to reply to the message in order to complete my request.  Failing to do so would allow my name to remain in their mailing list.

Some companies use a double opt-in process.  In this case, when a person signs up for an email list, they are sent a confirmation message, to which they must reply in order to complete the sign up process.  Most people, myself included, don’t like the double opt-in process, as it is time consuming and cumbersome.  With double opt-in, there is also a high percentage of people who complete step one, but fail to respond to step two and therefore are not subscribed.

Double opt-out, is even more annoying, as I never wanted the message in the first place.

I suspect that companies that employ double opt-out, do so to comply with the legal requirement for letting people remove their names, but want to make it hard enough that many will be unsuccessful.

Although annoying, double opt-in is viewed by many as the most ethical way of gathering email address.  Conversely, I classify double opt-out as unethical and unacceptable.

More News Than You Can Use

A few months ago, I blogged about the various random press releases that I receive each day. In that post, I committed the faux pas of labeling them all as spam — and was quickly chastised for making a sweeping overstatement that was not entirely correct. In this, I was reminded that spam is in the eye of the beholder. I also realized that just because I wasn’t interested in the press release, didn’t automatically make it spam — or so the argument went.

Regardless of the fallout, sharing the list was fun. So here is another one — all received within the last 48 hours, with the most arriving on Thursday. (Does that mean that Thursday is a good day to email press releases?)  Although many fall into the broad categories of telecommunications and medical, of which my two publications are very small subsets, none of them are close to news that I would publish and several are head-scratching mysteries.

The recent headlines are:

  • Bioethics Backgrounder on Torture Available
  • IPTV World Series Awards winners announced, PCCW and AT&T clinch two each
  • Members of President’s Council on Bioethics Raise Objections to President Obama’s Stem Cell Policy in Bioethics Forum
  • Cypress Communications Receives Phoenix Award
  • FDAnews Announces 6th Annual Medical Device Quality Congress
  • Windermere Exclusive Properties and McMillin Realty Reach Agreement
  • ISO standard for access panels aims to increase effectiveness of market, opinion and social research
  • Emmi + KidsHealth = Prescription for Informed and Involved Patients
  • Vhi Healthcare rolls out Sword Ciboodle for world-class customer service
  • DataCore SANmelody Storage Virtualization Software Wins 2009 Network Computing Award for “Software Product of the Year”
  • Leading NYC Web Development Firm Launches KeywordFriendly.com
  • ISC West to Showcase Latest Security Technology
  • Dialexia Communications Edges Out Competition When Selected By Billerica Public Schools To Power Backend of IP Telephony Services
  • Economy got you down? Use the principles of positive psychology
  • Virtual PBX and Gizmo5 Partner for New Business-Class VoIP service
  • Rutgers University Team Consulting Group Survey for MUTUAL decision
  • Enterprise application developers are integrating backup tools into their applications
  • Enhanced Windows Power Tools Suite Released
  • ProMarketing Inc. Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Harvesting Data From Websites

I’m used to people harvesting contact information from my websites to send me messages, most of which are span. I have a dozen or so sites, with each containing links to many of the others. So it not uncommon for them to harvest an email from one site, jump to the next to harvest a second address, and so forth.  In this manner, I will receive the same spam message multiple times.

Over a year ago, someone harvested information from one of my sites; I think it was findanansweringservice.com. They did a really poor job of it. The attached label humorously shows what they did. While the third, fourth, and fifth lines are correct, the second line is the name of one of the call centers listed on that site — not my company. The first line (the “name” field) lists the two languages spoken at that call center: “English Spanish.” Sometimes the errant communication will be personalized, as in “Dear English Spanish…” or “Mr. English…” They even managed to concoct a bogus address in the form of “english@…” Efforts to unsubscribe or be removed have been unsuccessful.

At first, I was amused by the mistake, but to make matters worse, the bad information has been sold to others, who likewise send me email and mail for which I have no interest. Though the annoying flow has somewhat abated, I continue to receive mailings and email, mostly from ICMI Contact Center Management.  I’m not sure if they were the original perpetrators or if they bought the bad info from someone else, but in either case it reflects poorly on them. Either their processes are shoddy or they deal with shoddy vendors.
Erroneous Mailing Label

Misdirected Press Releases Seem A Lot Like Spam

After yesterday’s column mentioning press releases that were poorly targeted, I made a list of the headlines sent my way recently. None of them have anything to do with what my magazines cover. Even though the summer months are light for news submissions, I still received quite a few. For some of them I am not even sure what they mean. Here is what I received this week in a 48-hour span:

  • Free Portal for Telemetry Applications
  • HRchitect Consultant Named IHRIM Member of the Year
  • Farmers Insurance Group® Puts Some‘Bite’ In Automobile Insurance In Michigan
  • Fujitsu Named Finalist for NXTcomm Eos Award
  • Conmio and TietoEnator build mobile Internet Service for Finnish mobile operator
  • Unified Communications Magazine Honors Interactive Intelligence with TMC Labs 2008Innovation Award
  • ET Can Now Phone Home
  • IP5280 VoIP Provider named finalist for Best Company to Work For in Colorado
  • 3 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Kids and Cell Phones
  • Exanet & Datrox Bring Revolutionary Storage Technology to Media & Entertainment Companies
  • Detroit Area Foreclosures Slow In May 2008
  • India and China Becoming Major Centers of Pharmaceutical R&D
  • AutoTrader.com Named “Innovator of the Year” During Verint Systems’ 2008 Customer Conference
  • Wireless Mundi Receives International Patent Application on Integrated Voice & Data Communication
  • DataCore Software Partner Interware Systems Makes DataCore the Foundation of Its Total Enterprise Virtualization Practice
  • Three Sequencing Companies Join 1000Genome Project
  • PerfectSoftware® and the workplace HELPLINE® announce strategic partnership
  • Fujitsu Announces Connection-Oriented Ethernet Transport for their Packet Optical Networking Platforms
  • Perfect Software to offer expert employment law advice through its HR and Payroll software.
  • Social Software Frequently Lacking in System / Administrative Services

If you’re a bit perplexed by these headlines, let me give you one more thing to contemplate: Someone was paid to write and email them to me. What a waste of time and money.

[Read more curious headlines]

The Opt-Out Cop-Out

I receive a great deal of unsolicited email.  I’m sure you do, too.  Aside from the obvious spam promoting products of a dubious or base nature, much of the spam I receive is from people who have harvested my email from my various Websites.  Since each Website lists its own email address, it is common for me to receive the same message several times, once for each site.

Usually they claim that I have “opted in” to receive messages.  I seriously doubt that — certainly not multiple times.  Even one opt-in is likely a result of being tricked, as opposed to actually desiring a deluge of mismatched messages.

When I receive this type of spam, I look at the from email address.  If its suspicious looking, such as xdwbv@freemail.com (this URL is actually available if you’re interested), then I assume it be fraudulent; any attempt to “opt-out” will merely confirm to the spammers that they have a working email that someone reads.

Op-Out NonesenceHowever, if it looks to be from a bona fide, albeit misguided, company, then I will go to the trouble to opt-out.  Overall, I have had good success in doing so.  Usually, clicking on the opt-out link takes me to a Website acknowledging that I have been removed.  Other times I need to confirm my request.  The image to the right is one such example.  Without reading the fine print, do you click “cancel” to stop receiving email or do you click “ok” to opt out?

Certainly some people click on the wrong button (I almost did), inadvertently confirming that they want to receive more spam.  I’m not sure what this accomplishes, but to make an already angry person angrier.  Playing these types of tricks is an opt-out cop-out; legitimate companies should avoid such ploys.

AARP Revisited

My post last week, “Who Told AARP About My Birthday?” brought a quick response from “AARP Staffer.” I would let you know who this mysterious AARP staffer is, but unfortunately, he or she was too shy to leave a name or a working “reply to” email address. Generally this degree of anonymity would cause me to dismiss any comments as meritless, but I do believe that “AARP Staffer’s” intentions were good, even though dialog was cut off.

Regardless, “AARP Staffer’s” comments did offer some clarity on the company’s situation and marketing intentions.

I understand that there are services that scan the Internet for any mention of their clients’.  Apparently, AARP employs such a service, as I seriously doubt if “AARP Staffer” is a regular reader of my blog. (I posted the message at 7:24 PM and “AARP Staffer” left a comment at 8:41 AM the next day.)

You would think that after going to all that trouble to find my blog and respond, they would leave a means for follow-up  Usually, I would not approve a comment from a nameless writer with a non-working “reply to” email address.

This brings up another point. Yes, I do review all comments and exercise discretion over which messages get added for you to read and which are deleted. This is not to imply that I censor comments made to my blog, but I do want to make sure that all responses are worthy of your time. Yes, I have deleted spam messages submitted as comments, plus I will generally deep-six anonymous submissions. After all, if a person is hiding behind their computer, then why should we bother to listen? Lastly, I understand that sometimes profane or inappropriate statements are made in comments; rest assured I will shield you from those as well.

What about succumbing to the temptation to dump unflattering responses? I suppose it could happen, but I don’t want to stifle free-speech, just purge irresponsible communication.

Anyway, let’s see if “AARP Staffer” has anything to say about this post. Check back tomorrow to find out.