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August 14, 2006

Comments

Well, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

My guess would be that women simply aren't seen as using the internet. Which is stupid, of course, but when is advertising ever logical?

Men are to Internet marketing scams as women are to the Home Shopping Channel.

I suspect it has something to do with the fact (or at least it used to be true, I don't know if it still is) that a massive percentage of internet use is for porn.

They say men don't talk about their problems with other men, perhaps that's something to do with it? I mean, women may have embarrasing codnitions too, but I believe they are more inclined to talk to someone about them (rather than desperately seeking a solution in secret).

Isn't your ("real world") first name also a male first name? Could that have something to do with it (meant non-snarkily)?

Or could it just be that those drugs are a cash cow and it's worth their time and effort overall to take a shoddy scattershot approach?

What spam I get, I don't really read, but yes, I'm much more likely to get spam about Viagra or the equivalent than I am to get spam about weight-loss (which I do occasionally get, and which seems to be directed at women).

All of a sudden this seemed very odd to me. Does anyone have a theory about why this might be?

Patriarchy. ;-)

The presumption is, I should think, that men have more disposable income than women do (which is generally true) and that men are more likely to have an e-mail address than women are (which seems unlikely to me, but I suspect it's still the stereotypical view of the Internet).

Spam is the scattershot approach, Damon - there's no targetting involved, ever. A mass mailing just goes out to ten million invented e-mail addresses at nil cost to the sender, and even though nine million e-addresses may not work, and 500 000 have spam filtering software, and 499 999 deleted unread, the one person who sent his credit card details is by himself enough profit to keep going - even assuming the company doesn't then rook him via his credit card.

I'd guess that Viagra/Levitra/Cialis sell real well online, partly because guys don't want to admit to having the problems they diagnose. They're also sometimes used recreationally. Maybe older, less tech-savvy internet users who are at greater risk for ED are more likely to respond to spam, too. So you have a large market that wants to buy the product online and some of them are disposed to respond, which is a great profile from a spammer's point of view.

I get a lot of spam about breast enhancement, maybe that's the equivalent.

For some reason, I only get Japanese spam at my yahoo address, almost nothing in English. (Just the very infrequent Nigerian money thing). I have no idea what I'm being sold -- it might be directed to women.

I used to get a lot of spam for Egyptian nightclubs. Not sure what that was about.

BP,

"Men are to Internet marketing scams as women are to the Home Shopping Channel."

I thought the female equivalent is all of those house hunting shows on cable.

Sorry about the obtuseness of my (very late-night) comment above. I do understand the concept of spam, however it may appear.

Why does this post seem like it belongs at unfogged (NTTAWWT)?

Just recently, spam has started getting through our filter into the main list of e-mail messages instead of being dumped into junk e-mail.

Think of the intellect and talent going to waste coming up with these technological evasions. What's wrong with our incentive system that these people aren't making cheaper and more effective medical procedures or developing software so that my car uses less gas? But nevermind that. The market, eet eeze inexorable; must not question.

Regarding Hilzoy's query, I suspect the reason we see lots of ED spam and little if any "female problems" spam, is that the former holds the expectation of sex, and thus will sell, whereas the latter, for the most part I guess, does not.

We get lots of "Horny Housewife Wants You Now" messages. We never receive e-mail messages along the lines of "Headachy, Crampy Housewife Not In The Mood". Nor do we get any "Husband Talks Big, Then Dozes Off" messages.

Real life, natch, is different.

I only hope, for the good of mankind, that the talking ED e-mail message developers never make common cause with the individual (was it last year?) who tried to imagine what one's vagina would say, should it begin to speak. On the upside, they wouldn't be able to stay on message.


I get plenty of breast enhancement ones, but now where near the same number as ED or penis size emails.

The ones that really confuse me are the nonsensical ones. Just strings of random words, with no discernable product or aim. And not unsubscribe, so I'm sure they're not just testing my email. Why?

One element has to be that there's far less marketing, it appears, in the legitimate advertising world, and fewer products from Big Pharm, to deal with female products than there is for either ED, or non-gender-specific products, like Amb//n CR, or bladder control, or cholesterol, or what have you.

If anyone is in the mood for tales of revenge on spamming 419 con artists, here is a post of mine from the other day with links to a couple of specific stories (see spammers made to tattoo themselves, to put fishes on their head, and more!), and to sites with many more.

Tracy: The ones that really confuse me are the nonsensical ones. Just strings of random words, with no discernable product or aim. And not unsubscribe, so I'm sure they're not just testing my email. Why?

I also get a few blank messages here and there. I'm not sure what the point is. Now, if it's a nonsense message with an attachment, it could be an attempt to infect your computer with a virus.

Father Ron Jeremy.

Heh!

Speaking of breasts and the power of insane right-wing bloggers (okay, that was a different thread), John Bolton did a one-hour one-on-one interview with Pamela of Atlas Shrugs. Doesn't he have something more important to do at the moment?

I keep thinking that in fact some small charge for sending email may eventually be the best way of ending, or at least minimizing, spam. At least until we get perfect parsers.

(In light of the anytime-soon unlikelihood of the button of death mentioned by Geoff Pullum, although I find that a viscerally more appealing solution.)

JakeB, "best" in what sense? If you have to set up some sort of micropayment infrastructure across the entire mail system, it doesn't seem any easier than just scrapping e-mail and replacing it with a more secure system. Besides, it would spell the death of e-mail lists of all sorts, except for the ones run by large companies.

And don't forget that spammers are already using viruses to hijack people's computers and send spam, host websites, and do other things, so they'd end up just sending their spam at the expense of the poor shlub whose computer they took over.

I keep thinking that in fact some small charge for sending email may eventually be the best way of ending, or at least minimizing, spam. At least until we get perfect parsers.

I've always liked the idea of a charge to the sender which is then paid to the recipient. It could actually be a fair amount, say the same as first-class postage. For people you actually want to correspond with it would come close to balancing out, but it would kill spammers.

Oops. Should have read KC's comment.

I block spam at the server, so I have not had the need to try this, but it looks like a very useful tool for Mac users.

BTW, even though I have many good tools at the server level to fight spam, I eventually just gave up my precious [firstname]@[myhappyplace].com for a brand new address that only a select few know. For most everything else I use yahoo, and when completely naked I use services like mytrashmail.com.

Hil, I too have noticed there isn't sex spam for women. But there is weight-loss spam, which is mostly aimed at credulous people with two X chromosomes. Sudden spectacular weight loss is certainly a widespread female fantasy - not one of mine, but well do I remember the grapefruit diets my high school friends used to put themselves through.

No examples in my inbox right, but usually the headline is something like "My wife tried Hoodia and ..."

Focus seems to be things which trigger insecurity & things which are preferably resolved privately. No stigma attached to cramps. many women have complained to me about their cramps. Few few men have complained to me about penis size inadequacy. They don't sell anything you want to be or would be indifference to being seen consuming by spam.

KC--
I didn't say I had thought very deeply about it. :)
It's just that the charge of say 1/100 of a cent/email would be a nearly invisible cost for most people, but would make most spamming uneconomic. It's irritating that there isn't some easy way to take advantage of their abuse of economies of scale. Particularly considering the overall costs of all the deleting people have to do.

"Few few men have complained to me about penis size inadequacy."

Would you do anything about it if I did?

James Ellroy used to constantly assure me, "remember, Gary, it's not what you do with your d***, it's how big it is."

But that's Ellroy for you.

"It's irritating that there isn't some easy way to take advantage of their abuse of economies of scale."

There's always this sort of solution. (Not that I'm advocating it, officer!)

hilzoy: (Speculating about it has to be more fun than going over the Democrat v. Democratic question...)

Who's been doing that here?

I ask because I'm trying to avoid taking that as a dig at me. I freely admit to frequent comment-section intervention to advocate against the use of the noun 'Democrat' as an adjective, on both grammatical and political grounds.

And I'm sure that's tiresome to some people, though I never get into a discussion about it -- I make my point and go.

But I don't recall having done it here recently, or seen anyone else doing so. So what are you responding to?

Hi Nell:

If you go to Andrew's August 11 post entitled "I Don't Care", you will find a lengthy last half on the thread on this very subject (I think I started it, but I can't remember), which is what Hilzoy is referring to.

I was going to suggest that you forego the urge to beat the dead horse, but as Gromit's last comment on that thread points out via link, the horse got up, whinneyed, and won the Kentucky Derby.

I knew we should have shot that horse.

(with a foot and mouth vaccine)

"So what are you responding to?"

Pretty much the readership of the blog, Nell.

Even my lame attempts at mockery couldn't stop it.

The reason you often get spam with a long list of nonsensical or unrelated words is for filter evasion. It helps them get around spam detection software, which often lets through emails that have a large number of words that don't usually appear in spam.

I also get a few blank messages here and there. I'm not sure what the point is.

At least some of these have a body in HTML and the only real content is a malformed GIF image. Presumably the image is a rendering of the text, intended to avoid filtering on the basis of keywords or such. As the image cannot be successfully decoded, the e-mail client has to do something. Some leave it blank. Some replace it with a solid-black image of the same size. At one point, the particular problem with the image data caused Eudora to go into an infinite loop, freezing the client and making the entire machine very, very slow. Recent versions have corrected that particular problem.

"a woman's life is just the most severe and long-lasting version of erectile dysfunction imaginable"

That doesn't sound very plausible to me.

But I *do* find it quite plausible that a man's life is just the most severe and long-lasting version of pre-menstrual syndrome imaginable.

(You know, irritable, quick to fly off the handle, generally grouchy, etc.)

Back on topic, isn't there also simply this: erectile dysfunction is one of the few curses of humanity for which there really is a cure that you can buy over the internet.

I mean, from what I hear, lots of men really do suffer from inability to get it up. And many of those guys really do find some relief from viagra, cialis, etc.

And you really can order that stuff over the web, and have it appear on your doorstep in a few days. (Or more likely find that you have given your Visa number to a scammer, and you have just lost a lot of money).

There's no weight-loss product which is comparably effective. Breast-augmentation, if it is in any way a female analogue, simply can't be delivered by Fed-Ex (yet).

So I don't think the question should be: why are there no female analogues to spam solicitations for viagra?

The question should be: is there any female analogue of viagra that could even be suitable for spam solicitation?

Ah. I see. I was away for a week and missed that discussion altogether. Thanks for answering the question, John & Gary.

Oh, wait, I was back by then, in fact I commented quite a bit in the thread that inspired Andrew's post. I guess I never even read to the bottom of the post, much less the comments. I was fed up with the topic, in addition to being bogged down in Lebanon-Israel-Gaza news.

gary farber: could you elaborate on your relationship with James Ellroy? i'm a fan.

Nell: I was off (student passing thesis defense, yay!), but: as you have presumably discovered, it wasn't you ;) (I mean, I don't like it when people use that term either, but it had been going on for several days. If it was a dig at anyone, it was at me, for not putting up an open thread long before this little idea hit me.)

"gary farber: could you elaborate on your relationship with James Ellroy? i'm a fan."

I was the assistant to his editor at Avon Books, who was also one of his best friends, for a few years in the mid-Eighties. As a result Ellroy would hang out at my desk for a while every week, for a couple of years, waiting for my boss to be free.

I also did stuff like dig his original hand-written letters to the previous editor, who found him in slush, out of the files, and make photocopies of them for our files, so as to give the originals, which were immensely lengthy, full of autobiographical details and thoughts, back to Ellroy, since he'd become All Famous in the meantime, and the letters had become valuable.

(Although his name is James Lee Ellroy, neither "James" or "Lee" ever seemed quite right to me, though he was called by each name by many, and said either was fine with him; I always preferred "Ellroy," which he also was fine with.)

Haven't had any contact with him since I left that job, though. But he has, um, quite a distinct, unique, personality.

I had plenty of contact with plenty of other famous writers then, given working on mysteries, the sf line, the Latin American line, the Vietnam line, and all sorts of fiction and nonfiction; pretty much everything but cook-books, YA, business books, and sports books, basically. But, then, I also know or have known plenty of other famous writers and folks, given starting in professional editing/publishing at age 15, mostly, though not always, as a freelancer, and in active sf fandom at age 12, and now being 47 (although largely gafia, that is, away from, both sf fandom and publishing for the past five years or so).

I've mentioned this sort of stuff many times here, and, of course, at my own blog, and occasionally at other blogs, and before that on Usenet, and before that in sf fanzines....

"...but it had been going on for several days."

Two days, actually; it started with Catsy at August 11, 2006 at 04:15 PM, and the last comment on it was early yesterday evening, August 13th.

... so I had to endure rather more questions about my possible erectile difficulties than I would have liked, all the while thinking: oh, for heavens' sake, I'm female!
Then at worst it'd be a small problem, no?

Remember the Uighurs released from Guantanamo to Albania? A followup.

Remember the Uighurs released from Guantanamo to Albania? A followup.

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