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Can Weblogs Reach Ronald Scelson?

One of a series of Can Weblogs...? experiments from 2002-2004.

To make Ronald Scelson realise that he is pissing on the rest of us from a great height (by somehow rubbing his nose in it and thereby showing him the aura of his wees).

Who is Ronald Scelson?
Ronald Scelson claims to be the most prolific spammer on the planet. You can see a picture of his charming smile by clicking here. Ronald runs his own service provider to avoid reporting hassles, and is now investigating running his own backbone service to avoid complaints to upstream providers (thanks go to Ali-M for this valuable piece of jargon). Ronald sees no wrong in what he does, citing the free enterprise system and environmental benefits as his main barriers of moral defence.

"Everyday you receive junk mail in your home mail box, and no one seems to complain about this. The paper it's printed on requires the use of toxic chemicals, inks and the wastful (sic) use of our natural resources. Even recycled paper, requires the use of chemicals to break the paper down to where it can be reused. E-Mail, on the other hand requires none of the chemicals or the waste of our natural resources."
Extract from a post by Ronald Scelson to news.admin.net-abuse.email

Opt-In Marketing sends out 80 million e-mails offering vacation packages. For each person who clicks on the e-mail to visit the travel company's website, the company earns $1 - a fee roughly in line with industry norms. More than 99.9 percent of the recipients may ignore that come-on. But if the e-mails go out by the millions, only a small fraction need respond to make the job pay off big.
Extract from Spam King Living High In The Bayou by John M. Moran.

I would regard such a practice to be extremely wasteful. And human beings are, after all, part of the environment. Spam upsets us - and buy his own reckoning every mailout he sends irritates 99.9% of recipients. It also has a significant monetary cost that far exceeds the few thousand dollars he may make from the process. Think about the cost of all that filtering software, the time spent by admins, or even just add up the 'few seconds' we millions spend deleting such email each and every day. Let's do the sums purely on a personal 'just delete it' basis:

99.9% of 80 million = 79,920,000
79,920,000 seconds = 22,200 hours
Minimum wage in United States = $5.15/hour
Minimum cost of deleted emails = $114,330
Maximum income for Scelson @ $1 per lead = $80,000

So, even assuming that we're all earning the minimum wage, Scelson costs the economy more than he earns. So much for the value of free enterprise. A more realistic 'on paper' calculation reveals this waste to be much more pronounced, but the real cost is even much higher than this, as we all know. How many of you have started your morning in the worst possible mood because you needed to trawl through miles of spam before you could filter out the messages that counted, or looked up from what you were doing to address an incoming email that was a complete waste of time? What kind of impact do you think this has on your productivity?

Scelson also makes much of the fact that he recently launched a massive 'opt-in' mechanism that was 'unfairly' shut down by anti-spamming groups. His company is even called - quite laughingly you would think - 'Opt-In Marketing Services', and he has claimed several times that those who do not want to receive email from him will be removed from his list.

All very well and good, but the majority of web users have had it hammered into them for years that you should not follow unsubscription advice provided in spam, as most spammers merely use this to verify the authenticity of the address. The result is usually even more spam, as this action puts you on their premium list. Scelson knows this, which is why he can afford to pay loud lip-service to his alleged unsubscribe mechanisms.

Also, I would also ask why, if all of his recipients are so willing, he spends so much time developing software to bypass spam filters.

Scelson, who designed the software, says it will penetrate virtually any system designed to stop ads from reaching the intended mailbox. "If it accepts e-mail, there's a way in," he says. "And this is designed to get around anything."
Again, from Spam King Living High In The Bayou by John M. Moran.

I think we're all pretty clear by now as to how Scelson's head is wired, and why (despite being mistaken about a great many things) he's willing to stand loud and proud as the poster child for spamming.

Asked why he was so willing to speak with a reporter, Scelson replied, "I don't need the press on my side; I can reach more people than you can."
Extract from Inside the spammer's world by Brian Livingston.

Can We Get Back To The Objective, Please?
OK, OK, keep your shirt on. We had to establish the facts. Now, we need a quick detour through the need for perspective. Firstly, stopping Ronald Scelson is not going to stop spam (if indeed, Ronald Scelson can be stopped at all). Secondly, even if we do stop him, ten more will step forward to take his place. Ideally, what we need to do is re-educate Mr Scelson so he can follow his very public standing as the king of spam with a very public turnaround on the matter. Failing that, we need to change his image from poster child to cautionary example.

Cautionary Example? Are We Going To Get Mediaeval on His Ass?
No, not quite. Again, some perspective is required. All you need to know in order to take action is that his name is Ronald Scelson and he lives in the relatively small town of Slidell, LA. Using this information, it took me 30 seconds in Google to track down a business address and a home address.

Home Address? Yay! Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!
Not so fast, fellow spam-haters. It would be irresponsible of me to give out such details. It's also important that Mr Scelson knows just how strong your feelings are on this matter. The challenge of finding his address needs to be in place so there is a visible obstacle that you have had to overcome to make your point. At this stage, you have to ask yourself: "how important is it to me that I reach Ronald Scelson with my own personal message?"

You should probably also ask yourself the question: "what form is this message going to take?"

Personal Correspondence
I would urge anybody wishing to contact Mr Scelson that the primary objective is re-education. While this may not be achievable by simply appealing to his better nature, it certainly isn't going to be achieved with hate mail. Also, while Mr Scelson may very well use software and formatting techniques to convince us that incoming spam is actually an important missive, you should by no means disguise your letter as a gas bill, letter from the tax department, or notification from the state lottery. This deception is unlikely to get you on his good side.

Letters With 'Postage Due' and C.O.D. Packages
While we may pay for the 'privilege' of downloading one or two of Mr Scelson's emails each time we connect, the amount is relatively small when considered on a 'per message' or 'per individual' basis, and repeating this same intrusion in a 'real world' mail format is a measure that I would argue is out of proportion. Also, the time it would cost him to sort out such mail and/or refuse payment would probably cost more than the payment itself in most cases. You need to be aware that what may seem like a few cents to you can often cost the recipient much more in terms of wasted time and aggravation.

Pornographic and Offensive Material
Ronald lives with his wife and three young children. While my own young children may in the past have been confronted with the words 'Rape Sex' or 'Penis Enlargement' while looking over my shoulder as email arrived, there is no proof that such emails arrived from Mr Scelson, and certainly no justification for repeating this offence. Two wrongs do not make a right.

Special Offers
Ah, now this is quite realistic - and quite fitting. Mr Scelson may not be aware of all of the commercial offers, discounts and life-changing opportunities that are available to him. Perhaps you might feel it is your duty in the spirit of free enterprise to promote such things to a wealthy individual who openly supports such initiative.

Charitable Causes
Reaching Mr Scelson with a message promoting a charitable cause may (I stress may) result in a sizeable donation. He may also - out of the goodness of his heart - decide to use his mailing list to support your cause.

It All Sounds Very Exciting, How Can I Take Part?
You have one of two options. You can either step up to the challenge and reach out and touch the man, or simply 'cut and paste' the code below to link to this page so others may do so on your behalf. The choice is yours. And after all, that's is what this call to action is about. Choice.

Back to 'Can Weblogs...?' for further results and updates.

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