Below is my response to an email thread on a mailing list I’ve been on since 1995. I didn’t include any list discussion by others, as a matter of principle. I think one can make sense of it without that context, but let me know, if I’m wrong.
What’s sobering to me is all this utilitarian and ends justify the means thinking. All unsolicited mail is spam, especially when it’s selling something, and some regard it as an intrusion of market forces into spaces reserved for other kinds of communication. Others think it’s no big deal, or have no idea what a space outside the market might be.
That’s fine and fair enough. I understand people have different views. But, puh-lease don’t assume those whose views get in the way of your plans (however noble those plans) are simply cranks, or mere minorities in “modern American life”.
There’s a whole Net culture for whom spamming is socially unacceptable behavior. This culture has particularly strong pockets in academia (N.B.:university spam filters are some of the strongest out there). I was raised in that culture and though I’m happy for those who’ve succeeded in email campaigns, and even considered one myself, I just haven’t been able to get around ye olde-timey net.values.
It’s not a question of whether spam works. It’s a principle of how to use email as a channel, not unlike discussions of how to use the members list, and when to take discussions elsewhere, such as Ning, a privately held company which adds me to it’s data mine field as the price of admission to the channel.
Send unsolicited mail (i.e., spam), if you feel you have to to survive, but what going on in all this froth of communication isn’t just noise. Deeper issues are involved and my goal is writing this is to point them out.