… sent you photos on Tagged spam – Delete it immediately

sent you photos on Tagged
There is a pernicious email spam that has recently been created in which your friend’s email has been taken over. You are sent a mail from your friend and it looks very authentic. Because it has hacked your friend’s mail, it always get through the spam filters. I can only imagine how this spam will work effectively on unwitting children. It comes with an “unsubscribe” button, some phoney address on the bottom saying to “block all mails from Tagged, Inc.” and numerous other opportunities to click, each treacherous. This email should be immediately deleted. Do not open it! It is apparently some porn site — and, like some STD, is hard to get rid of. My advice is then to send under separate cover a mail to that friend to advise them of the problem as they may not even be aware. If ever you get the same from me, do let me know!

There is a social site called Tagged, which claims to have 70 million users. This spam trick is particularly deceitful and nasty. I am all the less likely to sign up for Tagged. You can find out more here on snopes.

Check with your children’s inbox mail!! And do use this post to spread the news (you can tweet it with the handy button below).

Deezer – yet another phishing scam

In another spam scam, Deezer, Europe’s leading “music on demand” site (equivalent of LastFM), has been attacked.  They quickly reacted by sending out this mail (in French as it is a French based company), alerting its users that the offer of a free mp3 player was a hoax.  If nothing else, this post is a good way to broadcast Deezer’s existence (for the US base).  They have over 2.5 million songs in their music repertoire and some 5.5 million unique visitors per month.  Anyway, Deezer’s experience with the spam is yet another point in case of the malevolence out there.

Deezer Radio FM Screen Capture

More Spam Scams on Facebook – goldbase.be

Aside from Iran’s attempts to block Facebook in the run-up to the election (they just lifted the ban, according to this LA Times piece), I have also noticed that there is an increasing number of spam scams on Facebook. In the most recent hack attack, you receive a mail from a friend or even some stranger (as is the case below) inviting you to “Look at this goldbase.net” or goldbase.be some other .be addresses which are obviously bogus. Don’t do it! Delete immediately, without passing go.

Goldbase Scam

And here is another one that is circulating “growerd.ru” from our friends in Russia:

Growerd.ru Scam

If you receive this type of FB mail, it is only your “friend” that is infected, not you. If you find, however, that mail is being sent from your account (someone needs to alert you!), here is the advice from Mashable:

1. As a precaution, go to your browser settings and clear your cookies.
2. Change your Facebook password
3. Make sure your antivirus software is up to date and run a full system

State of the Spam Business: Spam Pollution

State of the Spam Business

How many legitimate (non junk or spam) emails do you receive in your inbox?

Stop Spam Sign

It may come as a surprise to you that only 3% of the world’s supply of emails are legitimate, at least that’s what a recent Microsoft survey says. On a personal level, I know that I have a spam-to-legit ratio that is more like 1:6, aided by (a) the never ending screening and hunting down of phoney addresses and cyber pirates by the various governing bodies; (b) the individual mail filters (I use hotmail mostly) which appear to direct with about 80% accuracy true junk into the junk folder; and (c) my attempting not to leave my email address in public spaces that are too easy for email bots to trawl and discover. In any event, in a recent BBC article regarding a recent Microsoft security report, “[m]ore than 97% of all e-mails sent over the net are unwanted… The e-mails are dominated by spam adverts for drugs [nearly 50%], and general product pitches and often have malicious attachments.” Other industry reports have the volume of junk mail somewhere between 75% and 90%, so this latest number takes the morass of spam to even higher levels.

A second source for spam information is the monthly Symantec State of Spam report (PDF – April 2009). According to the Symantec report, in March, the spam coming from the US accounted for 28% of the world’s supply (up from 25% in February and 23% in January). Coming in second, Brazil accounts for 9%, while India at 3rd fell back to 4%. South Korea leads the Far Eastern countries at 4%, ahead of Turkey, Russia and China (all 3%). Below is the chart courtesy of Symantec. Latin America is responsible for a quite surprising 15% of the total. As far as I was concerned, it seems that half of my spam relates to winning the jackpot and inheriting some African fortune, so I was surprised not find Nigeria up in there in the top 10.

Top Countries sending Spam

“The [Microsoft] report found that the global ratio of infected machines was 8.6 for every 1,000 uninfected machines.” I would suspect that Mac gets a less than market share representation…fortunately for us Mac users.

The only good news, if you read on in the BBC report, is that malicious software (aka malware) must increasingly be adapted country to country (see world map of malware levels), which diminishes the odds of an Armageddon style worldwide malware. The article states, “[a]s the malware ecosystem becomes more reliant on social engineering, threats worldwide have become more dependent on language and cultural factors,” [the Microsoft study] reported. In China, several malicious web browser modifiers are common, while in Brazil, malware that targets users of online banks is more widespread.”

In terms of where the malicious software is most prevalent, “the [Microsoft] report, which looked at online activity during the second half of 2008, also pinpoints…[that] Russia and Brazil top the global chart of infections, followed by Turkey and Serbia and Montenegro.”

On another level, from a report out in March 2009, I read about how much spam is said to pollute our world… A Carbon Footprint study from McAfee says that spam generates greenhouse gas (GHG — aka Carbon Dioxide or CO2) equivalent to 3.1 million passenger cars. This report says that “the energy [33 billion KWh] consumed in transmitting and deleting spam is equivalent to the electricity used in 2.4 million U.S. homes.” I love the notion of the life cycle of spam! If you want to download the McAfee PDF report, do so here. Another feature in the McAfee report is the estimated loss in productivity caused by spam: “If you have 1,000 workers earning $30 per hour, your company will suffer $182,500 per year in lost productivity.” It is very crafty to propose an ROI on their anti-spam software.

In any event, as I indicated in a prior post TV5 from Québec, Canada, there are also the unwanted communications from companies where you can no longer unsubscribe to their newsletters, as is the case with TV5. Another one on my can’t-get-rid-of-them list is www.seek-blog.com.  No way to unsubscribe.  I suspect such mail should be considered spam along with the other 97%! On the other end of the scale, kudos to Nick @ NickOnWine for sending out regular subscriber updates.

Like mosquitoes, I can think of absolutely nothing beneficial from spam. After the ERACE ‘EM Campaign (the Eternal Radical and Complete Extermination of Every Mosquito), comes the EAT SPAM Campaign, Eradicate All Toxic Spam. Sign up here!

TV5 Quebec – Un spammer nuisif!

Cannette de Spam / Can of SpamDans la série “il y a du spam qui gonfle,” je constate avec ennui la souscription spammatique que j’ai faite au newsletter de TV5.ca du Québec.  Puisque j’ai quitté le Canada il y a deux ans et demi, je n’ai plus besoin de savoir ce qui passe sur la chaine TV5 au Québec.  Ainsi, il y a déjà longtemps que j’ai coché “dés-inscrire” sur l’ensemble des possibilités; mais je continue à recevoir mensuellement leur newsletter.  Ainsi, ayant parcouru les FAQ et n’ayant pas trouvé la question de la désinscription suffisamment fréquente, j’ai écrit un mot courtois au Service à la Clientèle et demandant de m’enlever de leur base de données.  Voici leur réponse par email:

“Bonjour,
Nous avons bien reçu votre communication électronique et espérons que vous avez pris plaisir à visiter le site Internet de TV5.
Il est important pour nous de recueillir vos commentaires et suggestions.
Compte tenu du grand nombre de courriels reçus, tous les messages ne peuvent obtenir de réponse personnalisée. Nous vous invitons toutefois à consulter notre Foire aux questions à l’adresse suivante : http://www.tv5.ca/tv5/faq.html
Merci de votre intérêt pour la programmation de TV5.
* Ceci est une réponse automatisée. S.V.P. ne pas y répondre *
Service à l’auditoire
1755, boul. René-Lévesque Est, bureau 101, Montréal (Québec) H2K 4P6, CANADA
www.tv5.ca”

Il va de soi que cette réponse est moins que suffisante. Il y a le spam non-sollicité qui est particulièrement embêtant et polluant.  Mais, juste derrière vient ce type de nonsense.

Voilà ma pétition à TV5 Québec:
Ecoutez-moi.  Je m’en souviens sans avoir besoin de vos mails!  Enlevez-moi, vous m’agacez.

Finding a CRM Voice – The Right Values, Meaning & Frequency

Customizing your Real Message & Finding a CRM Voice?

As I mentioned in the prior post, I believe that the consumer world is in the midst of a true paradigm shift. In these dire economic times, there is a huge likelihood that the ongoing increase in the share of time and mind of the Internet is going to accelerate. The consumer will turn to the Internet even more because it offers useful new tools and services that cater specifically to the needs of people living in harder times. (Read here for more about why the crisis will push up Internet use).

The question now becomes how brands and companies want to take advantage of this. What posture will companies take to reach out to the consumer who is decidedly cautious, if not nervous about his or her future? The company that speaks to me in a way that makes sense is a good starting point. For example, if a company (ex Harrods) checks out my dopplr and see that I am going to travel to London on such and such a date, then drops me a pertinent offer for that date, would that not be a great idea? The chances are that I would be more than willing to view their mail (if they only they could make their creative a little more classy, too).

CRM Graphic Description

There has been much written about CRM (for basics, see marketingteacher.com), as in Customer Relationship Management. But, except for a couple of rare exceptions, I as a consumer have not been “feeling the love” from any particular brand or companies. It is not like I am not present on the Internet, or do not own any loyalty cards, or do not shop frequently at certain stores. There is certainly plenty of data on me out there to mine. At this point, for most companies, the mining has been, at best, superficial. There are some companies who have cottoned on to the idea of email campaigns as a cheap way to bolster traffic — to the web site if not the store. But that’s about it. But, I am looking for more. Companies need to tap into the data (which I volunteer) and capture my attention by knowing more about who I am.

Once companies have mastered dynamic customer knowledge (i.e. created a way to keep an up to date database), the question will then become to what extent (quantity and quality) the brand is communicating with its customers? There is a real risk that a deluge of irrelevant email campaigns will completely shut down the effectiveness of the email channel — broadening the definition of spam, increasing people’s intolerance to emails and making them opt out systematically or just delete with increasing revulsion on reception. If the average rate of opening an email drops down below the 2% level — a barometer for so many formerly traditional media campaigns — you may end up pissing more customers off in the process. While companies are still saving on the postal cost and on the CO2 with emails, they will be shooting themselves in the foot if they overdo it.

There is a golden opportunity to use the ‘net as a marketing tool. There are two important points. First, don’t abuse the opportunity out of laziness. Pouring out unpersonalized, non-customized emails is not the right answer; like cutting down rainforests, it is a very short-sighted approach. Second, mind the data (think “Mind the Gap” as they say in London’s tube stations). What is needed is to craft meaningful messages (in line with the brand’s values), with a customization that reflects some of the unique elements of the receiver.

Customize with Ease CRM

This all leads me to the main point: Brands endeavouring on CRM programs need to reflect carefully to find their CRM VOICE. There are three core ingredients to creating a CRM Voice. (1) A CRM Voice first means being getting in touch with the brand’s DNA, its core values. How is each communication refurbishing the identity of the brand and reinforcing the customer’s affinity with the brand. (2) It means knowing how to create messages that are relevant to the brand and to the receiving client. Does the brand have an interest in me? Does it know me (without the overtones of Big Brother). Does it know how to surprise me? To wow me? (3) Finally, it means getting the frequency right, knowing how often that person needs or wants to be contacted — including all the different channels of communication (TV included). A well-adapted, customized message becomes part of a well-oiled service.

LoveMarks Graph

In summary, brands need to find their CRM Voice: a Customized Real Message that is aligned with the brand’s core values. Brands that are high in love (lovemarks *****) and respect have a potentially greater starting point. But, every customer is looking for meaning and, in today’s difficult economic times, they will be more than likely spending more time online. I will be keen to see which brands or companies come through this vortex smelling like roses — for the times they are a changing, and I believe a paradigm shift is well underway. Which companies are going to capitalize intelligently on the accelerated shift in time on online that is bound to accompany this worldwide crisis? If you do what you always did, you may no longer get what you always got.

Categorising my personal emails

Mail - EnvelopesI receive, I would estimate, about 35 non-work related more or less ‘old fashioned’ messages a day via the multiple communications services to which I am subscribed: hotmail, gmail, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. When taken alongside the 100+ mails received daily at work, I would say that such a volume is basically average for a professional. A few folks I know in the high tech industry (e.g. at Google or Facebook) suffer numbers more like 250+.

La Poste - Mail BoxA couple of comments here. First, the volume of these non-work mails is wholly manageable, if it were not for the time I like to take to reply to as many as I do. Secondly, the communications on Facebook remain surprisingly personal and, if not personal, opted in (via a membership in a group, etc., that I have chosen). Whether it’s a poke, some shared application or just a Facebook mail, the sender of the mail is someone with whom I accepted to be in contact, and by and large, there is a form of respect that seems to have settled in. And, whether the message is short and sharp or long and detailed, it is a message I typically enjoy opening. Thirdly, my regular post mail has been on the decline (thankfully we are not on any wasteful mailing lists). Having opted in for electronic versions for as many statements and bills as possible, the volume of CO2-related mail has dropped considerably.

On another level, when I take a step back and evaluate these 35 non-work communications, I feel like they fall into four categories.

Turtle Love - Making Love in a Garden(1) There are the sole-destination personal messages coming from people in and out of my life, dotted around the world. (2) There are the humourous messages, jokes of one or other colour (and often accompanied by cartoons or photos). Then, (3) there are the meaningful messages, for example, compassionate mails that spread humanitarian messages or soulful powerpoint slides shows (.pps). These last two categories of messages, which are more or less revisited “chain letters,” are collected and passed along to you as part of a group, selected perhaps for a specific or common value, but otherwise just part of a “forward to” group. Have you noticed that both the humourous and meaningful messages often contain a visual component? And, (4) finally of course, there is the beloved spam, spam, spam, eggs & spam and its small cousin Opted-in Newsletters/Mailings that get through the spam filter.

Meaningful Relationship Cartoon

Based on this classification, I have to say that I understand why I enjoy my early morning hours delving into my message boxes. Three of the four categories are bound to be enjoyable. Whether humourous or “meaningful” — when added to the personal — the vast majority of the mails I receive are in fact laden with some emotion, although the jokes category can sometimes be a little irksome. Who is to say that the virtual is by definition cold and impersonal. Nonsense! There is a warm and fuzzy world out there!

One of the key lessons is in how you “train” or manage your contacts and the messages you send and receive. If you like the jokes from someone, then by all means, reply back and join in the foray. If you don’t like them, you can ask the person not to be sent jokes in the future. Alternatively, according to the sender, you can just delete them as they arrive.

What it comes down to, in my mind, is that along with My MSN and netvibes, my worldwide web interface is actually becoming ever more personalized. Social media is feeling like personal media. The jokes bring good cheer. The meaningful messages bring sense and/or purpose. The early morning (when I tend to my personal mails) becomes a moment of virtual emotion and reflection. And I have ever less tolerance for mail that is not on target or on message. This leads me to the question of how brands will truly insert themselves into my world without offending my karma and/or busting my bubble?

On a related topic, I enjoyed this post by Mitch Joel entitled “Intimacy 2.0“. What is true about the post I have done today is that I have relegated the content to largely 1.0 type communications: the email. But, just like letters of yore, each communication has its place and the “old fashioned” one-to-one communication in emails has its place and affords the opportunity for deeper conversations than might otherwise occur in a public domain. It is meet and right that the scale of intimacy in the communications should go from light and fluffy to profound and pensive. The essential point is being ready and able to join in those conversations, to take the time to write back to the people who mean something to you, to participate and engage in the subjects that are important to you. And, returning to the point of how brands are going to “engage” in these conversations, I can anticipate that new marketers in the future should be vetted for their online presence and ability to participate in online conversations. Your presence online will indeed become your best CV.

All in all, aside from the personal mail that somehow gets mistakenly caught up in the spam filter (which is almost as irritating as seeing a spare parking space in front of your doorstep after you circled for too long and parked very far away), my morning’s experience on the computer is generally a moment of bonheur.

How about your experience? Do you agree with the categories? How can brands “interrupt” this tranquil, personal moment?

Spamalot Monty Python Review NYC

Monty Python Spamalot on BroadwayQuick Review of Monty Python’s Spamalot on Broadway, NYC

Spam, spam, spam, bacon & spamalot – internet emails meet On Broadway ?

While in New York, my wife and I had a 4th July evening to ourselves (celebrating our independence) and decided to hit Broadway. Our choice: Spamalot at the Shubert Theatre, NYC. It was a gamble. On the one hand, I am a die hard Monty Python fan (and my kids are fast joining the band) ; on the other hand, such British humour was likely to be difficult for Yendi, my French wife (although her English is fully fluent).

Directed by Mike Nichols and based on a book by original MP star Eric Idle, Spamalot features an entirely new score (by John Du Prez and Eric Idle). Running since March 2005, it has won three Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical of the 2004–2005 season.

The irony of the play was that it was a hit with my wife and less so for me. The story is fun and certainly is loyal to spirit of the mythical 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. The tagline says that Spamalot is “(lovingly) ripped off from the motion picture.” However, Spamalot is also a substantially watered down version of Monty Python humour, replete with wildly « easy » moments. Among the more « interesting » moments, however, was the song entitled, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” that features the line « You just won’t succeed on Broadway, If you don’t have any Jews! » How true — especially in New York.

Wikipedia comments on the views of the original MP team with a wide array of opinions. Cleese, who gave his voice to God in Spamalot, apparently was favourable. However, Terry Jones who co-directed film with Gilliam, said in an interview with Entertainment News, “Spamalot is utterly pointless. It’s full of air… Regurgitating Python is not high on my list of priorities.” Evidently, there was also a feeling of bitterness regarding the unshared commercial success (to Eric Idle’s benefit).

Plabill spoof – a highlight

Meanwhile, the Spamalot Playbill features a surprising hoax section, where all the normal information is transliterated into a Finnish version of the musical (“Finns Ain’t What They Used To Be”). Particularly impressed by the EVP, Vlad the Impaler Wankel. This part of the Playbill was apparently written by Michael Palin (who gave the musical a less-than-positive review himself). The Finnish section also advises “Patrons are asked not to smoke or speak Swedish in the theatre. Please use cell phones whenever possible.”

Spamalot is currently also running in London, Las Vegas and Melbourne (where it is apparently flopping), with a Spanish version in the works. Clearly, it is doing well — bringing a “democratic version” of Monty Python to the masses. And, there is some kind of international competition — verified by the Guinness Book of World Records — on the world’s largest coconut orchestra. The new record was set when 5,567 people, led by the cast from the London production, along with the two Terrries (Jones and Gilliam), armed with coconuts performed “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” in Trafalgar Square. Will the folks down go nuts enough to break the latest record?

In an era of changing and updating the initial film, I missed the opportunity to link the spam skit to the internet spam.

Overall, I give Spamalot a notawholelot rating and a 2.5/5.0 star review. Anyone else have an opinion to share?

For a few reviews: try New York Times, Popwatch Blog (some good comments), and a fun blog called Dressing.

Ha Pi Ho Li Daze 2008

Happy Holidays 2008I admit that [my] using the email to send out holiday greetings still seems a little tacky (even if I tried to spruce it up). I would love to hide behind the ecological zeitgeist, but facility, timing and economics are all part of the “excuse.” Meanwhile, I was quite taken aback by the deluge of the Happy New Year messages I received via SMS this year. And the messages came throughout the day and night from all around the world (Sydney to San Fran via Iceland).

As you may now realize, I like to tabulate…things. This post is about tabulating the latest holiday greetings’ media.

SNAIL MAIL As a family, we received the dinkiest number of Christmas cards in my memory (which in this case likely means in my lifetime). I have found a grand total of 22 cards sent by post to our home (I exclude professional cards). No woe is me in this stat, especially since I barely got out any cards myself. Updated Jan 6, 2008: Since we live on the 6th floor and our elevator is closed for renovation [for two months, yikes], our mail it turns out was being held by our concierge. I just spoke with our concierge who handed me a sack of mail, including another 20 or so Christmas cards… so snail mail isn’t dead yet!

ELECTRONICA There were 10 Happy Holiday e-cards, 4 “spam” i.e. non personalized mailings (like mine cited above), and a good number of replies to my spam (I didn’t count, but I would have to say near 40 return hello’s). Naturally, on Facebook, there was the barrage of x-mail and 12 super wall messages.

SMS Holiday Greetings GaloreTELEFONICA You still get the phone calls from the nearest and dearest (including a few Skypers). Then, there were the 34 SMS messages that I received on my cell. Wow. I get the feeling that the phone companies will not be complaining about that!

So, what will the 2008 Happy Holidays landscape look like? Facebook up or down? SMS more and more? Skype’s the limit?
Galette des Rois
For as long as I am allowed, I continue to wish you all ha pi ho li daze (that’s the second time on this blog, for those of you counting). And, am glad to usher in the wonderful period of the Galette des Rois

Facebook and new media communication…the deluge continues

Facebook New MediaFacebook, Blackberry, LinkedIn, Viadeo, Hotmail, Twitter, Plaxo, Jaiku, Bloglight.ning, del.icio.us and so on … the options for getting in touch are spreading rampantly. There is, on the one hand, a convergence and agglomeration of sites and, on the other, a massive divergence in terms of electronic communications. This latter consideration has now hit me frontally and seems to be winning out. Okay, it has been a few weeks already, but the daily Facebook slap in faceonslaught of new friends and notifications on Facebook (FB) has basically slapped me in the Face.

Whereas I thought that a service like Netvibes was going to centralize and rationalize my (first, not second) life, the matinal “you’ve got mail” [for those poor people still paying AOL] has become “you”ve been nailed”. If it were not enough to have the quixotic vampires and zombies on FB, the hotmail emails are now stacking up alerts to open up other incoming messages on other platforms, from walls to superwalls to highballs and phone calls and text messaging. I believe that services like Netvibes are going to have redouble their efforts to become the singular interface. Spaces like MSN may need to be more liberal in allowing new applications and widgets (opening to other services) if they want to retain their primacy.

Here’s what I like in these new forms of communication: the enlargening of the net of friends with whom I am in touch and the rapidity and diversity (if meaninglessness) of the functionalities, such as poke back.

Here’s what is getting messy: where is the centralized database, warehousing of the messages and addresses? It’s getting more complex to keep up with all the threads.

Here is what is ugly: the paroxysm of messaging. Basic overload. It is getting too much even for me.

With this proliferation of “e-mail” (broadly speaking electronic communication) platforms it makes me wonder if standalone email will evolve to only be for spam and “non friendly” communication while the other services hone the idea of opted-in messaging with pre-selected contacts (“friends” in FB, linkedin contacts, Groups, etc.).

Meanwhile, the news announced last night on CNN Money (or Fortune) whereby Microsoft won out over Google and invested in $240 million for 1.6% of Facebook implies that FB is being valued at $15 billion. You have to admire Zuckerberg’s resolve at the age of 23 to delay the IPO for yet another year or two. Is he holding out for the 100 billion award? Borrowing from the tipping point concept, I see three tips: the first was the programmer/hacker rush to create their own applications on FB. The second, is the current tsunami type wave which is based on the socialBlackberry networking/gaming and is spreading like wildfire among groups. Then the last one will be as FB becomes a more accepted messaging service replacing emails (on hotmail, gmail, etc) and becomes accepted unilaterally at work sites. The Blackberry facedeal between Blackberry and Facebook speaks to the early stages of this notion (they’ve already termed it “Faceberry”). Let’s see how Blackberry shares face today. By getting a foot in the door with FB, is Microsoft going to be able to bring what amounts to an open platform feeling (that exists in FB) to its sites? Meanwhile, ‘poor’ old Google will have to make do with spreading its Orkut social networking site which, for now, is only known in Brazil.

What do you think?

For other blogs and articles on the topic (for those of you who didn’t get enough!)
Seattle pi
Guardian Unlimited
Ben Metcalf