Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The problem of SPAM

I am a strong believer that most of the problems we are facing can be simplified to just several model situations. The reason for that may well be that we are just simple human beings who are unable to recognize too many different situations . Being it this or that way, I can simply not buy into the idea that new technologies bring brand new situations to us.
Let us illustrate it on a problem of spam. Time to time we can read various ideas of how to get rid of this “new” problem. One of the really strange suggestions is to make the entire email communication a paid service. The reason given to us is that this would make spamming too expensive, so the entire problem will naturally disappear. This is very naïve reasoning, indeed.
Let us understand the root of the problem. As an individual I am not offended by reading the same news which millions other people read, too (e.g. BBC technology news). I am however offended if somebody starts communicating with me and doesn’t want to spend even a minute to find out whether his message is of any relevance to me. Instead, he decides to hand over this task (to find out the relevance) to me. In such a case I feel humiliated.
From this perspective SPAM is however nothing unique in our life. It is very similar to today’s advertisement. And although advertisement is paid, it doesn’t stop it from spreading. Corporations have enough money not only to write me, but also to have somebody to call me, and even to break into a movie I am just watching, or even make a pause in a hockey match. After such a dramatic entrance they broadcast very shallow and mostly absolutely irrelevant messages.
Paid emails would not solve the SPAM problem. They wouldn’t however solve even the real problem that stands behind these initiatives, too: the problem of decreasing income of telecommunication companies. Roots of spam are deeper: people are too lazy today to invest time in building relationships.
Unfortunately, our world is sort of strange. It will be technology that will try to help people improve in these soft skills. Future development of CRM and marketing systems target definitely this direction.
Sophisticated systems will enable us to establish targeted, personalized communication again. But will be such a communication anymore personal?

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