Why is Spam of Such Low Quality?

W. David Stephenson blogs on homeland security et al. — and under “et al.” asks why is there no attention to detail by spammers?

This is something I wonder about every day while I hold down the delete key to kill off several hundred spams. I can see the argument that some foreign spammers can't do better as their English is too poor (but can't they find something to copy?). I can see the argument that even cheap spam makes a buck, so that there's a quality/effort sweet spot. What I can't understand is why that's the only point or why it so dominates the (mythical) quality-spam solution point.

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4 Responses to Why is Spam of Such Low Quality?

  1. Central Texan says:

    One reason, in addition to the economics of spam, may be that native English is a devilishly difficult language to learn. It has an extremely large and growing lexicon, plentiful irregular verbs, and because of extensive borrowing just enough familiarity to trip up speakers of other European languages. Add to that the odd spelling and unintuitive pronunciations and you have a fine mess with which to create a convincing spiel.

  2. Brett Bellmore says:

    Judging by the number of spams I get that have “sources” like “insert name here”, I’m guessing that somebody is distributing spammer kits, and many of the purchasers are really, really stupid. Given the evidence that your typical criminal is a few fries short of a happy meal, and that spammers are, for the most part, criminals of a sort, this shouldn’t be suprising.

  3. radish says:

    I would vote for a variation on Brett’s hypothesis. More money is made selling lists (and services, and software) to people who want to make it as spammers than by spammers themselves, and the even bigger money is in capturing PCs for use in botnets and scams. So a lot of spam is perfectly happy to expose you to a hack, or even just verify your address.

    And if you’re a high-volume spammer who is actually trying to sell a product, you’re basically buying a reverse lottery ticket. There’s very little marginal benefit to paying attention to who your recipients are, for the same reason that there’s little benefit to a statistical analysis of lottery numbers. The likelihood of any particular recipient having any real interest in your product is effectively zero. You just send out a million emails in the statistically reasonable hope that someone will get curious and click through despite everything.

    That means that for list accumulators the marginal benefit is also low, because they get paid based on quantity rather than quality. A million addresses with no metadata (or crappy metadata) is worth more than 100k addresses wih halfway decent metadata, because the person who clicks through doesn’t have a knowable profile — they’re just a predictable anomaly.

    Way back before the tubes got all commercialized, I had an open domain registration with my name, address, etc, and for a while I used to get quite heavily personalized spam based on that data.

  4. Well, Mr. Michelle Frooooomkin, I are not big happy that you do not accept some useful advices for your health. I am withdraw offer of “quality” hoodia as seen on Oprah! — from you. Ha.Ha.
    I am having just one final message for you, Mr. Mitchell Froomp. From my frend Zieeco glendaniel: “monarchs, after extending their empire westward to the Mediterranean, dells, long and narrow, which, by the contrast that they form with the it now for a thousand years, and then return to it once more, he would For these or some other reasons Egypt has been occupied by man.” You are now in your place, put, yes, Mr. Froomie?
    Sandy Ryan

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