You can run but you can't hide; why even run?

Spammers.

The scourge of the Internet. We have so much to thank them for:

  • The waves of junk mail pouring into our inboxes.
  • The painful challenge-response systems that stop us from sending legitimate email.
  • The DNS blacklists that make sending mail from a dynamic IP unfeasible.
  • The throw-away email addresses that we register to protect our real address.
  • The forced migrations from one spam-inundated account to an inevitably to-be-inundanted other.
  • The greylists that slow down our legitimate outgoing messages.
  • The moderation that dampens discussion lists.
  • The virtual ruination of NNTP, in my view largely spared only by Google and their groups gateway.
  • The endless confirmation emails that we must work through in order to register at new sites.
  • Email addresses that you can’t click on, but that you have to "translate" from based on what you see in an image or some kind of code.
  • Companies that you can’t email even though you’re a paying customer.

I could go on but by now you’re getting the idea. And that’s only in the realm of email; spammers have also done and are doing their very best to ruin forums, weblogs and every other online space.

Well, I’m sick of running. I’m sick of hiding. I don’t want my customers to have to jump through hoops in order to contact me. I used to think that controlling spam required proper server-level measures (blacklisting, filtering, proper sendmail configuration) combined with client-level filtering and a big dose of obscurity (email hiding) thrown in.

For a long time I tried to keep my email address off the site, and in the places where I did show it I used cryptic equivalents like "win at this domain". I tried to channel all contact through a web contact form. I even migrated from my old address win@wincent.org to win@wincent.com because the old address was receiving too much spam.

Well, I’m a bit tired of all that. I think it sends the wrong message to customers. It really means, "Spammers, I don’t want to hear from you", but it can actually make customers feel like I’m saying, "Customers, I don’t want to hear from you". This isn’t true. I do want to hear from customers. Customer feedback helps to improve products and keeps one motivated. Even the "bad" types of customer contact (complaints, "silly" questions) are in indication of things that you should be doing better (ways your documentation could be improved, ways your interfaces could be changed so that those kinds of questions don’t crop up).

I still believe that server-side measures and client-side filtering are very important (see the Knowledge Base article "Combating spam") but I’ve decided to throw the obscurity part out the window. If you’ve been reading this weblog of late you’ll be aware of the moves towards openness and transparency that I’ve been making; this new attitude towards email and spam is just another step.

As part of this I have plans to revamp this site and make it more open and integrated. Yes, my initial dislike for all things Web 2.0 has settled down and I’m planning on taking from it the best bits and leaving out the bits I don’t like. Once the revamp is done you’ll still find a contact form for those who can’t send email, but you’ll find my email address writ up front and large for those who want to get in touch quickly and easily via email.

Please contact me (win@wincent.com) if you have any comments or suggestions.