Spam Attack

A few weeks ago we went through upgrade of anti-spam software we use in-house. The Bayesian filter database got corrupted during the upgrade or possibly before it and for some reasons we could not restore it from backups. After much ado we decided to start anew. Software upgrade was quite impressive and new filters reduced the volume of spam dramatically, the majority of the users did not even noticed the little problem we had. It was not the case for me, all knowledge previous version of the software gained about my spam designation was lost and many of my service providers came back.

Today I receive a couple dozens of emails a day which come from valuable IT service providers that somehow got hold of my email address. Apparently they use smart email campaign software that bypasses very solid guards that on daily basis filter out a few hundreds of Canadian pharmacy offerings, lottery winning notifications and love letters from Russian girls.

Many of these email come from Corp-to-Corp brokers, resume distribution services, staffing pros and of course offshore providers.

“Nick we talked before…”, “Hi Nick, following up our earlier discussion..” – good opening statements as far as spam goes. “I would like to ask for only 15 minutes of your time…”, “Our VP of delivery is in your area and I would like to organize meeting in a restaurant of your choice…”, “we have just completed large Java…”, “CMMI5”…– polite, good attention grabbers, some teasers. A lot of good work came into preparing these campaigns. Having been on the other end of the table I can tell that some of those are first class examples of direct mail. However, in the end of the day the spam remains to be what it is – unsolicited email that clogs my inbox, eats my time, and sets me squarely against the author.

A few months ago a friend of mine told me that he was in a process of vendor selection planning on making a deal with a mid-sized offshore company based out India. The name one of the contenders sounded very familiar and I searched my desktop for it. In a few seconds I saw a dozen of emails, all in my spam folder, from a person I have never met or heard of – “Hi Nick, it’s been a while since we talked…” I mentioned it to my friend and that was enough for him to take the company off the list. I am pretty happy that my friend took it the same way I would, let it be our little contribution to antispam efforts across the globe :)

Many of the services in IT industries are commodities, offshore services is one of those. Direct access campaigns offering offshore services are going to generate the same response from me as telemarketing calls on a Sunday mornings. More so think of telemarketers who sell gasoline – “Hi Nick, Let me tell you about great deals we have at your nearest BP location! We offer outstanding selection of octane rating at very compelling prices!” There are a few good reasons why BP doesn’t do that… There are different means BP differentiates itself from their competitors, they understand that gas is a commodity and do not spam me with “once in a lifetime opportunities”.

I guess one of the reasons offshore vendors elect to use direct email campaigns is that they do generate response, I can imagine that click through ratio is exceptionally low but if you get one contract out of 100,000 emails it more than pays for the effort. Considering cutthroat business offshore suppliers are in you can’t blame them for it. As a matter of fact the only people to blame are VPEs, CTOs and other potential buyers who open and respond to those emails… Hey guys – please don’t do it! Don’t buy from spammers. If you want to find an offshore supplier go about that in a meaningful way – get lists from respected directories, ask for references, issue RFPs, use offshore advisors, and so on. You will end up with a higher quality provider and plus you will help all of us…

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