I've just received an e-mail that has totally baffled me. Upon first reading I thought that it was spam and this article was going to be a name and shame exercise, as I did previously. However, now I'm not so sure that it is spam but I don't really know what it is. Let's go through the e-mail and I'll tell you what I thought.
Firstly, the e-mail was from a “Bert C” but was addressed to the webmaster, which is a known spamming tactic. It reads:
“I am contacting you about cross linking. I am interested in your site because it looks like it's relevant to a site for which I am seeking links.”
—I've never heard of cross linking. Sounds a bit dodgy.
“This site is about industrial PC products and the world's leading supplier of embedded computer technology, serving a diverse customer base and a wide range of industrial markets.”
—What has my site got to do with industrial PC products and the world's leading supplier of embedded computer technology? I smell harvesting at work. If a human being had actually looked at my site they'd have more of an idea of what it's about!
“I'll keep the web address confidential and will send it to you only if you give me permission to do so. Just let me know if it's OK, and I'll send you the web address for your review. If you approve of the site, then the intention is to exchange links.”
—Sounds reasonable. Bert signs off at this point, but wait, there's a postscript:
“P.S. If for any reason you don't want me to contact you again, email me with the words "NO EMAIL" as the subject of your message.”
—Alarm bells start ringing! This is one of the oldest spamming techniques in the book. You send the reply and it confirms that they've got that most valuable spamming commodity i.e. a live e-mail address. The e-mail includes a web address, so I took a look:
“Welcome to Link-Builder.com, dedicated to helping webmasters and web managers improve their website link structure.”
—I'm quite happy with my website link structure actually, although I often lie awake at night wondering if I should have flyout sub-menus with links to my Archive categories.
“We found that your website contains words or phrases similar or related to our clients website theme. The email you have received is a request to consider ...”
—It must have been my use of the phrase Every family in Britain had a Cortina in 1973 that did it. Or was it Note the invokespecial #1 line that calls Object's constructor or perhaps It's always tricky staying within the lines when colouring in? I was going to link to the articles containing those phrases but dear reader, it's more fun to leave you to find out for yourself. More promisingly, Bert's site has an FAQ section:
“Is our email SPAM? That is a difficult question to answer”…Whoa! Red alert!…“because of the many different definitions of SPAM. The first thing to note is that most state laws governing SPAM have to do with advertising for a commercial purpose. Exchanging links hardly falls into that condition. And the federal government has not enacted any SPAM laws governing this condition.”
—Well, I'm glad we cleared that one up. It goes on to say:
“WHO is Link-Builder.com? Most website [sic] have a company address and telephone number listed. Link-Builder.com does not. Why? The reason is straightforward. Although few, there are individuals that believe their propose [sic] in life is to rid the world of SPAMers. They take it upon themselves to file lawsuits in state courts and seek to have your website banned from the Internet. Yes, we have run across some of these individuals, and for this reason, choose to take a low profile. Please forgive us for not being more forthcoming on our website, but we need to be a bit obscure. For those that expressly request more information, we will disclose a measured amount of company information.”
—If you're legitimate, then what have you got to fear?
Does anyone know if this is genuine? Leave a comment if you do. I'm not interested in participating but I am curious about it. Bert, if this is legitimate then I apologise, but you have to understand my reasons. It's pretty sad that the cancer of spam has caused me to be so cynical.