Cousins of spam

Spam is of course unsolicited commercial email, or at least any unwanted email obvious enough that we expect a spam filter can catch it. (They seem to regard filtering unwanted mail from senders we also get wanted mail from as outside their scope, which is probably fair enough considering that it’s false positives that really drive their best-paying users up the wall.)

There are terms for the niggles that get through, especially by virtue of coming from a trusted sender: I introduced the term tofu to several people on Identica and Twitter yesterday: it’s activist spam, those (usually manually sent but massively Bcc-ed) emails asking you to attend a meeting or a rally or sign a petition. (More alert activists send these with sorry for the tofu but… at the top.) I was in turn introduced to the term bacn, for email which is solicited in the ethical email marketing sense (you’ve subscribed to it) but which then becomes something to delete or skip.

Which brings me to a couple of types of unwanted email that need their own snackfood-related term. I suppose the bacn precedent means they’re supposed to have four letters, too:

reminders to participate in something I agree is very important but that everyone knows about

One of the things I love best about compulsory voting in Australia (FAQ: how can you bear to live in a country that would gaol you for not voting? I have no idea, in my country it attracts a fine of about $20, think of it as like skipping jury duty except a lot cheaper) is not having everyone nag me by email, phone and finally door-to-door approaches to get out the vote for weeks, at best, before an election. Fund-raising can become equivalently aggressive. (By extension from compulsory voting I suppose I should argue for such high taxes that no one has to, or can, donate money to charity.)

calls for papers

Many academics, especially in computer science, receive endless emails to their individual address reminding them that the deadline for the International Conference for Synergistic E-Knowledge in the Wireless Classroom, etc, has a deadline coming up soon. They’re somewhat targeted: I get a lot more to my addresses than to my personal ones, and computer organisations like SLUG get them too. These should fall into the category of spam, since they’re unsolicited and you have to pay for the conference, but they don’t fall under the new definition of spam, stuff that spam filters actually recognise. (Mind you, at university I think the only thing Barracuda does reliably classify as spam is Mailman held-mail summaries, but it’s especially bad at these conference mails and also at anything to do with watches.) I get several a week and by the do I want these people up against the wall when the revolution comes? metric of spaminess, it is time to have a word for this blight.