Saturday, September 18, 2004

The King of the Geeks tracks a visual history of spam

He is, to one observer. the "king of all geeks" and his latest effort may indeed be very regal. Microsoft employee Raymond Chen has saved every spam e-mail since 1997 probably to the great dismay of his IT staff. His masterly compilation of the digital bile that clogs the internet is presented here with all the gusto of a man who perhaps has too much time on his hands. Does Chen have a good hypothesis about why spam appears to, by his measure, dropped off? Not really. A downward trend in early 2004 was initially thought to be attributed to the CAN-SPAM act. But Chen doesn't think so. "I don't buy this theory since there was no significant corresponding lull at my other email account, and follow-up reports indicate that CAN-SPAM was widely disregarded." He may be right. The CAN-SPAM Act is a toothless tiger and there's no reason to believe that filtering has dramatically improved. Meanwhile, I wonder what Edward Tufte thinks of Chen's graphic design.

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