Culture

Spam rule #1: If you can't beat it, picket

Dearborn, Michigan-based Internet service provider AGIS has drawn the ire of antispam forces by refusing to boot known spammers, including the notorious Sanford "Spamford" Wallace's Cyber Promotions, from its service.

Some people never forget their first taste of bliss. For me, it was a soft crumbly gorgonzola from the Piemonte region with a thin slice of chilled d'Anjou pear. It was in my last year of college and I was lying on my back on a blanket in the Northumbrian woods with a lass from the local cheese shop. On the other hand, Grandpa DuBaud could never forget that first taste of Spam from his days as a 17-year-old recruit in a northern Quebecois boot camp. In his later years, he would sit on the porch, think about the spongy pink meat product and drool through his dentures. Most others don't share Grandpa's tastes, especially angry Internet users.

Dearborn, Michigan-based Internet service provider AGIS has drawn the ire of antispam forces by refusing to boot known spammers, including the notorious Sanford "Spamford" Wallace's Cyber Promotions, from its service. To appease his critics, AGIS CEO Phil Lawlor has tried to implement a filter system that prevents his clients from zapping their spiced ham to the in-boxes of those who add their names to the filter. Nonetheless, the company has been nailed by a hack attack, their employees are inundated by irate emails, and Lawlor says his car has been vandalized. On Monday, the protests continued. As AGIS hosted a job fair at its offices, a handful of antispammers picketed outside. One sign reportedly read, "Don't work for AGIS--don't support somebody who supports unsolicited bulk email." Uh, catchy.

AGIS CEO Phil Lawlor was amused enough to invite them in for a tour.

"We think if they're local enough to come picket they should apply for a job," Lawlor told one of my agents.

Hey Phil, don't laugh too hard. On the tour, one picketer got a good look at the AGIS server and router hardware. Lawlor and his reps supposedly admitted that less than 1 percent of their business comes from the spammers. Of course, who's to say that hosting such activity won't become a lucrative biz, as long as the legislators don't step in? According to the guest on the tour, AGIS is devoting plenty of resources and construction to the spam filter project. Maybe Lawlor is counting on the self-policing mechanism to allow the "direct marketing" to continue without too much flak.

The return of a code warrior to Microsoft could mean some interesting new projects. One Skinside source slipped me a note about Michael Abrash, author of the book The Zen of Code Optimization and supposedly one of the key figures in getting NT running on PC hardware. (A paperback copy of Zen, by the way, will cost you about $40 bucks stateside, according to the techie book peddlers around the corner.) Abrash abandoned the H.M.S. Redmondo for the smaller pond at Id Software, but not before Captain Gates took Abrash to dinner to keep him from jumping ship, says the source. Now Abrash is back, reportedly working in the division that handles speech and natural language recognition. Given Abrash's track record at byte-tweaking in the final phases of a project, could a new speech recognition product from Microsoft be far behind? Don't leave me far behind like the lass from the cheese shop did so many years ago. Send me rumors and dairy products with all speed.