How to Cover Your Spamming Ass, Correctly

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Link: Dean for Texas (spam sample).

This is a case study in spam: how to handle a bad incident so that it doesn't damage your organization. Over the weekend, an overzealous volunteer with the Dean for Texas campaign spammed a batch of unsolicited email to publicize a Dallas rally.

The response was immediate and negative--much of it from within the campaign itself. The Dean campaign is known for its sophisticated use of the Internet. The tech-savvy volunteers in the Texas campaign let those responsible know that a bad mistake was made.

Within 24 hours the campaign acknowledged the error, issued an apology, and vowed to send email only to the people on their own lists.

This incident could have been a disaster. The Dean campaign has been reaching out to tech-savvy individuals, precisely the people most offended by an action such as this. I believe the campaign deserves a lot of credit for the way it handled what was an admitted mistake. I think the key things are: they listened to what people were saying, admitted a mistake, issued a public apology and took corrective action.

Errors, unfortunately, will happen. I think there is a lesson here on how to act when they do.

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re: How to Cover Your Spamming Ass, Correctly

Alternate view: The Dean campaign knew exactly what they were doing. They posted a one-off spam, anticipating an amount of backlash, for which they had a prepared "apology" Colour me cynical.

re: How to Cover Your Spamming Ass, Correctly

In addition to being very Internet-centric, the Dean campaign is also one of the first national campaigns in my memory to be run mainly by its volunteers.

In past campaigns, the volunteers didn't do squat until the head office told them to.

That is not true in this case. All the state (and local) Dean organizations tend to shoot first and ask questions later. They're volunteers. They need to be taught a lesson.

In this case, I think they were. And I hope that the Dean campaign will spread this lesson to its other volunteer groups.

re: How to Cover Your Spamming Ass, Correctly

Neil:
Ok, I'm the culprit. I sent the emails to a Democratic list I obtained from a Democratic file of people who I thought were Democrats about a Democratic rally for a Democratic candidate.

I've since learned that was not a appropriate action.

I apologized and it won't happen again.

Colour me cynical that there is no room for error or apology in some people's view of the internet world.

Thanks for teaching me this lesson.

Glen Maxey

Texas VOLUNTEER Coordinator for Howard Dean
(who just barely learned how to use a web page and emails in the last few years).

re: How to Cover Your Spamming Ass, Correctly

Glen Maxey wrote:
"Colour me cynical that there is no room for error or apology in some people's view of the internet world.

Thanks for teaching me this lesson."

Hahaha! No, nothing could be further from the truth. But, I guess I've been involved in spam for too long - eight years gives one a skewed world-view.

I honestly did not think that someone could accidentally spam in this day and age. As I wrote to Dana:

"I fully understand your sensitivity to the criticism of the Dean campaign. However, I respectfully submit that in light of the recent 3-day FTC panels on spam, the 6 bills currently competing to become law in the U.S., a doubling of both the number of newspaper articles covering spam, and of spam itself over the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, it is very difficult to believe that this was an innocent mistake. You know, of course, that many laws explicitly exempt political speech, which casts further doubt, in my mind, as to the "innocent error" take on this.

Pigeonholing a mistake with such grave negative consequences with "it was a field office" has the same validity as does a pr0n site's "it was an affiliate, not us". There is a measure of responsibility which lies with the beneficiary of the action. Were a field office to run an ad on television that was counterculture to the candidate's platform, there'd be hell to pay.

Surely there are guidelines published by the main office for a wide variety of aspects of a campaign; if email marketing is not a part of it, I would urge you to lend your expertise to draw up such a policy paper so this doesn't re-occur by malice or ignorance."

I was a recipient of the Bill Jones gubernatorial (California) spam last year. His campaign people obfuscated, lied, changed stories ... the works. They did everything but act in the way you did - honestly, apologetically, genuinely.

You have my apologies for doubting your motives and your actions, and furthermore, you have my respect for owning up. However, particularly ironically in light of the Jones spam, you cannot have my vote. I am a Canadian, living in Montreal. But if it were possible, you'd have that too!

re: How to Cover Your Spamming Ass, Correctly

But how many of the offended people who were spammed will ever read the apology? Was the apology given play in the press?

re: How to Cover Your Spamming Ass, Correctly

Re Spammer Dean:
Using dealsforyou.com to send spam to addresses harvested from unsubscribe lists or wherever, that is not a casual mistake. That simply puts the spammer into the same category as the Nigerian scammers and the people who try to peddle organic breast/penis/credit enlargement pills made from Kentucky snake oil.

Somebody should remind Spammer Dean that McCain was leading in the last primaries until he got caught spamming. The web is all about communication, and we do not like spammers.

If a spammer gets elected, expect server side spam control to be outlawed, and the end of email as we know it.

Until there is an alternative email protocol ready, it might be wise to be really careful about the voting, and not put somebody from the Nigerian Scam class into the White House.
DearWebby

re: How to Cover Your Spamming Ass, Correctly

According to this blog article, the Dean campaign hasn't quit spamming.

http://www.tnl.net/blog/entry/Dean's%20Misstep

re: How to Cover Your Spamming Ass, Correctly

I got two spams from the Dean campaign last week, and I've never been a Democrat Party donor.

It's obvious these people will go to any lengths to raise money for their man, abusing the Internet in the process. I fully expect them to use the Nigerian scam to raise money in the future.

Democrats should support Lieberman, a real man of principle, and not this flim-flam Dean.

re: How to Cover Your Spamming Ass, Correctly

Neil wrote: "I honestly did not think that someone could accidentally spam in this day and age."

I see examples of this all the time. A simple example might be when someone hit "Reply to All," instead of "Reply." Ok, it's not really spam, but still. People who don't know their way around a system can do some pretty regrettable things, often by mistake. (Yes, as opposed to the regrettable things we sometimes do intentionally.)

re: How to Cover Your Spamming Ass, Correctly

I get spammed for all manner of products and services that would embarass me to discuss with my parents. But, in this age of immense political apathy, if some Democratic group or another got my information and wanted to inform me about Democratic Party events or Candidates or Issues on an upcoming ballot, I would welcome the email.

In my opinion, most people are not as fully informed as they could be about matters which impact their futures and those of their children. If I have to sort through a few more spam emails, so be it. Spam of the other type will never disappear. Might as well have some useful spam out there if it will get people involved in the Democratic process.

Just like political organizations are exempt from telemarketing laws, they should be exempt from spam laws. IMO.