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Ecommerce / Web Marketing Ezine
June 8 2002

View the TTB Ezine Archive


1. Site and Internet News
*Off topic, but might be of interest!
*More changes to TTB
*A great new free webmaster service via TTB

2. Article Summary - Link Building Advice from an Expert 

3. Full Article - Making Spam Complaints? Some words of caution

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Site and Internet News

Welcome to all the new subscribers of our ezine! I hope you find this publication to be useful and I look forward to your feedback so we can continue improving it.

Off topic, but might be of interest!

Many of you would be aware that TTB also contains a free cell phone ring tone section, which can be viewed  by clicking here.

It was originally implemented as a "fun" thing, but the response has been nothing short of amazing! Thousands of people use the free tones every week. We've been continuing to build this section of the site and we would like to offer all TTB subscribers who use cell phones an amazing product to try out! It's a free trial and you can learn more about the mystery product by clicking here.


More changes to TTB

Well, we've finally done it. Although my partner Kathy needed sedation after the change, the majority of the black of TTB has gone after nearly 3 years.. sniff... We were beginning to receive more feedback that the site was difficult to read, so we've made some improvements. We'd appreciate your feedback on the new color scheme..... As in all things ecommerce related, the market dictates... but when I am king, all sites will have to be black ;0). If you notice any distrubances on the pages, try refreshing - some ISP's cache pages for quite a long time.

New free webmaster service!

If you didn't get a copy of our last ezine, we've just recently launched a new section of the site which will deal exclusively with search engine optimization resources. The section can be viewed by clicking here.

This week, we've incorporated a new free online tool which is useful for webmasters and developers for determining their link popularity and where they stand amongst their online peers. Over the coming months I'll be adding more of these tools, which I use myself, to TTB. 

Check out the link popularity reporting tool here - it's free! Click here.

2. Article Summary - Link Building Advice from an Expert

A rare occasion for Taming the Beast.net, we've published a guest writer article! Get some expert advice on link building and link popularity strategies in this article from Larry Sullivan:

3. Full Article - Making Spam Complaints? - Be cautious

If you are a webmaster who supplies free content to others, or if you have ever considered making or made a spam complaint, this article contains important information for you...

When I stumble out of bed every morning, in a process that has become automatic for me, I fire up my PC, light a cigarette and put on the kettle for a cup of java. I have timed it all so that by the time the jug has boiled, enough nicotine is in my bloodstream so I can begin to function properly and carry out the delicate task of spooning coffee into my mug. It is also by that time that my mail has finished downloading - why does it take so long? You guessed it - SPAM.

Between my partner and I, we receive around 200 spam messages every day. 2 years ago, I would have tracked down each of the damned spammers - today, we just don't have the time.

Every day, we receive messages encouraging us to purchase body part enlargement pills, creams and potions, subscriptions to adult sites, offers from Nigeria to "invest" money - even one rather thick individual has decided that we need to hear about the diesel engines that he sells on a daily basis. Around 10 messages each day will also contain viruses - you name it, we get them all.

It's annoying and time consuming to have to sift through such volumes of spam. If a spammer bugs me enough, I'll then track them down in an attempt to terminate their ISP/Hosting account - with extreme prejudice. But we are careful when we make spam complaints to ensure that we attack the right person/s.

Our first "spam" complaint

For the first time since I began publishing free-for-reproduction content (just like this article), I received a rather vicious spam complaint leveled against Taming the Beast.net. I nearly choked on my coffee. We've been using double opt-in lists for some time now for most of our publications. We've always been a part of the fight against spam. We even contribute to the cause by offering webmasters a free service that effectively reduces the amount of spam in their guestbooks and forums, which you can read about here:


The complaint we received was a spiteful communication, labeled us as "dubious" and the complainant had accused us wrongly. What made the situation even more frustrating was that:

  • The real source of the "spam" didn't want to rectify the issue and was quite abusive.

  • The complainant was an experienced webmaster and should have known better than to cc' blatant accusations to multiple parties when he hadn't investigated the issue properly

  • When we proved that we were in no way involved, the complainant didn't even bother to withdraw their comments.

Taking spam complaints seriously..

So, how did this all come about? The brief story is this. A webmaster used one of my articles in his ezine and sent it out to another webmaster who didn't appreciate receiving the ezine. The complainant felt that it was spam. Because my name (along with a number of other well known writers) appeared in the ezine with my article, he felt that we should all be tarred with the same brush. He sent a rather scathing email to all our hosting service providers and the Federal Trade Commission in the USA. 

Even though I knew that the complainant was gunning in the wrong direction, we took steps immediately to try and sort out the situation. I emailed him back to politely explain what had occurred and that we would investigate for him. He didn't even bother responding.

The next day, our hosting service contacted me, rather puzzled by the whole scenario but needing some sort of assurance that we weren't directly involved. I then spent a number of hours rectifying somebody else's problem.

I located the "spammer" webmaster in question and (politely) revoked his rights to republish my content and requested an explanation. He dribbled on about his "American Freedom" and his (in his eyes) god-given right to advertise his wares as he saw fit, while in the same breath denying that he had anything to do with spamming the complainant. 

Freedom vs. Responsibility

He also told me on a number of occasions to go jump and that he didn't want to hear from me again. He also said he had no intention of addressing the issue. His lack of tact and professionalism I found to be particularly repugnant - particularly since it was my content that he used in his ezine and I still maintain the rights over that content. It is such a pity that many people do not understand that with freedom (including American Freedom - no offense intended to our friends in the USA) comes responsibility. 

I have not contacted him again, as per his request - may he live in interesting times (Chinese curse). I am sure that his own hosting service will catch up with him in due course.

I then contacted the complainant again and explained to him that neither myself and more than likely any of the other writers of the articles published in the ezine were involved with him receiving the email. He didn't care. Even though he was a webmaster himself, he obviously felt that it was fine to shoot from the hip, slander others and then not take responsibility for the consequences. He is extremely fortunate that we decided not to take the issue any further and that we didn't commence litigation proceedings. We don't take too kindly to being slandered. 

The costs of following up spam complaints

Even though I have little respect for either of these parties, I won't publish their names or web sites here. Some of us have to remain civilized. The dollar value on the time I spent on sorting through this came to around US$400. If I had been on vacation at the time this occurred, or if our hosting service had reacted badly and we had been shut down, the damages could have run into hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income and damage to our brand.

It just goes to show, even though the complainant webmaster was obviously a bit of a nutter and we could have just ignored the original rant from him, it always pays to follow up complaints no matter how ludicrous or wacko they may seem. It's these immature and ill-informed individuals that can cause the most damage to a business.

Also, if you are offering free content for reproduction on the web, it may be wise to implement a legal statement on your archive forbidding the use of your content for use in unsolicited mail. Of course, that should go without saying, but we are living in the age where even the manual that comes with the microwave oven that you buy states "do not place your pets inside"...... 

A few days after this had all settled, I ran into another webmaster whom had found himself in the same situation a couple of months ago and according to him, this scenario is on the increase. As people become increasingly intolerant of spam, they are taking action - which is great, but it seems that many innocent parties are being caught up in the process.

The RIGHT way to track and report spam

If you are receiving spam, by all means report it, but be careful in how you report it. If you accuse a party of sending spam, it is in your own best interest to ensure that the parties you mention in your spam complaint are actually the guilty ones. If you are not sure on how to track down sources of spam, be cautious in making allegations - your words may land you in court. 

In these cases, it is best to simply forward the offending email AS AN ATTACHMENT to the upline service providers of the parties that you suspect, with a note to the upline service provider asking them to investigate. Forwarding just the spam email's body text to the service providers in question will not help them in tracking down the real perpetrators. An email message contains hidden elements in the header which identify the path that the email has taken to get to you - it's this hidden information that the service provider will need in order to properly investigate.

In Outlook Express, you can display the headers of an email message by following these steps:

1. Open the message by clicking on it (be virus cautious).
2. Click on the File menu, and select Properties.
3. Click on the Details tab in the dialog box that appears.
4. Click on the Message Source button.

In Microsoft Outlook, you can display the header by:

1. Right mouse clicking over the message
2. Selecting Options

Using both these methods, you will be able to view information about who sent the message, which mail service was used to send it, and the details of any other mail service that may have routed the message on its way to your inbox - most of the time. Clever spammers know of many ways to avoid detection. Never try to email the spammer directly, it only lets them know that your email address is "live" and you'll find your address being sold to other spammers.

A spam free Internet, now wouldn't that be something? To go to your inbox every day and only find information that you requested and communications that you want would be a dream. But if the current trend of "shoot first, ask questions later" continues regarding spam, the only ones that will be left on the Internet will be the spammers and scammers.

Further learning resources:

Fighting Guest Book and Forum Spam

Web site advertising issues

Michael Bloch 
Tutorials, web content and tools, software and community.
Web Marketing, eCommerce & Development solutions. 

Copyright information.... This article is free for reproduction but must be reproduced in its entirety & this copyright statement must be included. Thanks. Visit http://www.tamingthebeast.net to view other great articles, tutorials and tools for site owners and Internet marketers! Subscribe to our popular free ecommerce/web design ezine!

That's all for this Taming the Beast update! We are very open to feedback, so please don't hesitate in contacting us.

Regards from Australia

Michael Bloch & Katherine Tyndale
Taming the Beast - Established 1995
Tutorials, web content and tools, software and community
Marketing, eCommerce and Web Development Services

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