Spam, spim, spit, Spyke?

A week of IT

No sooner had we completed E-tales last week, including a description of the ways spam is sent other than email, than our first example of spit — spam over internet telephony — arrived. A few hours after setting up an account with Skype a certain "xavieryap" made contact. Xavier may be real (or at least a real name) but we suspect our contact is a bot that checks the city of new Skype registrations, sends a friendly message and then follows it up with pitches, punts and porno.

Spit isn't a huge problem yet, but unless Skype wants to encourage more of it we suggest they change the default settings when a contact request arrives — we certainly don't want spammers knowing when we're online and able to contact us.

How do you spell that?

Want the longest "alphabetical" email address in the world? Who wouldn't? A quick visit to www.abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzabcdefghijk.com is all it takes it get your own address at abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzabcdefghijk.com. The site proudly infoms visitors that its email addresses are too long for most web forms, too long for some email clients, cause grief to those trying to email you and — bonus! — many companies presume they are fake.

Just how long can a domain name be? RFC 3696 says the local part of an email addresses — everything before the @ — can have a maximum of 64 characters, and the domain part can have no more than 255, for a total length of up to 320 characters. Happily, the RFC says addresses that long "are rarely encountered".

PR trials new business practice

It seems one international PR firm is trialling a creative new way to boost revenues. Pitching for the account of a large multinational vendor recently, they followed their sales visit with an invoice for their time.

When the prospective client rang to query why they had received a bill for a sales pitch, they not only didn't get a satisfactory answer, they received another account — for the time taken to explain why they had been sent the first one.

And did they get paid? Only in their dreams ...

In the wet

A launch of Australian government IT policy by minister Helen Coonan at an IT media conference last week had to shift venue hurriedly, as thunder and rain over the marquee on the lawn rendered her inaudible and sent the audience scrambling to pull jackets and bags out of the rising puddles. She finished her speech in a comfortable media centre with sound-muffling wooden walls.

Later in the conference the subject of bovine ordure (in the metaphorical sense) arose. With high-technology promises sounding from every quarter media and customers alike had to "keep their bullshit detectors on", said one speaker.

Actually, said another, secret work had been going on to construct the biggest BS detector in the world. "It's been deployed over this venue," he said, "and when the BS level rises to a certain point — it makes it rain."

NZ porn-watchers mostly offline

Where does everyone go for porn these days — especially those young people who shouldn't be seeing it? Why the internet, of course; that seems to be the accepted wisdom. That's where our censorial inspectors direct most effort, after all. However, the New Zealand Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), base of the Chief Censor, has just published a survey of frequent viewers of sexually-explicit video, which suggests it ain't so.

Of 46 people in the sample, only 18 admitted to ever seeking such material online and only nine did it more than "occasionally". This despite the fact that 83% of respondents had access to the internet.

Perceived cost ("most of it's on pay-per-view sites") and fear of sparking a deluge of embarrassing spam were among the reasons for not going to the 'net. Not identified, but possibly a factor, is that the survey asked only about video material and that means fairly hefty files. Also, the sample was recruited through flyers in video-hire establishements; there was advance notice on the OFLC website and mailing list, but most porn-consumers probably don't read those.

Soccer clubs love cellphones

Cash-strapped football clubs unable to find themselves a friendly Russian billionaire soccer fan are embracing the mobile phone industry with open arms, says Guardian writer Meg Carter. And according to her, the reason is simply that behind the logo-emblazoned football shirts lies a plethora of football-themed mobile services generating revenue for mobile phone company and football club alike. Mobile phone companies facing near market saturation need to find new ways to win customers from rival networks, or extract more revenue from existing ones, she says. They are on the lookout for communities of consumers rather than individuals because of the inevitable cost advantages of one-to-many over one-to-one communication. And as their global ambitions grow, they are eager to associate themselves with big clubs with an international following, too.

Carter says at the same time, however, mobile phone companies are also using football to underline their positioning of the mobile phone as a legitimate medium in its own right. So, recent weeks have seen a third generation (3G) mobile video network show its goals highlights from Barclays Premiership matches by 5.15pm on a Saturday — ahead of Match of the Day. On other match days, in both the Barclays Premiership and Uefa Champions League, highlights will be available just five minutes after the final whistle.

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