Gregory Bond terminated his first Kiwi Spam this week.
It's a dirty job, being a Spam Killer, but someone's gotta do it. Bond, an Australian, terminated his first NZ-only EMP (Excessive Multi-Posting) with neither rancour nor regret.
In truth there are people polluting Usenet far worse than than did Andy Simpson, the unfortunate Canterbury University student who set an unenviable record in spraying his desperate plea for an Alanis Morisette ticket across all 13 unmoderated newsgroups in the nz. hierarchy.
"These cancels have nothing whatsoever to do with the contents of the message," reads the standard disclaimer (borrowed from global Spamcop Chris Lewis) in Bond's notification postings to nz.net.announce. "It doesn't matter if it's abusive; it doesn't matter whether it's on-topic, in the groups it was posted; it doesn't matter whether the posting was for a 'good cause' or not. If it breaks these thresholds and I detect it, it will be cancelled."
The threshold is measured on the Briedbart Index (BI), defined as the sum of the square roots of however many newsgroups each article was posted to. Simpson's posting scored a BI of 13, well past the trigger level of 10 on the BI. It had to go.
Bond says he fell into Spam cancelling "sort of by accident", after a nasty spate of spamming on the aus. newsgroups, of which there are nearly 100. They included the original Canter and Siegal "green card" Spam hit, along with several from Jeff "Spam King" Slayton and one from a machine at Monash Univeristy regarding herbal remedies.
"The anger level at these was pretty high and pretty universal. This anger was caused by a couple of factors: partly it was the resource requirements (handling, storing and forwarding 100 copies of the same article), partly it was anger at some advertisers using my money and my computers to send me advertising and partly it was the sheer rudeness of it. Newsgroups have a charter and a purpose - I read aus.films to talk about films, not to receive ads for herbal remedies.
"But mainly it was that this annoyance was repeated hundreds of times, once for every newsgroup that we read. The spammers steal our time and concentration, the thing that most of us are shortest of, so they can push their particular message. Eventually, I thought, don't just get angry, do something!"
There were others, notably CancelMoose and Lewis, who were dealing with the problem in the global Usenet groups. Bond contacted Lewis, but discovered that delays of days in propogation meant it was difficult for Lewis to maintain order in the aus groups.
"And the global despammers work on a count of 20 individual copies of a message, which is fine for a global count of 10,000 groups, but out of around 1000 aus groups would have been way too lenient and if we wanted anything tough we had to do something locally."
Fortuitously for Bond, the newsfeed to which he had access changed to a 64kbit/s direct line with INN news software, giving him the chance to learn how to cancel postings automatically.
"Once I was comfortable that I understood the technology I started posting cleaups of the aus. articles that Chris Lewis or others missed from the global newsgroups. Chris was especially helpful with technical advice here. Cancelling articles is simple on one level but there are a few subtleties that can bite you and you really want this to be fail-free."
A positive response from local system administrators (if not from the spammers) encouraged Bond to start dealing with local Spam. Limits were set in consultation with local Net wizards, and eventually the service extended to the nz. newsgroups.
"New Zealand is very benign. I almost never have any work to do in the nz. groups. aus. is worse, but not as bad as alt., for example. In Australia we get quite a few mini-Spams - about one a day, but we have more groups, so 10 on the BI is easier to hit. I try to make sure the global people get a good feed of aus/nz groups, so they usually deal with the global stuff.
"Almost all the local Oz Spam is from commercial people. Most of them are new to the Net and don't take time to learn the way things work. Mostly they repent after one warning, and many have the good grace to be embarrassed about it."