This is sad. I have this morning received a series of spam emails from Brendan Battles*, one of which is even addressed to himself! Someone really ought to stop this guy – if nothing other than for his own sake.
Actually I really don’t know if it is funny or sad when a known spammer spams himself but here it is. The following screenshots show an email addressed to "firstname.lastname@example.org" titled "Dear Brendan". From about May 2006 until October 2006, Brendan did some marketing work for one of my companies and at the same time he helped me get WDANZ up and running. He was very helpful and his ideas and support for the WDANZ idea was much appreciated. There was of course some pretty serious baggage associated with his name, but I’d given him my word so I stuck with him even though it caused some negative press for us. I did this because I try to make my word mean something and I’d watched Brendan get trashed unfairly by a previous employer who admitted (to me privately) that he lied to the press to protect his company image over Brendan.
During this time I setup the email address "email@example.com" for him which he was entitled to and did use during that time. In early July 2006, following feedback from some in the industry that we were a company, not an organisation we changed to using "firstname.lastname@example.org" and he stopped using this after the October 2006 Conference when we parted company. So the address he has used here (email@example.com) has been generated.
Brendan’s modus operandii is to scrape data from multiple sources, such as Yellow Pages, IDG, Whitepages, Finda, the .nz Registry and websites. He also exchanges data with others in the business, merges data and sells it on CDRoms. He did it very successfully in the USA and started this in New Zealand in 2006 when he has with me. He is very skilled at manipulating large datasets and finding ways to "get around" anti-scraping devices used by online listing organisations.
Because of the way that he secures it the quality of his data is at the lower end of the spectrum. I would suggest that anyone wanting quality data or complete data sets would be better to pay the higher prices from Yellow Pages and their like. Brendan’s attitude to complaints relating to quality is to offer more data free. In his position this is all he can do, because he can only scrape data from the sources available to him. Yellow Pages however has access to the data from source, and therefore can offer complete and accurate data.
From these screen shots (fullsize) you can see that:
- I received five copies of the same email spam
- All of them (except for the one addressed to himself) do not have a "title" field – a sure sign of spam. If I received five emails between 1.38am and 1.51am with a bunch of them in alphabetical order (info@) to which I have not have opted-in, that indicates a rather large spam broadcast last night methinks.
- Four of them are addressed to info@" (Only one of them is a genuine web-based email address that could have been scraped. The others are guesses that have worked). This is again spam.
- The one addressed to "firstname.lastname@example.org" has been scraped from Registry data (the only place it is ever used). Go Kiwi Internet has never or would never opt-in to any list with Image Marketing Group.
- "email@example.com" has been created from attaching info to a scraped domain name. (This address has never been used) and the Domain Name is not used. It simply has a wildcard catching inbound e-mails for clients that may have guessed the domain.
Apart from the humour of watching the notorious spammer spam himself, I find the whole spamming thing with Brendan really quite sad. Brendan pushes the boundaries. I empathise with people who do push the boundaries because that’s where progress comes from. I push the boundaries too and it’s the attitude that makes an entrepreneur tick. We approach life positively and are just inherently built to ask the questions “Why not give it a go?” rather than sitting around saying “Why should I bother?”.
The sad thing is that Brendan has a lot of experience in many areas of marketing and could make an excellent living without having to always work at the dodgy end of the market. Spamming like this is just going to cause the guy a heap more problems. He will think that he can get away with it. Maybe he can. He’s already had to deal with the authorities over a previous spam job. He sneaked through that one – but one day they’ll ping him. Personally I don’t think it is worth it. The risk is w-a-a-a-y too high.
Notes: I believe that the Computerworld articles contain factually incorrect information relating to Brendan and Compass as I have knowledge additional and contrary to the claims made in the original article but this is a minor point now.
In regards to Brenda’s alleged comments that says “IMG is contesting Yellow Pages’ allegations, which he says are unproven”, I would take that with a grain of salt. I for one have direct personal knowledge of Brendan’s scraping efforts and I am aware of some of the evidence that Yellow Pages has accumulated. I think that Brendan’s toast, and that he knows it!
UPDATE: 18 February 2011. With the Anti-SPAM Unit prosecuting Brendan Battles, he’s toast all right!
* Technically from "Simon"