Spam in the inbox is bad enough. Spam that announces itself with a
cheery little tune and steals the focus from your application is much
closer to intolerable. Andrew Macks (one of freshmeat's Australian
Submission Bin Warriors) offers his guidelines for ICQ users who want
to avoid spamming others, and we ask what can be done about this new
and more intrusive type of spam.
One of the advantages of email over physical mail, that it's trivial
to send the same message to many recipients at once, has led to the
daily struggle against spam. As other means of mass communication
become popular, spam becomes a part of them as well.
Instant Messaging, whether it be through ICQ, AIM, Jabber, etc., is
becoming an increasingly popular way to stay in touch. As it becomes
more popular for legitimate use, it will become a more popular vehicle
for unsolicited commercial messages as well. Worst of all, IM spam is
even more intrusive than email spam. email spam waits in your inbox
to annoy you; IM spam leaps out at you, popping up and covering the
work you were doing.
As today's editorial, we present a FAQ Andrew Macks wrote when he grew
tired of it all and needed to rant in hopes of educating people about
the proper use of ICQ's mass forwarding features. Education has been
a serious problem since AOL first turned its masses loose on the
Internet with no preparation regarding the traditions and etiquette
that everyone should know. Any attempt to raise the level of
consciousness is good, but is it enough?
What's the best way to deal with the problem? One welcome feature of
many IM clients is that they make it easy to add people to a blocklist
(a feature not provided by all email clients, and not everyone has
access to procmail) and to limit incoming messages to those that come
from people on your contacts list. Is it acceptable to just reject
messages from people you don't know? That could block communication
from strangers who have a legitimate reason to contact you. And how
do you deal with the people you need to keep on your contact list who
refuse to understand the difference between reasonable forwards and
intrusive spam? Would it be enough to have messages from different
users treated differently? (A message from your wife pops up as
usual, while a message from a bowling buddy makes a less intrusive
sound and is logged instead, so it can be read now or later, depending
on what else you're doing.)
Is education a battle that can be won? Will the people that need to
read a rant like this ever read it? If they read it, will they take
it to heart? My experience with email makes me think that there are
many people who won't. I have several friends whose mail I don't want
to redirect to /dev/null, but they simply will not accept that they
don't need to send me the same jokes, recipes, petitions, and Ann
Landers columns that ten other people have already sent me.
If education isn't possible, are there technological solutions to the
problem? How else could it be solved?
ICQ Message/URL Forwarding -- What should I be using it for?
What is ICQ?
ICQ (I-Seek-You) is a chat program and protocol for keeping track of
when your friends, family, and workmates are online, and which allows
you to send them short messages, participate in chats (live text
conversations), distribute files to them, and send URLs of Web sites
you enjoy visiting. There are many new features such as Greeting
Cards and Voice Messages being added all the time.
What is Message/URL forwarding?
Message/URL forwarding is a feature of ICQ which allows you to send a
message or URL that somebody sent you to another person(s) on your
list without retyping the message or URL.
What is this document about?
This document is an attempt to teach ICQ users to be responsible for
their own actions, and describes alternate methods for doing various
things as opposed to creating forwarded messages. It also tries to
explain when using or not using the forward feature is responsible.
Using Message/URL forwarding responsibly.
What should I be forwarding?
The forward feature is for forwarding messages that you find of
personal interest. This means that if you receive a message or URL,
visit the URL, and find it amusing, interesting, disgusting, or
whatever, you want your friends to know about it. For example, if I
received this message:
Hey! I just found this really cool site for checking out all the
latest computer news. http://slashdot.org/
, I would then go to the site and think it was pretty cool, and forward
it to my other computer-knowledgeable friends.
Andrew, could you please tell your family that our cat, Maggie, has
passed away. :( She lived a long life of 15 years, so I guess we should
be happy with that.
I might choose to use ICQ to forward this message to my sisters and
parents, but nobody else, since there'd be no point.
What should I avoid forwarding?
Basically *ANYTHING* that says "FORWARD TO EVERYBODY ON YOUR
LIST". Some very notable points..
- You will not get deleted for not forwarding the message.
- You will not get a virus for not forwarding the message.
- You will not get good luck, bad luck, be gay, be straight, etc.
because you did/did not forward the message.
- ICQ will not start charging you because you did not forward the
- Person XYZ sending virii around doesn't mean a lot to you or
- Nothing will be saved because you forwarded a message to
everybody on your list.
Also not to be forwarded are URLs which are not URLs. If you have
something important to say which does not include a URL, send it as a
message. If it has nonsense in the URL field, it is bogus, spam, and
irrelevant, and should be ignored. Feel free to then refer the person
to this page to explain to them why what they are doing is so absurd.
How is unnecessary forwarding costing me money?
All traffic that passes through an Internet backbone (this is the
insides of the Internet layout) costs money, even to you. Your ISP has
worked out how much to charge you most likely by using one of the
- An average of how much traffic every user on your ISP uses has
been calculated and the ISP charges a set amount per month
which is just above the average. Obviously, the more
unnecessary traffic you generate, the higher this average will
be, and over the long-term,
the more Internet access will cost you. This is the most common
way "Unlimited" ISPs work out their accounting.
- A certain amount of free traffic (in megabytes) may be awarded
your account, and then a set amount from 10-30c/Mb
afterwards may be in effect. It's true that ICQ messages
generate an extremely low amount of traffic. A single
message is about 200 bytes, which is 0.0002Mb, approximately,
but when you take into account the number of messages that
are forwarded each month by just one user... Say 40 users are on
list, you get 20-40 messages, and you forward them to everybody.
That's already 1600 messages at around 200 bytes each,
320,000 bytes or 320Kb, which is 0.32Mb. Not such a small
number after all! And that's just for one user! Just imagine
how that affects the average listed in the previous method.
Past Meaningless Forwards
User #2159867 is sending a virus!!
A lot of people send messages like this not because the person is
sending a virus, but rather because he was rude, or annoyed them in
whatever way. If somebody is sending a virus, there are better
actions you can do rather than creating a pointless forwarded message
which people will just mindlessly forward and ultimately ignore. My
page on "How to avoid getting a virus on ICQ" is coming soon, as well
as my "Problem ICQ users" page, where you can report ICQ users who are
sending virii, and I will follow it up with their ISP.
BTW, I have used my UIN (2159867) in the subject as an example. I am
not sending virii. :)
Everybody come online at 7:30PM Wednesday!!
This one I'll never understand. :) I'll start by saying that there are
about 2 dozen time zones in the world, and maybe you can work out how
foolish this is. Maybe it should be a policy that everybody just
assumes they have to be online at 7:30PM Wednesday, because I have been
getting these messages almost every week for the last 2 years. So
yes, this is very pointless. If you feel you want to talk to some
friends, arrange a time with them, and don't send it in a URL, send it
in a message!
Don't download version blah of ICQ, it has a virus!
This message usually reads "Don't download version 3 of ICQ", and is
sent as a URL, therefore meaningless already. There is also no
version 3. After version 2.xx of ICQ, Mirabilis started using 98,
99a, 99b, and 2000a as version numbers. Also, if you are concerned
about virii, install AVP
another virus scanner, and only download software from their official
sites. If you were to look for a new version of ICQ, you'd do best to
, followed by
Forward it to everyone, we need to save Napster!
This forward is about an online
to save Napster. Although this is a noble cause, this is
a very bad way to get support for a campaign. It should also be noted
that online petitions mean absolutely nothing in the real world where
Napster was sued. If you are really concerned, you should write to
your local politician responsible for IT and/or musical arts, and
voice your concern. That hand-written letter will mean more legally
than the entire online petition.
You've been whacked by a pillow/banana/beachball/snowball/etc..
I am much less strict about these kinds of things because they are all
meant in fun, but PLEEEEEASE don't send them as URLs. Send them as
messages! And don't request so blatantly that people forward them
("Forward this to all on your list...").
ICQ IS DELETING ALL ACCOUNTS THAT DO NOT FORWARD THIS TO EVERYBODY..
Well, let's see how many problems we can find with this one. Firstly,
it's in all caps, it's in a URL, and it's bogus! Woohoo! In any
case, I can assure you that I have not forwarded this message before
midnight, and am very much still on ICQ. I don't know if there's any
hope for the people who forward things like this.
A little girl dying of cancer gets xxc for everyone you forward
this message to.
This is perhaps the most tasteless forwarded message I have ever ever
seen. The person who wrote this has no soul and will surely burn and
rot in the deepest regions of hell. Nobody makes money from your
forwarded ICQ messages; as we've already covered, it actually costs a
lot of people money. There is no point to this message, and I am
almost sick every time I see it.
Microsoft wants to charge $95 to use ICQ.
I'm sure they do, but fortunately for us:
- Microsoft does not own ICQ.
- Microsoft does not own the Internet.
I, personally, do not use Microsoft products on my computer while I'm
using ICQ, so since I have absolutely no affiliation with them, and
they have absolutely no affiliation with ICQ, then you tell me how
they are going to implement this? This is no better than saying
"Holden is going to charge you every time you use a train."
Only xx hours left until ..
That's funny; I could've sworn these messages had been going around
for at least 18 months. And that pretty much includes all the Only xx
hours left messages. :)
But I did get deleted!
It should be noted that, at times, especially when forwarding
messages, you may have difficulty staying connected to ICQ, and may
not even be able to get back online for a long time. This is not
because you were deleted, but simply because the ICQ servers have
builtin protection against spam which kicks you offline if you try to
send too many offline messages within a short period of time. This is
to prevent spam bots from easily sending spam (like "Visit this XXX
Adult site") to everybody on ICQ at the same time. There is also
another bit of protection on the ICQ server which stops you from
logging in more than a set number of times in a short period of
time. This all means that if you forward a message to everybody on a
big list, you are likely to get kicked offline, and, if you continue,
you may not be able to log back on for a long period of time. Every
time you try, it will take longer to get back on. This is not because
you didn't forward a message (as obviously you were trying to ANYWAY),
so never ever assume that your account has been deleted because of the
above situation. You will be able to log back in the following day at
the latest (assuming you don't constantly try to reconnect for the
whole 24 hours).
Basically, the whole point of this document is that you are
responsible for your OWN actions, and you have your own brain to think
with, so use it! Don't be a slave to other people's (especially
stranger's!) orders or directions. It should also be noted that by
continuing to forward messages, you are probably breaking the Terms
and Conditions of your Internet account, which expressly prohibit
chain letters, so unless you want to find yourself without an Internet
account (sooner or later), I suggest you think before clicking
(a.k.a. Andypoo) is an 18 year old guy from Sydney, Australia who
works for freshmeat. *grins* He organizes the ICQ Meet (a picnic
gathering for ICQ users). You can spam him at ICQ UIN 2159867.
Andypoo keeps an updated copy of the above at http://www.secret.au.com/help/icq-forwards.htm, which he updates from time to time.
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