ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

The Forgotten Chain —

Recently, I swapped a lot of my stuff to gmail.

Let’s address this immediately: What? Jason Scott switched to a “cloud” service? Well, no, I’m paying Google for this service and they’ve demonstrated excellent uptime, except when they haven’t. But I am paying them (and Flickr, and a bunch of other services) when I use them, and they all have export/backup functions, and so on. Remember, the “cloud” is whatever people want it to be, which is why it’s worthless as a term. The fact someone you’ve never heard of with a rounded PNG logo and a javascript drag-and-drop can get your respect as quickly as Google… well..

Anyway, so now a lot of addresses and mail that used to shove through a very unhappy FreeBSD box now go off into Google and get mangled up by their machinery. And among that are some of my oldest and most proliferated hostnames, like and You know – short and old in an era when a 4 or 3 letter domain is unfathomable as being available to mortals. But available they once were, and that was 15 years ago or thereabouts.

Google’s pretty good with spam removal, although it does occasionally encounter a false positive or a false negative, and I get a quite-manageable amount of spam in my mailbox.  Again reminding ourselves that I have 8 domains piling through here, the 10-15 pieces of spam a day are not too hairy.

What I didn’t expect, or, more accurately, didn’t know I’d have to deal with are the chain letters.

Maybe I’ve been lucky, or, more likely, rather strict with people who mail me – send me crap that you didn’t write that you’re forwarding along because the thing you’re forwarding told you to forward it, and I am going to not treat you well, and respond to everyone on the forward list with a link that explains the forwarded material is bullshit. I totally ruin the party – facts are what I’m into, facts are what you get, and that makes it not as fun for you if you’re forwarding along an “amazing” or “incredible” story that is, fundamentally both too good to be true and describing completely impossible history. Most family and friends got the message, so I get very little of these now.

Well, until now.

Now all these mistyped, misphrased and perhaps intentional misdirections into my various domains are going through the Goog’s spam system, determining that the chain letters are in fact written by human beings, and giving them to me. It’s been a while since I’ve seen so many “PLEASE FORWARD” and “YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS” messages come through. I’ve read a bunch, idly, between other work.

Can I simply say I had forgotten how much ignorant, racist, poorly-researched, badly-written, intellectually dishonest and all-around craptastic mail makes the rounds?

I mean, come on, people. I’m trying to imagine someone whose viciously underpowered, 640×480 resolution, slow-loading e-mail client has all this toxic crap spill into their mailbox, each one a comet of shame trailing the piles of gullible huckleberries it has convinced to pass itself along, and I wonder how you could possibly think you’re getting anything informative, or accurate.  But I guess people do; maybe they’re not otherwise occupied with the goings-on of a life spent online and have time to honestly be “informed” of some biblical meaning in a recently posted CNN interview, or to be shown a picture of a rock and told a set of circumstances that never happened formed the rock and scientists are “stumped”. Or they’re desperately in need of a terrible poem involving Jesus, trucks, killing or otherwise injuring various racial groups. Or being given a 4-5 line “fact” that has been forwarded (by my count) over one hundred times, and apparently nobody noticed that it’s a mildly-burnished paragraph from a comedy routine from HBO from 1987.

This is not exactly groundbreaking insight I’m passing along here, but I guess I’d just make a note of it, because I hadn’t had to swim upstream through all this mentally-damaging garbage in a while. I can’t imagine what it must do to world outlook and informativeness to have all this constitute your “getting the real story” quota for a given day/week. For the record, you’re not getting the real story or the underground truth from this bile – you’re just a memetic dumping ground, picked clean as if by a herd of bison and being left covered in their droppings as they move on down the field.

Oh, and let me save you some time:

  • If a political/news posting contains the term “antichrist”, it’s probably not really that journalistically sound.
  • Yes, those are really cute fucking kittens.
  • If the signature line is a pile of biblical citations, don’t file the letter under “science facts”.
  • If the “information XXX doesn’t want you to see” indicates that it appeared on nationwide media and spends 5 paragraphs explaining how the person saying the information XXX doesn’t want you to see is an impeccable source, maybe you should go that extra logical step, buckeye, and consider how information XXX doesn’t want you to see got on national media. Stick with it. You’ll work it out. I have faith in you.
  • Don’t forward. Trust me.

Categorised as: housecleaning | jason his own self

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  1. Michael Kohne says:

    OK, so what’s your solution for backing up your gmail accounts? I’m using Thunderbird to do the backups, and I’m using IMAP and have the ‘everything’ mailbox subscribed. I haven’t quite got thunderbird doing it automatically, but it’s not far off.

    What do you use?

  2. mark says:

    I don’t see the reason to pay for google apps mail, the paid and free version seem to both go down when they have a problem.

  3. Michael Kohne says:

    If you are a heavy user (lots of domains, lots of users, or you run your business off of it) then you have to pay for it.