After my spam hit a point where I couldn't actually download my email faster than it was arriving, I spent a month clicking the unsubscribe links in all the spams in my inbox. Weirdly, it worked.
What's weirder is that I discovered that most of that spam was coming from organizations I knew, even ones I supported and had worked with, but whose mailing lists I'd never asked to join. The growth of proprietary platforms — cough Facebook cough — that charge businesses to reach customers who've asked to hear from them has driven them to take desperate measures, mass-adding everyone they know to mailing lists.
I sympathize with these concerns — hell, I'm a Facebook vegan. But adding me — and everyone else — who you have any glancing contact with to a mailing list won't solve this problem. Much as I support many of the causes, businesses and organizations whose mailing lists I unsubscribed from, it doesn't do them or me any good for them to fill my mailbox with messages I don't ever read.
Many of these lists were run by companies or organizations I had a relationship with – I'd given a lecture, sent money or bought something – but never agreed to be on their lists. I don't need updates from a Chicago yoga studio I attended once while on tour in 2005.
Most were sent using a tool like Mailchimp. I've used Mailchimp for my own projects, and signed up for several lists – but when I tried to find a central list of all the Mailchimp emails I'd been added to, they refused to provide it. It reflects badly on them, making it look like they rely so much upon spammers that they can't afford to reveal how their tools are used.
Being legit isn't a guarantee of good behaviour. Dwell UK has perfected the art of annoyance, as a Twitter search for them demonstrates. A year ago they promised they'd remove me, yet I'm still receiving mail from them. Their email should read: "Welcome to the Dwell UK mailing list: to unsubscribe, just die."
There is unintentional comedy in the email they send you afterwards that asks if you unsubscribed "in error". When the email template renders the UNSUBSCRIBE link in three-point, grey-on-white type and requires three clicks to confirm, there is no question of "in error".
Death by spam: lazy email marketing is killing our inboxes [Cory Doctorow/The Guardian]
(Image: Unsubscribe, Eddiedangerous, CC-BY)