HN is the best response I've received compared to any of the other sites that this link was submitted to, to include Reddit and Digg. Two thoughts come to mind:
1. HN is where we just saw a thread where users posted about the most unethical things they've done to get a startup off the ground.
2. I think that many HNers could relate to me. I was a broke, down-and-out geek/hacker-type that came up with an idea and took it on for the technical challenge. And, hey, I made a few dollars off of it, too.
To answer your original question, yes, I think Twitter isn't bothered by spam until it gets past a certain threshold. They're in it to make money, not to wage religious war.
So even if nobody spammed book recommendations with affiliate links, Twitter would still have to deal with the large-scale operators.
2. I don't know if it's easier, but it's certainly not easy. Otherwise gmail and twitter wouldn't have spam anymore. It's easy for spammers to pretend to be somebody else. Get a new username, a new IP address, forge headers.
Even if it's only 10 spammers, Twitter can't see that. What they see are a million different spammers. So they already have to deal with the problem you claim is harder.
It's all about patterns. A single spammer uses a small set of patterns. It's not just down to IP address.
Given a million people sending out 10 spams each theres bound to be a very similar way they carry it out. However 10 spammers dedicated churning out the maximum capacity they can achieve will put up a fight no matter how you try to stop them.
Email spam originated with people like hood, generally not doing much damage and very easy to block and shut down. It eventually led to the current situation where vast majority of spam originates from a handful of spammers. So did comment spamming, and early social network spamming, they all pretty much followed this pattern.
In my view you're letting yourself get wrapped up in the minutiae of the argument. What hood did was wrong and no amount of justification will change the fact that he externalized the cost of commercial advertising. However none of us can look back at our lives and say we didn't have such morally questionable moments. We generally react like hopefully hood has done and don't make it a career; assholes keep going even when they only make $1 for every $100 they externalize.
But I'm not sure how you conclude that that was happening. People who clicked on the affiliate links only paid him off if they made a purchase. If no purchase was made, no money changed hands between any players. Right? An affiliate link is not like an ad.
In fact, even if an affiliate link was like an ad, there's no data on whether the users clicking on the link are poorly targeted, or that the CTR will significantly suffer.
"Externalized the cost of commercial advertising" is a perfect way to describe what happened.
No mention of "unsolicited replies". Heck, for most early users, all @replies on twitter are unsolicited. Most of the time I have an exchange with someone before I follow them. Twitter's just designed to be more promiscuous than email. Anybody can see your tweets, so you're encouraging strangers with insight to jump in.
I think that makes what he did a grey area. Depends on how good his recommendations are, basically.
You make a good point, however Twitter's ToS was quite different back then. Their current TOS was updated: September 18, 2009 (this date can be found at the bottom of today's TOS)
That's around the same time my bot was suspended and Twitter's spam rates started to drop from ~10% to 1%
I'm not sure there's any disagreement here. I'm just saying: I think what you did would require human judgement to kick no matter how they write their ToS.
Every major piece of social software got off the ground by "spamming a bunch of people." But it was different spam. And the gradations do matter because they're orders of magnitude better and orders of magnitude less load on the system.
speak for yourself. I really have no wish to play in spamish "grey areas"
Being an Entrepreneur does not mean you need to abandon your sense of right and wrong, or your respect for your fellow man. I don't know about you, but this isn't the first company I've started, and it won't be the last. Damaging my own personal reputation in exchange for some more success at this one business is probably a bad idea, long term, especially when the business is one that only works as long as you stay 'under the radar' (meaning, it doesn't scale, because the facebook spam people would stop you.)
On the other hand, it's a kind of cool service, as an "enrichment" to twitter messages. If you could find some way of doing it for those who might find it useful without forcing it upon those who don't, I think this could be a great opportunity.
BookSuggest, in its web-app form, was the only way I could think of to use my existing technology in a way that wasn't, well... spammy. http://www.charleshooper.net/twitter/
The question I face now is: How do I take this application and deliver it to the user?
I'd suggest selling 'monetization made easy' movable type and wordpress plugins.
Just an idea; but it might make you money, and it wouldn't be spammy.
but that's the angle I would take. I mean, not only bloggers, but everyone who has content and users who wants an easy way to monetize.
hell, if you had an affiiate account with more than one bookseller, you could even choose the best deal (either the lowest price, or the highest commission, maybe chooseable by your blogger?) then take your cut before the blogger sees it...
Yeah... that's your freemium model. Give away a plugin that does it but with your affiliate id... give the blogger 50% or something. Then, for a higher fee, offer the plugin with the bloggers affiliate id, where they'd get the money direct from the affiliates, without you taking a cut.
Part of the challenge is maintaining a large enough corpus/histogram to generate good results. Meaning, I'd probably have to host an accessible corpus interface (or make one downloadable) as part of this project. But maybe that's where the dollars come in?