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Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List (2005) [pdf] (stanford.edu)
232 points by af16090 on Jan 15, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 65 comments

The story behind this is here: https://scholarlyoa.com/bogus-journal-accepts-profanity-lace...

“After receiving a spam email from the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology, Dr. Peter Vamplew of Federation University Australia’s School of Engineering and Information Technology sent the anti-spam article as a reply to the spam email without any other message, expecting that they might open it and read it, but not that it would be considered for publication.

To his surprise, the journal accepted the paper and sent him an acceptance email that had two PDF attachments. One was a formal statement of acceptance and the second was the reviewer report.”

There are so many stories like this. My favorite (although this one is very good) is that that a bunch of academics got together and pasted together some absolute nonsense (I assume this is from the era before SciGen) and submitted it to a conference.

When it was accepted they revealed the hoax, and the conference admins claimed that it was because these academics were obviously very good, they figured the paper was just a placeholder and would be fixed up in the final version. The only problem was that the academics in question had used fake names on the submission and the affiliation of "The Austrian Naval Academy".

(amusingly, there historically was an Austrian Naval Academy and an Austrian Navy, back during the Austro-Hungarian Empire period - Capt von Trapp of Sound of Music fame is a famous example of one of their officers)

For the geographically-challenged: present-day Austria is land-locked, and thus has no call for a navy, let alone a naval academy.

Nitpick: A navy doesn't necessarily need a harbour directly at the high seas. Austria has had a navy with patrol vessels on the river danube from which they could theoretically reach the high seas until 2006. Also: Military installations on foreign soil are not all that uncommon (as I'm sure Americans can appreciate). I believe that Austria has had vessels in Trieste, even when Trieste was already part of Italy and Austria was already landlocked.

Why would that prevent them from having a small navy? Assuming some country is happy for them to pay to have a port somewhere. Although they don't it wouldn't surprise me much to learn that they did have one despite being land-locked.


Bolivia has been landlocked since 1904, but has a navy with 5,000 personnel (patrolling the country's many large rivers and lakes) and... a naval academy! Which Peru grants access to the sea.

Of course, you'll note Austria isn't on that list.

Many moons ago I reconnected with an old friend who moved to Switzerland years before; just imagine my face when he told me he was working for a Swiss shipowner:).

Well, Switzerland may not have access to a sea, but it has a haven. A tax haven. A lot of ships are owned by corporations in those.

> Assuming some country is happy for them to pay to have a port somewhere.

Because a port that you're only borrowing can quickly become a port that either you're trapped in or not welcome to come back to if either you or your host get involved in a military conflict.

They did, when they were the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and controlled Venezia and the Dalmatian coast.

This reminded me of the guys who got a chapter of "Mein Kampf" accepted as a paper. [0]

[0] https://web.archive.org/web/20181003015636/https://www.wsj.c...

As I recall, that wasn't quite the case. It was a highly edited version of Mein Kampf. Quoting https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Grievance_studies_hoax :

> Affilia put out a statement in response, noting, "The article does not espouse racism, anti-Semitism, or any other fascist ideology; the parallels to Mein Kampf were limited exclusively to word choice in the descriptive text." ...

> David Banks compared the article's text to that of the Mein Kampf chapter it was supposedly based on and "couldn’t find a single phrase that matched." He also pointed out that the message of the hoax article was quite different from that of Mein Kampf: "This isn’t an article demanding concentration camps for men, it’s just a pedantic argument about neoliberalism."

Perhaps "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity", a/k/a the Sokal Affair?




There is a very similar story where researchers submitted bullshit papers to social "science" journals (some having gender for topic) in order to prove that they indeed publish crap. Most paper where accepted.


Guess what? Ethics page is 404 - http://www.ijact.org/index.php/ijact/ethics

Intentional or not, it is an irony

Link to this is on the right sidebar, for those wondering: http://www.ijact.org/index.php/ijact/

Shame he did not pay. Wonder what the impact factor of the article would have been. (I would have cited it)

I strongly suspect that it would not have really been published.

I am pretty sure it would have been, as "published" here simply means uploading the pdf here:


Having the papers there makes it look more like a "real" journal, and potentially makes the author decide to submit more in the future. I would even assume a lot of the authors "publishing" in such journals are perfectly aware of their quality, and do this just to increase their "peer-reviewed publications" stats. It is very difficult to separate those from legitimate journals on a publication list.

For those not in academia: there are 100s of those journals. I get invitations to publish in such journals or conferences almost daily on my professional address. Some of them have the very same formatting as the ones in the article (same ugly fonts and colors).

I would love to see the reviewer report.

The article that modernerd linked to has links at the bottom, in the "Appendix". The reviewer report is here: https://scholarlyoa.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/review-form....

I love how everything other than the presentation is either Excellent or Very Good while the presentation is just Good.


I'm not sure whether that's the full report though.

The real review is better than my made-up review. The reviewer is probably intimately familiar with the problem described by the article's author.

If I was being spammed to review articles and saw this come through, I might be a little tempted to rubber-stamp it.

"The article makes a convincing argument that is supported by the data."

This reminds me of Doug Zongker's "Chicken Chicken Chicken: Chicken Chicken" [0]. Sadly, Google Scholar appears to no longer be showing its citation count, although, IIRC, it used to be well in the hundreds.

[0]: https://isotropic.org/papers/chicken.pdf

A classic. For those who haven't seen it before, it's worth watching the whole thing.

The only improvement that could be made to that masterpeice is to include an actual image of a chicken...

> include an actual image of a chicken...

ASCII art, made up of repetitions of the word 'chicken'.

I notice the Mail Avenger link at the top.

> Mail Avenger is a highly-configurable, MTA-independent SMTP server daemon. It lets users run messages through filters like ClamAV and SpamAssassin during SMTP transactions, so the server can reject mail before assuming responsibility for its delivery. Other unique features include TCP SYN fingerprint and network route recording, verification of sender addresses through SMTP callbacks, SPF (sender policy framework) as a general policy language, qmail-style control over both SMTP-level behavior and local delivery of extension addresses, mail-bomb protection, integration with kernel firewalls, and more.

Double opt in required should be a law. When my email is given by mistake by similarly named people but I can't correct the mistake because only customers can contact them. Oh the iritating irony of getting security tips from the coop bank when I'm not the account holder.

I've had this problem with a Netflix subscription in a foreign language. I kept getting mail for it, but couldn't read what it was about, and couldn't easily opt out. The only option was to reset password, login, change the language, and then cancel the subscription.

At least I was fortunate I could easily cancel the subscription. You can't do that with bank accounts.

Cut-n-paste into Google Translate to fix the unreadable problem. Interesting they made it that easy to cancel.

Jesus christ the graphs are even borderline hilarious

Should have used pdflatex with

in the preamble. The hyphenation would have been much nicer.

We need the same but for newsletter modal ads on websites. And newsletters themselves.

Anyone had a professional mailing list or spammer add your email and have no unsubscribe feature? Had this happen and had to find the guy on LinkedIn and tell him to remove my email.

I get a ton of UCE, probably because we use easy to guess email addresses (fname.lname@co.com) and I have a title that implies I control a budget. I would say maybe 1 in 50 complies with the CAN SPAM Act (US) or mandatory opt in rules (EU). Perhaps 1 in 25 has a "click here to unsubscribe". Occasionally, the author will have a "reply with unsubscribe and I'll take you off my list", which I suspect is just to confirm you're there to try a slightly different tactic on you. My junk/ignore rule has a couple of thousand entries (and I carry it with me from job to job). These days I find myself banning whole domains because these frauds have taken to sending multiple spams with different From addys in the same domain specifically to try and get past Outlooks default of only adding that sender to the block list.

You reminded me of something Cory Doctorow wrote about a few years ago. He wanted Mail Chimp to tell him all the mailing lists he was on and they wouldn't.

I don't know if they've changed it since then, but as soon as he mentioned it I thought that it was a great suggestion. There should definitely be a way that I, as the owner of an email address, can log into Mail Chimp and manage what they are going to send to me.

I like that idea. Reminds me of how some credit cards now show you all the stores that have re-occurring or automatic payments. I like the added transparency because then it makes it easier to opt out if needed.

Yep. And then there are the ones that come to you via a long chain of forwards (that almost read like a history of one's early academic career) where you no longer have any ability to send mail from the account that they have on file - some of the older mailing list software made it impossible to unsubscribe if you couldn't send stuff from the old address.

I would point out that there is nothing in the SMTP standard stopping anyone from sending stuff from any email address.

While a good deal of our entertainment circa 1993 (Computer Science Honours, Sydney University) centered around exploiting this delightful fact (close second: unattended terminals), I had long since figured that forging emails off a open SMTP port wasn't really still A Thing.

Oh, it most definitely still is A Thing. There have been a few notable attempts to stop it happening, but none of them have really worked completely, and they only apply to some from-domains.


Try sending a mail from satya.nadella@microsoft.com to anyone you know.

Microsoft operates some of the more well-known of those from domains.

Use your own domain for email and watch the 'hacker' spam roll in.

I do, and get no such spam.

Did they get off the fucking mailing list?

Do you know what software was used for the graph on p. 3? Usually I'm using GraphViz, but the arrows are not as nice.

It looks like Kernighan's Pic.


Thank you. I had a brief look at the existing implementations like the GNU PIC and and unfortunately the arrows lack the finesse of the original.

I've been in the habit for years of making liberal use of the catch-all feature of email to make up email addresses unique to everything. This makes it easy to add NDR bounces to specific email addresses that end up on f-ing mailing lists I don't want or for which the address was sold/given to other groups (political parties are the WORST about this!).

Right there with you. There are exceptions in all the (US, at least) rules for spam email, spam sms, do-not-call list, etc. for political parties, and boy do they take advantage.

Is there one of these for recruiters?

I just ask them honest questions that are insulting to their ability to recruit

Can you elaborate?

Probably along the lines of "This position is for a front end developer with 5 years of React, but my resume clearly indicates that I do .NET backend work. What made you think I was a good fit?"

You nailed it exactly.

The three certainties of modern life: death, taxes, and unsolicited marketing emails.

When Kohler and Maziéres win the Turing award, we'll know why.

Funny, I wrote an article about why people don't cite Wikipedia as a source for information in scholary papers when in fact Scholary papers can fall to the same trap of being "not reliable" the same way wikipedia is here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21989531 not so long ago

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