Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Lovely spam, wonderful spam

If you think the anti-spam bill George Bush signed will reduce the unsolicited e-mails in your in-box, just read this well-argued policy piece from the November Reason. Or this killer profile of Bill Waggoner, the "spam king," from Sunday's Review-Journal:

Waggoner is a single father, a guitar-playing metalhead and the boyfriend of a topless dancer. He's also a raconteur, a staunch political conservative and a conspiracy theorist with his own Internet radio show. A tangle of contradictions, he's a devotee of alternative medicine and all-natural products who smokes two packs a day. ...

But Waggoner isn't just any spam king. He might be the most hated in the world.

Just ask the subculture of anti-spam computer buffs from San Francisco to London who have battled him for five years in the war to stop the wildfirelike spread of spam. This army of tech geeks has a special antipathy for Waggoner because, unlike other spammers, he doesn't hide from his critics.

They say he brazenly defends an unethical and sometimes illegal practice as a legitimate business, confronting anti-spammers head-on in shouting phone calls, in expletive-laced exchanges online and, earlier this year, during a nationally televised government hearing.

"If there was any justice in the world, his nuts would be crushed in a vise," says Roosevelt, Calif., software engineer Ron Guilmette, the operator of the anti-spam Web site Monkeys.com.

You think Waggoner will be inconvenienced by any stinkin' law ... even slightly? Hats off to Mike Kalil for putting together a real page-turner.