Q: How do people react when they find out who you are?
You never really know what the reaction will be. Some people just ask, ''Did you really do that?'' Other people want a picture or an autograph -- that kind of stuff. I only get a little bit of negative reaction and mostly I just read it in emails or on Web sites. I never really get a negative personal reaction.
Q: What do you think about spam today? Is it the plague of the
Internet or a valid marketing tool?
It's a nuisance. It's like the advertising you get in the mail at home. The only difference is the government hasn't taxed it yet or tried to put a fee on it.
The public has grouped all kinds of email into the spam category... Specifically, spam is just unsolicited email. There is a difference between stuff that jumps up at you on Web site and spam... Spammers and phishers sure are creating a bad name for spam. There is all kinds of garbage being sent out. They are mass mailing just because they can.
Q: How much spam do you get?
I hardly get any spam at all. I don't count the junk email I get. I get a lot of that everyday. I don't get spam daily, though... I never fill out any personal information on Web sites because it all goes into some kind of marketing database.
Q: How does it make you feel that some people have stopped using
email or don't use it as much because of the amount of spam they're
That's OK. I'm also restricted in my use. I think about it before I send anything and before I use the Web.
Q: Do you still send spam?
Yes. I have a couple of distribution lists... one for tech news and a larger list for jokes and non-computer news. I send emails to these groups of people, but not to anyone that I don't know. These are groups of people that expect to get it from me.
Q: What should be done to curb the amount of spam being sent
I don't expect it to go away soon. I expect the government to figure out a way to tax it. That is inevitable... Unless they find a technological way to limit the amount of email, they will have to tax it. Once they tax it, they will have control and will be able to regulate it.
Q: Do you think the CAN-Spam Act is effective?
I don't know if it will do what they say it will do. I haven't studied it... but what happens with government stuff is that it gets too confusing and overburdening. It becomes its own guerilla.
Q: Do you ever think about the fact that laws have been created to curb
spam, and that battling spam has grown into its own industry?
One guy I work with came up to me to thank me because his daughter got a job [fighting spam] because of me. Stopping spam isn't that much different than stopping the security problems like worms and viruses. It's all related.
Q: Do you feel guilty for sending the first spam?
I never feel guilty. Someone would have done it... I am kind of like the Wright brothers, flying the first airplane. It was a long time before people took a commercial flight. I sent out the first mass email in 1978 and it wasn't until 10 or 15 years later that people realized they can send advertising over email for cheap.
Q: Would you do it all over again then?
Sure. The biggest complaint was not about the notification. It was that the distribution list went into the body of the email, so you saw half of the names in the actual email. All we had to do to do it smarter was to make up a list of smaller distribution lists. It was efficient and quick, and it was cheap.