Editorial: Do Your Math

Did you know someone has developed a mathematical formula to figure out how much spam we’ll all be receiving each and every day very soon? Mark Ferguson of Stop-Spam.org sent in a letter detailing a formula and explaining why it’s bad that the government wants to get involved. I’m not sure who – Ferguson or one of his anti-spam friends – developed the formula, but you may recall he was in the headlines for suing two businesses in California in 1999 saying they sent him and others unsolicited e-mail advertisements that were deceptive, misleading and in violation of state law. Ferguson also was one of the anti-spammers who spoke at the Federal Trade Commission’s recent spam forum.

Let’s head back to math class and take a look at what Ferguson had to say. The formula was created to show the effect “legalization of spam through regulation would have on small business located within the United States and only small businesses and only those located within the United States,” he writes. “This does not include corporate America, larger business. This does not include everybody who thinks their chocolate chip cookie recipe is worth selling through e-mail.”

Ferguson’s formula is (Z[F(ABXY/30)=S])/1024=M, where Z = the average size of the spam; F = the frequency of spam per month; A = the small businesses that filed tax returns in 2002; B = the percentage of these businesses that decide to send spam when made legal by regulation; X = the percentage of lists your e-mail address is on of those that will send spam; Y = the number of e-mail addresses you currently have; S = the number of spams you will receive each day, including weekends; and M = the size of your download of spams per day relative to Z.

“The following are simple illustrations of what could happen as more decide spam is a good idea for their business and start using spam as a marketing tool,” he writes. “It is easy to see that e-mail does not scale for the purpose of marketing.” (Guess he shouldn’t tell that to the companies using the medium quite effectively or their customers who are just as happy.) Ferguson’s doomsday scenario was: “F = 4, A = 27,000,000, B = 10%, X = 5% and Y = 4, then S = 18,000 or you will receive 18,000 spam each day. Further if Z = 22KB then M = 386 MB of spam downloaded a day.”

Who else needs some aspirin … or maybe a cookie?

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