How (not) to send Spam

A few weeks back, I got an interesting “spam” mail, see the screenshot and email text below.

Here is the email:

Hey,

The reason that I am emailing you is because the company that I work for is looking for people in or around Clearwater who would be interested in making a little extra income, working out of their home. We don’t require any selling, nor any phone calling; everything is done entirely online, and you will be paid within 15 days. You can do this either part-time or full-time – it’s entirely up to you.

We do not require that you have any prior experience; no educational or special skills are required, as we provide all training.

We actually prefer working with people online, because our experience has shown us that you guys are computer proficient, and are just, overall, easier to work with.

I don’t want to rush you into making a decision, but this same offer is going out to all people that I could find in Clearwater, and we only need a certain number of people.

So, if this sounds like something you might be interested in, you can check out our website right here, and I hope that you choose to apply.

Thanks for your time,

Human Resources
HJB Placement Inc.

A lot of the details are accurate and the blacked-out address is an accurate address of an office I know but the IP address that it claims that I registered with is a Local IP address (in the form of 192.168.XXX.XXX) which cannot be revealed to a website. I am very curious as to how this email was leaked and the only possibility I can think of is that one of the old PC’s at this office was picked up by some spammer company and my email + info was sold to them. The date in the image is a little suspect as well.

Has anyone else ever encountered this? The link in the email points to breakfm.com which by itself does not load but http://www.breakfm.com/203.php?zach_fluid@hotmail.com works and redirects you to http://www.ivanblogsecrets.com/campaigns/rgah/IF_1_new.php?linkid=425452&subid=110890. (Sorry, I am not linking to the actual links as I dont want to give them any link juice.)

Anyway, marketing companies – if you are doing this, please STOP! It is down-right creepy to display that you have so much information about a user (even if you do). This appears to be more of a high-level phishing attempt than a marketing pitch.

Google wants you to speak in Third person

Third Person speak

You have probably come across several web sites where the owners / authors / companies refer to themselves in third person. While it seems odd, Google and other search engines require this.
Yes, it is an unofficial rule of SEO.

Consider the following example:
Back in the pre-SEO days, we used to link articles like this:
If you want to learn more about me, click here.

The previous method is detested now and below is the recommended method: Learn more about Eapen. (instead of Learn more about me).

This is important because, Search Engines identify the words you have used to link to an article or page and figures that the context is linked and therefore it is highly relevant to the page you have linked to. So, linking the word “here” or the word “me” does not benefit you or the search engine but linking “Eapen” lets the search engine know that if someone searches for Eapen, the “about” page link is relevant. Of course, “here” and “me” is also considered relevant by the search engines (but for all I know Google has exceptions built in to disregard these older conventions) but not by humans.

So, it is highly recommended that you re-word your pages and articles in third person and don’t consider someone to be conceited just because they refer to themselves in third person on their website (including me).

Location-as-platform is still too early

With a lot of location-as-platform services available like Foursquare and the geo-tagging ability in Twitter, I still think it is too early to succeed.

While these are great features and easily feasible with smart phones like the iPhone and Android devices – the biggest issue I see is the battery life of these phones. If I leave the GPS and Bluetooth services “on”, the battery life goes down to about 60% (no statistical backup to this amount) of what it was. So, I only turn on these services as I need them so I don’t run out of battery when I really need it. When batteries increase their life and the GPS sensors consume less power – then the potential of users leaving these services on increases and gives more potential to these location based services. And I don’t see the battery-life equation being solved for a couple of years.

Living in the TampaBay area which is not as “location” friendly as San Francisco for these kind of early-adopter services, I don’t expect any of my friends to use services like FourSquare and it doesn’t return any results for a “Tampa” search either. Twitter on the other hand would be more feasible for such a solution but I am not (yet) a Twitter addict who has to keep checking my updates on my phone.

In my opinion, Facebook has the greatest potential to utilize such a service. In the days when (1) battery life is better, (2) the iPhone can run applications in the background, (3) Facebook develops an application that tracks user’s locations and (4) smartly notifies users when their friends are around – the location-as-platform service will bear fruit.

A lot of users, including myself, have privacy concerns and I wouldn’t want Facebook advertising where I am and where I go all the time.

This is the scenario of how I see it work
  • A user creates a Facebook event like “Gasparilla Parade 2012” and tags the location in the event.
  • Regardless of whether I accept the invitation or not, the Facebook application would run in the background and figure out if I am in the area.
    If I am in the area, it would prompt me whether I want to advertise my location for the “next X hours”.
  • Same thing would happen with other users or even for users who have not been invited to such an event but if Facebook realizes that more than 2 friends are in the area, it would prompt them to advertise their location.
  • Our phones would then alert us if there are friends in the area and we can meet each other and also manage to find each other on a street-level map because the noise would prevent us from being able to converse over the phone.


But knowing Facebook, they would probably start off this way and then Mark Zuckerberg would decide that it would advertise all the locations a person went to, all the stores they visited, the types of bars they frequented, the types of communal worship places they visited and would sell that information to advertisers and invade your privacy in every conceivable way. Honestly, I wouldn’t want my location to be advertised to everyone on Facebook who is sitting at home but only to users in the area of interest and without such fine-grained controls, I am not sure how effective this strategy would be.

Google Groups #Fail


If you are familiar with jQuery and follow their news, you would have heard that they switched from Google Groups to Zoho to host their forums / discussions. John Resig gives a number of points on the failures of Google Groups in his blog post and I can see why.

Since I joined several groups that I found of interest at some point, I had to some Google Groups cleanup. I removed several of the projects that I was no longer interested in and found a new preference “Do not allow group managers to directly add me to their groups” which was defaulted to being unchecked. I am not certain of this but my understanding is that it allows a group manager of any group I am a member of, to create a new group and add me to it.

It almost seems spamalicious to add that setting and defaulting it to “Yes, please allow Group managers to invite me to new groups that can spam me and pass my information to them”. When I cleaned up my groups, I thought I found a few groups unfamiliar and I am still not sure if it was just Group Managers who added me or if I accidentally joined the discussion forums at some point.

Check your settings and leave feedback on whether you also have the same settings.

PS. I also added the open-source Vanilla Forums v2.0 from GitHub and it looks very tidy and Web 2.0 unlike most of the solutions out there. You can see it at http://eapen.in/forum/

Yahoo #Fail

Trying to visit Yahoo News earlier this week – gave me a 404 error for a minute or so and redirected me to their homepage with the circled Google advertisement as the most prominent result. This is a great pick of sponsored keywords by Google to send Yahoo! users over to Google.

WaveSecure {Review}

After reading about WaveSecure via LifeHacker, I installed it but only got to try it out today and I am IMPRESSED.

Here is a brief overview of WaveSecure’s features:

  • Backup SMS
  • Backup Contacts
  • Backup Call Logs
  • Backup Media (selectively)
  • Track Location
  • Remote Lock/unlock/wipe
  • Needless to say – Restore functionality

There are a lot of apps out there that will backup the SMS, Contacts, Cal Logs for the Android but its nice to have a single application that does this and more. What blew me away with this application is the “Track Location” and “Remote Lock” feature.

WaveSecure Track Location feature

WaveSecure Track Location Feature

When you choose to “Track Location” via the website, it sends out a text message (encrypted/gobbledygook text) or MMS that seems to activate the WaveSecure application and if GPS is enabled uses that and if not uses the Wireless Tower Triangulation method to determine your location. I tried this and without the GPS enabled it found my exact location and without the GPS also it was pretty close. So, if you ever misplace your phone, you just need to visit this site and you will probably remember where you left it (in your car or at the gym). The technology that uses the SMS information is what impressed me the most!!! Now, I just wish the GPS had a 1 foot accuracy range so I could find my phone the next time it is hidden under a magazine or under some clothes so I can find it within my house instead of having to dial 5 times and hoping I can hear the phone vibrate or ring in one of the rooms.

Finally, the remote wipe allows you to wipe all your secure data of your phone (if you work for the CIA or if you are Tiger Woods and don’t want Elin to see any of the text messages/call logs when you forget your phone at home). You can easily restore the data after you recover your phone. The site also offers the option to lock your phone remotely which instructs the person who found the phone to call 911 to return the phone or if you know the secret PIN you can unlock it yourself.

It also has a “Lock & Alarm” feature which makes your phone wail (annoyingly!) and will embarrass any thief who hoped to get away with your phone. It also displays your emergency contact phone numbers (which it asks you for when you install the program) so you can call them and return the phone sooner. The next time my phone is on silent or vibrate and I cannot find it within my house, I plan on using the “wail” feature to locate it. You can also unlock the phone through the website as well.

So, if you have an Android powered device, I highly recommend WaveSecure and SlideScreen.

To www or not to www

As you can see, if you visit my website with www.eapen.in, you will be redirected to eapen.in (with a search-engine friendly 301 redirect, of course) and I really wish all websites would adopt this method instead of using the “www” since it makes more sense as it is the root domain. One of biggest annoyances is when the slow one finger typists (dad? mom?) have to type the “www” in a URL and punch in “w w w g [backspace] . g o o g l e . c o m ” instead of just typing “g o o g l e . c o m”.

The “www prefix” is just the old convention and is totally unnecessary. This saves 4 characters and for a message that includes links, this can save quite a bit of space. Twitter and other services that encourage smaller character limits, this is quite beneficial rather than having to employ a URL-shortening service. Even more useful is when users email links and when the email client hard-wraps the message at 72 characters, it often breaks the links. There is still a good chance that the link will break if your original URL had more than 76 characters. A lot of websites & webmasters do not know about canonical URLs and how search engines view a website as having duplicate content when a URL is accessible via the “www” and the “non-www” counterpart. (i.e. A search engine like Google sees http://mysite.com/buy-product1.html and http://www.mysite.com/buy-product1.html as 2 different sites with duplicate content unless you have canonical URLs entered).

As with all rules, there are always exceptions and I wouldn’t recommend this for large websites that need load balancing which are served up as www.website.com and www2.website.com although most of the bigger companies (like Google, Amazon) employ round-robin DNS to handle such traffic with just one domain and routing the requests to different servers/IPs.

One of the advantages of having the “www” is that in emails and URLs in SMSes is that it automatically hyperlinks the URL rather than using “http://” and in those cases, it actually saves a few characters. Either way, my preference for URLs now is without “www”.

tl;dr
Prefer not to use “www” in URLs Prefer to use “www” in URLs (see below)

UPDATE (12/16/2010): I just posted an update to this and now I believe it is better to use “www” in URLs

CSS Frameworks

I have been interested in CSS frameworks recently and have played with 960.gs and BluePrint. Both are great and now I found the winner – a combination of the two and more – BlueTrip and I am using this for a lot of my projects including an earlier mockup of my site. I highly recommend it as a starting point for web developers/designers.

BlueTrip CSS Framework

Bluetrip CSS Framework

For those who are not familiar with the CSS frameworks, check out the link above and fascinate yourself with a lot of the groundwork already done for you. Another great feature of BluePrint is that it combines all the CSS files into a single file (unlike some of the other frameworks which have several files in an effort to keep the file size smaller) which will definitely help cut down the number of requests from the browser.

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