Saturday, March 17, 2007

Annoying email from AN UNNAMED COMPANY and the growing amount of biotech SPAM



Just got an annoying email from A NOW UNNAMED BIOTECH COMPANY advertising some new product they have that is completely useless to me. Basically, this was biotech. SPAM. No way of unsubscribing. I never requested email from them. I do not think I have ever bought anything from them. And now an email from someone AT THIS UNNAMED COMPANY trying to sell something of no use to me. This is troubling in many ways - since it is happening with more and more biotechnology companies. Not only does it suggest they are getting desperate (really surprising from THIS COMPANY actually) but also that they are becoming more like marketers of cheap VIAGRA knockoff than valuable assets to the world. So I have decided to out all such spam that I get here on my blog. THIS COMPANY - you are #1. Please stop what you are doing and stop wasting people's time.


  1. Yes, I've been getting lots of biotech spam too lately. I think they are getting the address from the email addresses of the corresponding authors of papers -- they often start out like "We enjoyed your recent paper 'The Complete Genome Sequence of Randombacter tedium'. Here are some products you may find useful".

    I wonder if we'll have to obscure e-mail addresses on papers just like people have done for years on home pages.

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  6. Hi Jonathan - I completely understand your outrage. I'm getting lots of spam from biotechs, and ever since I posted a job opening on I gets lots of spam from recruiters, too.

    I presume that what you are trying to achieve by "shaming" the spammers publicly on your blog is that they stop sending you spam. I think that there are a few key reasons why spam "works" for the spammers.

    1) It has extremely low cost for the spammer.

    The cost caused by spam traffic is in fact huge, and continues to cause break-downs of email gateways in larger organizations, such as universities. Ask your IT office how much of the bandwidth (and disk space) they need exclusively to cope with the amount of spam. Practically all of the costs, though, are borne not by the originators, but by the recipients, their IT organizations and ISPs, and essentially everyone sponsoring bandwidth.

    2) If only a few of the millions of recipients respond and result in new business, the spamming campaign was a total success for the spammer.

    The spammers anticipate that their offering won't apply to 99.999% of all recipients. The idea of spamming is not to target possibly interested groups.

    3) It think it is fair to say (though a sad development) that spamming is becoming increasingly socially acceptable as a legitimate way of peddling one's business, in a world in which almost all competitors spam broadly already.

    The types (and names) of businesses I have received spam from (my non-neutral way of saying it would be, the businesses who have dared to go down this road) speaks clearly and loadly. It's no holds barred, everything goes.

    I can only see two ways to reverse the path this is taking.

    The first is strict legislation with effective prosecution and harsh punishment of offenders, i.e., let the government solve it. I'm not sure this is what most people would want; for example, for one thing it would surely open the floodgates for government regulating the internet.

    The second way is to drastically increase the cost of spamming for the originators of spam. Techniques such as greylisting are becoming increasingly popular (but take a toll on all legitimate email too as I've encountered quite a few times). It remains to be seen whether there are ways that make spamming expensive enough without also impacting all legitimate traffic at an unacceptable level.

    The bottom line, and to make a long story short, I empathize with you, but I'm not convinced that you shaming the spammers on your blog will have any effect except taking your probably precious time away from writing blog entries that could actually inspire your readers about your science and your very worthy goals in open access ...

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  9. Jonathan,

    I will guarentee they got your name off of a conference registration, a journal subsciption list, or some other time you have given your email address to someone. You, at that time, likely missed the box on the other side of the paper in 3pt font that said "I don't want email". Most, if not all, biotechs buy email lists. Scouring them off papers is way too hard. Getting them from societies, registrations, etc... is just a cheap investment.

    The other thing to note, and I work at a biotech who you would classify as sending spam (although we seem to have missed you, and I won't add your name don't worry), is that it works really well. We get complaints out of way less than 1% of the people and an increase in sales that is more significant than if we advertise in Nature/Science/etc... Hard to beat that...

    Basically - no mystery to it. It is cheap and works better than anything else (and that is measurable for us and something we do extensively)

    I would expect to get more...Not proud of it but it is very true...

  10. Well, I am pretty good about avoiding putting my name on things and looking for those tiny check boxes. But I am sure I missed many of them. And yes, Yes, I realize that these things work, but that does not make them a good thing to do. And yes, Yes, it may not stop, but hey, blogs are for having some fun so I figured this topic might be somewhat fun rather than obsessive like my Open Access proselytizing.

  11. agreed it won't stop. Also agree that you shouldn't stop complaining about it (why have a blog otherwise?!) but just wanted to put out our side of it...

    By the way - really interesting blog. Interesting read.

    Surprised people got mad at you for posting the company name. Holding us accountable (and I don't work for that company) isn't a>surprising b>out of bounds or c>unexpected. I see people complaining about my company a lot. Some of it is justified, some not, but all pointing to how people are writing about us.

  12. Yeah, well, some people are really sensitive and in most cases I ignore that. But in this case, it was just distracting from the point -- it does not really matter what company sent me this email. As you and others have said, this is pretty common. And it probably won't stop. At this point, it seems like it would just create a flame war to keep harping on this company.

  13. the latest spam I have gotten is from Photometric: © 2007 Photometrics®. All rights reserved. This is an advertising message from Photometrics, if you'd prefer not to receive email like this from Photometrics in the future, please

    Completely unsolicited

  14. I can't possibly agree more, this biotech spam is driving me round the bend. I can't tag most as SPAM or my SPAM filter might start burning legitimate email...

    I've even caught myself been very rude to the unmanned pseudo "unsubscribe" email adresses, just to let off steam...

    Today's nighmare severe SPAM offender is "qPCR NEWS". I've tried the auto unsubscribe, I've barely politely asked the editor to strike me off, but to no avail.

    What can we do??? There is a law we can invoke in my country (France), but this spam is brewed abroad....

  15. See my more recent post on this