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Jim Anderton, The Spammer's Friend 25 June 2002 Edition
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Just a few weeks ago I did a roundup of how New Zealand's political parties were handling the issue of sending out their email newsletters.

The results showed that one was decidedly spam-friendly, one was very good and the rest were either missing or so-so.

Well yesterday I thought I'd check out the website of the new Progressive Coalition party.

Regular readers will know that I regard Jim Anderton to be somewhat of a Net-ninny, so I was fully expecting that the website promoting his new party should contain a gaffe or two.

What I wasn't expecting was that it would be offering to act as a wonderful free resource for spammers from all over the world.

Feature: Promoting Your Website
Dont' forget to check out the series of hints on how to promote your website which will be regularly added to throughout the next few weeks.

New this week: Writing an Effective Press Release

Yes, Jimbo's rather lacklustre new website is running an old and/or poorly configured version of FormMail that allows spammers to relay their messages through the machine used by the Progressive Coalition Party (PCP).

Jim may claim to have been leading NZ's charge into the knowledge economy, but his Net-plebs obviously don't have two clues to rub together.

To verify this, I downloaded the form from the Progressive Coalition's website, modified the email address hidden in the source, and sent myself an email using the Progressive's server. Unless they fix it double-quick, it won't be long before spammers start doing exactly the same.

And, as one eagle-eyed Aardvark reader noticed (see today's "Readers Say"), the PCP site has an embedded link to a MIDI file containing the Mission Impossible theme. The file concerned is stored on a US-based server that seems to have no relationship to the PCP at all -- are they stealing that site's bandwidth without permission?

Note: as of 2:15pm, it seems they've pulled the music -- but the spamhole remains unplugged and, according to one reader, has been submitted for widespread blacklisting -- let's hope nobody else is relying on that server for sending email!

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
  • Political Party web sites... - Christopher
  • Ministry Of Education... - Andrew
  • re: Ministry of Education... - Bahu
  • Wee response from the Greens... - Stuart
  • Xtras' "help" desk... - Bill
  • Have Your Say

    More Greens Egg and Spam
    But wait, The Progressive Coalition isn't alone in this sort of buffoonery.

    The new Greens website now features the "spam an editor" page I've already mentioned in this column.

    In launching this new site, the Greens issued a press release in which they proudly claimed:

    "Together the two sites show the Greens as the party with by far the best grip of new media technologies. The dinosaur parties accuse the Greens of being anti-technology, when in fact we continue to wait for them to catch up."

    Oh dear -- pass the paper towels and start wiping the egg from your faces guys.

    When I visited last night you could simply click the "Send" button on the "Spam an Editor" page and send what would appear to be a default email to the editor of "Auckland Magazine".

    Yes, those Greens with their "best grip of new media technology" didn't even do any basic field validation on that form!

    If that's the best an NZ political party can do then it's no wonder we're still a hi-tech backwater.

    But wait, there's more!

    The press release makes the point that the Greens are committed to using open source software. A quote from Nandor Tanczos says:

    "Open Source software embodies the Green principles of independence and of finding new ways to get around old problems... it is cheaper, safer and is not beholden to corporate software monopolies."

    Now check this out -- quickly, more paper towels!

    Oh... and it looks as if the Greens are using an organic spellchecker on this page (slight imperfections are normal :-).

    With PR Like This...
    People sometimes criticise me when I write a (frequently critical) story about them or their Net venture without taking the time to call them or get their perspective.

    Well here's a good example of why I tend to do that.

    Yesterday morning I called Matt Bostwick, Xtra's PR man.

    I wanted to get the company's perspective and perhaps some mitigating explanation as to why so many Xtra customers have been emailing me with complaints about problems with the usenet news server and the helpdesk.

    Matt was just going into a meeting so he said he'd ring me back -- I asked "do you have my number?" -- he said "yes."

    Later that day I got an email saying "I don't have your number"

    I emailed Matt a list of questions for him to reply to.

    Late that afternoon I got an email saying "Be back to you shortly."

    It's now 8:30am the next day and I've heard nothing.

    XTRA -- with PR like this you obviously don't give a stuff about the public's perception of your services or what the media will write about you.

    And I don't ever want to hear Xtra complain that I didn't ask for their point of view before writing about them.

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