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Spamming? Me?

(c) 2002 by Cheryl Williams Levey,

I was recently accused of spamming.* Maybe I'm too sensitive, but I actually lost sleep over this. Let me explain. I received an email about an event on a community I belong to and I posted an invitation to a forum I belonged to.

Is this spam?

Apparently it is, even though I really had nothing to gain by passing this invitation on. It would not have benefited me in any way if someone were to take part in the event because they heard about it from me. Anyway, so I passed this information on because I felt it might be of interest to the members of this particular forum.

After receiving a rather terse email from the moderator who accused me of harvesting email addresses (huh? I had never even thought of doing that!), I was booted off the forum due to this. I wrote a heartfelt apology to the moderator and asked her to post it, but she apparently wasn't interested in giving me the benefit of the doubt. No doubt she's dealt with real spam too many times to even consider the idea that I really didn't know that what I did was considered spamming. And I certainly didn't harvest email addresses for my own use!

However, the consequences could have been much more severe. I could have lost my ISP, the moderator could have chewed me out "publicly" (for all I know she did...), and my credibility as an ethical and honest online business owner could have been destroyed. In my line of work, these are the worst that could happen, but I'm sure there are other things as well.

I'm thankful that to my knowledge she simply dealt with me privately and cut me off from doing this again on her lists. I don't intend to do it again on ANY lists!

I've learned a valuable lesson from this: Even when intentions are good, people are very distrustful and jaded because of so many who's intentions are not good. So from now on, when I want to share something -- even if it's simply because I like it and it has nothing to do with my business or is of any benefit to me -- I will be very careful about who I share it with.

And you should be careful about who and how you email too. Here are some tips to keep in mind when emailing:

  • Don't post anything that could be construed as an "ad" to any forum, unless that is what the forum is for.
  • Always use a signature line (unless specifically told not to).
  • Only forward information to your own newsletter's opt-in subscribers.
  • When in doubt about posting something to a discussion list, ask the moderator first.
  • When you join a discussion list, it's good to "lurk" for a while to get a feel for what's acceptable and what isn't, before posting anything yourself. (Lurking is when you just read what others post, but don't directly participate yourself.)
  • If you get a complaint, follow up with an apology quickly and sincerely, and don't do it again!

I still feel really bad that I apparently did something wrong. This is hard for me to really comprehend since I was only passing on information about something I thought would be useful and it really threw me when I found that what I thought was being helpful was actually considered spamming! Won't happen again, though, you can bet on it, and I hope this article helps you to never go through this either. :)


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