IETF RUN Working Group                           Sally Hambridge / Intel
draft-ietf-run-adverts-00.txt                        Donald Eastlake 3rd
                                                              March 1998

                    $$$$$  MAKE ENEMIES FAST  $$$$$
            How to Advertise Responsibly Using the Internet


   Contrary to popular belief, the Internet did not spring
   fully-clothed from Zeus's head, but it did grow like kudzu.  This
   growth engendered a large new user population some of whom are
   more than willing to use the Internet in ways for which it was
   never intended.  This seems to be especially true about people
   who are new to the Internet and see it as the perfect advertising
   vehicle.  Those people are sure to "make enemies fast" by sending
   mass unsolicited mailing or posting advertisements heedlessly
   to news groups.  This document gives some guidelines and advice
   about how to advertise responsibly using the Internet.

Status of this Memo

   This document is an Internet Draft.  Internet Drafts are working
   documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its Areas,
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   Please check the I-D abstract listing contained in each Internet Draft
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   It is intended that this document will be submitted to the IESG for
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   is unlimited.

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1.  Introduction

   A lot of the population which is new to the Internet think that the
   Internet "old guard" (defined as anyone who was using the Internet
   before the invention of web browsers) are diametrically opposed to
   using the Internet for advertising.  This is not true.  But in
   general, Internet culture opposes use of the network in irresponsible
   ways and this usually includes people who advertise by sending
   unsolicited information to Netnews groups and Internet mailing lists.
   People who "spam" mailing lists and Netnews groups depend on the
   cooperative nature of the Internet protocols as they were developed
   during times when there were no Internet advertisers.  The protocols
   do not associate costs with volume of messages sent.  Although it
   makes the Internet an attractive medium for advertising (because it
   seems cheap), it really shifts the cost from the sender to the
   recipient.  The recipient pays for connectivity, for the cost of
   downloading the message, for disk space, and for the time needed to
   deal with the mail.  The sender bears a very small fraction of the
   overall cost.  This is why many Internet citizens have come to think
   of receiving unsolicited mail as "theft of service".  It has also come
   to be called "Internet Pollution."

   There is money to be made through Internet advertising (although
   surveys show that selling stuff on the Internet is not as rewarding as
   selling routers and network connections - as it was more rewarding
   during the Gold Rush in California to sell shovels and Levis(R).)
   This document recommends ways to advertise on the Internet which will
   not engender hate-mail or threats of law-suits.  It does not guarantee
   freedom from those things, but it should reduce the volume of any
   complaints you might receive to a level with which most humans can

2.  Caveats

   Even though it is financially attractive to advertise via mass
   unsolicited mail or by mass postings to netnews, AVOID THIS
   TEMPTATION.  You may make money.  You make get some interested
   customers.  You may expand your business.  But you will alienate
   hundreds to thousands of people.  You will damage your credibility.
   You may even lose your connectivity.  Advertising on the Internet
   means taking responsibility for the persona you create.  If you are
   going to be Dr. Frankenstein and create a monster, you MUST take
   responsibility for the actions of and reactions to that monster.
   Remember the Golden Rule (and in this case we do not mean the version
   which states "he who has the gold makes the rule"): treat others as
   you want to be treated.  Also, think about what would happen if
   everyone on the Internet mass mailed everyone else on the Internet.

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   It is important for the Internet advertiser to maintain a quality
   reputation for fairness, honesty, and integrity.  This is dictated by
   the rate at which both information and misinformation travel on the
   Internet.  If you get a reputation for being unfair, dishonest, or
   slimey DESERVED OR NOT it will take a very long time for you to
   overcome the stigma.  With this in mind, you MUST NOT in any way forge
   information in messages you send or in information you post.  Changing
   the information about yourself or the machines which handle your
   traffic in ways which obscure your true identity (forging) is now
   illegal in several jurisdictions and people have been successfully
   prosecuted.  Illegal or not, don't do it if you want to maintain your
   spotless reputation.

   It is also unethical to use network resources of another party or
   person without their express permission.  You MUST NOT send mail
   through a mail host which belongs to anyone else without their
   permission (mail relaying).

   Be very careful in soliciting information from people on the Internet.
   As the saying goes, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog" [1].
   You will not be able to tell from whom you are collecting information
   and they may not be a legal adult with complete discretionary and
   plenipotentiary power.  In other words, you may be dealing with a
   six-year old.  Or a dog.

   Let people know you are collecting data and what you plan to do with
   the information you are collecting.  Remember that the laws on what is
   legal to collect vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and make sure
   you understand these legal implications.

   Finally, as words to live by, if you're not sure what you are planning
   to do is bad, it probably is so don't do it.

3.  Know your target audience

   There are two parts to knowing your target audience: the first is to
   actually TARGET the audience; and the second is getting to KNOW the
   audience.  As simple as this sounds, it seems as if most Internet
   advertisers don't bother with either step.

   One feels that it should be obvious to all that marketing an idea,
   goods, or services should be targeted at an audience which is
   receptive to them.  Shotgunning your message doesn't really work in
   any medium, but is much easier to do with the Internet than with paper
   mail or telephone solicitations.  Just because you (as an advertiser)
   don't pay an immediate fee for sending out unsolicited ads doesn't
   mean you pay nothing.  You will pay in poor response time, in being

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   mail-bombed, in having your account pulled by your Internet Service
   Provider, and in having your ISP's network "black-holed" by other
   sites trying to stem the tide of unsolicited stuff.  All of this is
   costly in time, if not in actual currency.  All this cost could be
   avoided if you take the time to figure out WHO really needs to see
   your message.  Do your research!  Find out WHICH Netnews groups are
   discussing topics in your area of interest; use the search engines
   such as Yahoo, Lycos, and AltaVista to determine how other people have
   selected their audiences or set up appropriate web sites. BUT DO NOT
   MESSAGE WILLY-NILLY TO ALL.  This is not a good thing.  Target your

   Now that you know WHO should receive your message, find out HOW they
   prefer to receive it.  Many many mailing lists and Netnews groups hate
   loathe and abhor unsolicited ads of any kind.  Others are receptive to
   ads for items which relate to the discussion at hand.  Others may have
   a special methodology they wish advertisers to follow, such as asking
   the moderator for permission, or the moderator may prefer to cumulate
   all ads, and post a periodic digest of them.  The list or group may
   have a FAQ (a list of Frequently Asked Questions) in which their
   policy is stated.  Be sure to read and comply.  In order to discover
   how your audience is going to respond, it is a good practice to
   actually READ the postings of the group (or list) for two full months
   BEFORE you post anything.  Two months seems like an eternity in
   Internet time, but in that two month period, you will learn what you
   need to know about the group to guarantee you don't violate any of
   their rules.  And during that time if YOU should receive any
   unsolicited ads, see how YOU feel about them.  Hate them?  Good!
   Don't send them!

4.  Can't wait for eternity?

   Your need is immediate.  You don't have two months you can wait.  What
   should you do?  You may begin to advertise your goods and services
   immediately if you choose "passive" methods to do so rather than
   actively sending messages or posts.

   Why not buy advertising space on an existing World Wide Web site?
   Many sites on the World Wide Web support themselves by selling space
   for advertisers.  This method has several advantages: it's probably
   cheaper than putting up your own site (Caveat: Your Milage May Vary);
   You are using resources which already exist (recycling is a Good
   Thing); Depending on the site from which you advertise your ad may be
   specifically targetted at the most receptive audience ( a Very Good
   Thing).  Your message could become part of a larger context supporting
   free email accounts, free Internet access, or even broadcast news.

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   Alternatively, you can put up your own web site.  There are many
   companies who design and host web sites for businesses of every size
   and type.  They will be able to get you through the decisions of
   whether or not you resigter as your own domain or use the domain name
   of your service provider/host.  They will be able to make
   recommendations about the equipment needed, and give you 7x24 (that's
   7 days by 24 hours - full coverage) support and do regular backups.

   Keep your site fresh by making sure your information is up to date,
   and that any links you may have to other sites are correct.  (Of
   course, you should ask a site for permission before linking to it.)
   Put your product information in easy-to-read and easy-to-find format.
   The latest wizzy technology is never the lowest common denominator, so
   decide where your site falls in this spectrum.

   Make sure you understand any legal ramifications of advertising your
   products.  Certain jurisdictions frown on content which is sexually
   oriented while others don't care.  Make sure you understand the
   implications of World Wide advertising before entering the fray,
   including trademarks and copyrights.

   No matter what method you choose to use on the Web, there are a few
   more caveats about customer interactions: first, make sure your
   contact information - name, phone, email address - are all clear and
   available; second, be careful in creating forms which gather
   information about your customers as there is concern in the U.S.
   about gathering information from minors without parental consent AND
   there is concern about grabbing use information via persistent state
   information; third, if you DO gather information about people and plan
   to use it for marketing in any way be VERY clear to specify your plans
   as people sign up.

5.  No, mail really is the answer

   You can't afford a Web site or even to advertise on other sites, and
   mailing your information is about your only option.  Here are some
   DOs and DON'Ts.  First, the DON'Ts.  DON'T forge your mail headers
   to make it look as if your messages orginate from anywhere other than
   where they really originate.  DON'T send out any sort of bogus message
   to "cover" your intended activity.  In other words, don't pretend that
   a personal message from you to someone else was sent to a mailing list
   by mistake so that you can use the body of that message to advertise.

      Dear Tony - had a great time a lunch yesterday.  Per your request,
      here's the information on the latest widget I promised - blah blah

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   DON'T use aggravating headers such as "Our research shows you're
   interested in our product."  Most of your recipients know this is
   usually a bogus claim.  DON'T create mailing lists from third party
   sources.  Many folks out there create mailing lists from addresses
   which they have gathered in mildly to extremely unethical ways.  Many
   of these list-makers rely on grabbing volumes of addresses without
   checking their legitimacy.  In other words, they send out software
   robots to grab addresses they find in News or Mailing List archives
   which may be many years old!  People change jobs, change ISPs, change
   everything about themselves over time and trusting a third party for a
   mailing list is just not wise.  That third party may even have created
   a mailing list from email eddresses of people who have asked to be
   REMOVED from their mailing lists.  They then sell these lists to poor
   unsuspecting folks who think they're getting a list of people who will
   welcome the unsolicited information.

   Enough negativity!  DO create a lively signature which tells the
   minimum about your product/service.  But keep it to 4 lines total.  DO
   participate in mailing lists and newsgroups which discuss topics
   related to your product/service.  You will find folks of a similar
   interest there and many potential customers.  So long as you aren't an
   obnoxious jerk in your interactions with these groups you will find
   your participation quite rewarding.  DO ask people if they want to be
   part of any mailing list you create.  Be clear about your intentions
   of how you plan to use the list and any other information you collect.
   DO tell people how you gathered your list data.  If they've signed up
   from a web page, make sure they know they will be getting mail.  Many
   web pages have getting mail selected as default.  Our recommendation
   should be that the default should be that they do NOT wish to receive
   mailings - even if they find your site of interest.  DO keep your list
   to yourself.  Selling it would not be ethical.  DO let people know how
   to get off your list.  Make this as easy as possible, DO let people
   know what you plan to do with any data you collect.  Make sure that
   what you plan to do is legal.

   You can check with the web site of the Better Business Bureau which
   operates in the U.S. and Canada. ( They have several
   programs and services which can help advertisers in those countries,
   and have other resources which will benefit advertisers of any

   Advertise responsibly that better mousetrap you have built, and the
   world will beat a path to your email address.

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   Most readers of this document probably already understand why
   "Pyramid" or "Ponzi" schemes are fraudlent and, in most places,
   criminal.  However, for those who do not, the following is provided.

A.1  The classic pyramid

   In the classic pryamid scheme, there is a list of a few people, you
   send money to one or all of them, and then you shift that person off
   the list and add your name to the list and send it to N people. The
   idea is that when your name gets to the special place on the list, you
   will get lots of money.  The problem is that this only works for
   everyone if there are an infinite number of people available.

   As an example, lets look at a message with a list of four people where
   you send five dollars to each, drop the top name, and add your name at
   the bottom. There is probably also some stuff about sending "reports"
   to people who send in money.  And assume the rules encourage you to
   send out lots of copies until you get ten direct responses, 100 second
   level responses, etc., and claim there is a guarantee that you will
   make lots of money fast if you follow the procedure.

   First, note that someone or group has to have started this. When they
   did, they got to specify all four names so it was probably four people
   working together to split any profits they might get from being the
   top of the pyramid (or maybe they send out four versions of the
   original letter with their name order rotated).

   And while the letters that accompany these things usually have all
   kinds of junk in them about following the instructions exactly, the
   most rational thing for you to do if you decided to participate in
   such a thing, would be to (1) send no money to anyone else, and (2)
   find three other people and replace all the names on the list.  But
   lets assume that not just you but everyone who ever participates
   decides to follow the "rules" and to avoid the start up transient,
   lets assume that it starts with one name on the list and for the next
   three layers of people, a name gets added and only after the list is
   up to four does everyone start dropping the top name.

   What does this look like after nine levels if everything works
   perfectly?  The following table shows, for nine levels, how many
   people have to participate, what each person pays out, gets in, and

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      Level         People       Out          In        Net
      1                  1         0     $55,550    $55,550
      2                 10        $5     $55,550    $55,545
      3                100       $10     $55,550    $55,540
      4              1,000       $15     $55,550    $55,535
      5             10,000       $20     $55,550    $55,530
      6            100,000       $20      $5,550     $5,530
      7          1,000,000       $20        $550       $530
      8         10,000,000       $20         $50        $30
      9        100,000,000       $20           0        -20

   So if this scheme ever got this far, which is pretty unlikely, over
   10,000 people would have made the "guaranteed" over $50,000.  But the
   problem is that to do that, a hundred million people (or over ten
   thousand times are many) are out twenty dollars.  And it can't
   continue because you are running out of people.  Level 10 would take
   a billion people all of whom have $20 to mail off, which probably
   don't exist.  Level 11 would take ten billion, more people than exist
   on the earth.

   Pyramid schemes are always like this.  A few people who start them
   may make money but only because the vast majority lose money.  People
   who particpate and expect to make any money, except possibly those
   who start it, are being defrauded and for this reason such scheme are
   illegal in many countries.

A.2  What about Ponzi?

   A Ponzi scheme is very similar to a pyramid except that all the money
   goes through a single location.  They are named after a person in
   Boston who claimed to have a way to earn huge returns on money by
   buying international postal reply coupons and redeming them in
   postage for more than their cost.  Early "investors" in this scheme
   did get paid, but only with money that later investors were putting
   in.  He was really doing nothing with the money other than living off
   it and paying some of the new investors money out to old investors.
   Just like early pyramid participants make make money off of later

   Just as pyramids always collapse, Ponzi schemes always collapse also;
   when the new people and new money run out.  This can have serious
   consequences.  People died and much of the country's savings were
   squandered when huge Ponzi schemes that seemed to be partly backed by
   the government in Albania collapsed.

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A.3  So all multi-levels are evil?

   No, all multi-level systems are not the same.

   If what you have moving around is just money and maybe "reports" or
   the like that are very cheap to produce, then almost certainly it is
   a criminal scam.  If there are substantial goods and/or services
   being sold through the system at reasonable prices, it is more likely
   to be legitimate.

   If it says you can make lots of money "fast," "easy" or "guaranteed,"
   be very suspicious.  If it says you may be able to make lots of money
   by putting in lots of hard work over many months but there is no
   guarantee, then it may be OK.

   If people are paid to recruit "members" or can "buy" a high "level",
   it is almost certainly a criminal scam.  If people are paid only for
   the sale of substantial goods and/or services, it is more likely to
   be legitimate.

   It may also be worth your while to look at the history of the
   organization and its founders/leaders. The longer it has been around,
   the more likely it is to continue being around. If its founders or
   leader have a history of fraud or crime, maybe you should think very
   carefully before being part of it.

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   [1] Steiner, P.  _New Yorker_.  July 5, 1993.  p.61.

Authors' Addresses

   Sally Hambridge
   Intel Corp
   2200 Mission College Blvs
   Santa Clara, CA 95052

   Donald E. Eastlake 3rd
   318 Acton Street
   Carlisle, MA 01741 USA

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