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Friday, December 21, 2007

Yale Spam

Yale recently released their Open Yale Courses. Tom Conroy, Deputy Director of Public Affairs, Yale University, invited me to an announcement session (sent 20 November 2007):
I'd like to invite you to attend a bloggers-only press conference we're hosting on December 11th at 7:00 PM EDT to announce a new online initiative here at Yale. We came across your blog, eLearning Technology and we thought you'd be interested in joining.
I sent Tom a nice note thanking him for the invitation, but declining. Then I got a note from Tom today (21 December 2007):
I recently came across your site and found it to be interesting and informative. In case you have not already heard, I wanted to bring your attention to Yale University's newest initiative, which puts high-quality videos of seven of its most popular undergraduate courses online for the free use of the public. It's called "Open Yale Courses" and you can explore it at (
Busted. He should have kept better track of who he sent his original spam. His first line makes it clear he is just sending out spam to various bloggers. I'm sure that Tom is just trying to do his job, but there's this funny, fine line between the first message and the second where the second clearly becomes inappropriate spam.

And as a Director of Public Affairs, you would think that he might be more sensitive to the issue.

In fact, there's a law against that sort of behavior:
CAN-SPAM defines a "commercial electronic mail message" as "any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service (including content on an Internet website operated for a commercial purpose)."
What's interesting is that normally if you approach a blogger with an honest email that is making them aware of your product, service, idea, question, etc. - all of that is good stuff. While it might technically be considered spam, no blogger I know thinks of it that way. As soon as it becomes clear that you are sending it to a list with not thought of the individual recipient, it becomes clear spam.

My guess is that lots of other bloggers got this same message. Anyone?


Lee Kraus said...

Got me too.

I emailed him. How lame.

Anonymous said...

I got a slightly different form email thanking me for blogging about the press conference. He said my post had been "passed around internally," which would sort of imply that he himself had read it. Then he gave me a link to their widget.

Here's what I had to say about the widget in my post:
"I’m not sure why you’d do this—there isn’t much dynamic content or anything to directly interact with. Why would you have a widget that doesn’t let you do anything?"

I'm thinking he didn't really read my post that carefully. :)

Stephen Downes said...

I got the original emails. I emailed back, saying I needed more information before attending. No response. No link. When the latest email came, I already knew it was spam.

Dick Carlson said...

Even lamer -- I went to look at the site, just to see what they had.

I never would have done this based on some gushy post about how wonderful it was.


Anonymous said...

I never would have done this based on some gushy post about how wonderful it was.