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News Flash: C&S to publish book (Brad Templeton)
(topical, funny, usenet)

Q: Emily, how can I put out my billboard on the information superhighway?

A: The best way to do it is to perform a spam. It's called that because everybody loves it as much as the customer in the Monty Python "Spam" sketch loves his spam.

The best way to do this is to find some naive programmer and ask it to write a script that posts your message to every newsgroup. You'll start by getting as big a list of newsgroups as you can find. The members of USENET, hoping to see your ad, have prepared these lists just for you. It doesn't really matter what your product is. If people on the net might use it, they'll be happy to read about it in every group.

Now create a message promoting yourself. Be bold, be daring, and be sure to provide info on how to contact you in ways that people on the net can't shut off. (More on that later.)

Because the reaction is going to be so overwhelming, be sure to take the following steps:

a) Unlist your phone number. The networking public is going to want to contact you so much to talk about your product or service that they'll even try to call you at home. If they get your home phone or address, they'll be sure to share it with all the other people seeking to send you their admiration, and your fame may prove too much. You want business, of course, but do you want to take orders all night?

b) Get an account with some other internet account providers. For reasons not quite certain, your provider probably has a clause in their contract with you saying not to do this. Even if they don't, they will probably delete your account a few hours after you announce your product, so be sure to get other accounts under assumed names so you can follow what's going on. This is the reason that expecting E-mail replies to your ad won't work.

c) Be sure you've led a clean life. You and your product are going to become as famous as Gary Hart and O.J. Simpson! But, as you know, such fame has its downsides, as your eager fans research every tawdry episode from your past history. So be sure there are no skeletons in your closet. (Unless your product is skeletons!) Of course, since you're no net-communist, you probably have had a clean life.

d) Due to the Brady Bill, you may want to file your firearms acquisition permit a few days in advance of your ad. Soon you're going to be rich, and you'll need to protect that wealth.

e) Load plenty of fax paper in your fax machine. Hire extra staff to load the rolls. There may be orders in all the faxes you will get.

f) Resign any memberships you may have in any professional associations you may have joined relating to your business that might have something as pesky as a code of ethics. Why put them through the trouble of handling all the calls from your adoring fans, looking for somebody to talk with about you.

Ok, now you're ready. Unleash the posting program. Have it send your message once to every group. There are thousands. Now picture in your mind the prospective customer. She starts her day, perhaps, reading a group about her hobby. And right there is your ad! The title is curious so she reads it. Your name is now inserted into her mind--you've got mindshare. It's true your product didn't have anything to do with her hobby, but the net is there to find customers for you, not for people to share their thoughts.

Then she goes to her next group, perhaps about her brand of computer. There's your ad again! You've sneaked into the great demographics of the high-tech world. As she goes on, she sees your ad again and again. Imagine her joy as she sees your now familiar headline everywhere she goes. "Wow, they must be really big and important," she'll think. "They're as famous as IBM." Soon that joy will be so much that she'll be ready to buy, buy, buy.

Now comes the bad news. USENET is unreliable, and postings don't always work. So, for unknown reasons, a few hours after you make your postings they will all have disappeared. Normally you would just post them again, but by this time your internet mail access will have been deleted, as I said above, so you'll have to just sit back and bask in the adulation and orders. There is a theory that some people, who don't like your ad, will have a smarter program than your posting program root around the net and stamp it out, but I hardly think it's likely anybody would do that.

There will be some people annoyed, it's true. But the net has at least 10 million people on it, and you'll probably only really annoy perhaps 3 to 4 million of them--a minority!

Others who have tried this have reported not only that a mere minority show displeasure, but that vast numbers of people take the time to send back inquiries and orders just so you can have more to read. Unfortunately, they rarely actually pay. Some theorize that those in the vocal minority who don't like you are sending in pretend positive responses, to waste your time. Who would bother to do that? Perhaps just 1% out of the 3 to 4 million annoyed people, at most. That shouldn't bother you too much. A similar percentage may try to phone you, or fax you, or send bricks postage due, or subscribe you to magazines. Ignore them. They're just 40,000 or so of the lunatic fringe, communist element you find on the net. They're just upset because you're making money and they're not. In fact, suckers that they are, they actually ended up paying to transmit your ad everywhere. Learn to ignore them. (That's not advice, it's just something you'll have to do.)

Now at this point you probably have to stop answering your phone, but keep those faxes coming in, and of course get ready for the mail. If you ever do get to see some of the E-mail you got sent--wow, what a flood!

When it settles a bit, threaten to sue anybody who didn't like you. That should put some fear of God into them. They should have known better than to build a system so open. Sure, they built the network as a cooperative effort, but if they didn't want your ads, why didn't they put in protections against them or enact laws to stop them? What you did was probably legal, so what's their complaint? They're like people who leave their keys in their cars and whine when they get stolen. Really, like they didn't deserve it. They just don't see the wonderful new purpose to which their network can be put, to help small, exciting firms like yours get famous. That's the American dream, after all, and you're living it, or will, when the time comes to come back out of your bunker and reconnect your phones.

-Emily Postnews

[ Ok, so this is more satire than pure sarcasm, the way my original Emily Postnews was. Sue me. (*) ]

[ (*) Above remark not addressed to Canter and Siegel. ]

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