21 December 2009

Posted today on the freakonomics blog: Where Has All the Viagra Spam Gone? By DANIEL HAMERMESH

I assume that the spammers realized that the return per period of time — the price of the activity — was less than its marginal cost: the opportunity cost of their time. They have shut down the business and moved to other activities that might yield higher returns.

A simple look at the comments proves how little thought (hopefully) he put into his post.

Link Daniel, you really should give credit where credit is due and thank your mail admins and others who are fighting to keep the spam out of your inbox.


Ouch, is this how research is done these days?

As all the other comments have mentioned, the spam is still flowing (at the same rate if not more) only it’s your filters that are better.

Your hypothesis is simply incorrect.


My spammers must have a lower opportunity cost of their time than your spammers, as I have no shortage of bank presidents, fabuloulsy rich widows, and foreign dignitaries offering me millions of dollars just to hold onto their money for them for a few weeks.



All of the major mail filtering companies (Messagelabs for example) publish daily statistics and monthly intelligence reports about spam, viruses, other malware and what this month’s favoured delivery method is. If you’re going to write an article about whether spam is increasing, decreasing, or remaining about the same, you really do have an obligation to your employer (and audience) to at least glance at well-known and freely available sources of information about your subject, don’t you think?


As an academic economist, I expect you are familiar with the Bayesian branch of statistics. Spam filters are generally a real-life implementation of Bayes’ theorem.


I agree that spam mails have lessened since last year, but not for the reasons you think Mr.Hammermesh…

The marginal cost of sending a batch of spam mail is, I believe, close to zero. If the marginal cost exceeded the marginal benefits, spammers would change their strategy, for example, by taking off e-mail contacts who have never responded to their mail. However, they never bother to narrow down their audience. Why? MB>MC.

Plus, the major reason spam mails may have lessened(if at all) would be because of legal crackdowns on such spammers. The effect of such crackdowns may not be as big as we’d want, but the fact that spammers now know they face possible legal consequences may be what raised their MC…(though I doubt it, since they can just move to lawless countries and send spam from there)


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