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Inform EM: Spam Attack

September 8, 2010

Jesse Blumenthal
Inform EM: Spam Attack

It’s a new year in Claremont. New freshmen have arrived, upperclassmen have returned, and campus has resumed its normal rhythmic hum. Computer labs are opening, classes are beginning, and, perhaps most insidiously, deep within the bowels of some unmarked building the great Claremont spam machine begins to whir.

During the summer we would get notices for lectures we might attend (should you actually be in Claremont) or the hours when one might eat at the Coop (same proviso). But now that we have returned, the full onslaught can resume. “Inform EM:” is this beast's name, and it will spew minor and likely irrelevant ‘news’ into our inboxes several times per day.

The ‘Inform’ emails are, I believe, ineffective and counterproductive. The goal of the system is pretty straightforward: it is a cost-effective means of communicating one message to all students at once, at least in theory. Personally, I gave up on the system during freshman year. It’s just not worth the time to read email after email about new classes such as “The Moving Body: Strategies for Awareness and Efficiency in Daily Life, Sport, and the Performing Arts” or Pitzer’s new Arab-American Literature class. Now these may very well be legitimate and/or interesting classes, but is it really necessary to notify every student that they are now open? Would not an email to dance majors, literature majors, or Arabic majors have sufficed? Could these courses promoted themselves just like every other class at the Colleges, by posting the course title and brief description on the Portal? I find it hard to believe that the fact that the Gould Center is now on Facebook merits an email to the entire student body.

With flooding in Pakistan, no government in Iraq, and domestic unemployment hovering around 10 percent, the ‘Inform’ emails are hardly a pressing issue. But it may be the easiest to fix. It requires no great meeting of mind, no concessions from warring parties, no complex economic considerations. Simple problems have simple solutions: stop spamming us! Inform emails have become like those which promise free Viagra pills or lost treasures in African bank accounts: a minor irritant which stands between you and emails you might otherwise want to read. Except that unlike those Nigerian princes, who just need a few thousand dollars to unlock untold millions, the Inform is a pest of our own creation. The Colleges which provide us with these email accounts can simply stop sending this rubbish.

Now some might ask, are these emails not the only way to engage all students’ attention? There are two responses to this argument. First, because students receive so many of these irrelevant emails, many (myself included) simply ignore them and hit archive. Second, simply because the sender might believe that their email might be of interest to all students does not mean that it is. I would wager that the vast majority of ‘Inform’ emails sent are irrelevant to the majority of the student body.

I understand the senders of these emails desire to reach a broader audience, but I would ask you to reevaluate the medium. Stop the spam, kill the beast, end the ‘Inform.’

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