Archive for July, 2007

I am a fighter now, a SPAMfighter

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

If you are trying to run a successful business these days, one thing will definitely annoy you beyond belief: eMail spam - all those countless mails that reach you unwanted and mistargeted, just clogging up your mailbox. In fact, spam can make the opening of your mailbox in the morning a bad experience, and it may ruin your day. No, I don’t want to read from Jenny who promises a “chick gets nasty stripping from her clothes” and then directs me towards some nasty Chinese porn site. Thanks for letting me know, Jenny, but I am not interested.

SPAMfighter screenshot
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

And so I populated my Outlook Express spam filter with hundreds of terms I do not want to read about: “replica”, “lottery”, “sickest”, “massive”, and so on and so on. You know what I mean – you have seen these mails probably as well. But still some spam mails got through, typically between three to five per day. Even worse, as I entered more and more generic terms, I increasingly blocked also valid mails.

And then I read about SPAMfighter.

It’s a software from a small Danish company that unleashes the power of community upon the spammers. The idea is as simple as it is brilliant: just allow people to identify spam in their mailbox and share this individual knowledge with the community, i.e. among all participants of the program so that everyone can block these messages as well. Now, if the number of users is large enough, spam could be identified in near real-time. Then automate the blocking process, and spam is extinguished for the overwhelming majority of community members. Spammers would have no chance of ever invading your mailbox again.

Birds at Waterhole in Namibia
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

It is a tactic used by nature as well: These Red-Billed Quelea at a waterhole in Namibia behave exactly the same. They know that they need to take up water. They know that there might be crocodiles in the water, waiting for a nice lunch. So they come in thousands and expose themselves only briefly to the risk of drinking. If one gets caught the rest of the community is alarmed and escapes. The majority of the community will be saved from the crocodiles.

And guess what? The software works exactly as advertised! At the time of writing, there were 3,610,409 registered SPAMfighters who have checked 7.8 billion mails, of which 5.6 billion mails were identified as spam (a whopping 72% of all mails). Oh yes, occasionally a spam mail still gets through to me, like about two per week, but so what? After all, I am a SPAMfighter and just hit the “Block This!” button, and then it’s gone. And gone from all the other mailboxes around the world as well. Great, really!

Now, there is a free version of the software, and a more powerful version which is sold at € 25 a year. I signed up for the advanced version, because I came to the conclusion that not only the software and the idea behind it is very good, but also these guys should get the (financial) support they need to run this service.

A great program. If you are being plagued by spam – become a SPAMfighter! It’s great to be a SPAMfighter! :-)

* * *

Please note that I am in no way affiliated with or sponsored by SPAMfighter. I have been paying the full price for the service received.

Mike Rome, Ravenna, and one of my photos

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

You probably know that situation, whether you are a photographer, a salesman, or an accountant. Every now and then something hits your mailbox that really makes your day. Or at least makes you smile. Like a sparkle in the darkness of the boring, never ending stream of e-mails.

It happened to me yesterday. But I should start at the beginning…

Back in April this year, I received a mail from an artist, Mike Rome, asking politely for the permission to use one of my photos as base for one of his paintings. The photo in question was a shot from our Trip to Italy:

Ravenna Town Center
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

It’s the pedestrian zone in the town center of Ravenna, and positively not one of my greatest shots. I thought “heck, if it inspires Mike – why not?”. Also, I have to admit that I was surprised (and glad too) to see that he actually asked, and so I happily gave permission.

And then I forgot about his mail. Until yesterday, when Mike wrote another e-mail telling me that he had completed the work on the picture:

Mike Rome - Ravenna Painting
© Mike Rome/used by permission

Mike is now going to participate in a competition in Chichester, UK (which makes perfect sense as the city is twinned with Ravenna). The competition will take place at the Old Court Room of the Town Council Building (Map). If you happen to be in Chichester area from 8th to 10th August, maybe you just drop in and have a look at Mike’s work. Alternatively, you can always visit his website that shows some of his work.

Mike Rome with his Ravenna Painting
© Mike Rome/used by permission

Mike, I wish you good luck for the competition. And thanks, mate, for the nice mail that made my day. :-)

Will Google Kill the Golden Mobile Goose?

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

Don Reisinger of C.Net thinks aloud about the question whether Google could kill the cell phone industry by acquiring the 700 MHz wireless spectrum in the United States. Interesting stuff, and definitely worth a consideration.

Google on a mobile phone
Archive Photo © 2006 Mark Zanzig/zettpress

I know that Google have hired some amazing folks in the mobile space over the past two years, quite a crowd actually. And not just tech folks, no, it’s strategists and business development guys as well. Some of them came directly from mobile network operators, others from Microsoft. Of course, they all came for the cool work environment at Google (some might have liked the money as well).

So, I think that Google does have a plan for the wireless spectrum they are looking to acquire. With their truckloads of cash they can certainly afford to build a network. And if they build it, the people will come. However, will Google be able to maintain a free mobile network? And will people accept a phone service that is financed by advertising? After all, most of us are still either using a flat fee (so I do not care what a call costs) or Skype (which has no advertising). Think about it: previous tries to do introduce pre-call or in-call advertising never really lifted off.

Okay, with all that personal information that Google has gathered through your web searches, they might be able to figure out that you are looking at trips to a certain country, say, to Elbonia. But how often would you endure this…

Your call is sponsored by Elbonian Airways, the airline with the most attractive flights to Elbonia. If you want to be connected to an Elbonian Airways representative to book a flight, press 1 now. Otherwise, please hold the line while we are connecting you to your call…

…prior to your call or – Heaven Help! – during a call? Not too often. Phone calls are not that expensive. So they will catch only the low-value market. Also, traditional mobile phone networks might come up with similar schemes (though they might not be able to automatically detect that you are interested in trips to Elbonia). But they have everything in place, they know how it works, and it does work indeed. Today.

It will not be easy to monetize the wireless space, so it will be interesting to watch what Google is up to.

True Love Show

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Old Typewriter
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Some of you wonder what I am up to when I am not traveling, taking photographs, scanning slides, or creating websites? Well, I write screenplays! Go figure. :-)

Today I released my latest full-length motion picture screenplay titled True Love Show. It is about the host of the No. 1 coupling show who tries to cure his midlife crisis through a vacation and falls in love with a bushpilot. She rejects him, but he uses all the tools of his trade trying to convince her…

If that sounds like a good read to you, please feel free to download the full 90 page screenplay as PDF. I appreciate your feedback.

And yes, inquiries to buy the screenplay are welcome. :-)