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Welcome to spamworld, where nobody reads πŸ”—
1635869893  

Recently, a resume went viral for getting good responses despite being filled with obvious BS such as rickrolls thanks to being SEO'd out the wazoo. A less obvious variant of this trick for more serious people has been to include a paragraph of text with white font color (so that it is not visible unless selected, or ever when printed) filled with these SEO keywords. While these tricks can open some doors, they still aren't enough because people still don't read what gets past the filters. Some of the reason for this is plain laziness, but the truth is that what gets past the filters are still too much to read.

This can get especially frustrating for programmers looking for contracts that have a large corpus of public work (such as a blog, or OSS contribs). Prospective employers invariably ask you to take yet another test whether or not you have clear and demonstrated ability to solve their business problems. At the end of the day, exploiting social proof is still what's needed to get hired. Whether you leverage a personal connection, build fame or use "jedi mind tricks" to quickly build emotional investment in an interview it always has to be done. The skills you actually need to do the job basically don't matter at all; they're just one more filter.

Why can't we have nice things?

The core issue which is unremarked upon here is that the war on spam is over, and the spammers have decisively won. The only set of spam filters which actually can catch 100% of spam also catches 100% of non-whitelisted ham. The most recent weapon in this war is greytrapping where you blacklist anyone sending to addresses not at the server, as it's evidence of scanning.

I realized that this approach could also be applied various other places to improve web hosting in general, as scanning happens all the time. My /var/log/messages is usually filled with queries for domains that are not, and never have been on the box. You could similarly ban HTTP requests against IPs specifying incorrect HOST headers.

There are a lot of areas where the other techniques applied to email would actually help. Greylisting phone calls in particular would essentially extinguish the epidemic of scam calls immediately. Especially if you combined it with a mandatory up-front first time leave-a-message running a bot-or-not analysis. That said, it appears there is 0 motivation to change in the telephony space. After all, most major smartphones have supported sending and recieving encrypted SIP calls identified by email addresses for years, yet we still trade the equivalent of IP addresses and pay for this!

This still doesn't fix the problem though. Given the only foolproof solution is whitelisting, it surprises me that no major mail package or hosting control panel automatically adds anyone you directly mail to the whitelist. Most don't even auto-whitelist your addressbook!

But wait! There's MORE

There is an even more insidious problem introduced by the net. While there is an endless tide of spam there is also more ham than anyone could ever possibly eat. This is the current state of scientific publishing despite the replication crisis. What happens when the possible routes of investigation are more than you could ever possibly investigate?

While it is possible that multiple routes lead to your destination, it's likely only one of them is optimal. As programmers know well, this is close to an undecidable problem short of exhaustive search. This flood of "not wrong, but not useful" content which increasingly hinders my search for solutions (again, thank you SEO blogs) has grown increasingly concerning.

I've begun to wonder if this will be the mechanism by which the spread of knowledge regresses to the pre-internet mean. I certainly don't relish the days of having to drive to and then search library stacks to get answers. I don't think it'll be as bad as it used to be, but this has major ramifications for AI researchers. If we can barely get through this tide of junk, I suppose it comes as no surprise that "expert systems" turn out to be closer to "mediocrities copying and pasting from stackoverflow".

This is good news for content creators at least. It means that posts like this one where I lead off with some "in the news" thing can easily be evergreened in the future. This is because everyone's social media feed is eternal september of the guy who just started paying attention. As PT Barnum said, there's a sucker born every minute!

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