Friday, March 11, 2005


I'm going to coin a phrase here, I think. Anyway, Skam = Skype spam. A friend received the following message yesterday (typos remain):

Dear friend, I represent a consulting company from Latvia. The company is
one of oldest in renewed Latvia. I have a proposal concerning legaly reducing
income taxes. You would be supprised about the results. Agents interesets are

This morning I opened up Skype to find that Stuart Henshall had initiated a group Skype chat for 46 people last night while I was offline, in order to discuss SkypeIn. The entire archive appeared in the client, and contained some interesting reactions, as well as some baffled ones. It seemed that some people were confused and perhaps vaguely resentful of being dragged into a group chat. Several exited immediately.

I certainly don't blame Stuart, because I like well-intentioned enthusiasm. But it made me start to think. Is it possible to repeat this process with people outside your contact list? I assume so, but I'm not going to try it. How about a Skambot, which indexes Skype users from the directory, enabling Skammers to set up unsolicited super-sized group chats like the benevolent one I experienced - but with the message being Latvian tax strategies, or worse. What defense do users dragged into this sort of thing have? How about unsolicited file transfers of advertising, porn clips, or worse? Remember, I wasn't online at the time the chat started, but still got all the messages when I booted up today. Yes, I have a right to exit, but do I have a right not to be brought into it in the first place? My feeling is that I don't, not at present anyway.

I love Skype as an application and a force for keeping the telcos awake at night. I admire the spirit of innovation which Skype is pursuing. I am amazed at all the activity being inspired around Skype. I am also a bit concerned that, as it gets bigger and better, it is also more attractive to those who have less noble intentions.

UPDATE: Now that this has apparently been picked up in a number of places, please see the followup post, which seeks to clarify and explain in more detail.

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