Spam and the Anti-Design Pattern for Websites

The hard lesson learned from e-mail Spam, was easy to understand but difficult to digest.

So while it was easy to detect Spam, and see it's reach growing in the size of our Spam folders, it was much more difficult to internalize just exactly why it was happening.  Very simply it was the simple combination of two of humanities least favorite things, math and the science of very large numbers.

Large Numbers

As we reach the end of 2015, as predicted, the estimated number of Internet users is reaching 3,000 million; a number so large it becomes an abstract concept.  It's an abstract concept because it is exceedingly complex to create a mental image of its' magnitude.  We can visualize 100,000+ people, just imagine a full football stadium or concert.  If we stretch ourselves, we maybe see a crowd of 200 or even 400 thousand people.  Maybe we've even witnessed a million people together, but a 1,000 million? Never.


Now for the hard part, while you may detest Spam, have you ever wondered why it still exists?  After we've thrown a mountain of money to stop Spam, it keeps rolling into our e-mail accounts.  The simple, uncomfortable fact is, that it works.  For if it didn't work, do you think it would still be a problem?   To answer why, we have to use math.  So here it goes:

There are an estimated 14.5 billion spam messages generated globally per day.  Now I know that you might never open and click on one of those messages, but if only .1% (.001 multiplier) of those messages were opened, that would still generate 14.5 million positive results PER DAY!

Small percentages, even if not all that small can also baffle many. If there are four of us together and only one of us gets married, that means 25% are married.  Easy peasy, nice and cheesy, we get that immediately.

We can even grok 1 out of 10, or a hundred, or maybe even of a thousand.  If percentages get smaller than 1, then the confusion starts to set in.  Now we have to imagine a tenth, or a hundredth of a person. Say what?

Anti-Design Pattern

So keeping this in mind, what do you think will be strategy for websites?  For they too are ruled by large numbers and math.  And if you thought the Spam numbers were large, they are small compared to what's happening on the web.  The standard measure of success online is the advertising click through rate.

Currently, the overall web display advertising click through rate is .06% (.0006 multiplier), and the rich media click through rate is slightly more, 0.27%, but still very small.

Example pop-up ad from website visited to 
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Therefore, we should think of some websites  as Spam we voluntarily seek out.  thus giving us our Anti-Design Pattern:
When you go to a website, and they immediately throw up an advertisement, that pop-up message, to join their email, our download their whatever, is an online website Spam message.  If you click through on that ad, the website has achieved it's goal, and captured a way to contact you.
Of course remember, whenever a website can successfully extract any form of online contact, they will Spam you incessantly. Just think about it.  See how Spam creeps into our online experience; even for the most sophisticated and discriminating web surfer?


The reason why I think website pop-ups are an anti-design pattern because this practice runs counter to what just about any "social media expert" will tell you.  Aren't you supposed to build a relationship and generate value, before you ask for permission?

Mandatory pop-up advertisements do the exact opposite.  They levy an "attention tax" on you as soon as you enter a website, before I've even got a chance to start a relationship or receive something of value.