Monthly Archives: September 2007

Spam Good, Spam Bad; Spam Bad

Amazingly, since my last post thing have been going pretty well!

I wrote that yesterday, and things were still okay this morning. However I’ve annoyed one many spam-savvy academics, one too many times (maybe).

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I was reported to, who notified my ISP who then temporarily disabled my account.

So I think, for the time being, this project will have to go on hold. I still want to continue it in the same vain, but I will have to either find a way to legitimise what in reality is spam; or simply only involve people who decide to take part off their own free will. I do feel however, doing that would detract from what (has proved to be, I think) a fun experience for at least 90% of the people who have responded to my mailings.

I’ll be posting again soon, I’m going to collate all of the submissions from recipients of my spam emails – its quite a nice little collection of nuances now! And hopefully I’ll facilitate a way in that which I can further the project somehow. I still have the ultimate wish of making this a gallery-based piece that can be tangibly viewed by the public. Not just a web-based experience.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far, its been lovely!

May the lap of the spamGods be with you.

Spam Art is Go

I’ve rigged up a pretty good version of what I want to do with my spam based project. Spart is the name I’ve coined, rather unimaginatively. Since I’ve got so far with it, I think I’m going to give it a dry run, mainly to see what kind of result I get, and hopefully provoke a good reaction from the (potential) “victims” of my mailings. My previous post about spam and art is here.

Hang on! I got an email….. what does it mean?

Firstly sorry again if this has brought you to annoyance and if you wonder how I did this; your email address exists on the world wide web, somewhere. It doesn’t mean too much on its own. If you would like for your email address to be removed from the system, there is a link at the bottom of any emails you have received from me.


I’m asking anyone who receives one of my spam emails (or anyone else) to contribute a short message to the project. These contributions will then in turn make up the content for my next mass-mailing. Ultimately I would like the system to be completely self contained – so all the messages that are sent are generated by other people who (at one point) received a message. I will then place the computer(s) running the system into a gallery, and display all outgoing and incoming messages that it generates. This is a little way off, b ut not impossible.

Use this form to add your message to the spam system. Anything that gets sent out will be moderated, so there’s no point including any obscenities in it. If you would just like to leave a general comment click here.


Email Spider Statistics

0) {
$sql = “UPDATE spart_emailstats SET value=” . $_POST[“total”] . ” WHERE variable=’total'”;

$result = mysql_query ($sql);
echo “updated total”;

if ($_POST[“last_hour”] > 0) {
$sql = “UPDATE spart_emailstats SET value=” . $_POST[“last_hour”] . ” WHERE variable=’last_hour'”;

$result = mysql_query ($sql);
echo “updated last_hour”;

if ($_POST[“website”] <> “”) {
$sql = “UPDATE spart_emailstats SET value='” . $_POST[“website”] . “‘ WHERE variable=’last_website'”;
// echo $sql;
$result = mysql_query($sql);
echo “updated website”;

//echo “here”;
$sql = “SELECT value FROM spart_emailstats WHERE variable=’last_hour'”;
$results = mysql_query($sql);
$resultsrow = mysql_fetch_row($results);
echo “

Emails found by spider in the last hour: $resultsrow[0]


$sql = “SELECT value FROM spart_emailstats WHERE variable=’total'”;
$results = mysql_query($sql);
$resultsrow = mysql_fetch_row($results);
echo “

Total found (since 10/11/2007): $resultsrow[0]


$sql = “SELECT value FROM spart_emailstats WHERE variable=’last_website'”;
$results = mysql_query($sql);
$resultsrow = mysql_fetch_row($results);
echo “

Last new email discovered from: ” . $resultsrow[0] .”



Art Spam, Spam Art, spArt I suppose

What is Spam Art?

I have a new harebrained “artistic” scheme. As the title suggests it is to do with spam.

I read about something I thought that was cool; a guy had simply created a dedicated email inbox and ensured that it received lots of spam all the time (not too difficult these days). Then a computer printed all of the messages that were delivered into that inbox and immediately the paper it was printed on was shredded.

I liked it – but a little one dimensional I suppose (I probably wouldn’t have said that if I’d have thought of it first and done it, however).

Another interactive art work I read about, that utilised the Internet, was the guy that had a balloon rigged to an air-pump that was triggered by hits on his blog. Anyone who looked at his blog could rest-assured that their hit, inflated the balloon that little bit more – at the end of one day the balloon was popped.

I really loved this concept. I’m not sure quite what it was meant to represent, but it definitely appealed to my tastes.

Try googling “spam art” – loads of cool results.

My Ideas & Testing the Concept

What I would like to do started with the idea of running two pieces of software on a gallery-based computer. The first program continuously spiders the web and builds an ever-growing database of email addresses. Despite the spam it attracts there are still millions and millions of such addresses out there on the web. The second program would send a message to each of the emails that the spider discovers.

Responses to the sent message would also be displayed by the computer and be published on a blog.

I guess I’m interested in turning the tables on spam, so for somebody out there they will receive my spam and be surprised and joyed at the fact that it isn’t actually the traditional form of spam. If they respond they will be interacting with anyone who looks at the gallery-situated computer or the blog. Thus my interactive art is born.

I tested the concept with a few hundred email addresses that I collected using a simple spidering program, and this has generated a few replies – mostly encouraging. One or two slightly angry or annoyed…. not surprisingly (I am sorry..!)

Take a look at the email I sent here.

The responses have ranged from;

Hi, what exactly is the purpose of this project? And what is the “art” for this project?

To lovely and encouraging responses like this from Anne-Marie;

I am always very happy to see that Students “in general” still have
ideas ! (you are the future my Dear…and the world depends on you all)

And this is the major point that I have to address:

How is art different from spam?David K

Many thanks to everyone who did respond – you’ve helped me a lot.

Also another huge debt to the open source developers who wrote PHPList and all of its components.

Where’s it going?

Well there is quite a development overhead with a project like this; for it to work seamlessly. For my initial test I’ve been filling in all the gaps that ultimately a computer will have to, but I reckon it has proved the concept well.

I’ve refined the idea through the testing. The part of the project that I really want to nurture is the relationship between the email content and the people that receive it. That was one of the most interesting concerns of the people that responded; the content must be relevant or of interest somehow – otherwise the email still constitutes itself as spam and will not be enjoyed by its recipients! So where do I find the content for emails so it will be relevant?

My current thinking is that all the emails that are sent to members of my spam list will actually be generated by users through a website. The website will serve as a medium for any single person to communicate a nuance of thought to (potentially) many thousands of “subscribers”. It can also be a hub for responses generated by any of these “spammed thoughts” to be displayed on the web. I’ve also concluded that anyone who receives these emails must not in an unsolicited manner. It just doesn’t quite sit right with most people (or myself).

Original Spart Email

This is the content of the email that I sent in my preliminary spArt tests…..

I’m an Art Student, in Manchester (UK).

I’m mainly interested in working with computers, technology and the web – and finding interesting subjects within those areas to base my work on.

This will form part of my creative process.

I (literally) just had the idea of putting a computer in an art gallery, connected to the internet and constantly trawling the web for email addresses. This is exactly the same process that some internet marketeers (as they might like to be called) otherwise known as “spamsters” use to gather some of the email addresses that form their spam lists.

My motives however aren’t to lure people into a scam or for some other commercial purpose. I’d like to see if I could have a computer that is constantly collecting new email addresses, and that would also receive a constant stream of replies – as the message is worthy of response, and is not spam.

All the responses would be displayed on the computer in the art gallery.

Something along those lines anyway……

As a sort of preliminary dry run, I’ve just gathered 500 email addresses from the web and I’m testing out the idea with them. If you’re reading this, then you were one of the 500 I got in my initial run.

Do you understand the idea? If so what do you think?

Any thoughts would be great!

Also, if you want to find out a bit more about me, have a look at my website; (however watch out, its kind of a work in progress….)

Many thanks! And I apologise for filling up your inbox :o)


Geocaching; Personal Procrastination

I’m becoming increasing frustrated with my inability to record my music in a efficient manner. Procrastination is a big problem as is occasional lethargy. Also I find it difficult to defer my desires to mess about with my various other projects that are on-going.

Today’s procrastinative displacement activity is giving some much needed attention to this blog.

Photobombing has attracted some comments from various people on the internet and is still smouldering away by itself, which is really encouraging. I really want to get it properly sorted, so its a more cohesive system and accessible to anyone (which unfortunately it is not at the moment). I think that is going to involve quite a lot of re-learning how to program – but should be fun in its own right.

I was particularly pleased yesterday when I stumbled across Imran Ali’s blog and his post about photobombing. Its so good to see/hear/know that people other than myself are attracted to the concept. Imran summated photobombing with this, it isn’t quite correct (I don’t think) but this is probably how photobombing should operate:

I guess it’s basically the inverse of geotagging, rather than tagging a digital map with digital photos, you tag a physical place with real photos :)

A (cool) twist of fate is that he discovered the concept of photobombing via geotagging which is something I’ve been extremely interested with lately.

Speaking of geotagging, I’ve finally got my mobile phone/bluetooth GPS and camera combination to work smoothly, so in future I can ensure all my photographs will be geotagging automatically. But I’ve also discovered the phenomenon of geocaching. What am amazing thing this is. A network of “cachers” maintain thousands of caches throughout the globe. A cache can be any sort of container, and will contain a log book and official paperwork. Sometimes there are gifts inside, or puzzles, riddles, clues to find another geocache – anything! Anyhow, all the cache’s and their GPS co-ordinates are available on the website and anyone who so wishes can go in search of them. Its great fun, I recommend it to all.

I am certainly going to combine my photobombing escapades with geocaching.

Sometimes I wish time went twice as slow, or me twice as fast.

September Work Plan

For the next few weeks I’ll be working with various web and online ideas that I’ve been developing:

  • Using Spam for creative purposes
  • Utilising the “blogosphere”

I’m really interested in the spam “problem”. There’s a distinct irony that by far the largest distributed computer networks in the world are controlled by hackers of disrepute for (primarily) spam activities and spam is something that anyone who uses email regularly will be aware of. I’m not certain exactly what I want to say, or how I want to do it; but I’m going to do something with spam.

The blogosphere (as its called) interests me differently. Although blogs – as they’re known now, the word derives from web logs – have been around for at least 10 years now. It is an amazing resource, whatever subject you choose you can rest assured that someone, somewhere will be writing about it on a blog. Again, I’m not certain how I can create some work that is relevant and interesting, but I’m going to do some research into it.


Run! Caiti in Alexandra Park, we went to play on the bikes and look at squirrels.