Calm Down, It Was Inevitable

“Everything is funny as long as it is happening to someone else” – Will Rogers

There are 195 countries in the world. 196 if you count Taiwan, which for some reason, isn’t counted outside of Taiwan. Within the borders of our world, there are approximately 7.1 billion people, roughly 6,500 spoken languages and 46 different alphabets.  Mandarin is, by far, the most spoken language. Spanish comes in second and English third. Hindi and Arabic, both very close to English in numbers, round out the top five. And yet, we Americans tend to be very provincial. Given the vastness of our borders and bounties, and with the help of our incessant media and their propensity towards fearmongering, we at times forget that there are actually other people out there, all with their own languages and cultures. Accordingly, we view ourselves on the cutting edge of all things tech and the frontrunners of innovation.

One innovation we can take credit for is electronic spam. In 1994, Americans Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel, partners in a husband and wife law firm, sent out the first known spam message to over 1,000 Usenet subscribers. And we here in the U.S. are so proud of that accomplishment that we’re apparently unwilling to accept that anyone else could, would, or should, mimic such a productive use of technology.

We see a lot of machines at Computer & Software Solutions, for a multitude of reasons, and short of an occasional aside, we rarely hear complaints concerning the vast amounts of spam that hit our inbox on a daily basis. Either we’ve become jaded and accepting of spam, or we’re beginning to realize that much of it is self generated. We freely give our email address to websites, retailers and strangers and we refuse to use the BCC function of email composition, allowing the electronic addresses of friends and family to circulate everywhere.

Recently, a new trend is emerging at work and frankly, I’m surprised it took so long.. We’re getting complaints about spam. But not just any normal American red blooded spam, but spam in some dreaded, scary foreign language. And if that spam happens to be written in Hindi, Arabic, or a language using a Cyrillic alphabet, suddenly we’re losing our collective minds. We’ve fielded no less than 15 complaints/concerns from customers who have received emails in such languages and after speaking personally to each of them, I’ve found that they have all, at one time or another, made purchases via foreign websites or through retailers using foreign distributors. Which means their email addresses were now subject to distribution in places like India, Pakistan, China, Russia and that most foreign of places, Canada. (Eh?) And the foreign language spam has finally caught up with them. But, even after a quick trip to Google Translate, to a person, none of those customers have quite accepted the explanations offered.

From a very young age, nationalism is instilled in our very being. We have a difficult time trusting things we don’t understand and given the amount of unrest in the world, and our involvement in many of those conflicts, that mistrust is magnified. Start getting emails in Arabic and all of a sudden we’re assuming a recruiting effort on behalf of ISIS, anything in Chinese Mandarin is undoubtedly a Communist propaganda plot. Spanish means the illegals are pouring over our borders and all other strange messages must be from our Canadian neighbors trying to sell us pharmaceuticals. (Eh?)

Relax folks. Yes, we’ve seen that nefarious foreign enemies are in fact recruiting our disillusioned youth. But they’re doing so in much more covert ways, in the dark, underbelly of the web, not intermingled in your inbox with all those offers for penis enlargement.

Our corresponding Facebook page has over 7,500 followers, representing 46 different countries and this blog has been viewed by people in 83 countries, all representing who knows how many languages or dialects. We get a lot of questions, messages and comments in languages totally foreign to us. Some we can translate via web services, and some so diverse in dialect, that we can’t.

To date, none have caused us pause or resulted in a call to Homeland Security.

It’s a vast world and universe out there. Just wait until the extraterrestrials make contact. Then we’re going to see some great spam!


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