Friday, 24 July 2015

How Not To Spam

If you live in the UK, you can buy my book 'Here Be Dragons' (and look inside it) here and if you're in the States, you can get it here.  Oh, and look inside it of course.

I have now succeeded in getting past the baggage which came with writing and publishing it.  My task now is in the area of publicity, and being able to distinguish between being too pushy and not being pushy enough.

I know people don't like spam, so I assiduously avoid being spammy.  The trouble is, however, that I don't understand why people hate spam and what they perceive to be it, and the two are connected.  When I see spam, my first reaction is not annoyance but puzzlement.  I wonder why people bother to send it because it seems futile.  I suspect it corresponds to r/K selection theory, although apparently that's outdated.

If you're an oyster, not only do you get free gender reassignment as part of your normal life span and a load of vegans arguing about whether it's okay to murder you, but also you get to produce literal clouds of gametes, either sperm or eggs.  Up to a hundred million eggs a year in fact, so it looks like the approach taken to reproduction by female oysters is more like that taken to reproduction by male humans than female ones, so the gender reassignment involved is not really very impressive at all.  When these eggs get fertilised and start to develop into oysters, they will mostly die or be eaten by fish and the like but a few will survive.  The advantage to the parent oyster is that they can get away with what we would think of as negligent parenting without it stopping them from having grandchildren, so the whole hideous business, from our perspective, continues.  This is known as an "r strategy".

As a human being, if my approach was to produce a hundred million babies and abandon them to the vagaries of fate so that most of them died but I had a few grandchildren would possibly get me arrested unless I happened to be a sperm donor or a dictator or something.  Also, if I happen to be the proud possessor of ovaries, the situation gets even more complicated because an unprecedently vast number of surrogate mothers would become necessary, or possibly a massive baby bottling plant or something, and - well, we're not meant to do that are we?  One reason why school is such a strange idea of course, but I've been into that before:

(Can't believe I said "are a fungi" on that video!)

Instead of all that, humans currently have what is known as a "K strategy" with reproduction.  We have a few children and spend loads of time and energy parenting them. We have that in common with other species, but it seems to be more common among mammals and birds than most other animals.  Even fish aren't keen on it.  It's interesting to speculate on what a K strategy with marketing would be, but I won't do that here.

This brings me back to spam.  Spam is an r strategy game.  Spammers emulate oysters by producing huge clouds of emails, almost all of which are ignored.  There is presumably the very occasional response, which keeps them going.  Since like almost everyone else, I don't respond to spam, I don't understand why anyone does and consequently the main thing I feel when I see spam is bafflement at two categories of people:  spammers and people who respond to spam.  I sometimes wonder if they're the same people because presumably they must think it works, so maybe it works on them.  Maybe there's a group of people who spend their time both sending and responding happily to spam and they're all one little cosy community.

One thing spam does not do to me, though, is irritate me.  Nor do I understand why anyone would find it irritating.  Even so, I am aware that many people are annoyed by it, and I presume the reason for that is that it feels to them like they're being used and not respected as human beings, which they're apparently not accustomed to feeling, possibly because they are mercifully distanced from the sheer indifference and uncaring nature of the world we live in.  It's probably true that spam is disrespectful, but disrespect is perfectly normal and not confined to email.

Since I don't know when that kind of behaviour annoys people, I try not to do it, in the same way as in the past I have tried not to stalk people.  When I have something I wish to push on people, I am stuck with the problem of not wanting to be pushy, in other words to use people, or to be perceived as such.  I also have a problem with splitting - I tend to try to simplify things by going to extremes.  I hope transitioning will help with this and I'm aware that I do it more when I'm stressed.

The result of all this is that I don't promote myself at all most of the time, and the fact that I happen to have a new book out might not be widely noticed.  This is not so much an r or K strategy of reproduction as a strategy for extinction.

Having said all this, apparently the whole idea of r/K selection theory has been replaced by the something called a life history paradigm, about which I know very little but am about to learn more.

So anyway, please buy my book!  Is that pushy?  I have no idea.