Monday, June 05, 2006

When I decided to join the anti-spam community:

I've done a lot of interviews lately with reporters about my settlement of lawsuits with Microsoft and the Texas Attorney General's office and the reporters keep asking the question about when I had an epiphany about my need to join the anti-spam community.

I've given a lot of thought to that question - I haven't really been able to pinpoint a moment in time where I woke up in the middle of the night and had an "A-ha" moment.

If anything, I look back to some of the classes I was taking while the lawsuit was proceeding and I am now remembering my micro-economic theory class where we learned about the "Tragedy of the commons." The textbook was written by David Besanko and Ronald R. Braeutigam and they emphasized the problem of the tragedy of the commons. Mcgraw-Hill defines this problem as "The over-use of a natural resource as a result of unclear property rights. If ownership of a resource is not established, everyone has an incentive to take as much of it as possible, quickly depleting the resource. A typical example is the decline in the fish population resulting from over-fishing of the ocean."

Once I thought about this I realized that the internet had unclear ownership rights and that over-exploiting the unclear ownership rights was wrong. I decided that I wanted to be part of the solution to help bring clarity to who has the ownership rights. I think that the individual person and the internet service provider have the right to control what email comes through their network. I also think that the government is necessary to control the spam problem.

I hope this helps to clear up the reason why I made the transition into the anti-spam community. I feel very strongly about working with the anti-spam community, and I truly want to become a part of the solution.


Gustavo said...

Well, whatever the case, Ryan, when I read ZDNet's article about your decision, I was a bit humbled. It takes a lot of balls to become part of the solution, having been a part of the problem...

I wish you well in all you do.

David231153 said...

I am so sick of spam mail, and to hear that you were responsible for a vast amount of spam, daily is sickening. I was into computers whilst you were still in nappies.

When the computer community started in earnest it was full of friendly, helpful people. Vriuses and spam wasn't heard of, then came along people like you and the whole thing was turned on its head almost overnight.

Now I worry about my kids using the net, which is sad as there is a lot of good stuff out there, interesting articles, blogs where you can sound off without fear of retribution, then there are the virus writers, the spammers and the scammers trying to break into your bank details, oh and lets not forget about the porn kings and paedophiles.

As far as I'm concerned you are all as bad as each other and the law does not deal with people like you severely enough.

Its very easy to say that you have had a change of heart, but how much did you really make? and how much of this have you been able to keep?

I also notice that this blog is moderated by you, thats a cheap shot from you, surely after all the evil you have done, people should be able to respond to your 'change of heart' with sceptism and comment freely on it. You are just too cowardly to print all that you receive, and I'm sure its a lot more than one comment.

You state that trust will take a long time to build up - damn right. You are 24 yrs old, I would think that it would take at least another 24 years of helping other people before that trust can be restored.

I have dedicated my life to helping people, (I have worked in the care sector for 35 years) and it disgusts me that people can be so evil to one another, it also disgusts me that people like you can see it as a game.

You are not alone, big business and their chief execs are the main evil on this planet as they really run each country not the presidents or prime ministers.

How about you joining the fight against them as well, learn to help people without profit for yourself, learn to struggle to make ends meet when bringing up a family on a low wage whilst still helping others. In other words don't just grow up, open your eyes look around you at what is going on and help to do something about it, and without great profit for yourself.

Print this if you dare.

Ryan Pitylak said...

Dear David:

I can see that you are a very sincere person and that things affect you very deeply. Calling someone "evil" for sending out emails feels to me a bit over-the-top, but hey, it’s America, say what you want. I didn’t edit a word of your posting.

I probably will never do enough good in my life to satisfy your particular definitions of contrition or restitution. But I am at peace with my step-by-step plod down a trail to become the anti-spam activist that I want to be. For instance, whenever I can, I give my personal time to people here in Austin who have personal spam problems. Take a look at my combat spam blog where someone asked for some help here. This is an example of the free service I provide to people when I have free time. I hope to do more of that down the road even while I get my new business ventures up and running.

Postings like yours do provide me with a real sense of why I made the transition to anti-spammer. My maturation and higher education have helped as well. I would like you to think positively of me someday, but somehow I wonder if that’s possible, no matter what I go on to do.

Take care,

David231153 said...

There is always a point where someone does enough, but trust is something that has to be earnt.

Yes I have high values, is that such a bad thing?

Look at what is going on in the world today and see if this is acceptable.

A good example of this is the MPAA. They fight piracy with a venom, yet they themselves admit to copying a DVD without the owners permission, a clear case of double standards, how can they expect to be taken seriously?

Did they take themselves to court? Did they get their staff's homes computers checked? I think not.

I am pleased that you have decided to change the way you do things, but you are only one person. I wish you luck and hope that you are able to keep your word, by the way you never answered all the questions, but I won't push you on that point.

As I said good luck.

Jeff Andrews said...

It's interesting to read these posts. I'm a friend of Ryan's, and a professor at UT Austin. I can definitely say that Ryan has had a genuine change of heart. Let me make a few points.

First, our country is incredibly materialistic. When you are a young kid growing up, "success" is nearly always synonomous with "getting rich". I think most people reading this can relate to these unfortunate values in our society, and see how the lure of making buckets of money would allow a young person to justify unethical behavior, especially when it was not clear who (if anyone) was being victimized.

Second, to my knowledge, while Ryan's actions as a spammer were certainly damaging (25m e-mails a day taking a "free" ride on the internet), they were not fraudulent nor especially harmful to any one person. He did not send porn out, or try to steal money for people. He was advertising for legitimate business. Annoying for us to receive these e-mails, but it seems to me that "david231153" might be overreacting when he thinks his kids are in danger, unless he is worrying about them applying for a home equity loan.

Third, Ryan grew up. As he became successful, he became friends with other successful people (like myself) whom he respected, but did not share his ambivalent attitude towards SPAM. I think we all wish he had left this business earlier than he did, none more so than Ryan, but there is no question that at this point Ryan has learned a lot from all of this.

I'd like to just close by saying that Ryan has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. He is also very bright and curious. I have no doubt that he'll be successful in whatever he does; and I'm also confident his next venture will create value for more people than just himself and his employees.

Ryan Pitylak said...


Thank you for your feedback. I really appreciate your perspective. I'm working hard to fight the problem and I'm glad that you see that. I hope that my knowledge will truly contribute to the anti-spam community, which is something that is very important to me.

Thanks again Gustavo. I wish you all the best as well.