Strong opinions, weakly held

Rafe’s Law

I’ve always fancied the idea of having a law named after myself. I don’t aspire to the fame Mike Godwin achieved with Godwin’s law, but a little fame would be nice.

Here’s the first draft of Rafe’s law:

An Internet service cannot be considered truly successful until it has attracted spammers.

Based on my observations, this law is true. You know your application or protocol has really made it when is popular enough for spammers to take notice of it. We’ve seen this phenomenon with Usenet, email, weblog comments, wikis, Trackbacks, splogs, and instant messaging. Needless to say, all of these services are a big success.

The latest spam problem I’m seeing is Trac spam. Trac is a software development tool, but because comments on open issues are posted on public Web pages, spammers looking to boost their PageRank have created scripts to spam any open Trac installation they can find. The fact that spammers have discovered it is a good indication that Trac is the emerging favorite in the world of free bug tracking tools.

How is this law useful? Let’s say you’ve created a new service, like Ning, or a new blog publishing tool, like Mephisto. How do you know if it’s a success? Just consider Rafe’s Law. If the spammers care about your service, you’ve made it.

The only problem with this law is that I may not have been the first one to come up with it. If that’s the case, obviously the originator deserves credit instead of me.

Update: A commenter points out this definition of social software from Clay Shirky, which is similar but not the same.


  1. I like.

    Sounds like: Social software is stuff that gets spammed — appropriate, since popular software on the web these days is typically social in some aspect.

  2. I’ve noticed the same thing and I think I actually like your law a lot.

    I think I’ll start calling this phenomenon Rafe’s Law!

  3. Rafe’s Law

    Via Daringfireball, comes news of Rafe’s Law: An Internet service cannot be considered truly successful until it has attracted spammers. In other words, you’re not truly successful until you’ve been rendered virtually useless. Probab…

  4. Sounds about right! It captures the issue that pretty much all social software is vulnerable to spam, too…

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