Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail: Empirical Analysis of a Digital Commons
International Journal of Electronic Commerce, Vol.10, No. 4, pp. 143-168, 2006
Posted: 24 Oct 2008
Date Written: July 1, 2006
Unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) is a significant problem of the digital commons, but there has been little empirical analysis of proposed solutions and underlying mechanisms. This study, based on an analysis of 47 million inbound e-mail messages drawn from a cross-section of e-mail inbox owners over a one-year period, characterizes resource overuse in the e-mail commons. The absence of a growth trend in UCE message volume raises questions about the sampling methodologies underlying media reports about spam. The distribution of UCE messages reveals a cyclical trend, peaking in mid-week and subsiding on weekends, that can be explained in part by the trend of regular e-mail messages-an unanticipated finding given the difference between UCE and ordinary email communication. Ruling out technological constraints and workweek conventions, the study suggests that these co-varying patterns come about because UCE senders strategically exploit the unique features of the on-line commons, including instantaneous feedback, information transparency, identity misrepresentation, and technological progress. Analysis of these properties can lead to improved management of the digital commons.
Keywords: Attention endowment, Box-Jenkins, common-pool resource,digital commons, exclusion, e-mail marketing, IS management, rival, spam,time series, UCE
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