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Techies Are Tracking Your Email. Are You on Their List?

by Nov 1, 2013, 6:08 am ET

recruiter spam trackerOne reason sourcing tech talent is such a challenge is that, let me put this delicately, too many of the most talented developers and engineers don’t like recruiters.

They really don’t like you. They blog about you in the most unflattering terms; suck is one I’m allowed to use. And they’re watching you. is one place they track the emails you send them. And right now, the leader on the tech graph of infamy is Nicholas Meyler.

David Hansson

David Hansson

His bad luck was to include the wrong person in his mass emailing to Ruby on Rails developers. It just happened that person was David Heinemeier Hansson, who created Ruby on Rails, and the email hit his mailbox on the same day his book extolling the virtues of working outside the office was released.

“Needless to say, Nicholas Meyler from Wingate Dunross sucks at recruiting,” tweeted Hansson to his 95,000 followers. “If you are the SF startup who hired him, the joke is on you.”

What pushed Hansson’s button Tuesday wasn’t just the email, which he insists in very clear and unambiguous language is spam. It was the part of the email that says, “We are not looking for any contractors, telecommuters, or people who wish to work from remote locations.”

Just hours earlier Hansson announced his book REMOTE: Office Not Required went on sale on Amazon.

“So atrocious,” Hansson said, insisting that the job email was spam on exactly the same order as pitches for penile enlargement products.

Besides Hansson’s tweets, and several dozen retweets reaching thousands more, the text of Meyler’s email was posted to GitHub, a code exchange and forum for developers. One of Hansson’s followers even uncovered the client behind the job, DerbyWire, which lead to a handful of tweets mocking the company.

Nicholas Meyler

Nicholas Meyler

Now after that you might imagine Meyler would issue some sort of mea culpa. You would be wrong. When I spoke with him, he was utterly unrepentant. “I don’t think it is spam at all,” he said. “I think a recruiter has the right to contact people.”

The complainers are “absolutely not the people, the ones who complain are the ones we don’t want.” As if that wasn’t enough, he called the controversy, “a ridiculous thing to me to complain about.”

As for the virality of the controversy, “I know it’s a little viral, but I wouldn’t say all that viral.”

For what it’s worth, Meyler is now No. 1 on the recruiterspam site. (Take a look to see if you are there, too.)

The T-Shirt Appraisal

appraisly logoWhat if every performance review ended with managers handing out T-shirts with the employee’s rating on it? Now talk about engagement and getting people to sit up and pay attention to those reviews!

That would have been so cool of the founders of Appraisly. That would have gotten everyone’s attention. And it would have at least made some sense to the pitch I got to write about this new employee performance management software startup. The founders claim to fame is that they previously launched — and “amicably exited” from — “a Twitter based customized T-shirt company.”

I will say his for them, the pitch used that hot new buzzword “datafication” and its cousins “datafying” and “datafied” six times in three paragraphs.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Stephanie McDonald

    Clearly this guy doesn’t understand spam. It’s unwanted email. That’s how reasonable people define it, and that’s why people hate recruiters. If we say something like “oh, people who don’t want spam are not people we’d be interested in” WE DESERVE WHAT WE GET. I’d be horrified to be on this list, beg forgiveness and take the criticism I well deserved. He should be ashamed.


  • Nik Lygkonis

    Thanks for the mention of our company John. Will consider the t-shirt idea, in the meantime why not check our product – I am confident it will make more sense to you. Email me for details. Thanks Nik

  • Keith Halperin

    My heart bleeds for those poor, stressed-out people who are so upset about getting bombarded with comms from recruiters. I offer a couple of suggestions to those troubled souls:

    1) You want to be left alone? Fine- just be part of the (probable) 95% of jobseekers who would DIE to get a few comms from recruiters, but don’t because unlike you, they’re not part of the “Fab 5%” that everybody wants. What makes these spoiled Fab 5% people feel we should spend hours carefully researching all aspects of their background and spoon-feed them a pre-digested pablum of a perfect job, when we have no guarantee they’d respond anyway?

    2) You still want to be left alone? Well then: get yourself off the publically-accessible internet, and delete every trace of your existence. You have a right to remain silent (on the internet). If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say (or have ever said or will ever say) will be used against you for any reason we feel like, BECAUSE WE CAN. In a few years, big companies and individuals will have data tools which will cause the current NSA spooks to swoon, and it will be all perfectly legal, since it will rely on public information. If you don’t like it, then move to Europe with their evil data-protection and privacy laws, you SOCIALIST ENEMIES OF FREE ENTEPRISE!

    Happy Friday,

  • Stephanie McDonald

    So you’re cool with sending blanket emails to candidates? I’m not talking about getting a well crafted email under the nose of a particular candidate I’ve been looking at. I would never buy a list or pull up “software engineer” in LinkedIn and carpet bomb them all with the same email. It sounds like this guy did the latter. That’s the retailization of our chosen profession, Keith. ANYONE can do that, but no one should. I highly doubt the people complaining have a problem with how things should be done. It’s about relationships, right?

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Stephanie. If I do a search, internet, LI, board, etc. and come up with some results, I’ll do some quick eyeballing to make sure I avoid the type of errors I often receive (getting requests to apply to technical jobs), weeding out people who indicate some reason to avoid, wrong title, wrong skills, etc. and then I’ll send out a professional, appropriate, and polite message to as many of them as seem interesting. I am not going to spend hours researching them to make sure I absolutely have something that they’d want to hear, because there is no guarantee that spending a few seconds or a few hours looking at someone’s background will produce a positive result.

    As far as “relationships” are concerned:
    As the saying goes- “If you have time for relationships, you don’t have enough reqs.”


  • josh kerbel

    I would figure that if I was hunting a high value target, I would at least take the time to do a customized outreach. It’s not much different than pitching to bloggers/media outlets, a potential hit can be worth thousands, so make the investment of time upfront.

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Josh: Very practical if you have a few high-value contingency targets, not so if you have lots of reqs and ones that need to quickly.

  • Carol Schultz

    John: This is such a great story. Thanks for posting it.

  • Sarah Mullens

    Nothing says lazy recruiting louder than a “spray and pray” email.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Sarah.

    “Ohh , I’m wicked and I’m lazy
    Ohh, Don’t you want to save me

    Lazy when I work
    Lazy all the day
    Screamin all you like but it only fades away
    I’m lazy when I’m prayin
    Lazy on the job
    Gota lazy mind, a lazy eye, a lazy lazy bod”

    -David Byrne, Lazy

  • Nicholas Meyler

    The chief flaw with the article is that it is poorly researched and basically false. Firstly, Zappe apparently doesn’t know that David H. Hansson has an extremely bad reputation (check his Wikipedia entry). Secondly, he ignores the fact that our emails have a complaint rate well below 1 per 30,000 sent, and that we unsubscribe everyone who requests it immediately. We are in complete compliance with the CAN-SPAM laws, and according to the 9th Circuit Court ruling of “Gordon vs. Virtumundo”, any argument with that would need to be overturned by the Supreme Court of the USA. Thirdly, he paints a picture of me being a recruiter without skills, when in fact, I have an engineering degree, and come from a long line of engineers, and have placed people with 7 figure salaries, and work with many candidates with 50 or more patents.

    Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that a job advertisement is not the same as a spam ad for “penile enlargement”. The comment is clearly libelous. There’s so little that’s accurate about the article (and John Zappe has never been a recruiter for a day in his life) that it’s astonishing. Furthermore, if one researches the backgrounds of the recruiters listed on “Recruiter Spam”, you will see some remarkably talented recruiters, including former Microsoft software engineers who have turned recruiter.

    “Recruiter Spam” is not a credible site, either, given that they base their judgment on well under 100 emails. Clearly, a ridiculously small number.

    David Hansson is perhaps best known for his critique of “enterprise software” having no standards for best practices. Still, all that tells us, as has been mentioned above, is that he is a socialist (red, i.e. “ruby”) critic of American Capitalism and the American Way.

  • Nicholas Meyler

    Another rather interesting thing about “Recruiter Spam” is that they also list a fellow alumni of John Zappe’s (from Syracuse Law School) as having sent more spam than “99%” of all other recruiters combined on “Recruiter Spam”. Obviously, if Law School graduates are recruiting via email, they know it is completely legal. John’s research is poor, and the fact that another graduate of Syracuse Law School is a target leads me to believe that (a) “Recruiter Spam” is a bogus site, and (b) John Zappe’s research is weak.

  • Stephanie McDonald

    Nicholas, maybe I’m misunderstanding but are you saying that because someone graduates from law school they don’t break the law, morals and best practices?

    There wasn’t any reference to law that I recall, this is just lazy and boorish behavior. I don’t care that it’s legal, it doesn’t make it good recruiting.

  • Nicholas Meyler

    Stephanie, you are welcome to your opinion. Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but you think that you are someone whose opinion I respect? It is not boorish to contact people about jobs. If you think it is, you should get out of the industry.

  • Nicholas Meyler

    What is really important here, and why the article isn’t a complete waste of time, is that candidates that hate recruiters for no real reason DO exist. This is a real problem for all of us and should be addressed. In reality, some percentage of the population are sociopathic and will be rude, obnoxious, vulgar and criminal for no reason. Maybe they are brilliant and their egos can’t take being treated like ‘average people’.

    Still, most of the brilliant inventors I have worked with are mature enough to realize “He doesn’t know me, yet,” and want to make a good impression. A very rare few just get angry. DHH has a really bad reputation for getting angry unjustifiably which I was unaware of. Had I known about it, I would have avoided him. Realistically, we cannot know everything a Recruiter might encounter, even after 25 years of successful recruiting in a specific field.

    Recruiters need to understand that they can be victimized by “Hate Crimes” for no reason, maybe just by people who hate recruiters because they are fundamentally unhireable — for example, chronic job-hoppers, unmanageable people, etc.

    I’m friends with many other engineers and many candidates, and I’ve discussed the matter with some of those employed in the same industry as DHH and they assured me that I had done absolutely nothing wrong or the least bit out of the ordinary.

    Zappe’s biggest error is ignoring the Laws of the situation: I was in the right, and completely lawful; while DHH was doing a criminal tort of libel which verged on an effort at cyber-lynching or cyber-stalking. I was also essentially being extorted by a very small number of radicalized people (mostly from Europe) who insisted that I had broken the Law (completely untrue). In my opinion, someone with a degree from Syracuse University Law School who writes for a news journal that targets an audience of recruiters should know better than to take a stance with the losing side, especially when his readership is mostly Headhunters.

    Recruiters need to stand up for each other, think critically about what they read, and not accept everything they are told at ‘face value’. Further inspection of the “Recruiter Spam” website shows it to be bogus. Hundreds among hundreds of recruiters are listed there, for having sent only 1 “spam” email. This is outrageous. Not only that, but it doesn’t really work. I’ve joined, and submitted many email addresses from other recruiters who sent me spam (several hundred addresses), and not one of them shows up! I’m still listed as having submitted O.000% of the addresses. In other words, everything you believed about the Zappe article was a lie. He should have listened when I carefully explained everything to him for 45 minutes over the phone, taking time out of my extremely busy day to try to help.

    I will not make the mistake of ‘trying to help’ in the future.

  • Nicholas Meyler

    As far as the “lazy” recruiter comments go (and I sincerely doubt that nearly any of you who scoff at email recruiting have the patience or intelligence to compile your own extensive email lists)…

    “Progress doesn’t come from early risers — progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.” — Robert Anson Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

    “I divide officers into four classes — the clever, the lazy, the stupid and the industrious. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the high staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy is fit for the very highest commands. He has the temperament and the requisite nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious must be removed immediately.”
    — General Baron Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord

    “Progress doesn’t come from early risers — progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.” — Robert Anson Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

  • Nicholas Meyler

    This article is monstrously inaccurate and borders on journalistic fraud. Business is way up since this was published, though, largely because the same data cited can easily be used to prove me the most accurate technical recruiter in the world, with the lowest spam rates (from 1 per 10,000 to 1 per 100,000) which are well-below the standard 1 per thousand rate that is considered the acceptable standard. John Zappe fails to mention that “Recruiterspam” also refers to me (and other recruiters)as “wily” and “top recruiter”. Obviously, facts no longer matter in Journalism.

  • Nicholas Meyler

    “Journalistic scandals include: plagiarism, fabrication, and omission of information; activities that violate the law, or violate ethical rules; the altering or staging of an event being documented; or making substantial reporting or researching errors with the results leading to libelous or defamatory statements.” –from Wikipedia entry for “Journalistic Scandal”.

    Seems like the definition fits the article like a glove…

  • Nicholas Meyler

    You forgot to mention that David Heinemeier Hansson has an IQ of 70 (which is a lot higher than yours, obviously). I hear that most of his coding is done with an abacus.

  • Nicholas Meyler

    “david heinemeier hansson sucks”… try doing a Google Search on that phrase in quotes: 33,500 results. “john zappe sucks”: 2,470,000 results.
    hmmm… this explains why Hansson goes by dhh, since “dhh sucks” only gets 78 results. “Nicholas Meyler sucks”: only 1 result (posted by the guys who suck thousands and millions of times more).

  • Nicholas Meyler

    A retraction of this entire article has been requested, and the journal refuses to even reply… completely unaccountable, hence dubious.

    Here is an example of what a legitimate publication does when it gets caught with false statistics:

  • unnamed

    Spamming tens of thousands of people with online CVs in the hope
    that several will bite is to recruiting what dropping a thousand tonnes
    of bricks hoping for a house is to construction.

    Since we techies are in the business of being lazy ourselves, we aren’t about to waste our time with some unknown that likely doesn’t understand the type of person he’s pitching to, and / or doesn’t understand the opportunity he’s pitching.
    Further, given that it is a drain on our time to have to sift through these unsolicited mailshots (obscuring those emails which really do demand our attention), it is reasonable to suppose that some of us might be a little bit peeved (and insulted).

  • Nicholas Meyler

    Anyone who calls himself a ‘tekkie’ but doesn’t know how to screen spam out of his email is like a self-proclaimed guru who doesn’t know how to change his own diapers. If you get insulted with the smell of your own diapers, that’s not my problem.

  • Nicholas Meyler

    Fake followers of dhh:

  • Nicholas Meyler

    With respect to “IRONY”: the actual irony of this situation was that in dhh’s tiny little mind, nothing exists beyond his own skull except pseudo-people whom he clearly feels should somehow, necessarily, be impelled or compelled to assume that he has some superfluous degree of intelligence far beyond all other humans.

    Contrarily, it’s really quite drole to think that someone’s inconsequential book (my suggestion for counterpoint is the title “Let’s All Work Under Our Desks”) should matter to someone else who has never heard of it. Clearly, John Zappe and dhh know even less about irony than Alanis Morrisette (hard to imagine).