How I Built an Email List of 26 Million People in 1 Hour

That’s not a typo. I know it sounds completely crazy and unbelievable.

If I were sitting there in your chair, I’d be thinking, “well, that’s a catchy title Mr. Bad Blogger Guy, but clearly you’re working some kind of angle here.” Seriously, I know that’s what you’re thinking, and you’re not wrong, exactly. But this is a true story.

I really do have an email list with 26 million people on it. And I really did “build” it in 1 hour.

One day, my good friend called me. She was being harassed at work by this creepy old guy. Nothing too crazy had happened yet, but this guy was doing his whole creepy old guy routine, and it was making her uncomfortable, and that’s not cool. So, she calls me and mostly just wants to vent.

Unfortunately, I have this thing in me that makes it impossible to just listen to someone vent. One of my friends says it’s just part of being male (which feels pretty sexist, but whatever). Anyway, it really messes up my ability to just sit and listen and let someone feel heard and supported. No, I’m not good at that. Instead, I feel a need to solve problems and take action.

If you were my friend (which you totally are, dear reader), and you told me about some jerk who was mean to you, I’d instantly start plotting revenge on your behalf. I don’t know why. I don’t think I’m normally a vengeful guy, but maybe I am. I should probably see a therapist about it. Anyway…

So, while my friend is telling me a story about how this creepy guy stares at her in their morning meeting, I’m on the other end of the phone saying, “Wow, yeah, that’s terrible. Hey, how do you spell his last name, is it with a Z or an S?”

And she says, “I think it’s a Z. Wait, why are you asking me that?”

And I say, “Oh, no reason. Sorry, you were telling me about how he stared at you.”

“Right…” and she resumed her story.

So, here I am, pretending to listen to this story about Mr. Creepy Guy, and at the same time I’m basically putting together some kind of revenge fantasy. I know, it’s really weird, but I can’t help myself.

So, my friend is going on about this guy, and he genuinely sounds like a creep. And I’m sitting at my computer basically Googling him and digging up dirt on him.

The internet is pretty amazing if you know where to look. Within a few minutes, I can see where he lives, how old he is, his wife’s name and her age. I see he has three kids. I can see how much he paid for his house and guess that he’s probably underwater on his mortgage because it’s not worth as much as it was a few years ago. All of this, literally in just minutes.

I interrupt my friend’s story. “Hey, does he drive a sort of big maroon pickup truck?”


“Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you. I just want to make sure I have the right guy. What kind of car does he drive?”

“Um… a big maroon pickup truck.”

“Cool. Thanks. Sorry, what were you saying?”

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Oh, I was just looking at his house on Google Street View, and I wanted to make sure he still lived there. There is a maroon truck in the driveway.”

My friend didn’t say anything back.

The poor girl. Here she was, trying to vent about this creepy guy at work, and instead of just listening to her, I had become this different kind of creepy guy in the span of 5 minutes. I had become a sort of stalker of this stalker guy.

Of course, I felt pretty creeped out at myself. I don’t know what my plan was. I wasn’t going to go to the guy’s house. I’d found his name on an NRA website, and I don’t want to get shot. It was just a fantasy. I was ready to give up on my silliness, but I did one more Google search.

I searched for his email address, and there was only one result. It looked weird. The preview just looked like his email address next to some other email addresses.

Hmmm… I didn’t recognize the domain name. The URL was this weird domain and then /list.txt

I thought it was weird that the URL ended in txt and not something like html or just .com. So, I clicked it.

My screen just went white.

OK… waiting. Waiting. Nothing happened. Then the fan in my computer kicked on, it was getting hot. The screen was just white.

“Damnit.” This stupid website just froze my computer or something.

I tried clicking the Back button, but nothing happened.

Then I saw the little loading progress bar down at the bottom. It was like 25% loaded. I thought it was weird, but figured I’d just let it run its course. So, I went and made a sandwich and came back in about 10 minutes.

The page had finally loaded. It was just email addresses. One per line.

What the hell?

I scrolled down and it just kept going and going and going. Forever.

I realized I’d stumbled upon some website’s email list, which totally shouldn’t be possible, but still. I saved the file to my computer, which is probably illegal or something, I don’t know. It was crazy huge for just a text file.

I wanted to figure out what the website was, so I deleted everything in the URL until it just said and hit [enter].

Then it asked me if I was Over 18.

What the hell?

I clicked yes, and it opened up this weird porn site.


I kind of just sat back and processed the situation. Ok… so, the creepy guy is a member of this porn site. Fine. I guess that’s not a big surprise. I mean, it’s probably not smart that he signed up using his work email, but that’s not my problem. And for some reason, this website keeps its email list in a random text file that Google found. Which is also stupid, and also not my problem.

I closed out of the site (I swear), and opened up the text file on my computer.

It had 26 million lines.

What. The. Fuck?

That’s a crazy number of email addresses!

In fact, it’s twice the size of the Obama campaign’s email list from 2009. It’s also about the same number of people who had AOL back when AOL was a thing that people had. It’s this huge and potentially valuable thing…

So, anyway, my friend eventually quit her job and was much happier. Before she did, Mr. Creepy Guy got fired for being creepy to other people. (Hooray for justice!)

Of course, I had this email list with 26 million addresses on it, and do you know what I did with it?

I deleted it.

Because it’s not cool to have peoples’ email address if they don’t want you to have it. Especially if its 26 million people. That’s just creepy.

Don’t be creepy.


OK, OK… Ready for some GOOD blogging advice instead?

Learn How To Start a Blog - Take the Start a Blog Challenge


  1. Now I’m a little creeped out that I just gave you my email address… but I figured if you deleted 26 million email addresses I’m safe… plus I googled you too and know where to find you;) I did write a post called “How to Research Like a Stalker” so I’m pretty good at the sometimes creepy research stuff you were doing as well….

    Creepy story, thanks for sharing… I always like to kill a few minutes learning how I can blog badder…

    As always, entertaining John!

Speak Your Mind