He is immortalized in the newsgroups alt.fan.joel-furr, alt.bonehead.joel-furr, and alt.joel-furr.die.die.die. He was a pretender to the throne of James "Kibo" Parry, and the bitter enemy of Serdar Argic. He is also infamous for his Usenet response to the death of Roger Zelazny: "Good". (Furr has subsequently apologized for this statement, attributing his cranky response to immaturity and thoughtlessness.)
One reason for Furr's fame on Usenet was his self-appointed leadership over the alt hierarchy, where any user could create a newsgroup without any official vote or sanction by the user community. Before 1992, internet administrators did not carry alt newsgroups that did not obtain some general community assent. However, in the time spanning roughly 1993 to 1995, commercial internet service providers were cropping up left and right, and few of them had time or inclination to manage which newsgroups their services carried, so they carried all groups that were created. Furr attempted to bring some order and rationale to this practice, but with minimal success.
According to Brad Templeton, Furr is one of the earliest people to refer to unsolicited electronic messages as "spam". The term "spam" had been widely used by Monty Python fans to describe excessive torrents of verbiage on electronic chat systems and multi-user dungeons, analogous to the Vikings chanting "spam spam spam spam spam, WONDERFUL SPAM" in the legendary Python sketch. Furr used the term in the USENET newsgroup news.admin.policy to describe an out-of-control automated robo-moderation system known as ARMM. While he didn't coin the phrase, he appears to have been the first to use it to describe the phenomenon as it applied to USENET newsgroups.
Furr created a line of Usenet kook T-shirts, which included a "Serdar Argic World Tour" shirt as well as one imprinted with the programming code for RSA encryption, boasting "This shirt is a munition", a reference to US export law. He also created and sold T-shirts after the "Green Card" spamming incident carried out by Canter & Siegel.
Furr currently serves as the official "Weigher of Coal" for Richmond, VT.. Furr appeared in the editorial pages of the Washington Post on May 11, 2018 with an editorial noting that despite having no official duties whatsoever as Weigher of Coal, he is still required to follow strict ethical standards.
- David DeLaney, net.legends FAQ. September 13, 1994. Retrieved October 18, 2005.
- Joel K. "Jay" Furr, Joel Furr FAQ, version 4.9. May 1, 2005. Retrieved October 18, 2005.
- Jon Wiener, Static in Cyberspace: Free Speech on the Internet. The Nation, June 13, 1994. (online reprint)
- Steve Arlow (1995-06-18). "Roger Zelazny". Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written. Retrieved 2011-03-27.
- Brad Templeton (2005-04-27). "Origin of the term 'spam' to mean net abuse". Retrieved 2011-03-27.
- "Flux". Wired magazine. August 1995. Retrieved 2007-09-05.
- "Flux". Wired magazine. December 1995. Retrieved 2007-09-05.