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D.F. Krause
  D.F.'s Column Archive


July 23, 3007

Spam Filter: The Latest ‘Solution’ That’s Worse Than the Problem


The client said the e-mail he needed from me was urgent. So I was more than a little surprised when I had received no response from him five hours later.


I’m not the type to mark my e-mails “high priority” (and don’t even get me started on people who mark all their e-mails “high priority” – and you hyper-excited business people know who you are), but when the client very excitedly wanted my input on JAM and I sent him an e-mail titled JAM, I would rather expect he would open it and respond quickly.


So, Bob. What did you think of my JAM e-mail?


“When did you send it, D.F.?”


About 11:00. I thought I’d hear from you right away.


“You did? I didn’t get it! I’m looking at my e-mail right now. I wonder what happened.”


I checked my Sent Items. There it was. I checked the recipient line. It went to Bob all right. But just as I was about to suggest he contact his ISP, he had a revelation.


“I bet I know what happened, D.F.! I bet it got caught in my spam filter.”


Bob hopped on to the browser-based mailbox where all his “spam” (and apparently, e-mail from me) goes to die.


“Yep. There it is. JAM. Received at 11:02 a.m.”


The spam filter saves the day again.


The business world does have a tendency to fall in love with “solutions” that turn out to be worse than the problems – problems that don’t seem so bad once we find ourselves dealing with the perils of the solutions.


Why do you need a spam filter? Because you don’t have time for unwanted e-mail?


“It’s like this,” explains the self-important CEO. “I have a secretary because I don’t have time to take phone calls from every Tom, Dick and Harry that might try to call me!”


(The next time you meet three guys whose names are Tom, Dick and Harry, tell me all about it when you return from 1958. Sorry for the digression. Go on.)


“The spam filter is like my little electronic secretary. It screens my e-mails like Sally screens my calls.”


(His secretary is named Sally? That’s just too perfect. I hear she’s been married to Dick and Harry. Please continue.)


“So if you want to talk to me, you’ll have to get through Virgil.”




“Yeah. That’s my spam filter. I named him that.”




Here’s the problem with Virgil. If I were to call Sally, I would say, “This is D.F. Krause and your boss wanted me to get in touch with him about JAM.” Sally would check with the boss and then put me through.


Virgil is an idiot. He doesn’t know the difference between me and Khaled Bin Al-Whalid, who is e-mailing people all over the world that he’s been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, has two months to live and wants to give everyone his fortune. Or at least Tom, Dick and Harry.


Virgil keeps out Lola Roundheel, who is selling V1@gara. Virgil keeps out Hoodlums V. Sulphorous, who has stock tips. But Virgil keeps me out too, and I have the lowdown on JAM.


It’s hard enough to get my e-mails through my clients’ antivirus programs, which take the liberty of deleting my attachments because they must certainly be the evil Chinese Worm Virus. Now I have to get through Virgil too.


I don’t have a spam filter. Don’t have an antivirus program either. I’d rather take my chances with the viruses and the spammers. At least they do what they’re supposed to do, so I know what to expect of them. And if I can’t get my JAM e-mail to Bob because he’s getting “help” from Virgil, then we have ourselves one more “solution” to which we need a solution.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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