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
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
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.
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
“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
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
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