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forge

How Easy Is It To Own An Electric Vehicle?

You’d have to know my father a bit to really understand his fascination with electricity and figuring out better ways to reduce his dependence on others. He’s quite interested in the idea of putting a windmill for electric power generation up on the farm – if he could only talk my step-mother into it. Because of this it wasn’t really that much of a stretch for me to hear him say that he had purchased a fully electric vehicle – in parts. Another trait of his is to make things work. For fun – take a look at this:

This is a custom built rig for picking up and moving a barn that someone offered him for free, if he would move it. This is us taking it through a ditch and not completely understanding how much the frame of the semi-trailer would flex. We made it and the barn is comfortably sitting on the farm now, however, it did make for an interesting time. The rig by the way required a hydraulic pack, some actuators, and some bridge beam steel that he was able to purchase. It’s one of the examples that I use to explain how he will find a way to do things if he’s motivated enough.

Back to the electric car saga. He got a converted S10 pickup – so more technically he got an electric truck. It was originally converted for the department of Energy by the Solectria Corporation. His particular unit spent some time at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Of course, that makes sense given that they have large amounts of hydroelectric power production capabilities. The truck is one of 61 that were converted to better understand how electric vehicles might be used. It’s driven by a pair of three-phase industrial electric motors. It doesn’t have the same sort of acceleration as a gas powered vehicle but it does accelerate well and for his purposes it’s pretty good.

When he got it the truck wasn’t in that great of shape. There were no batteries – and it takes 36 of them – so installing them was a chore. This was particularly interesting because the exact wiring configuration wasn’t well known. There were provided photos so we did manage to put things together correctly – after some interesting moments trying to figure out why current was flowing when we didn’t expect it to be. We ended up realizing that one of the controllers for the motor was blown – some really nice char marks along the entire inside of the converter. However, my father persevered and managed to find folks who helped him restore the vehicle to like-new. It’s quite a capable little car to drive around.

However, that’s where the real fun began. He lives in Illinois which has a set of laws on the book which should have allowed him to get the truck plated with as an electric vehicle. Well, let’s just say there aren’t a lot of people doing this so it took some effort to get everyone to realize that they had to allow this to happen. One of those things that is supposed to happen to encourage electric vehicles but doesn’t happen because not enough of the activity is going on.

The next problem is the one that’s prompting me to write this blog post. He can’t find insurance for the vehicle as a daily driver. Because the car is “special” it’s processed by insurance companies like a collector’s car. That’s actually pretty accurate since there’s little reason to have the truck if you’re not really interested in electric vehicles. However, the problem is that no one wants to allow the vehicle to be driven daily – because collector car policies don’t allow that.

The truck – if considered a regular S10 – would be worth about $3,000. The vehicle is really worth over $20,000 because it’s “special.” The only way to have a defined value of the vehicle is a collector car policy. So now we’re stuck. If you drive it every day – and if you’ve got an electric car you want to –you can’t insure it. If you insure it with a regular policy you risk that it will be totaled for $3,000.

With gasoline prices on the rise folks are looking at electric vehicles again – but if you’re not buying some production version you may find it difficult to get insurance.

I’d love your thoughts as comments on this blog post – or better yet – if you know of an insurance company that will write a policy for it, I’d love to hear that via email.

forge

Good Customer Service – An Example

I’ve already spoken once about bad customer service — the worst I’ve ever seen. However, good customer service is so hard to find I’ve not had an opportunity to talk about it. I alluded to some good customer service in that article, but while finishing Groundswell, I realized that institutionalizing good customer service isn’t as easy as it might appear — or is it. Lilly Tomlin did a Saturday Night Live skit some time ago (Season 2, Episode 1) where she said in part “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Phone Company.” Honestly, I feel like a lot of companies have this attitude. Whether they’re the phone company or not.

So lately, I’ve been having some conversations with AT&T’s U-Verse service. I was having some problems with my phone lines after switching to their voice over IP phone service from Vonage. (Honestly, Vonage’s service was good, I just wanted fewer devices in my environment — fewer things for the wife to have to worry about when I travel.)

The thing that’s startling is nearly every customer service or technical service person I spoke to asked me the same question “How can I provide you with excellent service today?” Wow. I guess it is easy to institutionalize good customer service. Put in the script a question that the agent must ask for which there is no escape from providing good service. How hard would it be for someone to treat you poorly after they’ve asked how they can provide excellent service?

Similarly, I have a gentleman who is cleaning my office for me. Every time I talk to him, after we get through the hellos he asks “How can I serve you today?” Wow. For him, it’s not lip service. He actually does care. While I’m not personally the most observant when it comes to leaning in my office, I appreciate his attention to service.

Apparently, it’s simple to get good customer service. Oh, as a sidebar to this story, the AT&T U-Verse thing that I was calling for wasn’t their problem. It turns out I have a cordless phone that’s going out. The last agent that I spoke with took the time to help me troubleshoot the problem step-by-step. It helps that I have a Butt Set and a completely modular wiring closet in my house. However, that’s not the point — she was more concerned with helping identify and resolve the problem than getting me off the phone. She called the lines for me so we could see if they were ringing correctly. It was truly great customer service.

I’m not saying that AT&T U-Verse service has been perfect. The first technician they sent did more harm than good trying to diagnose the problem the first time he showed up. (It took me a day to realize what he had done.) They claimed to have resolved a cross-talk issue which, well, they didn’t. However, I can deal with technicians who are in front of me. Knowing that they really do care about customer service is a big deal.

On an less happy note, I’m preparing a blog post about my experience with HP — and the two desktop machines that have died on me in the last two weeks. Their situation has been a disaster. I’ll provide all the details when the situation has been resolved. I’m hoping at the end of the day I at least feel neutral about the situation.

forge

Attitude for Weddings

I had the distinct pleasure of participating in the wedding of my eldest brother a few weeks ago. He’s now married to a great woman. She’s been able to help him bring his life into focus and as I said in a toast for them — they bring out the best in one another. I honestly can’t think of a better compliment for a couple in love — that they bring out the best in each other.

Their wedding was beautiful. While I’m not a huge fan of Catholicism, I do appreciate the value of a wedding before Christ and in front of friends. Their reception was at the Edgar County, IL airport — the same airport my brother operates an aircraft out of. They and the wedding party traveled from the church to the airport in a series of old cars including “The General Lee” — a car that my brother has been restoring and enhancing for a few years now.

I certainly can’t find fault in anything about the wedding itself, even with the rain that kept us inside the hangar and effectively eliminated the private air show they were going to do. I did, however, make an observation about how peoples’ attitudes about weddings differ from one person to the next.

When I got married I was quite direct (perhaps too direct) with the guests at our rehearsal dinner. I told them that their responsibility was to help to ensure that Shelley (my wife) and I had the best day possible. They were encouraged to address minor family issues themselves. In fact, I was quite clear that only Shelley, the minister, and I couldn’t be kicked out — everyone else was expendable. Perhaps I was a bit heavy handed in that respect. The trick, was that I was clear in that I expected everyone to help us have the best day possible.

This is my core operating mode for other people’s weddings. No matter who’s getting married, no matter what’s going on, I’m keenly focused on making the day as special as possible for the bride and the groom. That means being as selfless as possible. It means asking what they need. It means just being present in the same space as them — while giving them space. It can mean ignoring my own desires or needs. It can also mean putting things in place so that when they’re ready it’s available.

My wife used to work as a wedding photographers assistant many years ago. In that work she carried a “wedding emergency kit” — a kit that had all of the essentials that you might need should someone forget something, tear a dress, or have a problem. The kit includes duct tape (which apparently has held together more than a few wedding dresses) as well as pins, hose, etc. My wife put together for her new sister in law a kit — so that their day could be the best possible.

I’m not going to presume to tell you how to approach the weddings you attend — however, I can tell you that there is absolutely magic when enough people adopt this attitude. Problems like flowers that get broken are fixed. A lack of drinks is transformed into a plethora of options. Missing items just seem to appear. I invite you to see if you can make this kind of magic happen at the next wedding that you attend.

forge

Let it be known, Patrick Tisseghem lived life to the fullest

By now, the SharePoint professionals who follow any of the major blogs will have undoubtedly discovered the tragic news that the SharePoint community has lost a great man. Patrick Tisseghem passed away on September 3, 2008 due to a heart attack and failure.

After struggling with the loss today I wanted to share first my deepest condolences to his family. His wife and daughters seemed to be frequently in tow at conferences and were clearly a source of deep joy for Patrick. I know that his drive was in part based on the desire to make a better life and a better world for his family.

Certainly, 39 years on this earth wasn’t enough. However, Patrick used every moment he was given. Whether it was writing, speaking, or otherwise supporting and mentoring developers, he was always trying to support, encourage, and nurture his students, colleagues, and friends. He was always giving and sharing.

Patrick was truly alive that is more than most can say. I can think of no greater compliment to pay him than that he lived life to the fullest.

forge

Indianapolis: Mito What?

The following is an excerpt from a message that a buddy of mine sent…

I am coordinating a fund raising walk for my daughter.

www.umdf.org/indianawalk
Indiana Mito What? Walk and Family Fun Day on October 4th, 2008 Forest Park, Noblesville, IN

As you many of you know my 7 year old daughter Abigail suffers from a disease called Mitochondrial Disease. There is no cure. This is the first inaugural walk that I am coordinating to raise awareness and funds for a cure. I am asking for your support. You can register and join my team, sponsor my team or just make a donation. I would love to see you and your family be able to make it out to Forest Park on this day. There will be some things for the kids to do there and a couple of Indie bands playing.

What do you have to do as a team? Get other team members to join and collect donations/pledges. This walk is not for just Abigail, but it’s for all of those affected by this disease. Pledges can be collect via www.umdf.org/indianawalk or the ol’ pledge form. All of the monies will go to United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation towards research for a cure.

I don’t really ask for money unless it’s for a good cause. Please register or sponsor (www.umdf.org/sponsorgoerges) today!  I hope to see you all at Forest Park on October 4th.

John and his family are great people. Obviously if you’re not in the greater Indianapolis area you can’t join in the park, but if you can find out more and sponsor the event — if you’re touched by the story, the disease, or the passion for trying to make good out of bad.

forge

My Name is Jerry

During the course of my career I’ve run across a handful of truly amazing people. That’s one of the definite perks of being a consultant, you meet lots of people so statistically speaking at some point you’re going to find some really awesome people. One of those people for me is Rodger Smith. Rodger is perhaps the most creative guy that anyone will ever meet. Picking out his brilliance is as easy or as difficult as looking at the desktop on his Mac. The first time I saw it I was instantly in awe and confused at the same time. There was an insanely organized set of post it notes on his desktop. This was amazing because on the one hand we have unstructured information at its finest. Post it notes — how many of them do you lose in a year? I think I’m single handedly responsible for killing a forest with the ones I’ve lost. On the other hand, there’s an order and a symmetry to how they’re setup. It’s order woven through the chaos.

Why do I bring this up? Well, I got a note from Rodger today about an independent film he’s producing. The film is My Name is Jerry. I won’t pretend understand it other than what you can read for yourself — however, I can tell you that if Rodger’s involved it’s worth checking out. (So go there now.)

forge

Customer Service is a Thankless Job – Sorry

I have the greatest respect and admiration for folks who do customer support.  I couldn’t do it.  My personality just wouldn’t allow me to walk folks through plugging in the proverbial power cord every day of the world.  I am sure that I’d become the first ever documented case of spontaneous human combustion.  Because of this I’ve contemplated whether I should write this blog post for quite a while.  However, I ultimately realized that although I had my issues with individual customer service folks who had helped me, I am substantially more frustrated with the systems that allow this to continue – and in fact encourage it.

So I need to provide a little bit of background.  Around the first of this year I tried getting to http://technet.microsoft.com for whatever reason it didn’t respond.  I didn’t think much about it, I was just going to register for something so it wasn’t a big deal.  A week or two later I tried again and it still didn’t work.  At this point I got a little more curious.  So I logged into a server at Bluelock.  I could get to TechNet from Bluelock.  That meant it was a local problem.  So I put on my debugging hat and dug in.

A quick check of nslookup reviled that the IP address resolved for both locations were the same.  OK, it’s not a DNS problem.  Good to know.  I then started digging in and ran a packet trace from my firewalls (a SonicWall Pro2040 @ Bluelock and a SonicWall TZ170 here).  I saw something very odd.  At Bluelock I got the SYN and SYN ACK packets I’d expect to form up the TCP connection.  Here I got SYN, SYN ACK, SYN, SYN ACK.  Hmmm, that means the TCP stack locally didn’t like the ACK designed to form up the TCP connection.  I try a few other machines on the network including Windows Server, XP, Vista, etc.  They’re all having the same issue.  I tried with the local PC firewall on and without it on.  Still the same result.  I decided to eliminate more variables.  I instructed Telnet to make a connection to TechNet on port 80.  Although Telnet is a lousy web browsing client <grin>, it is one of the most basic ways to test whether a TCP connection can form.  When it didn’t work I had eliminated a ton of stuff.

So, in preparation for my call to support, I went in with a laptop and bypassed my TZ170.  I MAC cloned its external address so Brighthouse/Road Runner, my cable provider, wouldn’t lock out either the TZ170 or the laptop – so far as they were concerned it should have looked like the same computer.  When I did the test I observed the same thing.  No connections to technet.microsoft.com but arguably every other web site seemed to work.  (I’d later find out that there were a handful of other sites that were affected by this problem, but that wasn’t until later.)

So I hook everything back up and pick up the phone to call the Road Runner national help desk.  A pleasant sounding lady named Brandy answered the phone.  I briefly described that there was one web site, technet.microsoft.com, that I couldn’t get to.  She asked me “Did you put www in front of that?”  I politely explained that this web site didn’t have a www in front of its address.  I further explained that I had done a substantial amount of troubleshooting and had isolated the problem to the fact that TCP connections weren’t being formed up to the web site – although it was transmitting packets.  I offered to send her the packet capture and described the telnet procedure I had used to eliminate a ton of the variables that can happen in a typical system.  After a brief pause she asked “Did you try clearing your browser cache and cookies?”  I politely responded that it was clear that I wasn’t communicating effectively with her and that I’d appreciate the opportunity to speak with her manager.  To be clear, I expected this sort of an interaction, as I said before, most folks that customer support speaks with aren’t able to find the on/off switch.  I don’t expect them to be reading packet traces with me (as a point of fact I couldn’t tell you what IN the packets was wrong.)  I look at this interaction as an important and unfortunate necessity.  However, what happened next would start me down the process of changing my TV and Internet service.

A supervisor answered the phone that would only identify himself as Mike.  I explained the situation to Mike.  After a brief interaction Mike told me that this was a problem caused by the equipment or configuration on my end and wasn’t their responsibility.  When I asked him how he reached this conclusion he told me that I could get to every other web site and he could get to technet.microsoft.com therefore it must be my problem.  I presume Mike was in Reston, VA and I’m in Indianapolis, IN – there are a few different pieces of equipment between him and I.  I’ve seen all sorts of weird issues for clients caused by routers that are overloaded, overheated, or damp (don’t ask).  I certainly didn’t agree that because he didn’t see the problem that it didn’t exist.  I’ve never met God personally but that doesn’t shake my belief that he does exist.  I’ve never seen an electrical fire but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe they don’t exist.

So I asked Mike to escalate the case and he refused.  When I asked to speak with his manager is when the story got sad and entertaining at the same time.  Mike responded that he didn’t have a manager.  I said, well, supervisor, director, boss — whomever did his reviews…  He responded he didn’t have any of those.  I had to pause.  I knew that the manager of the call center who’s working at 11PM on a Monday night isn’t the CEO of the organization, so I was being lied to.  I strongly dislike being lied to.  I dislike it even more when it’s so obvious.

So I asked, Mike if he signed his own paychecks.  He said no but wondered why I cared about an accounting function.  I responded that I didn’t – but that if he didn’t sign his own paychecks he had a boss.  So I continued the only person in an organization that doesn’t have a direct boss, that I know of, is the CEO.  I asked him if he was the CEO and when he responded no I asked him if he worked for the CEO.  He said yes, and I asked if he worked for the CEO directly.  He responded that he did.

So at this point, I’ve demonstrated that Mike’s a liar.  He clearly communicated he didn’t have a boss, manager, etc., but then later indicated that he worked for the CEO.  However, I’ve still got a problem.  I don’t believe that Mike actually works for the CEO.  I decided to give up for the evening and talk to someone during the day shift.

At this point I think I need to make a personal statement, if I ever have an employee so boldly lie to a client they will be fired – on the spot.  I don’t see how any organization can stand to have its employees boldly lying to customers like this.  It’s this clarity of conviction that makes the rest of the story so troubling.

I called back during the day and got Mona.  I politely told Mona I needed to speak with a supervisor and when asked what for, I said that I needed to register a complaint about a supervisor from last evening and I didn’t feel comfortable sharing that complaint with her.  She transferred me to Martha.

I explained the customer service situation to Martha and asked that she do whatever was appropriate to deal with the concern.  I considered the issue disheartening but had written it off.

Dealing with the customer service issue meant I didn’t have time to deal with the actual problem so I had to wait to call back – in the evening.  (Taking care of my customers is a priority.)  When I called back in I got Kelly.  Kelly transferred me to Mike.  My conversation with Mike was only slightly better in that he said that he would look into the issue.  He didn’t offer to allow me to talk to the next level of support, provide me with a NOC ticket number, etc.  He simply said he’d look into it.

When I asked when I could expect to hear something from him, he said he couldn’t make a commitment on when the problem would be resolved.  When I clarified that I was just looking to know when I’d hear from him on this issue again he indicated that he couldn’t make a commitment – not even for a status call.  I shared with him that I felt this was bad customer service.  He told me I was wrong that you never make a commitment you can’t keep.  To me, follow up calls should be something you have control of.

So without any timeframe guidelines since Mike wouldn’t provide them – I called back in 4 hours later to request a status update.  To be clear, I didn’t expect that the problem would be resolved, I just thought I might be able to get the NOC ticket number.  The technician answering the phone told me that Mike had tried to call me and that I didn’t answer.  I logged into Vonage and verified that I hadn’t missed any calls.  I asked the technician for the status update and he indicated that the notes didn’t indicate what the update was.  So after informing him that there was no call I asked to be transferred to Mike again.

Mike was noticeably frustrated.  When I asked what the status update was he indicated that he didn’t call.  (Apparently the technician was mistaken)  When I asked for a status update I was told that he couldn’t work on the issue because I had called in.  For this to be truth this would presume that he was personally troubleshooting the issue, something I wasn’t ready to accept.  I asked him when I should call in again he told me that he’d call me when he had something to report – and more disturbingly he said “You need to stop calling in.”  I was shocked.  I called in a few minutes after four hours of delay from originally reporting the problem after he wouldn’t communicate an expectation to me – it wasn’t like I was calling in every 10 minutes.  However, the whole point of customer service is to talk to customers who are having problems.  It would seem that if no one calls in then there wouldn’t be any jobs.

Mike also threatened to close the case that he ultimately admitted he had opened with the NOC.  My response was something along the lines of “If you think I’m upset now…”  I apparently convinced him to leave the case open as I hung up because at 2AM I got a call from a technician (that I let go to voice mail).  The technician indicated that he had a few questions but he thought he knew what the problem was.

By the time I woke up TechNet worked.  I called in to close the case and asked to speak with a manager again about the customer service issues.  I again got Martha.  Martha indicated that their boss (Mike’s and hers) wouldn’t be in until 10AM (it was like 8:30).  I asked for a call back and she assured me she’d give him the message.

By this time some of the corporate sales and support guys had returned my calls that I made.  I know a few people in the area who use Brighthouse for their corporate Internet connectivity.  So I managed to get a call.  The corporate service manager acknowledged some issues on the network due to some IP addresses they acquired from Japan and indicated they were are of the issue.  Since my problem was resolved I thanked him and moved on.

Two weeks later I was clearing off my desk found my note and called back in.  This time when I spoke with Martha she indicated that Mike’s boss wouldn’t be calling me back.  No reason was given.  I was nearly ready to change services, but I needed one more push.

That push came a week later when TechNet stopped working again.  I called back in and after initially having a technician walk through it with me and get assigned a NOC ticket… I was told I’d get a follow upcall.  The next day, I tried to follow up and being told that I had never done any troubleshooting steps and that I had been told repeatedly this was my issue and not an issue on the Road Runner network.

The end.  I’m done.  I decided that I there were too many customer service issues.

I switched to AT&T’s U-Verse service.  I’ve called in a few times with some questions – and I can’t tell you the customer service difference.  The folks I’m talking to are polite, respectful, willing to help… all things that I never got out of the Roadrunner National Helpdesk.

So back to the starting point, why does this bug me so much?  Well, I have a set of unanswerable questions:

  1. How can you have such poor customer service skills in a manager and not realize it?
  2. How can anyone in a customer service position refuse to call a customer back?
  3. Organizationally, how do you fail to recognize such a systemic problem?

I wonder if I’ll get a call back now that it is too late.

forge

I’ve been Assaulted (Tagged) someone call someone else who cares

I’ve been assaulted… more precisely tagged by fellow MVP Todd Klindt.  I’ve been thinking about The Wizard of Oz and the quote “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” I generally detest engineered attempts to get to know other people – particularly at company parties.  But I’ll oblige so here goes…

  1. I’m a pilot – who never flies.  That’s not quite true.  I am a licensed private pilot – something I had always wanted to do but I’m finding that time and money never seem to intersect in ways that allow me to enjoy much of it.  My brother is an Airline Transport Pilot – so occasionally I find some time to go flying with him.
  2. I take pictures too.  One of my attempts to make some money is taking pictures.  My IStockPhoto profile has got a few of the things that I’ve published.  I take the camera with me most places these days and try to disprove the belief that taking digital pictures doesn’t cost anything.  If you take enough of them you have to have a budget for the DVD archival of them.
  3. I’m the (volunteer) technical director for Hazel Dell Christian Church.  If you’ve been to a contemporary Christian church you may or may not have noticed all of the technology making the experience immersive.  Sound reinforcement, video projectors, cameras, computer controlled lighting, closed circuit video distribution, etc., are all there to make sure that attendees don’t notice that they are there.  (Sounds paradoxical doesn’t it.)
  4. I recently mounted a laser illuminator to an air rifle.  I have two dogs that are not able to climb trees and get squirrels – and the squirrels know it.  I’ve decided to even the odds a bit (or tip the balance of power you decide.)  I don’t yet have a good kill ratio but I’ve definitely reduced the amount of time that the squirrels sit in the trees and bark.  And yes, I know that an air rifle doesn’t have any accuracy so mounting a laser illuminator to it is like trying to strap a rocket to a Pinto.
  5. I’ve forgotten what I’ve written.  There’s been more than one occasion where I’ve went looking for information and one of the links that came up was one of my own articles.  I used to get annoyed now I am just glad I can find it so I can move on and do something else.  Most of what I’ve written or edited is either in my MVP profile or on my book listing.

So, the folks that I’m tagging are:

crack

The Email Foundation is Cracking

In the old days, before spam had taken hold, before the Internet had become something that a vice president wanted to claim credit for creating, and before the media became so enamored with the latest goings on in CyberSpace, email was reliable.  It was more reliable than the US Post Office.  It was a pleasure to get email.

I can remember that I used to be thrilled when I dialed up my modem and opened my POP mail client – or further back logged into a Unix Shell account and got my mail.  It was a thrill to be able to speak with friends who were far away but who had somehow found their way to the Internet.

Those days are long gone.  The foundation of email as we know it is cracking and we’re all seeing it.  Here’s what’s happening that we may not be seeing.

Second Order Effects of SPAM

If you ask anyone about unsolicited commercial email, SPAM, you’ll hear about all of the lost time. You’ll hear about the latest in body part enhancements, the newest investment opportunity, or perhaps about a poor man in Nigeria who needs someone to accept billions of dollars.  SPAM is an annoying and unfortunate reality of email on the Internet today.

If you read any statistics about email you’ll quickly realize that SPAM is growing at a rate disproportional to the overall growth of email.  My own incoming mail is approximately 50% spam, 2% viruses, and who knows how much useless mail.  The estimates for corporate email system is that more than 80% of the mail coming in is SPAM.

These sobering statistics have forced nearly every organization to take actions to defend against it.  Real-time Blacklists, heuristic scanning, pattern matching, reverse DNS lookup, and other techniques are layered together to form a defense from SPAM.

This has created a doubt that your message has made it through.  Suddenly the second order effect of SPAM is raising its ugly head.  Instead of having absolute trust that your message will be delivered to the other end you have to consider that your message may have been caught by their SPAM filters.  You have to consider that your SPAM filters may have caught their response.

It’s an unfortunate reality that something that we could once trust implicitly now must be considered fallible.  We must accept that our messages aren’t guaranteed to make it to the other end any longer – not that they ever really were but we may have felt reassured more than we are today.

It seems almost routine now that I hear about messages that don’t make it through because of SPAM filters.  Just this week I had a message that was definitely caught in a SPAM filter.  I myself am starting to realize that I can no longer rely upon email without question.  I must consider the need to follow up.

A Million Straws

Perhaps the way you’re seeing the foundation crack isn’t in the loss of messages but rather in the delay of messages.  It used to be that you could talk to a support technician and send them a file.  Almost before you finished saying the words “The file is on its way” the file was already in the recipients’ inbox.   Today I’m routinely faced with the response “I’m still waiting on your email message.”  The delay in mail systems is getting to be greater.  Even with faster network connections, faster mail servers, and more advanced mail programs, the delay problem is getting worse.

The overall volume of mail that organizations deal with today would have been inconceivable ten years ago.   PostIni (www.postini.com), a mail-forwarding organization, estimates that it processes 1 billion messages every day.    The Congress Online Project (www.congressonlineproject.org) reported that mail destined for congress increased from 20 million messages in 1998 to 48 million messages in 2000 – and that the load on the servers has created delays of hours – and sometimes days in the delivery of messages.

Is it any wonder why it takes longer for messages to reach the destination today than it did even a few short years ago.  Add to the layers of protection that we now must have to protect against spam, an immense increase in overall volume and it’s not hard to see why we may have to wait several minutes before messages reach their intended destination.

However, this is time that is wasted.  An efficiency we picked up due to technology is the ability to nearly instantly show someone on the other end of the line what we were seeing.  We could attach the corrupted file, the log file, or whatever and it would be whisked silently and quickly away to the destination.  No longer.  It’s not the Pony Express any longer.  It’s your favorite airline’s luggage handler.  Pieces of eMail that are lost or delayed are climbing.

Conclusion

So what does this mean?  It means that the next time you are confronted with someone asking about what the harm is in SPAM messages.  Think beyond the amount of time it takes to read them – think beyond the cost of the internet connectivity.  Think about the costs of the whole war on SPAM.   Think about lost messages and delayed messages and what it does to further reduce the time that we have for our professional careers, our personal lives, and our community.