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Situation Update:
The power was off for 24 hours following Monday night's storm -- and the phones went out just minutes after I posted yesterday's update are still off as of 7:30am this morning. Telecom will get around to worrying about this some time today they say.

Meantime -- today's column is brought to you courtesy of Vodafone whose reliable cellular data service is the only thing that seems to be capable of standing up to a little bad weather. Thanks Vodafone!

Note that the News Links section will be updated later today when Telecom have (hopefully) fixed the phones.

Email Muscling In On Snail Mail 27 September 2000 Edition
Previous Edition

NZ Post looks like it has no option but to move further into the area of electronic messaging if it's to turn around a recent switch from profit to loss.

Clearly the popularity and low-cost of email, combined with the good old fax machine, have thrashed the market for regular snail-mail.

Even online banking and bill-paying must be ready to cut deeply into the need to use regular postal services in the future so with this in mind, and in the face of increasingly stiff competition, NZ Post has taken a 20 percent stake in MessageMedia.

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I guess it's good to see NZ Post operating as a regular corporate citizen though -- especially when you consider that it's not beyond the realms of possibility that a crazy government could decide to implement a maditory e-stamp that charged a tiny tax for each email sent.

Oh good grief -- what have I done? Given Jim Anderton another idea for funding his tee-shirt factories?

Spamming Doesn't Work -- The Proof
On Monday The NZ Herald (print edition) carried an advertisement offering to sell you a list of email addresses that could be used for the purposes of "direct marketing" over the internet.

Yes, you too can reach a market of over 63 million internet users if you cough up over $200 for this list of names. Imagine if just one percent of them responded and purchased an item worth $5 -- hell -- that's more money than you can fit in the pockets of a pair of purple polyester pants eh?

According to David Russell of the Consumers Institute, the email address given as a contact has, in the past, been used by a well known business-person of dubious repute. So dubious in fact that he's been given a lifetime ban from ever conducting business in at least one Australian state.

Unfortunately for those stupid enough to believe what's printed in the ad, there is no mention of the fact that spamming is one of the Net's cardinal sins and almost always results in instant cancellation of a spammer's account (although some ISPs are a bit namby-pamby and offer all new customers a "get out of jail free" card that lets them get away with a warning on their first attempt. I believe in a zero tollerance policy myself -- after all, anyone buying a product or service has a responsibility to read the contract (which contains the terms of service that expressely forbid spamming) and if, after reading that contract they then go ahead and breach the terms of service then why should they get a second chance?

However, my question to the advertiser would have to be -- if spamming is so damned effective -- why waste your money on a paid advertisement in a newspaper?

Helen Is A Limelighter!
Now that NZ's Olympic medal count has soared to the grand total of just four (mostly bronze), our beloved PM Helen Clarke has decided that it might just be worth investing some money in fostering our athletes -- so as to do better next time.

She notes that Australia pay their olympic athletes quite a reasonable stipend (some $40K per year) from the public purse -- so may be we could do the same -- in the name of national pride.

I guess this will go along nicely with the extra $120m in taxpayer's money she recently gave to the Arts for no apparent reason other than to raise her own standing in that little social circle.

Excuse me Ms Clark? If it's good enough to contemplate following Australia's lead in such "luxuries" as funding the sports/recreational activities of individual citizens so that we can all get a good dose of the warm fuzzies once every four years -- don't you think you could actually follow the lead of just about every other developed nation and encourage rather than penalise investment in the R&D activities so crucial to our future prosperity in a new economy soundly based on intellectual property, good ideas and hard work?

You have to worry about a government that thinks the solution to all the country's problems is to simply give people cash. Of course you can only do that when you've got your hand in their wallets taking an increasingly large chunk of their pay each fortnight or month and telling them that the harder you try, the harder you work, the more we're going to take from you.

But hey -- at least we'll have pretty pictures on the walls of our art galleries and the damage done by a politically over-correct system that encourages children and workers not aspire to excellence but settle for mediocrity might be slightly offset in the area of sport.

Maybe Ms Clark ought to read 4  this story from the Sydney Morning Herald before she starts throwing taxpayer's money at our athletes.

As always, your feedback is welcomed.

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Copyright © 2000, Bruce Simpson, free republication rights available on request