Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Thursday, May 31, 2021

Today, it took something like 10 minutes for me to flag down a cab.

Far from par. It was rush hour, on 42nd Street — there were taxis coming from every which way every few seconds. But the mojo just wasn’t working.

What’s worse, it wasn’t even for me. My friend Tom was trying to catch a ride to LaGuardia, and was cutting it pretty close to flight-departure time. So urgency was factored in. (I’m thinking next time I meet up with him in a compressed timeframe, it shouldn’t be in the Bryant Park area.)

Perhaps a remedial course on proper cab-hailing techniques is in order. Then again, I can count on my two hands the number of times I’ve taken a cab since settling in New York. I can coast for a while longer.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/31/2007 11:19:23 PM
Category: New Yorkin'
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wheeliesSo, those brand-new Rollerblade Twister II Pros that I picked up a couple of weeks back?

I managed to lose a wheel off the right skate. I didn’t notice the loss until well after the wheel and its axle were long gone, somewhere along (I think) a moderately bumpy stretch of sidewalk. Thinking back on it, I do remember a weird bump-bounce that made me do half a double-take, but at the time I neglected to diligently stop and check.

I’m not particularly thrilled about this. I’ve barely put these blades through a workout. This was only my second or third outing on them, and I haven’t even remotely put them through a stress workout. At best, I’ve given them fairly standard urban-trekking break-in period. And already a breakdown?

Partly, I’m to blame, because I didn’t double-check how tight the axles were out of the box. I’ve done so now, including on the replacement set I’ve since bought.

I’m just crossing my fingers that a loose axle is all this was, and that this won’t to be a persistent issue. If so, I’m going to have a very dim view of any Rollerblade products when making future skate-related purchases.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/31/2007 09:45:39 AM
Category: Other Sports
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A thousand bucks can go a surprisingly long way in the business world. DHL, UPS and FedEx are using microloans — traditionally the province of banks and other financial institutions — as a way to bundle shipping services to small businesses:

DHL has company in the rush to lock in lifelong business customers when they’re young. Through its UPS Capital division (capital.ups.com), UPS made more than $190 million in SBA-backed loans in 2006, up from $153 million in 2005; in 2004, FedEx (fedex.com) started a partnership with the U.S. Commercial Service (buyusa.gov) - a unit of the Department of Commerce that promotes U.S. businesses abroad - to teach small businesses how to export.

It’s a novel way to drill deep into the small business market, which corporate America has targeted as prime growth territory. And if a couple of those mom-and-pops go on to become giant-sized conglomerates, they’ll presumably take their early B2B supporters along for the ride.

This points the way for larger service providers of all types to compete with banks for mindshare among early-stage businesses. It also presents the concept of a partnership (at least perceptionally) instead of a traditional bank-lender relationship. An entrepreneur can make more hay out of claiming that Verizon and Office Depot are “supporting” him via a couple thousand dollars in loans and free/discounted services.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/31/2007 09:19:09 AM
Category: Business
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Wednesday, May 30, 2021

Ridemakerz is the kind of toystore concept that would make my 4-year-old twin nephews yelp with joy — and make their parents yelp with financial pain:

Customers select a chassis type (street or monster); body styles (stock or custom, a Ridemakerz brand hot rod, a Ford Mustang GT or Dodge Ram pickup, to name a few options); paint schemes; sound effects (for example, sirens or race sounds) and style of locomotion (free wheel or radio control).

After the 10- to 12-inch cars are assembled, there are ample customizing and accessorizing options: tire treads, grille guards, side pipes, snowboard racks and decals. Mr. Andreini estimates that a fully tricked-out vehicle will run about $75, including $25 for radio control. For the budget-minded, there’s a stock tuner car for $12.

Yep, it’s a hotrod version of Build-A-Bear Workshop. In fact, Build-A-Bear has bought 25 percent of Ridemakerz, seeing it as a perfect boys-targeted complement to the major soft-and-cuddly DIY business.

My chief critique: Hate that “z” in the name. Kitschy. Makes it sound like some hokey beach bar you’d hit while on Spring Break…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/30/2007 06:47:30 PM
Category: Business, Creative
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The other night, I was out at some bar and noticed this guy who had his shirtsleeves rolled up. They revealed his forearms, one of which revealed a set of those trendy Chinese-character tattoos on the skin.

Nothing out of the ordinary, these days. But what really caught my eye: The characters were arranged in a straight line, running up the inner forearm, from just above the wrist to just below the elbow joint. And they were in blue ink.

To me, this ink job very much evoked the tattooed serial numbers that the Nazis branded onto Auschwitz concentration camp inmates.

I didn’t ask the guy if a) he was aware of the similarity, or b) if it was somehow intentional. I didn’t know they guy, so it would have been an awkward way to introduce myself. Plus, if it was intentional, I’m not sure I’d have wanted to know about the intent. If it was unintentional, then informing him would have elicited either extreme embarrassment or apathy -and I didn’t particularly want to watch either reaction.

Maybe I’m the only one who’ll ever come away with that impression of such tattoo art. I’ll admit that I’m biased: I don’t care for tattoos in general, and I find them to be a turn-off on women. But that’s how this one hit me.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/30/2007 08:17:07 AM
Category: History, Society
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Tuesday, May 29, 2021

I can’t say I ever noticed that the Vlasic stork mascot had been put on hiatus.

That’s all moot now, as the Groucho Marx-sounding spokesbird has been pulled out of mothballs to start hawking pickles again, albeit in a more contemporary vein.

Wanna make him as up-to-date as possible, and really popular with the kids? Here’s one way: Have him push those Kool-Aid infused pickles.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/29/2007 11:50:33 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food
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I had a six degrees of separation moment today:

The guy who cut my hair, at a salon on 45th Street and Sixth Avenue, turned out to be Hugh Mack Dill, longtime hairdresser for the late Joey Ramone.

So now, I got a Ramones connection going for me!

Hugh (or Huck, as he likes to be called) has had a steady sideline career as an actor, as well. He’s had various small roles on screen and stage, including a crowd scene in that hilarious Clayton Bigsby/black white supremacist skit in the very first episode of “Chappelle’s Show”. I can’t find his credits on IMDb, but I guess I believe him. (I’d have to see that “Chappelle’s” episode again, but I do seem to remember his face from that scene.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/29/2007 11:39:37 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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What is 8trk?

At present, the details are thin. Be assured that it’s got something to do with music. And the number 8. Not so much with 8 track tapes.

I will say that, if this Favorite 8 feature persists, I may have to upgrade my iPod Random 5 post-filler.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/29/2007 08:55:12 AM
Category: 8trk, Pop Culture
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Looking to buy up some prime waterfront land in the Hawaiian islands? Lo’ihi Seaview Estates is selling it for a song: Only $39.95 per parcel.

There is a slight catch. This is a long-term investment, in that you won’t be able to build on it — or hell, even walk on it — for a while:

Scientists don’t really know when, or if, Lo’ihi will break the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Many guess about 10,000 years, but it could be much longer than that.

Honestly, if someone really wants to blow real money on fake property, I’d think Second Life’s land auctions would be more gratifying, and at least as geeky.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/29/2007 08:10:42 AM
Category: Business, Internet, Science
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Monday, May 28, 2021

When I started seeing the subway ads for Reebok’s new Run Easy campaign, I actually thought they were an intentional attempt at irony and/or reverse psychology.

The stark images of distance and marathon runners, collapsing from their strain, are superimposed by seemingly cheeky ad copy suggesting, for instance, that “A 10-minute mile is just as far as a 6-minute mile. Run easy.” I figured, oh, that’s just supposed to egg on the serious runners into buying a pair of Reeboks, just to show them (whoever “them” are — the copywriters?) how a run’s supposed to go.

But maybe I was just outsmarting myself. Because the Run Easy campaign doesn’t really hint at any such ironic intentions. And even if that was the intent, the messaging seems to have fallen flatter than flat with other subway denizens:

It sounds like they are trying to promote being slow. Maybe its a ploy for a whole other shoe product. They are trying to fatten us up so that we have to buy their velcro sneakers when we are too fat to reach our shoelaces.

It’d be a novel way for an athletic apparel maker to create mindshare in anticipation of future flab-related business. But then, it does position Reebok to grab a bigger slice of that athleisure market.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/28/2007 02:12:44 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., New Yorkin'
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I can’t tell you the last time I turned on CNBC. Actually, I probably can: It would have been during last winter’s Olympics, when parent NBC shunted Games coverage to all their cable outlets, including CNBC.

That should tell you how tuned-in I am to televised business news.

But Adam Ostrow has the channel doing background-noise duty in his crib, and he detects a right-hand turn in overall coverage and tone, prompted by the spectre of competition from Rupert Murdoch:

Ironically, I agree with most of CNBC’s current editorial positions. Maybe that’s why it’s so obvious to me what they are doing. My point is that as a journalistic organization, they shouldn’t be taking such one-sided positions. Additionally, editorializing isn’t going to convince me to not switch to FOX Business Channel. Rather, I’d like to see more original reporting – like David Faber and Ron Insana used to provide. Ultimately, good programming is what makes me stick with a TV network or show, not commentators that artificially pander to my political views.

As if that reaction isn’t evidence enough of NBC being played like a fiddle by News Corp., even before FBC goes live:

Despite the precedent with CNN, it seems that CNBC is already being drawn into an arena of argument where it’s not in control, and thus is already on the defensive. More broadly, this seems like a typical response from the General Electric/NBC hierarchy these days: Herky-jerky and reactive, almost consigned to play catchup.

I’m no more likely to watch Fox Business Channel than I currently do CNBC. Frankly, the media meta-manipulation alone is enough to fascinate me.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/28/2007 01:48:02 PM
Category: Business, Politics, TV
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fitting for an s-cup
It’s been a long playoff layoff — since last Tuesday — but the Stanley Cup Finals, between the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators, commence tonight, with Game 1 in California.

I don’t have a strong rooting interest in either team. But I guess I’ll have to toss my support toward the Senators, if only because they’re the sister franchise of the Tampa Bay Lightning (they both entered the NHL as expansion teams in 1992), and I called that bay area my homebase for many years. (There’s even an acknowledgment from St. Petersburg of that lineage-linkage.)

Then again, I should hope for the Ducks to take home the hardware, just on the basis of this promise by Anaheim blueliner Chris Pronger:

Asked if he would kiss the trophy, a pretty standard reaction from players, Chris Pronger said he would indeed contemplate planting one on the historic symbol of hockey excellence.

“I may,” Pronger said. “I might even use a little tongue.”

I’m sure his wife won’t mind. No official statement from the league.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/28/2007 01:06:00 PM
Category: Hockey
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I wish I had been in town yesterday to witness one of these on-the-street mock military patrols, staged by Iraq Veterans Against the War:

Wearing camouflage fatigues and pointing imaginary guns, a half-dozen veterans subdued a crowd of anti-war protesters playing Iraqi civilians, throwing some of them roughly to the ground and handcuffing them.

“We believe that this is bringing the truth of the war here, the reality of the war here,” said Demond Mullins, 25, of Brooklyn, who served in Iraq as an infantryman with the Army National Guard in 2004 and 2005. “We should be ever mindful of the troops who are giving their lives, and we should be ever mindful of the dishonesty, the absence of truth that has caused us to engage in this war.”

Definitely in-your-face. I’m sure it gave the tourists in Times Square a good story to take home.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/28/2007 09:40:11 AM
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Politics
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recharge it out, bitch
Who better than Jeremy Piven to dispense advice on mustering up energy for Round Two?

1. Lie on your back with your thumbs connected and resting on the tip of your sternum.

2. Feeling the pulse in your thumbs and simply breathing, focus on the heartbeat connecting in your thumbs.

3. Somehow, and I can’t even explain why, this will recharge your battery.

Thing is, I tried this a few times over the weekend. Nada. Piven doesn’t say how long you’re supposed to meditate on your pulsing blood; I laid back for several minutes at a time, and never felt a surge of energy, or even a mild replenishment.

I would suggest that this move is signature Ari Gold. But given my lack of success, maybe it’s more of a Droz frat prank.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/28/2007 09:17:31 AM
Category: Movies, Science, TV
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Sunday, May 27, 2021

off me!Mr. Exemplary Child-Care, stage left, is located in Vigelands Parken, Oslo, Norway. He’s just one of the worldwide instances of downright bizarre statuary art.

More than one of the photos in that collection look Photoshopped.

Even though it wouldn’t quite fit into the theme, I’m disappointed that downtown Tampa’s exploding chicken sculpture didn’t make the cut.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/27/2007 08:20:55 PM
Category: Creative, Florida Livin'
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Go ahead, put the pedal to the metal in that SUV, and crank up the A/C while you’re at it! The damage you inflict to the planet is easily bandaged, in the form of oh-so-trendy “carbon offset” programs:

Groups that offer tree offsets typically rely on Web calculators requiring users to type in how many miles they drive, how much electricity they use and how far they fly. Figure out how much CO2 someone is responsible for (output), compare it to the work average trees can do (input), and you have a formula for neutralizing a person’s “carbon footprint.”

While the band Coldplay famously funded 10,000 mango trees in India to soak up emissions related to the production of a CD, the average consumer can get off far easier. For $40, Trees for the Future will plant 400 trees in a developing country to handle your car emissions. In June, Delta Air Lines will allow online ticket buyers to help offset emissions of their flights through tree plantings in the U.S. and abroad: $5.50 for domestic round trips, $11 for international.

While it’s better than nothing, the attempt to absolve conspicuous consumption via tree-planting is more about self-satisfaction than ecological salvation:

“The worst of the carbon-offset programs resemble the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences back before the Reformation,” said Denis Hayes, the president of the Bullitt Foundation, an environmental grant-making group. “Instead of reducing their carbon footprints, people take private jets and stretch limos, and then think they can buy an indulgence to forgive their sins.”

“This whole game is badly in need of a modern Martin Luther,” Mr. Hayes added.

A real environmentalist two-step. Ba-bum.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/27/2007 07:30:34 PM
Category: Science, Society
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Ethipia is an in-development fantasy comic book that is, of course, being blogged-chronicled.

Why “Ethipia” instead of the factual spelling? It’s a story of typo-inspired creativity:

I was speaking to a guy from Sudan online, and he was admonishing me for my using the name Africa while referring to his home. He didn’t like the name because it was given to the land by the Greeks, and he started giving me the names of the land before the Greek influence. He typed “Ethipia” as one of the names (I assumed he misspelled it), and I couldn’t get it out of my head. There was something about the spelling that stuck with me. I wrote it out both ways, and then I emailed him to ask why he had spelled it the way he had to confirm my suspicions. He admitted it was a simple typo on his end, and I told myself to make the correction. Only I couldn’t shake the feeling that that name needed some thought.

In the end, I decided to keep the misspelling if only to let people know that though this is based on Ancient Ethiopia and the region, I wanted it made perfectly clear that this is a work of fantasy. I’ll research every aspect of the culture and region exhaustively, but no matter how much information I glean from various (often contradictory) sources, my historical accuracy isn’t going to be perfect. So the short answer is that Ethipia is closely based on Ethiopia, but it won’t be 100% the same place.

For want of a vowel, a fantasy landscape is born. A rare instance of something good coming out of all that rampant Web word-mangling.

FURTHER THOUGHTS: I’m thinking a catchier title for this post would have been “ETHI-NO-PIA”. I was preoccupied with making it clear that there wasn’t an unintentional typo in the title.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/27/2007 06:38:58 PM
Category: Bloggin', Creative
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Saturday, May 26, 2021

Consumer-created advertising has been an hot meme of late, promising to harness product enthusiasts’ incidental evangelizing into more authentic — and cheaper — promotional material than traditional ad agency product.

Has it turned out that way?

Consumer brand companies have been busy introducing campaigns like Heinz’s that rely on user-generated content, an approach that combines the populist appeal of reality television with the old-fashioned gimmick of a sweepstakes to select a new advertising jingle. Pepsi, Jeep, Dove and Sprint have all staged promotions of this sort, as has Doritos, which proudly publicized in February that the consumers who made one of its Super Bowl ad did so on a $12 budget.

But these companies have found that inviting consumers to create their advertising is often more stressful, costly and time-consuming than just rolling up their sleeves and doing the work themselves. Many entries are mediocre, if not downright bad, and sifting through them requires full-time attention. And even the most well-known brands often spend millions of dollars upfront to get the word out to consumers.

Some people, meanwhile, have been using the contests as an opportunity to scrawl digital graffiti on the sponsor and its brand. Rejected Heinz submissions have been showing up on YouTube anyway, and visitors to Heinz’s page on the site have written that the ketchup maker is clearly looking for “cheap labor” and that Heinz is “lazy” to ask consumers to do its marketing work.

“That’s kind of a popular misnomer that, somehow, it’s cheaper to do this,” said David Ciesinski, vice president for Heinz Ketchup. “On the contrary, it’s at least as expensive, if not more.”

While I don’t doubt the labor-intensiveness of finding the diamond in the rough, the drawing of opinion from agency execs, which is prominent here, really makes this article come off as propaganda from the established guard. Of course those who make a living at this are going to disparage competition from amateurs; that’s going to inspire skepticism, regardless of the veracity of the opinion.

It also prompts the question of whether or not in-house corporate procedure has properly adjusted to accepting creative from this new channel. Rather than treating the process as a contest, maybe it should reorganize review as if it really were a mass submission of advertising pitches? In this way, traditional ad/marketing agencies can morph into clearinghouses of publicly-solicited content (sort of what they’re doing now with these campaigns).

No, I don’t expect to see many iconic ad messages coming out of Joe-Schmo videos. But it’s an engaging process, which can only lead to stronger brand dedication.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/26/2007 03:38:59 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Internet
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where's the crew?
While the following isn’t intended to be a piling-on to last week’s “Horsie Game” brouhaha, it’s probably inspired by it:

Well over a year ago, when Al Michaels jumped ship from ABC to NBC to continue calling primetime National Football League action, I envisioned additional job duties for the broadcaster:

Of course, the Peacock Network also broadcasts NHL games for the next couple of years. Dare I hope that Michaels will work a few hockey games, along with the NFL gig? He should have plenty of time, since the departure from ABC means he’s also giving up NBA announcing. It should be an even workload swap for Mr. “Miracle On Ice”.

And yet, to date, Michaels hasn’t gone near a National Hockey League rink on NBC’s behalf (as far as I know).

In fact, the network hasn’t deployed any of its NBC Sports on-air personalities to NHL coverage. It uses largely the same hockey crew that Versus uses, with a couple of additions (Brett Hull being the notable figure). It seems to be a pretty segregated set-up, and further puts across the feeling that the NHL is strictly a rental property in NBC’s programming stable.

No complaints from me about Bill Clement and company and their on-air work. But you’d think NBC would want to leverage names/faces like Michaels and Bob Costas (and even John Madden, if only for general sportsworthiness) to push the NHL package. Broadcast personalities by themselves aren’t going to ramp up the ratings for any sport, but they’ll draw in a few extra eyeballs, and expose viewers who otherwise don’t take notice of the NHL. And there’s plenty of promotional value in highlighting Michaels’ “do you believe in miracles” background.

Why the lack of crossover? You’d have to conclude that the present low ratings indicate there’d be a low return on investment if NBC “spent” hockey airtime on its big-time sports personalities. That is, the contracts for Michaels and Costas likely spell out what they will and won’t do, and NHL games aren’t on the list — they’d have to be convinced (i.e., paid more) to take on the additional assignment. NBC’s probably not pushing them to do the NHL games, and the talents probably aren’t asking to get the extra work.

It’s a shame. Michaels and Madden aren’t doing anything else in the football offseason, and Costas can certainly squeeze in a pregame show or two during the Stanley Cup Finals. Instead, relative obscurity.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/26/2007 02:53:13 PM
Category: Football, Hockey, TV
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If you’re as sick of encountering that overhyped Angus beef as I am, you might be heartened by the development of an unlikely means of exorcising the brand.

The unlikely exorcist: Jack in the Box. Its unlikely cleansing weapon: A tongue-in-cheek (or maybe elsewhere) ad campaign that runs down rival fast-food restaurants’ Angus burgers, which prompted a lawsuit from Carl’s Jr. citing the conveyance of misleading public perceptions.

The funniest part is that Carl’s Jr. may have a point:

“While Defendant may find humorous the aural and phonetic similarities between the words ‘Angus’ and ‘anus,’ ” the suit says, the link is made to create “the erroneous notion that all cuts of Angus beef are derived from the anus of beef cattle.”

Customers of [Carl’s Jr. parent company] Carpenteria-based CKE have actually asked why it charges $6 for a burger made from a cow’s bottom, Chief Executive Andy Puzder said.

Funny how one little letter can change a cut of meat from high-end to, well, low-end…

If that anecdotal evidence from Puzder can be believed — and it’s just goofy enough to ring true — then it’s not out of the question to see this little wordplay gain mindshare traction. Even people who don’t seriously believe that the ultra-lean beef cuts are anally-sourced might start taking a pass. Maybe a broader backlash/fatigue over the fad meat is just waiting for this sort of catalyst to send it out of culinary style.

On the other side, Angus breeders may want to start thinking of an alternative branding name for their product. The cow breed itself will always be known as Angus, but that doesn’t mean it has to be marketed under that name — particularly if it remains the butt of jokes ;)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/26/2007 01:13:12 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food
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Friday, May 25, 2021

I’m afraid I can’t relate to the apparently growing number of on-the-gridders who are wholesale deleting all read and unread messages in their inboxes, in an effort to clear their personal-communications deck:

The term “e-mail bankruptcy” may have been coined as early as 1999 by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who studies the relationship between people and technology…

Some people who don’t want to go through the drastic-seeming measure of declaring total bankruptcy say they are trying to gently discourage the use of e-mail in their communications in favor of more personal calls or instant messages.

I simply don’t get an overwhelming number of emails. I guess I’m not enough of a wired mogul, or incessant e-chatterer.

What I found most interesting about this article: Not once was the spam issue ever raised. I was expecting that to be, if not the thrust of the movement, then at least a contributor. But no one, from Lawrence Lessig on down, even mentioned it. That means all these people are getting overwhelmed by (supposedly) legitimate email that’s coming their way. Just think if their spam filters weren’t working!

This indicates that the crisis over email spam has subsided, by the way. It’s still getting sent, but it’s no longer an overriding concern for the average person. Aside from the limited number of false-positives that slip through, it seems the filtering technology is keeping up with it. For now.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/25/2007 03:45:38 PM
Category: Tech
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