My trio of examples in the last 24 hours of how the tools designed to “protect” us have succeeded in making life even harder. Or, perhaps more accurately, more examples of how we live in a world where we are constant beta testers for unfinished programs.
1. I stand second to no one in the belief that spam filters have destroyed the reliability of e-mail. I sent an email to a lawyer yesterday about a potential referral I might send him. In a reasonable world, I could simply use a subject line of “Potential Referral.” Of course, we all know that an email with that subject line has about a 2% chance of making past spam filters. So, I spent about 5 minutes crafting a subject that might work and checking the language in the body of the message. The good news is that it made it through to my recipient. The bad news – I found the response accidentally from my colleague in my junk mail folder. In the meantime, of course, the spammers continue to develope techniques every day to stay ahead of the filters.
2. The pop-up blockers are making it impossible to use the Internet. Hey, want a Gmail invitation? I’d like to give you one but I can’t find a way to adjust the settings in either IE or Firefox to let me open the new window that contains the invitations. I actually run both IE and FireFox at the same time specifically to provide an alternative when the pop-up blockers kick in. I don’t need any instructions or tips – I’ve tried everything, including enabling pop-ups on the site and compromising my security settings to get some javascript windows to open. The best approach seems to be to try the other browser if one does not work. It’s not that I like pop-ups, but I can at least close them. The blockers keep me from using certain sites.
3. Here’s my new favorite. I was at a restaurant using the WiFi yesterday and tried to go to my brother’s website,, which covers a variety of gardening topics. However, a content filter blocked access to the site because it was an “occult” site! Good Lord! I supose I should be grateful that someone is protecting me from my ignorance about the dangers of viewing a site that discusses how to garden and grow herbs and other vegetables, but I trust my brother a helluva lot more than someone’s content filter. I don’t suppose the filtering company offers any compensation for the audience that they block from the site. Now I have a better understanding of why Howard Stern gets so nuts about the absurd and arbitrary bleeping he gets in various markets. Maybe someone can put together a “satellite radio Internet” where we don’t have to ride around with someone else’s idea of training wheels.