Thursday, November 1, 2007

Chain Mail Lunacy

Earlier today I received a forwarded piece of chain mail with a simple request, "Is this real?" That didn't surprise me, I've made myself known for my intolerance of chain mail misinformation. What surprised me is that the very link that I used to verify the legitimacy of the email was included in the email itself.

The email, if you must know, was one about crystal meth being distributed at grade schools as Halloween candy. I barely read any of it; all I needed was enough to search for a key phrase. I was using much the same procedure I always do. After I found a good phrase and searched, the first hit was a Snopes article.

It wasn't until I went to reply that I noticed the word Snopes in the original email. Then I realized that it was the same link I was going to send. I did my duty and replied with the most accurate synopsis that I could, but I was still bothered by something: Why should I have even taken the time to answer someone who would even think of believing that the serious subject matter of the email is true without even reading it?

It's really sad. Not only does false information get passed around so easily, but it's so openly accepted that people don't feel the need to bother reading it. At least my coworker was skeptical enough to ask me, I suppose. Unfortunately, there were probably a hundred other email addresses included in the forward. At least 5 people had forwarded this email, who knows where they got it and how many others have passed it on. All without bothering to read all of the information included in the email.

I do think that it's mildly clever to use the most widely known chain mail debunking site as a resource to make your claims seem more valid. I wonder if the person who started that incarnation of the email going actually thought that so many people wouldn't bother to check. It's a sort of audacity that you'd only expect from someone who's telling the truth. Think again.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Brilliant Marketing or Alienation of Customers

Chevrolet has a new line of commercials for their Malibu sedan. In these commercials people are wildly ignorant to the existence of a late model beige Malibu. Then the announcer promises that soon the Malibu will be noticed. What does that say to the owners of the existing Malibu?

While the ad is true, the old Malibu in almost any color is urban camouflage, it's a little offensive to hear that from the people who designed and sold those cars. I'm kind of torn as to what this really says. Does it say that they feel they made a mistake in this design? Are they actually admitting that their old product was inferior?

I'm pretty sure that if I owned a Malibu I would be offended. I would take this commercial to say that I made a mistake in my purchase. This essentially says that Chevy thinks Malibu owners have bad taste. Why would these people buy from this company again? I wouldn't. Especially the new design, it doesn't fall in line with their existing customers tastes.

The same goes for Scion's latest campaign that displays the polarization of opinions toward their tiny car-based utility vehicle. Love it or loathe it, they say. Eye catching or eyesore. While I think that this may fool a few teens into thinking that Scions are rebellious vehicles that their parents just don't understand, I perceive this as a reminder that these cars are found ugly by many. This may help to positively influence the purchase process for some, but I think there's a good chance that it will plant that seed of doubt into the minds of others.

At the same time, I'm really happy to see this move from Chevy. One of the big factors that has created such a gap in quality between foreign and domestic automobiles has been the desire to please return customers. People don't like change. When you change the way a car feels they will resist it.

Buick is a great example of this. Only now are Buicks starting to come with firmer suspensions. It wasn't that GM was unable to produce a firm suspension that would still take bumps well, it's that the customers didn't like it. Buick's return customers wanted the bobbling boats of yore.
When the engineers worked to finalize Buicks for production they had to dial in a suspension that wouldn't offend their core buyers. They never forced those buyers to choose from better suspensions. The problem is that the pool of repeat buyers can never be larger than the original pool of buyers, as your first time buyers dwindles, so will your repeat buyers. Thus you'll see a slow death. Buick has started to turn around, and they're losing some repeat buyers but they're gaining more first time buyers.

Sometimes alienation is a good thing. You can't please everyone. I think that it's important not to be offensive about it, though. Telling someone that their taste is bland is a bad thing. Simply not offering a bad attribute just because they were accustomed to it is another. I think the new Malibu looks like a big improvement, but the marketing is still sub-par.

HeaDache TV

I'm trying to buy my first HDTV.

This is a huge entertainment purchase for me. Aside from a few computers that were around $1,000, I've never spent this much on electronics. The closest I've really come to a purchase like this was when I bought my first LCD monitor.

The purchase process is a confusing nightmare.

This market seems to be a huge mess. Depending on who you listen to you are either wasting money by buying a name brand, or saving yourself from huge problems. You should buy a TV that can display 1080p, unless your viewing distance is greater than 360 deg.* 60 * pixel pitch / 2 * Pi. I'm not kidding, either. Most TVs have VGA hookups, but if you use those many display at full resolution and you have to use a DVI to HDMI converter.

When you walk into a store that sells these you can immediately see the difference from brand to brand. Unfortunately, many commentators online will tell you that the people in the stores don't know how to properly adjust the units, so you can't even trust that. It makes perfect sense for an electronics store to spend time adjusting a set with a high profit margin while leaving a set with a low profit margin alone.

Finishing off the whole negative experience is when you find out that you're going to need $50+ worth of new cabling for this TV. Also, the salesman informed me that I need some outrageously expensive surge protector. If I bought the setup he was selling it would cost me nearly $300 in cabling just to accomplish my goals.

Who do you trust?

Trust your senses. Well, the safe bet is to pick a unit that has a good picture and a good price in the store. Then go home and find out what the bargain basement price is for that set. Trust your eyes. Trust your common sense.

Trust the manufacturer. The manufacturer will have some spiel to try to get you to buy their product, but the facts about the unit must be documented. While a reseller has an excuse, and a reason, to have vague or misleading product information, the manufacturer really doesn't. Any manufacturer that is vague or misleading shouldn't be trusted and should be avoided. If you can't trust the people who made the device then why would you put down hundreds of dollars for it?

Trust the consensus. Don't listen to any one individual, especially online. Remember that a dissatisfied customer is generally 5 to 10 times louder than a satisfied one. Also, a satisfied customer typically feels good about their purchase and any negativity about that product makes them question their decision, so they get defensive. The only way to reconcile this is to get a consensus of opinions. If you can't find a negative comment on a product then it's probably not very popular and you're running the risk of spending money on an untested product. If a product has nothing but poor reviews then it is, at best, mediocre. Mediocre products rarely have fans. Ideally you'll find a comfortable ratio of good to bad reviews, somewhere between 5:1 and 10:1 is a safe bet, note that a bad experience is far more likely to earn a review so these ratios really heavily favor a good product.

Don't trust salesmen. They are there to sell you something. They want to make you feel good about spending as much as possible. They can help you find what you want, but you have to walk in with a budget and an expected price point. The salesman will fill that price point and then try to nickel and dime you with cables and extended warranties. Don't fall for this. The extras that the sell at those stores are horribly overpriced and you may not even need some of them. You will need some new cabling, and if you only have cheap surge protectors then a new one isn't a bad idea. Don't pay these people for them.

Don't trust haters or fanatics. This goes back to the idea that you shouldn't trust a single source. A hater will dislike a brand because they had a bad experience with that company, or someone they know did, or they're merely a fanatic for another company. Fanatics won't allow reason to influence their decision that only one company sells a product worth buying. Often, they have a distinct lack of reason for why that is the only brand they'll accept. These people are only worth listening to if you also plan on listening to their contemporaries with differing opinions so you can decide who is the most persuasive.

I really wish this were an easier process. I don't like spending this much time and effort to make a purchase for a device that I'll merely be staring at. Hopefully in another 5 years the quality of these products will be to a level where few deviations in picture, features, and durability will exist. When that happens the whole process will be as simple as it's been for the last 20 years to buy a CRT. Until then, it'll be a headache. Right now that headache is mine.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Okay, so I should have verified that Vonage still doesn't offer anonymous call rejection before I wrote that last post. They now offer it, not that I was ever informed. I checked earlier this year and it wasn't there, so it still took them nearly 3 years (since I joined) to implement it. That's way too long.

My other option saves me money, so I'm not changing my mind. Such is life.

So Long Vonage

Dear Vonage,

I write this farewell with a heavy heart. There are many reasons why I didn't want to let you go. In the end, I failed you and you failed me. It's time to leave.

My friend was an early adopter of VoIP and his testing led me to sign up for your service. I've been a loyal customer for about five years now. I recognize that you're a pioneer in the field. I appreciate that Vonage isn't part of a monopoly. I liked most aspects of your service. I never cared much that 911 didn't work quite as reliably as with a POTS line, and I realized that the telcos were the real bad guys in that situation.

I really wanted to make it work. I stuck with you when my cable company started offering VoIP. I even went so far as to take pleasure in thwarting their telemarketers when they called to offer their service to me, "No, I have Vonage and I pay $15 plus tax." That always shut them up.

That was then. Now it doesn't shut them up. Their first tactic was to offer a year of service at the same rate. I don't like introductory offers as much as permanent ones, especially when after the introductory offer the deal isn't as sweet as what I have. Now they've changed the deal so that it's permanent. On top of that, they discount my television and internet service as well, making the phone bill virtually disappear into the cable bill. The pragmatic side of me, the one that would rather have that extra $15 for his son, said that it was time to bite.

You failed me first, though.

Despite the easily implemented advanced functionality of VoIP service, you never implemented the one feature that I wanted so dearly, the only feature I miss from the Verizon days. All I asked was for an anonymous call rejection function. It's not that hard, and most phone service providers offer it.

ACR was the real deal breaker. Without it we still receive too many telemarketing calls. Even New Jersey's strict telemarketing regulations don't eliminate all of these incredibly annoying calls. This includes the one company that sneaks under the telemarketing radar by being a charity*. Another large segment of these calls were pre-recorded campaign statements during the last major election. They're an annoying way to push information or make a sale. The worst offenders use a call box to call several numbers at once and put the others on hold. These organizations don't want you to know who they are because you might not answer the phone, you might complain about them, basically you might do something to stop them from annoying you other than give them what they want - normally your money.

When I found out that my cable company offers ACR and their service will save me money it was too much. I couldn't stay with you. I'm sorry. I wish you well. Maybe some day I'll be back.


*They've called with a few charities. The names are always very close to legitimate charities, but slightly different. One can assume that some money makes it to the claimed beneficiaries, but this company always shies away from any attempt to find out more about them. If you interrupt their script with a challenging question or request for more information that doesn't involve a commitment to donate they hang up on you. The last few times they've called I've taken to saying, "Take me off your list," as fast as I possibly can. A few times I've made it through the sentence before they hung up on me. My guess, based on their shady telemarketing practices, is that almost none of this money goes to charity, instead it probably gets sucked up by "overhead" in the form of huge salaries for the executives. I bet some of the new employees even think they're doing legitimate charity work, maybe they are... but that's not the way to do it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Gentoo: Buried in Packages

I have a dirty little secret.

I've been a horrible administrator on my home network, in large part due to the neglect of my home server. I admit it, I've not done any reasonable upkeep on my Gentoo Linux machine for over a year.

"What's the big deal," you say?

It's just that any security vulnerability, performance enhancement, or feature enhancement over the last year has been ignored. This means my machine is vulnerable, slower than it should be, and probably not as feature rich as it could be.

Why on earth did I do this to myself?

Well, I did it because of the same thing that's plaguing me right now. Gentoo really is more complicated than it need be. This problem manifests itself in that Gentoo is not really the right operating system for a lazy administrator or a novice who isn't adept at troubleshooting a GNU system.

My problem started with simple laziness and neglect. At first I didn't update because I just forgot, or it was too much trouble to login and run the command. That situation went on for a few weeks or months after a year or two of fairly attentive administration.

Then when I finally did update everything broke. The package management system changed so that certain packages could block the installation of other packages. This change was enough to throw me off of the routine I had used while updating. When I tried to figure it out, the whole thing blew up. I managed to get the system to update, to the detriment of my Gnome installation. I found myself without a window manager, with an ailing system that I, again, couldn't update. I gave up.

Flash forward a year or so...

I've played with Ubuntu over the last year on my laptop. I was really impressed with the installation and administrative tools. I gave serious thought to replacing my Gentoo server with an Ubuntu install. Then I stopped and thought of the effort that would take. I'd have to setup some sort of temporary network or almost all facets of computing, as well as phone service, for my house would come to a grinding halt. I decided I would give Gentoo another chance.

This Sunday my friend was talking about updating his Gentoo installation. This sparked the desire to fix my machine. Now it's on.

I logged into the machine. I ran the commands. Updating failed magnificently. Search on Google for a solution, fix that. It fails again. Search on Google again, fix it again. It fails again. Rinse and repeat.

It actually managed to update around 200 packages before I hit the big roadblock. Unfortunately, that roadblock is that to update glibc I must switch the system over to gcc 3.4.6 from 3.3.6.

In short, I have to completely rebuild my system. Overnight last night 115 system packages rebuilt. Today I started rebuilding the 552 packages in world. As I write this it is working on package 180. All of this after 4 days of work. In the end I'll probably have spent a week on this.

If you would just...

I fully expect that a knowledgeable reader will think, "Just keep your system up to date." That's not the point. The point is that the way that Gentoo works makes that just a tad more inconvenient than most other systems. Further, it shouldn't ever take a week to fix a system that hasn't been maliciously compromised. I would lodge the same sort of complaint against a hosed Windows install.

Reinstalling from scratch was never an option. If I reinstall it will be Ubuntu. Reinstallation would have been even more work, even if it would have taken less time, and it would offer no advantage over simply installing Ubuntu.

I'm sure that some Gentoo guru can pop out of the woodwork and say, "If you'd just run this command..." Again, that's beside the point. If Gentoo were more intuitive then I wouldn't have missed whatever command it is you may suggest. It's not like I haven't read the handbook. I've basically done all three "stages" of the manual installation. I have a decent idea of where to start looking when I troubleshoot this box, but when time after time it involves searching around and 30 minutes of research after finding some hits, that's just a little ridiculous.

Not that it matters

I'm going to keep Gentoo on the machine for now. I'll probably leave it on there until I'm ready to install new hardware. While I'm too lazy to properly administrate a Gentoo installation, I'm also too lazy to replace it.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Sweetly Poisoned Information

Recently a coworker asked me about an email forward that she received. The email, entitled "Sweet Poison (A MUST READ)," was little different than most junk that's forwarded around. In my response I included the process I use to discredit, and very occasionally verify, the factuality of chain mail. It's pretty simple and I suggest everyone who's confronted with these things adopt a similar solution.

As I'm fond of saying, the best way to fight misinformation is with truth. My reply is as follows:

In this case it appears that the information contained is disputed at best. Also, this appears to be a grassroots marketing campaign. If you search for “Sweet Poison” you’ll find that it’s a book written about “exposing aspartame dangers.”

As for debunking, there’s a process I use:
  1. Anything, and I mean anything, written in 20 point green fonts, interspersed with varying paragraphs of other font colors, faces, and sizes, is likely junk. 99.999% of the time this holds up to be true. I’ve never found any reliable information contained within an email like this.
  2. The mere fact that several AOL users have forwarded this around is a sign that the content isn’t worth reading.
  3. Once we’ve established that it’s likely worthless we can take two courses of action:
    1. Delete the email
    2. Reply with information proving it worthless:
      1. Pick a phrase from the email or subject and paste it into the google search input. Usually the subject itself or the first sentence or two works, just make sure it’s somewhat unique.
      2. Search for it. Look through the first page or two of results. If you see,, etc. then click on the link.
      3. Unless you already know what the link says, read it. It’s best to be informed.
      4. Send an email back to the sender. Ask them to forward the truth around to everyone who they sent the original email to, as well as the person who sent it to them.
      5. Be prepared for an argument. Forwarded emails are often successful because it’s easier to accept the lie than it is to swallow the truth. People confronted with the truth will often get defensive of the falsity that they propagated and will resort to tactics such as attacking you for wanting to be right.

Monday, September 24, 2007

You're on Candid Camera

After a long, hard weekend of watching football, I thought I'd share some things not to do while at a football game.

Easily at the top of the list is to not pick your nose. There's television cameras present at pretty much all football games. Use your knuckles, a tissue, or go to the bathroom.

If you're on the other side of the camera, and you're broadcasting live on network television, avoid the guy wearing the "West Fuckin Virginia" shirt like the plague. He will hold it up so that the world can easily read its message.

If you're going to paint yourself red, paint your armpits or keep your arms down. It's bad enough that your pits are being exposed as such, but the paint everywhere else actually highlights the fleshy, hairy, sweaty ovals. One can almost smell you through the screen.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Implement Fair and Equal Holidays

I don't know why I never posted this one. Interestingly, since I wrote this my company has reinstated Comp Time for the few employees that can take advantage of it. It wasn't the easiest task, but I had to do all of the programming to make that happen. I still think that workers would be better served by making a fair holiday schedule, or perhaps unlimited vacation like Netflix does. Originally this post was going to make a point about increasing productivity. I'm not going to make that point, but the concept of fair holidays seems reasonably argued...

The current corporate culture regarding employee holidays, in the U.S., is wrong and largely discriminatory. The prevailing thinking regarding holidays has not caught up with the progressive, inclusive, worker-oriented thinking of the modern office. The good news is that it can be changed. Read on to find out why and how.

What's wrong? I'm fine with the federal holidays.

I think that it can be safely assumed that everyone, shy of management, is a fan of paid holidays. The key word of that statement, though, is everyone. The current system of holidays that most companies employ is to give employees a popular set of federal holidays off as well as a few religious holidays.

Unfortunately, federal holidays don't hold the same value to every citizen, nor do religious holidays. Often one religions holiday schedule is fairly divergent to the next. Some religions have many important holidays that employees would like to spend with their family. Some holidays require the devout to observe a practice that conflicts with their ability to attend work or function in full capacity.

Can't they just take vacation? What about Comp Days?

Vacation is often the solution employees are forced to implement. How is that fair to them, though? That creates an inequality based on religion. Someone of a faith that aligns well with federal holidays and any others that the company chooses effectively gets all of their holidays paid as well as any vacation time. This means that they can vacation as they please and still spend important holidays with their friends and family. Workers who are forced to take paid holidays that do not match their religion must use vacation to compensate, which lessens their effective vacation time and limits their schedule.

Another solution has been to use compensatory, or "comp," time, to allow workers to pick which holidays they adhere to. There are a few problems with this, some new and some old.

To start with the old, we can look at the "closed office" phenomenon. Basically, each of these company holidays also designate a day when the offices of the company are closed, retail aside. This means that on these holidays everyone is expected to be away from the office. There are limited facilities on these days. The secretary won't be in, the HVAC may be off, and the doors may be locked. These things provide a challenge to an employee who wishes to work on these days. This likely leads to that person feeling that this is unwanted behavior, and often it is, which can make them choose not to work those days instead of going against the status quo.

The newer problem is that straight hour for hour compensatory time is, for most workers, illegal. It's difficult to properly implement. There's undue effort required of the company's HR department to track it. Worst of all, it still doesn't allow the required flexibility. At best you can offer this to any employees who fit into the narrow category of straight overtime pay. If you're feeling especially generous you can give this benefit to employees who are salaried, but at that point you're actually going well beyond your responsibilities and you still have the headache of tracking all of this.

For example, last Thursday marked the beginning of the Jewish holiday, Rosh HaShana, and the Muslim holiday, Ramadan. While I must admit to a lack of knowledge regarding Ramadan, I know enough about Rosh HaShana to say that most practicing Jewish people took the 13th and 14th off.

I work with a few of these people. I didn't ask what they did but we can assume that they either worked on Labor Day and Independence Day, the last two company holidays before these, or they took vacation time.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Please Stop with the Balance Transfers

Dear Banking Industry,

Please, I'm begging you, stop sending me all of these balance transfer checks. I'm not going to use them. I don't want to waste my time individually calling you to tell you to stop. Your persistence in the face of my obvious, yet silent, rejection has become an annoyance.

It's not that I don't appreciate the thought. Sure, 0% for the next 12 months sounds great. Maybe I can even ignore the upfront fee. I'm just not interested, though.

I wouldn't even write this but, you see, I'm a little paranoid about how easily these could be abused. I already have to worry about identity theft and other fraud. These checks just seem like a back door into my account. I'd rather they never entered the postal system, never sat in my mailbox, nor ever entered my house.

I'll make you a deal. You know your fancy website with all the security — the user name and password, the site key, the encrypted communications, that one — if you give me an easy way to transfer balances there, whenever I may need it, then I'll consider using it. Granted, I'll only use it if I can save money that way but the chances that I'll use that versus all of these pieces of paper you've been mailing out are greatly in favor of the online interface.

If you do this you should save quite a few trees. You'll probably save some money, too. That's something to consider if you've had your hand in the sub-prime mortgage market lately.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Follow up to Your Account

Last time I detailed a problem when people enter email accounts that don't belong to them but the service doesn't allow you to remove the account.

In response to this, a friend of mine suggested that I mention Mailinator. It's a service that allows you to make up an email on the fly and check it. There's no passwords and no expectation of privacy but that's better than sending information to someone else. It's a great idea if you just want to check out a service.

Also, I received an email today about a new Yahoo! account that was created with my account as a secondary. I was impressed that Yahoo! has a system that allows you to remove your address from the account. Simply click a link and then a button to confirm. Of course, I spent a few seconds analyzing the URL before I went to it.

One of the big problems with situations like these is that they can be used to verify that your email address is valid. That may make removing your email from an account tantamount to clicking a link from a spammer. I don't have any evidence of this, and it does sound like a lot of work, but it is possible. That's why I think that the best way for a site to handle this is to require validation upfront but don't allow the user to know if the account owner ever validated. Just remove the account after a short time without validation, a week or a month should be enough.

Lastly, it should be noted that this is somewhat related to the newly defined BACN. This is a little different. It's like getting someone else's BACN. It's also unsolicited so it's a little more like SPAM. You can assume that someone might want it but you're not that someone.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Your account, whether you like it or not.

Have you ever gone to a website that you just wanted to check out, so you gave it a bogus email address? Did you ever think of what may happen if there were a real person on the other end of that email? I may be that person.

I have an email at Yahoo! that's fairly "clean," and by that I mean that it isn't 15 characters of jibberish with a 10 digit number at the end. It's a concatenation of two short words. (It's also been my user name since 1995 and a real life nickname from junior high.) Unfortunately, I've been paying for this benefit in the form of SPAM since the onset of that problem. Lately I've had a new problem, one that shouldn't be happening.

Well, perhaps it isn't new. I've had this sort of thing happen to me for years. Bogus accounts created to my email address isn't really that new. The new part of the problem is that I can't do anything about these accounts. Once they're created I can't even access them. I can't control the contact settings. I can't control whether my email is published or not. The account isn't mine and I have no way to do anything about it.

I used to be able to simply go to the site and request "my" password. Then I could login and change the email to something else. Sure, sometimes I would vandalize the account. That's the risk you run when you give an email address that you don't control nor know whether it's active. Next time don't be lazy, create your own throwaway account or just use your email address. Use an account that you know doesn't exist, it's not hard to check and see what domains aren't reserved. At the very least, don't use

Why can't I access accounts assigned to my email address? Well, first the website allows the user to put in any email address. That's standard, you can't help that. Then the website doesn't email the initial password, it's either returned on the screen or set by the user. Lastly, in order to retrieve your password you have to answer a personal question before it is emailed to you, it's often asking you to provide your date of birth.

See how that setup allows for an account to be created but the email address owner has no say in it? The truly sad part of this story is that the websites allowing this to happen aren't small shops that can't invest in a usability expert or at least some focus testing. These are established businesses, both online only and corporations that just have a web division. These are websites that have no excuse to not address this issue.

There are several steps that can be taken to avoid this.

The most obvious is to validate that the person creating the account has access to the email address they provide. This is a good practice for any registration system. If you don't validate the email address then you may as well not require it. At that point it's just useless information. If you continually email someone based on this unverified information you're sending unsolicited mail, it's unsolicited because I didn't solicit it. If the only way to stop this emailing is to log in to the system and change your options then it's unacceptable to not verify the email.

Next, you can email the user their password after it's assigned. This is good customer service, as it allows them to have a record of how to access the account. Unfortunately it's poor security, which is probably why it isn't done. If you do this, though, it will discourage the use of fake email addresses (or at least ones that may have a person on the other end) and will give the owner of the email address some recourse, even if that may be a liability to the user.

Allow the email address owner to retrieve or reset the password. Most of the concerns here mimic those above. Unfortunately if you require information provided by the person who created the account, yet the account creator provided an email they don't own, then the email owner doesn't have this information. If you're worried about security then this doesn't work, but it's not always a horrible idea otherwise.

Lastly, provide some way to opt out on the website without logging in. It's really simple to make an opt out application. You only need the email address and then to validate it. You could, at that point, require that the offending account verify their email address, change it, or disable the account. This is a good implementation merely because it will allow you to prevent further accounts from being created for an email address that has opted out.

Of course, if a system isn't in place for me to remove myself I can, and will, email customer service. That is a major annoyance, though. Beyond that, at some point I have to prove that I really own the email address by... having it verified. Otherwise anyone with minimal information could spoof an email and cause havoc.

As an aside I'd like to mention the very worst site that I've dealt with on this issue, CBS Sportsline's Fantasy Football. Someone created an account on this service early last year with my email address. I started getting weekly emails about the service, as well as other random junk. I went to the website to try to fix the situation and could not get in. I could not get the password without the account creator's date of birth. What's worse is that the website has no support contact information available without logging in. I wasn't about to provide them with another email address just to report that I didn't sign up with my other one. I tried to reply to the emails I was getting to no avail. After a month of this and another twenty frustrating minutes of searching I was able to find a support phone number. I called and spoke to a real person, who I explained the problem to. I asked him to change the email address on the account to anything else. He told me he would and I thanked him and hung up. I never stopped getting the emails.

I started marking them as spam. Every time I see a CBS Sportsline email in my inbox I mark it as spam. It's unsolicited. I told them to stop and they didn't. I can only hope that they are increasingly flagged as spam by Yahoo!'s spam filters. Really, that's the only answer that the end user has in this circumstance: Do everything you can to call attention to the issue and then declare the sender a spammer. If they don't give you a way to opt out and you've informed them that you didn't opt in then they are a spammer.


I've created this blog to attempt to convey my thoughts on what people are doing wrong in the design of software and real world objects. I'll also probably delve into people's actions and how a little effort to be more polite, think, and do the right thing would help us all live better lives.

Every day we interact with things that were designed to be pretty or cheap, or maybe they just weren't designed at all. When no thought (or too much thought) goes into how people will use something things go horribly awry.

These things really get under my skin. So much so that I believe it's worth writing about. Hopefully it will be interesting enough to be worth reading about.