Unpurged mailing lists
Today is my day to save the rain forests, and name the names of the evil firms who contribute to their destruction. They do this by sending me duplicate press releases. So not only are they responsible for the unnecessary felling of trees, but me wasting my time opening unnecessary envelopes and wearing out my waste paper basket. Is it just because PR people are too lazy to purge their mailing lists? Or maybe it is because mailshot software has no name-matching routines.
In the last month, I got duplicates, where the address on the two envelopes was exactly the same from Virtex and the British Computer Society. From Capita, I received as many as four copies of an invitation to a seminar on Data Protection. I know that the Data Protection commissioner, Elisabeth France is very tough on data-matching, but this is ridiculous.
Some companies send one copy of the press releases to me as a freelance journalist and one to me as editor of IT & Public Policy. There is some sense in this, to ensure that editors/freelances get the press release either at home or the office. But, it doesn't make sense when the journalist, like me, has no office, but works from home. All the mailing software needs to do is to check whether the address is the same on both items in the database. I know that not all PR and software people are all too bright, but really!
The dim, but not wholly, evil firms that do this to me are: Information Builders, Syquest, a conference organiser called Le Fevre, Micromuse, Viglen and IBM. To be fair to the firms named here is that, often, the real fault lies not with them but with the PR companies they employ. And those PR companies often contract their mailing out to mailing houses.
But the buck must stop somewhere.
People who send me stuff by fax are just as irritating, churning out three or four copies in an afternoon. Fax has the added disadvantage of waking me up in the middle of the night, when the telephone rings. US companies are the worst at doing this. One company, Iridium, which has been launching clusters of telephony satellites into space, used to send me faxes whenever a satellite was launched, or more often, when bad weather caused an abort. It took five complaining faxes from me, telling it that it made me despair of US space technology, before the flow stopped.
All this shows how sloppy business is, when it comes to designing systems for its contacts with the outside world. It gets its internal systems right, with great attention to detail, but the outside world is something else. One would have thought that not irritating journalists - or customers for that matter - with repetitive junk mail-shots would be something that an outward-looking company would just not want to do. Journalists are a stroppy lot, and jump at any chance to rubbish a company. And all for the lack of a regular mailing list purge.
Email should be the answer, and save a lot of forests. With Email, you don't have to open the envelope, and file or bin the contents. With Email, zapping the releases you don't want is quicker, and filing and retrieving should be easier if you get your disk organised.
But, perversely, I would not welcome the complete death of paper. Already, I spend too much of my time looking at screens. I don't want to clutter up my disk with stuff I will probably never read again. And, it makes me feel important, whenever the postman, delivers the daily pile of bumph.
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