There’s so much communication that there’s less communication
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 6, 2006
Did you get the e-mail I sent to your home, your work and your Web-based addresses?
Or the voice message I left on your work phone, your home phone and your cell phone?
I texted you on your cell phone, too? Did you read it? I also instant-messaged you on your Instant Messenger? Do you have that?
I also mailed a letter to you. Did you get that? I sent it via FedEx and UPS, too.
And I dropped off a note at your work. Did you see that?
What about that memo I placed in your inbox?
And did you see the telegram I sent?
Or the flier I placed on your windshield?
Not to mention I knocked on your front door?
It seems there are so many ways to communicate these days that we don’t communicate much.
We get so bogged down in so many dispatches zinging hither and thither that we can’t keep up.
We end up cluttering our lives more than organizing them.
That’s why it is good to get away from the clutter. I think young people find ways to clutter their
lives with messages and as they grow older they find ways to unclutter the mess.
E-mail is a handy form of messaging because everything is in electronic form, because it makes it easier to reproduce and share.
But it also makes it easier to reproduce and share, and we end up getting more than we want or need.
The good-old U.S. Postal Service is reliable &045; who doesn’t enjoy opening an old-fashioned pen-on-paper letter? &045; but the mail is diluted with more junk than real mail.
There’s too much junk in regular mail and electronic mail. It makes it hard for people to keep tabs
on mail they really want to receive &045; from friends, family and work.
Decades ago, people had the same problem from door-to-door peddlers. Cities passed ordinances to prevent soliciting. If they didn’t, people had the right to keep solicitors off their property, often by posting a sign or sending them away at the step.
In recent years, Americans rejoiced at a useful law &045; the National Do Not Call Registry.
It severely reduced the amount of telemarketing among for-profit companies. Companies now must have an established relationship with you to call. Telemarketing companies complained it violated their free speech, but since the speech took place in people’s homes, the homeowners had the right to choose. In other words, the law allowed homeowners to post a no-peddlers sign for their telephones.
Can we do the same thing for e-mail and postal mail?
Can we have a National Do Not Mail Registry?
How many times have you opened your e-mail or postal mail and uttered: &8220;I do not want this. Why are they sending it to me?&8221;
A National Do Not Mail Registry would make life easier for everyone and hopefully shut down spammers. Several states have anti-spam laws that are ineffective because a lack of enforcement. A registry could put some bite into the enforcement end. People would have a place to report violations, just like they do with telemarketers.
I’m guessing people have told the politicians about this idea, but they probably didn’t get the message.
So for kicks I entered &8220;Albert Lea&8221; into Google. The first to come up is the Web portal shared by the city, county, convention and visitor’s bureau, the economic development agency and the chamber of commerce. The second on the list is the Albert Lea Tribune. The third is the Albert Lea Chamber of Commerce.
However, that’s not why I entered &8220;Albert Lea&8221; into Google. I wanted to see what was last on the list.
You know how Google has its results page numbers under a Goooooooooooooogle word. I kept
clicking on the last o and more would appear.
So kept clicked past many sites, from the American Lung Association to Flickr.com. At the 73rd o I saw the Aragon Bar had a Web site. I’ll admit that I clicked on it, then realized what it was
going to display and quickly hit my browser’s back button.
Finally, at the 80th o, I found the last entry. It was Entry 792, and it was for HotelsInsider.com.
When I clicked on it, the header reads: &8220;CityInsider Hotels.&8221; The featured Albert Lea hotels were AmericInn, Comfort Inn, Country Inn & Suites, Days Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Super 8 Motel.
Of course, it was Entry 792 out of 7,610,000 entries for Albert Lea. The others, Google stated, were omitted &8220;to show you the most relevant results.&8221; It allows you to click to repeat the search with the omitted results included.
Could I discover the final Albert Lea entry of them all?
At Entry 994, HotelsInsider.com was the last one again. In the new search, it had been bumped to the back.
But if there were 7,610,000 entries for Albert Lea, how come I couldn’t read Entry 7,610,000? Google didn’t let me go beyond the 100th o. In fact, the last o was red instead of yellow to tell me to stop.
I tried looking through the Google Help Center to explain why Google’s string of o’s only goes to 100. I found nothing. I asked Minnesota State University intern Garrett Felder, who took classes on search engines, and he didn’t know.
Maybe some things are best left alone.
(Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.)