Monday, March 20, 2006

Dear Esther Dyson: BUTT OUT OF MY EMAIL

I've met Ms. Dyson. It's not the first time I've disagreed with her. She's smart, but she has a marked inability to find more than one side to an issue.

Books in foreign languages, for example; what a shame there aren't more being translated to English, given the current political climate, she opined.

Um, no. The real shame is that Americans are too gawddamned Ameri-centric to learn to speak and read in any other language. Those of you who are fluent in more than one language can attest to the volume of content we miss when movies are dubbed or subtitled; books are not condensed in the same manner, but we miss much in the way of nuance because we cannot be bothered to learn more than American English. That's not political; it's simply ignorance and selfishness that we are so arrogant.

But that's only one more perspective...what about technology? Why are there not more and better translation tools available? Why are we not encouraging development of more tools to allow simultaneous writing in more than one language? We're so damned we simply lack the impetus that A-list technology evangelists could supply to make translation more ubiquitous and seamless? Or is technology evangelism political?

Perhaps it is. Maybe that's why Ms. Dyson believes the proposed "email tax" is a good thing, that bulk mailers sending to folks with accounts on AOL and other ISP's should pay for the ability to send in quantity. The most vocal proponents of this so-called good thing support this tax to the detriment of non-profit organizations like PAC's, 527's and 501c3's because these groups overwhelmingly run counter to their own political positions.

I say butt the hell out. It's MY email. I'M ALREADY PAYING TO HAVE IT DELIVERED, hence the email address and storage. Hence the addition of specific PAC's, 527's, 501c3's to my addressbook as authorized email senders. I don't even use the ISP in question except for email because I've had the same address for 10 years and all my friends and family know it by heart.

And I've more than paid for this account many times over. This ISP is nearly twice as expensive as any other offering comparable email service; this ISP has also caused me a lot of lost time and aggravation due to poor service over the last decade; it also sucks for speed. Keeping my email address was important to me, though, worth paying extra for the hassle. But to ask non-profits to pay more to send to me after I've already paid for the email service, already registered with the non-profit, already approved them to send me mail?

Total bullsh*t.

You want to charge folks who are spammers? Fine. No problem. Unsolicited email is a HUGE waste of my time and resources. But there's the key: unsolicited. Unrequested. Unapproved. Unasked for. You can tax the hell out of that mail, and I still expect not to receive it in my mailbox if I didn't solicit it.

The crux here is my contract with an internet service provider. I've contracted with them to deliver my mail. Not junk mail, just my mail. Unlike the Postal Service, I'm not paying a pay-as-you-go fee, a stamp bought for each transmission; I've paid a lump sum under the terms of my contract for month-to-month service. That's MY contract with MY provider. I do not appreciate people trying to negotiate the terms of my contract for me when they are not party to the contract. I truly resent infringements on my rights to enter contracts by anyone.

There's also this nasty suspicion about the rationale behind the email tax. Somebody is asking for more money for the same service I'm already paying for now...who's getting a cut of that extra money?

Ms. Dyson?

Heads up, probably be getting a Change of Email Address announcement from me whenever this "email tax so-called good thing" is implemented.

It sounds like a terrible idea -- far too open to abuse for political ends, under cover of fighting something everyone hates.
Besides, how would it be enforced? A substantial amount of spam comes from abroad; only US-based bulk mailers would pay the tax, and out of those, only those which obey regulations.

Maybe Ms. Dyson just needs to get herself some better anti-spamware.
Exactly -- and non-profits including political groups make a BIG portion of those US-based bulk mailers. It wouldn't take much for a spammer to write a hack that generates randomized content with randomized addresses to send at random times -- crap, if I can imagine it, it can be hacked.

I still think the worst part of this is that I already ELECT to receive these emails and I already pay for them to be delivered at a premium above other ISP's. AOL is on its way to extinction as more people get internet through something other than dial-up; Google's minority interest in AOL was life-support until such a time that Google can build its own captive base rivaling AOL's (I think they already have) and Google has a system for pervasive wireless access.

This email tax is not a money-making's a death knell.

And Dyson really needs to rethink the business end on this; no ISP's are crying about the devastation on their profitability that bulk mail is causing. The business critical problem for ISP's is differentiation; how is this email tax a positive differentiation to AOL's benefit on the bottom line?
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