It goes without saying that we have more ways to communicate with each other than ever. Landline phones, faxes, e-mail, cell phones, texting, social media, antisocial media, and more. And it’s all pretty inexpensive, or so they say: “but gee dad, it’s only $69.99 for unlimited minutes, texting, and Internet with a 200-year contract”! With all these ways to communicate inexpensively, it begs the question, is there really that much stuff to communicate?
Be that as it may, but on that note, here is a story involving déjà vu. A couple weeks back while on sabbatical, a rather pleasant afternoon was interrupted by the doorbell chiming away. I have a rule that goes, if I’m not expecting someone, I do not answer the door because it involves putting on shoes, sometimes getting dressed, and going down several long flights of stairs. However, I threw rule to the winds and answered.
I was greeted by a young lady who was gathering signatures for her petition, which was against any form of extra government fees and taxation on e-mail. Now I thought this was just a dead issue from several years ago. However, my petitioner assured me this was a very real and current issue. So like a good capitalist I signed with a nom de plume.
Later that evening I met an acquaintance at her place of employment from which we would go to dinner with several other humans, one of which who has special dietary restrictions and must dine within a specific hour. Unfortunately, my acquaintance was involved in a problem with her company’s website and was trying to get it resolved by the company’s web development team. She was emailing the team and they were emailing her back about two semicolons, a dash, and a Theta symbol that were not appearing properly on one web page. A fairly simple set of problems, but she could not leave until the problem was resolved.
Apparently this was not so simple of a problem at this company. Emails escalated, eventually involving the web team, some production people, and my acquaintance’s boss. Taking a quick peek at the laptop screen it looked as if over 200 emails were exchanged and the problem was still not resolved. I had been sitting there a little over an hour at this point and our guest with dietary restrictions already left.
As we approached the 90-minute mark, the phone rang. It was one of the company’s web developers who was on vacation. He had no cell phone and no access to e-mail. Using plain old telephone service, he rattled off a few lines of HTML and within 47.8 seconds, problem solved. Amazing! Impetuous! Homeric if you will!
An interesting thing about those 200+ emails, most of the discussion involved potential solutions enhanced with stories of personal experiences, most of which were pretty much irrelevant to the problems at hand. Then I thought about the petition I signed earlier that day. Maybe I was wrong? No, only half wrong! Why not tax and add fees to business email only?
This was an idea the US Post Office had several years ago, one that would bail it out of “dire” financial straits caused by the shift to email over snail mail. It did not work out, mainly because the US Post Office is not an email provider; thank your god of choice.
However, if the government were to tax and fee business email only it could solve a lot of problems. Let’s say the government were to tack a small fee on every business email message, say $1.50. First, problems would be resolved in one or two emails at most. Second, one would not have to waste time responding to a lot of irrelevant email. Third, spam mail would probably dwindle to near none because any bulk mailings from any IP or website would be considered business related and therefore incur taxes and a fee. Not a bad idea from where I communicate!