Thursday, November 10, 2005

Filter Tips

In this time-poor age, gatekeepers are inevitable. But still frustrating. I have used this blog before, am now and doubtless will again to 'note' (ok, whinge a bit) about the less than helpful aspect of relationship-building which they represent to anyone trying to launch a new service, yet is confronted by everyone from Tracy on Reception ('Hooshlisayscallin'?) though Mrs. Miggins on her IBM Selectric ('Does He/she - I'm being PC here, not inferring any Ladyboy tendencies - know you?'') to a middle management minion with the power to say no but not yes.

These folk are facts of life. And you have to learn to deal with them, and the system.

But when it gets automated the problems can really kick in. How do you negotiate with a machine?

I recently was talking with Paul Sanderson of Materials Recycling Week (quick plug for them: - not a magazine perhaps for most of's audience, but if you want to stay on top of the 'business' of re-everything, well worth the sub), who had kindly got in touch because he was concerned something we'd sent had not got through.

So our discussions turned to servers, firewalls, spam filters, etc, and indeed it transpired that thanks to a new IT-thingie their end, we were now being consigned to the junk folder, which would be flattering to have thought as our own little outpost in their office, but for the lack of that extra special k. 

We are also still desperately trying to sort out how we get through without interception and deletion to the majority of our own opt-in users who have a hotmail, aol, g-mail, etc, address, and are tracking down a rumoured 'white list' that will deem us non-pornographers or member-extenders.

But it seems we must also face the possibility that legitimate B2B communications may also find themselves headed off at the pass. It certainly doesn't help having as an address, but there's not much we can do about that. And it takes a certain leap of the imagination at ISP-central to imagine a spammer would  name their product so imaginatively.

But sadly I think I will soon have also to consign our nifty 12k logographic signature to the... er... junk bin. And forget about ever sending an attachment.

It's just another of the growing-pain joys and tribulations of the online world. It was in many ways meant to speed communication and make it more accessible. But in protecting ourselves from something that may be harmful, we've almost gone full circle and created a situation that we actually don't get exposed to much of anything that is not pre-filtered.

So if you would like to hear from us in future, I think I will need to engage a nice fellow with a cleft stick to pop it around. Ain't technology wonderful?

But we know a lady who does... will succeed, not just as a business, but as a public resource, by connecting people. A guy with an idea with a gal who needs a solution.  A kid with a broken toy with a DIY-guru who can fix it (online or in person). A local business with, well, a local. Every time we put such folks in touch, a little bit of the environment ends up just a smidgen better off. And our traffic figures mount.

Often it may not be quite so tangible a result, but we feel our role is justified even if we just send folks off on a worthy path.

So I am pleased to report that as a result of her partcipation on the's Forum, and the knowledge base she is acquiring, Emma has set in motion a series of events that have resulted (culmination sure to follow) in 'No Waste Like Home' celebrity e-guru Penney Poyzer taking part in an online interview with them, much as we did a while ago, on Wednesday 23rd November.  

See the thread below, and add any questions if you have any. We'll be there too with a few!


Throwing bricks in (recycled) glass houses

Anita, our lovely Chief of Prose & Comms, is going to be grumpy. But sometimes it's necessary to address things at length. This is key to our philosophy at

I have just replied to a chap called Sir John Whitmore, writing in the motoring section of the Telegraph.

The links/URLs will take you to the full text (I admire  the Telegraph for allowing such access and keeping it 'live'), but include a few 'samples', so do not take the flow out of context as this would be unfair:

Complex problems require innovative solutions, writes John Whitmore

Since I last wrote about global warming, to the irritation of proud owners of 4x4 Silly Ugly Vehicles and other ego-mobiles, we have had a tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma and a huge earthquake.

We have also broken a number of planetary heat records and the icecaps are melting, yet some still bury their heads in the sand.

I recently read about the New Puritans, young people who are against all the unhealthy stuff: fashion, consumerism, brands, smoking, Esso fuel, binge drinking, pollution, junk food etc. 

Of course all movements have rogue or radical arms that we deplore, at least in public. In Paris, Les Dégonflés (The Deflated) are a band of guerrillas, or terrorists if you disapprove, who each night let the air out of the tyres of some 40 SUVs in the city. England's eco-terrorist is Sian Berry, who hands out fake parking tickets informing SUV owners of the error of their ways. If we can't save the world with common sense, let us do what we can with humour; if we are lucky, we might die laughing.

He referred to and linked to another, earlier, piece:

John Whitmore argues that we must change our motoring ways

I was going to write a light-hearted piece this month but the motoring magazine shelf at Heathrow airport persuaded me to tackle something more controversial.

I equipped myself for the first leg of a flight to Australia with three leading motoring titles, 

Such assets become uncomfortable or illegal at a brush of the accelerator, so why should they be of interest or relevance to ordinary motorists? Are the magazine journalists boy racers? Are their readers? Do ordinary motorists read such stuff?

When are we going to wake up to the full implications of environmental degradation? Will we continue to buy and drive greedy status symbols while waiting for the apocalypse? Will we continue to offer the pathetic platitude that "anything I do won't make a difference, so why bother?" 

That is why I support Ken Livingstone, fuel tax, road tolls, lower speed limits, enforcement cameras and traffic calming. I would even be happy to see a ban on cars of more than, say, 100bhp.

Here's my reply (sorry Anita):

"I recall a recent spat in the world of rock god luvvies, where I believe one didn't want to attend another's 'save the whatever' concert because the other hadn't attended his. It seemed to be a case of two rights making a wrong.

Hence I always feel a little circumspect when reading, much more commenting on, passionate views held regarding the behaviour of others, especially in an area of interest we obviously share.

But you have kindly invited a reply in the spirit of good-natured debate, so I thought I'd commit digit to keypad.

Whatever the cause(s), there is no doubt that something very nasty is brewing with our climate, and it's very unlikely that what 'we' are doing with 'our' many and varied manifestations of conspicuous consumption are doing much to help. Though I have to here express doubts that anything 'we' have or have not done, Hummer-wise, would have greatly influenced the Asian tsunami or Kashmir earthquake.

And much as I am concerned for my kids' future about what's going on, I also worry how easy it can be for certain views can take us in ‘unproductive’ directions; especially when these are often from those with greater access to the media, and hence end up predominating.

I wasn't quite sure, but there did seem to be a tacit admiration, and even passive support, on your part regarding certain censorious actions in support of various beliefs. It's easy to be against things. True skill lies in being for things, and promoting them in a positive way.

I live in the country, and I don't own an SUV. My lifestyle does not require it and my wallet would not sustain one. But I do know a few folk who do, with some justification.  If I were one of them, should I decide on a trip to some merry eco-prankster’s urban 'hood, I could easily laugh off a witty fake parking ticket. Perhaps I’d be less impressed by a deflated tyre or, not that it could ever happen, a key down the side.

So I just wonder if it possible to stray a tad into 'my cause is better than your cause' territory, especially when we throw around emotive words like 'selfish' to embolden those more single (simple?)-minded in their means of expression and desire to express.

It's just possible a planeload of these born-again enviro-types leaving behind a Prius-laden carpark may not be so impressed if Greenpeace chained themselves to the 747 about to whisk the family off to a week's skiing in the Rockies.

So I simply caution against any route that involves the pointing of fingers, as this inevitably ends up with fingers being pointed back. Hence valuable emotional resources are consumed defending turf, and egos, when we could better apply our efforts to working together in discovering proactive solutions.

I couldn't agree more that we need to effect change with good humour. But I would like to complement this less with accusations, and more in a constant search for incentive-based solutions designed to inspire folk to move in a 'better' (oh dear, who's to judge?) direction because they WANT to, by seeing the BENEFIT. 

I am not above what I call the odd 'eyebrow twitch' in my personal comment section of our own small attempt at making the difference. But it is usually directed at those in authority who have set themselves up to steer us on path of righteousness with fingers wagging. As a poor slob myself, I have a certain empathy with other poor slobs trying to do their best with what they have got to go on.

So I do try promote wherever possible avoiding the accusatory, guilt or, heaven forbid, 'fabbo fines first, sensible solutions second' paths. It tends to all get a bit ‘them 'n us’ for the humour route to be sustained for long.

I agree with so much of what you advocate, but simply offer the thought that that we do try to do it in ways that don't create competing camps, much as these do create healthy ratings. A plea I often make to the likes of Jeremy Clarkson (who has written some truly insightful, entertaining pieces of journalism on environmental issues and then spoiled them by ladling on the shock-jock bile to bait the pie-wielders). For all the good it does me."

Maybe he'll reply. Possibly he'll agree. At least once he and JC (can you imagine the 'mentalist baiter-in-chief resisting a comeback? have finished duking it out from their respective media bunkers. For the sake of the planet I do hope they may see some of the wisdom of my words.