Mail call . . .

Let's take a post-Labor Day dip into the mailbag.

No recent column generated more e-mail than my deconstruction of a claim by WeatherBug CTO Christopher Sloop that keeping his product out of the workplace amounts to callous disregard for human life, because it denies employees ready access to emergency alerts. Most responses were of the predictable I-just-don't-want-that-junk-on-my-network variety, but a handful of readers made note of WeatherBug's discriminating support practices.

"It looks like WeatherBug only cares about the lives of Windows-using employees since there is no version for Mac or Unix/Linux," writes Chris Lucht. "Maybe it's part of a bigger Microsoft plot to eliminate users of competing operating systems?"

Nothing like a good conspiracy theory, I always say.

Much like ants at a picnic, however, there were a few WeatherBug defenders.

"Perhaps you should get off your high horse and look at some of us who really rely on the weather to get our jobs done," writes Joanne Scott. "Mr. Sloop is absolutely correct in what he says about WeatherBug. Let's hope you never get caught in a storm while playing golf because you ignored the chirp on your computer as you were leaving your office to play a few holes."

(Which reminds me of golfer Lee Trevino's old line about warding off lightning during a thunderstorm by running down the course with a 1-iron held aloft: "Even God couldn't hit a 1-iron.")

Also drawing comment was a column about a Microsoft blogger who stirred up a tempest by using her company-sponsored soapbox to dump all over her co-workers.

"You're absolutely right on, and Gretchen Ledgard should have been fired," writes Chris Munger. "But in this touchy-feely age of political correctness, demanding professionalism from highly paid white-collar workers seems to be out of vogue, so she'll probably get a pass for that extremely ill-advised rant. Thanks for telling it like it is from an 'old school' perspective!"

Not everyone wanted to rap Ledgard's knuckles with a ruler, however.

"Honesty is not cheap. There may never be another truly honest entry made by Ms. Ledgard," laments John Russo. "You may criticize her, but at least she took the time to express her concerns. I must admit, however, that a public blog probably isn't the best place to express internal company problems."

My column applauding the U.S. Supreme Court for upholding copyright principles in the Grokster case also parenthetically ripped the robed ones for enabling robber barons with their eminent-domain decision. Reader Howard Stewart has an interesting take on the two cases.

"I would like to think that the Supreme Court ruled the way it did in the Grokster case because they used good common sense in interpreting the law," Stewart writes. "But then I realized that the only common consideration in both these cases was that the rulings were in favor of big business both times. One ruling seemed valid because it follows what we think of as common sense. The other seems bad because it goes against everything we believe in as individuals. However, if you look at it from big business' point of view, then both make sense. And what's good for big business must be good for America, right?"

Another column noted that anti-spam vendor Habeas has stopped using copyright haiku as part of its products, in part because it was easily forged, and, according to the company, "had become an indicator that an e-mail probably was spam."

One reader says there was no probably about it. "The haiku was always an indicator of spam," writes Rich Tietjens. "Licensees of Habeas were sending bulk e-mail, and Habeas did not require the industry-standard closed-loop opt-in before granting a license; thus it was impossible to be sure the e-mail was solicited. Therefore, we have always blocked any e-mail containing the Habeas haiku - with exactly zero false positives, ever."

Finally, a column about online opinion polls included this defense of them from a colleague: "People just like to click on buttons."

As proof of that contention, Mark Gloor offers up a link to The Original Pointless Click Counter - which has been dutifully recording the pointless clicks of apparently duty-free clickers since 2001. As of this writing, that's 7 million-plus clicks and counting.

Write first, then click. The address is buzz@nww.com.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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