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More conventional wisdom that wasn’t wise

Jan 09, 20064 mins
Enterprise Applications

Before we drift too deeply into the new year, let’s air out more of the e-mail received here during the last one.

A recent column about how the growth of e-commerce has unexpectedly increased the volume of mail-order catalogs sent to American homes included an invitation for you folks to offer other examples of the ‘Net turning conventional wisdom on its head. Among the replies:

“Initially, it was thought that online banking would sharply reduce the number of branches, and for a while banks (especially the larger regional and national banks) were closing them,” writes Andrew Rossetti, CTO at a small bank in Delaware. “In recent years, however, most banks have reversed that trend, and some have taken it to a new level with not only many new branches and plenty of tellers, but expanded hours and seven-day-a-week banking. I guess bank execs finally realized that a significant number of people still like to sit and talk to someone about loans and investments.”

Bookstores certainly were going to go the way of the buggy whip once book readers got comfortable ordering online, and while many a mom-and-pop store has indeed fallen prey to technology, the anticipated extinction hasn’t happened.

“Conventional wisdom would have predicted the demise of Barnes & Noble stores several years ago due to the ‘Net,” writes David Levitt. “The factors would have included or any online ordering replacing conventional store browsing, the proliferation of used books available online, and the Internet becoming an additional distraction from reading books. . . . I don’t have sales figures, but cruising the New Jersey highways does not indicate any demise or decline of B&N.”

Even the most fundamental presumptions about the Internet and business – you’ve got to have a Web site – remain open to question.

“In the early ’90s I went to a conference about the importance of a business having a Web site,” writes Stephen Nicely. “They predicted that if a business did not have a Web site in five to 10 years, it would be out of business. I work as the IT director for a vocational training school in Oklahoma. Our Web site has been up for several years. We did a survey three years ago, and then last October, to determine what percentage of the people who attend our college used our Web site. Three years ago it was only 1%. Last October it rose to only 2%.”

Interesting data, but who wants to test the notion that Web sites are optional?

And there was reader David Nemec, who, after pointing to the “paperless office” as a classic example of conventional wisdom gone unfulfilled, noted: “Now I have to go buy toner and paper.”

A column about MailFrontier’s “Phishing IQ Test” brought the predictable pleas of protest from those who received scores below what they believed to be fair, as well as a number of sober reflections on what the exercise really signifies.

“The main point is that it no longer matters whether a particular e-mail is phishing or not,” writes David Barker. “The fact that any e-mail could be phishing leads me to treat every e-mail as such. Therefore, I do not click on any e-mail links. Those ‘legitimate’ companies that request users to click through are encouraging an insecure method of using the Internet.”

Finally, a column critical of Google’s Print Library Project on copyright grounds drew this rebuke from reader Tim Meyer: “If the same approach had been taken with Web sites – you can’t index without express written consent – I suspect that Network World‘s site would see substantially less traffic, and we’d all be treating the Internet as a collection of BBSs.”

A clever analogy. But Google’s not merely indexing, it’s copying entire books and intends to turn a buck off searches against the resulting pile of stuff. I’m no lawyer, but that sure smells like copyright infringement.

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