Readers get another turn

What does it say about the state of email that finding 850 messages in my in-box after a two-week vacation had me thankful the pile was so small?

It says my company's new spam filters are doing a good job. And it also says the definition of small has changed over the years.

What hasn't changed is the commitment here to letting Buzz readers see their own views in print, so let's shake out a few virtual envelopes:

My defense of a Supreme Court decision holding public libraries responsible for using filters to keep Internet smut from kids was not met kindly by a number of readers.

"No, the filters don't work," writes Joe Preston. "The best filters indiscriminately block Web pages that even you or your buddies on the Supreme Court would judge to be innocuous, and that is censorship. Even worse, it's government taking the responsibility for good judgment out of the hands of librarians, really the best people to judge what's appropriate for libraries, and putting it into the hands of software companies."

The trouble is that too many librarians have already proven themselves irresponsible on this matter, which a few readers recognised.

"Thanks for your piece on Internet filters," writes David Mash. "I'm one of those rare librarians who agrees with you!"

An item lamenting the apparent advent of Internet voting turned up this objection to the practice:

"Under the current system it is possible to buy someone's vote (as in I'll give you $5 to vote for me) but there is no way of knowing if they stay bought," writes Mike Kenworthy. "After all, the seller could still go into the voting booth and pick someone else and there would be no way of checking up on the purchase. However, introduce the Internet and it becomes, 'I'll give you $5 for your voting password.' Now the buyer is assured of getting the vote because the buyer casts it. Elections will be directly bought."

Another recent Buzzlet scoffed at an online survey in which three-quarters of the respondents claimed never to have used email to criticize a boss. Liars, I called 'em.

"I want to take issue with your conclusion regarding the poll," counters Mark Heider. "I don't think it takes a saint to refrain from writing critically about superiors via email. It only takes someone who understands the nature of email, and the Pandora's box it can open. Once you hit the send button, you lose control of that message and those who might see it."

A column bemoaning the unwillingness of 'Net users to pay for online content brought this explanation from a reluctant buyer.

"My fundamental problem with paying for online content is that it is inconvenient to store and refer to later," writes Paul Erling. "Providers would like to view information as only temporarily available, and as equally valuable as more permanent formats (CDs, magazines, books). It isn't anywhere near as valuable to me if I can't easily receive a copy to refer to later."

While most of you backed my rant about DARPA's short-lived, online anti-terrorism betting parlor - dubbed the Policy Analysis Market (PAM) - a handful did attempt to defend the idea.

"You do the program an injustice," writes Chad Cloman. "From a purely objective point of view, it had a good chance of accurately predicting potential terrorist activities. The primary objection was not the program's effectiveness; rather, it was the morbid nature of the endeavor. It failed because it offended the sensibilities of the American public."

He's wrong about the injustice but dead-on with the other points. PAM might well have paid intelligence dividends, and it did die - deservedly so - because it offended the sensibilities of virtually everyone. That's a good thing, not a bad one.

Fill 'er up. The address is buzz@nww.com.

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