Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

August 2003

It's not exactly spam, but ...

Like most folks with e-mail addresses, I have had to take a number of steps to filter out unwanted messages. Without too much difficulty, I now get relatively few subject-line promises to make me richer, slimmer or, uh, more alluring, shall we say. Nevertheless, I still get a fair number of forwarded-forwarded-forwarded jokes, inspirations, warnings and political sophistries from friends and neighbors who would be terribly hurt if I were to bar them from filling my mailboxes.

When I'm particularly busy, I just delete their forwarded messages without reading, but on more occasions than I should admit to, I read.

You should be proud of me that I don't forward even some of the best of the batches but if I ever do, I'll first strip off the headers (sometimes a multiple of the length of the copy). I mean, how many cashews would you eat if each were wrapped in a coconut shell?

When I reflect on how difficult it is for me to compose a few lines every month, it strikes me that a lot of someones somewhere are routinely starting digital avalanches every day. First, they search out a muse (probably on line). Then, they mash the keyboard around (or maybe just copy and paste). Finally, they launch their work to a network of friends, fans and whoever else might be in their electronic address books.

When I look at the address list on the forwarded-forwards I receive, it appears the average forward list is maybe 40 names. Typically, I recognize about half as mutual friends or family members of the forwarder. Sometimes, I can even guess who forwarded the thing to the forwarder. But generally speaking, there are usually 100 or more e-mail addresses in all the headers, which makes me wonder how far these nuggets roll downhill. This is an exercise any multilevel marketer could do in his head, but I'm forced to try pencil and paper.

Assuming that each forward is sent to 40 more names and that half of those forward it to 40 more each, I come up with some telephone numbers. So, probably 400 billion people have had a chance to read the one about the Chinese guy with two water pots, one sturdy and the other not. Though it was a short walk to and from the well, one pot (you guess which one) never made it home with a full load. Seems the leaky pot felt inferior and apologized to his owner, the water hauler. "Hey," (I paraphrase) "haven't you noticed all the wonderful flowers growing on your side of the path?" said the owner to the crackpot.

Enjoy the rest of the summer. Don't forget to stop and smell the roses.