Pulp and Paper Canada

Features Supplier News Technology
Updates Part Two


October 1, 2006
By Pulp & Paper Canada

Topics

Spam:

The latest blow to that maligned industry is the announced intention of AOL and Yahoo to institute a sort of ’email postage.’ Although this will not affect conventional users, it would charge bulk senders a small fee per message. Bulk emailers that paid the fee still have to agree that they would send email only to those accounts agreeing to receive it. If these conditions are met, then the email would go directly to the receiving account. Any email not meeting these conditions would be treated as third class bulk mail, which means it could be diverted to a junk mail folder and stripped of some components (links or images). The fees would only be charged to the bulk senders, not the recipients. Given the huge amount of Spam I receive, I am tempted to switch to such an account!

Spam itself has become more sophisticated. Previously some of it was sent by either small operators making tiny commissions on each generated sale; much was also sent by large operations, counting on the small percentage willing to click on an unfamiliar, but tantalizing, link. Now much more of it is sent by criminal organizations — it is cleverly crafted to look like legitimate email, but directs you to a look-alike site. Such sites are so similar to the targeted site (often banks) that the legitimate sites are using special forms of authentication to allow users to be sure they are really doing their banking, not giving their bank information to a criminal organization.

Advertisment

Blogs:

Another corporation joins the ranks of those using blogs and bloggers to promote their products and services. Not surprisingly, this is Wal-Mart — they have shown a propensity for using the latest in technology to improve and streamline their operations. However, although blogs are an increasing force in technology and media circles, fewer than 5% of Fortune 500 companies are using blogs. Companies directly involved in IT, such as IBM and Microsoft, have embraced blogging, but only a few outside of IT have. Most see it as a curiosity rather than a tool or a force in the media. Many companies carefully control their image in traditional media, but are unaware of the influence of blogs on the public’s perception of their brands and reputations. Marketing companies, such as BtoB Online are offering courses on using blogs in a business environment.

This form of media is still evolving, but is becoming more widely adopted by even the most traditional corporations. To see its influence, one only needs to look at the effect of a few blogs in China on the public perception of Yahoo, Microsoft and Google. The regulations regarding the ways in which these companies do business overseas are being moulded in response to the treatment of political bloggers, both by the companies and their own governments.

Travel Agents:

There have been further reports in the mainstream media on the greater efficiency and lower costs of travel agents versus web services. These reports confirmed the evaluation I had made, that travel agents are far better at getting you where you need to go, with less stress either in the booking or during the travel. And agents are far less likely to book you on an airline you have never heard of, with multiple stops between Toronto and Montreal — unlike web services.

Travel agencies are a professional service, providing expertise in their field, similar to many other such services. There are few major businesses that would consider it cost effective to have senior management doing their accounting, secretarial or IT support. However, many of these same managers spend an hour or two arranging their travel over the internet. Then, if a schedule changes or a trip goes wrong they are left scrambling to rework their own itineraries. The novelty of booking your own travel arrangements is wearing off — more companies are returning to the traditional model of using travel agents to book travel. The small fees are truly cheaper than even a junior employee’s time, and using a professional ensures both that the travel is booked correctly and you have resources to fall back on if you need help.

So these are some of the updates in previous column topics — nothing stands still, particularly in technology! In industry, we are sometimes accused of being behind the times in technology, but we know that it is important to be on top of the latest developments to ensure we are as efficient as possible. This is shown by the trends we see in our own workplaces — doing so much more with fewer people and less energy and at a lower cost. Watch this space as I continue to observe and report on the technology that we use, or will be using.

If you have anything to add to this article or would like to suggest another topic, please contact the author. Dan Davies is a freelance writer and can be reached at dan.davies@shaw.ca