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One Degree of Separation

‘One Degree of Separation’ is the Microsoft advertisement showing on the television in my living room. “What does that mean Daddy”, asks my daughter and I try and explain, with the help of my Compaq IPAQ.

“Once upon a time there was a man called Bill and he had a magic .Net….”

But her question led me to think of something else. An important subject, close to my heart, which readers tell me is important to them too.
I know that the good people at Microsoft pay attention to this column and so I’m going to ask you to pay particular attention to this request on the part of concerned Hotmail users everywhere.

Hotmail and MSN Messenger are an important part of my life, both inside and outside of work. With it, I can, sitting in my room at the Kuwait Sheraton, easily chat, to the people in my office or a friend in Vancouver. Web-based mail is a great tool as is Instant Messaging, whether it be Microsoft’s or anyone else’s but most of the people I know use Hotmail, so full marks to Microsoft for making it an indispensable part of the human experience.

But Hotmail has a problem. Not a security problem for once but an every growing spam problem. And yes, Microsoft has an anti-spam policy and filters and an ‘exclusion’ list option but this filled up over a year ago in my own case.

Most of my Hotmail is rubbish or filth or both and many of you tell me you have the same problem. It’s gradually getting worse and more explicit in its content. I can see that the spammers are using a name generation engine, so if your Hotmail address is Y$%Z@Hotmail.Com, then you may not be bothered that much but if you have a proper name or combination of surname and first name, then you’re fair game.

Microsoft, I have a family and a little girl and there is no way on earth that I’m going to let her near her own Hotmail address, until you use your considerable ingenuity to tighten-up your spam filter and add some kind of parental control mechanism that can automatically trash any incoming mail with the following words……!
No I won’t include them here but ask me and I’ll give you a list that would make a paratrooper blush.

The others of course are “Debt”, “Loan”, “Vacation”, “Mortgage”, “Won” “Viagra”, “Herbal”, “Congratulations”, and “Prize”. In fact if we all got together, I’m sure we could come up with a small volume to present to MSN.

A good 25% of the mail I receive each day is spam but the really unpleasant stuff invariably comes through Hotmail. Here’s an ideal opportunity for Microsoft, not to exercise censorship but demonstrate leadership and common sense before we all suffocate beneath a sinister tide that exploits our identities and threatens our sensibilities.
So Microsoft, are you going to help us resist or simply use the “Best Efforts” defense? I think you could do a great deal more and win friends by doing it.

So will you?

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