E-bashers get it wrong

We’ve come across another one of those surveys that purports to show how modern communications devices — e-mail, voice mail, fax — actually get in the way of doing work. This one comes from Pitney Bowes, Gallup and the non-profit researchers at the Institute for the Future.

Among the findings were that U.S. workers receive an average of 200 e-mails per day and are interrupted by messages of one sort or another every…pardon me while I grab the phone…every 10 minutes.

Two points: First, that 200 figure is a crock. Granted, there are power users who get that many and more, but a lot of people talk about their e-mail burdens the same way 9-to-5ers whine about 10-hour workdays or Wilt Chamberlain boasts of the 20,000 notches in his bed post. (Do the math on that sometime.)

“A more meaningful metric” would be “meaningful e-mail,” suggests the always insightful John Gallant, Network World (US)‘s editorial director. Back out all the subscription newsletters, newsgroup chatter and assorted junk, and Gallant guesses that maybe 10 of his 150 daily e-mails fall into that “meaningful” category.

Even if I wasn’t such a suck-up, that would still sound about right.

Second point: If these means of communication are such a bother, why wouldn’t someone simply go without? When is the last time you heard of someone doing that?

IntraActive’s Bantu.com might be just another new Web site at which groups of people can congregate for business or pleasure, if not for the fact that Bantu offers users a choice of interfaces in English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Italian. (By the way, Net Buzz is reasonably fluent in all but the last five.)

Because almost all geek-speak originates in English and the phrases are generally understood worldwide, designers of the foreign-language Bantu interfaces often face a dilemma, according to Justin Fidler, chief technology officer at IntraActive. Should they stick to the intended audience’s native tongue or presume words such as “e-mail” belong to a universal language?

“For instance, in Italian, many people know and use the word ‘password’ for password, but there’s also a related Italian word: ‘parola chiave,'” Fidler says. “Same goes for French. Most know and expect the English word ‘log out,’ but there is also a French word ‘sortir,’ or exit.”

These are judgement calls that are generally left to the discretion of Bantu’s translators, he adds.

Net Buzz bows to no one when it comes to respect for Dr. C. Everett Koop, whose unshakable candour as U.S. surgeon general brought a dose of reality to an otherwise delusional Reagan administration.

Even so, you won’t catch this 40-something surfing to the good doc’s commercial Web site — drkoop.com — for free medical advice next time some body part starts flashing an error message. I prefer to get my grim diagnoses face-to-face from an appropriately expensive physician, not some searchable database or on-line support group.

However, it once again appears as though Net Buzz marches out of step with Internet stock investors. As you may have noticed, drkoop.com went public last month. And, while not exactly a barn burner by recent IPO standards, the first-day results were nothing to sneeze at: up 83 per cent to US$16.44 from an offer price of US$9.

Drkoop.com’s Securities and Exchange Commission filing makes no bones about the fact that the company’s foundation is built upon little more than the impeccable reputation of its bearded namesake. That may be a valuable asset, all right, but Dr. Koop was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Oct. 14, 1916, making the man 82 years old.

What happens to drkoop.com if drkoop.croaks?