This should be a vendor’s first rule when inviting 1,200 IT pros to a seminar about securing data and protecting personal information: Make sure you protect the personal information of the 1,200 professionals you’re trying to impress.

How did Verizon do in that regard last month? It failed miserably . . . and not just once. David Williams, technology coordinator for a Texas school district, alerted me to the situation because he had read my recent Buzzblog post — “Run-amok Verizon robo-caller torments 1,400 customers” — which recounted the nine phone calls in 24 hours that were received at my house last month.

“I had something similar occur today,” Williams wrote. “In a period of three hours I received 14 e-mails promoting Verizon’s ‘Secure the Information. Secure the Infrastructure’ webinar series, and three e-mails promoting their ‘2008 Data Breach Investigations Report Road Show.’ ”

The excessive volume of e-mail wasn’t the half of it, though.

“Considering their content [about data-breach seminars], I thought it very humorous that the TO: field of the e-mails contained over 1,200 e-mail addresses: 17 e-mails times 1,200 addresses equals more than 20,000 chances for leaks.”

Williams did more than merely chuckle, though, he tried to be helpful by forwarding to the Verizon sender a pair of online essays — “Sins of The Internet: Not Using Bcc,” and, “Use BCC field when addressing mass mail.”

Wrote the miscreant in reply: “I apologize for the inconvenience and lapse in judgment by not using the BCC field.” Contrition, however, failed to stem the flow of seminar invitations into Williams’ inbox.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” he wrote to the Verizon guy shortly thereafter. “I have received seven more duplicates after this response.”

Verizon again: “We [are] having issues with our [Microsoft] Exchange server, and I am working with our help desk to correct the problem. I apologize for the inconvenience.”

Verizon’s “Secure the Information” lecture series includes a segment called, “Are you prepared for data loss?”

I presume that’s where the company will be covering the art of the apology.

Comic xkcd betters the ‘Net . . . yet again

The influence of the Web comic xkcd apparently knows no bounds: It has now spawned a new and potentially game-changing feature on YouTube. In a recent xkcd strip, comic creator Randall Monroe suggested that YouTube users would leave better comments — or, more precisely, avoid leaving stupid ones — if they first heard their words read back to them out loud.

Recognizing a good idea when one is offered up for free, YouTube developers went ahead and built the feature. I tried it: Wrote on one video, “Man, this is lame,” pressed the “audio preview” button, heard a reasonably audible rendition of the phrase read back to me, thought better of my contribution, and hit delete.

And it’s not the first time xkcd has contributed to the betterment of the Internet.

About a year ago, researchers at the University of Southern California presented results from what they called the first full “Internet census” conducted in 25 years: 3 billion pings directed at 2.8 million Internet addresses. From my post about that effort:

“Presenting the census results graphically was a major challenge, one which researchers met through the help of a popular Web cartoon. . . . These addresses appear in the chart as a grid of squares, each square representing all the addresses beginning with the same first number. The map is arranged not in simple ascending numerical order, but instead in a looping pattern called a Hilbert curve, which keeps adjacent addresses physically near each other, and also makes it possible to zoom seamlessly in to show greater detail. The idea of using a Hilbert curve actually came from a web comic, xkcd.”

Has a comic strip creator ever won a Nobel Prize?

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