Occasional comments about business and politics in Portland, Oregon, mixed in with stories from our city's colorful if not always compliant past.
"The more pity, that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly." -- Touchstone
Technology has, speaking metaphorically, made the bag an ineffective and obsolete device in which to capture an escaped cat. A senior manager at Bonneville Power Administration's Portland office learned this lesson this week after an anonymous employee sent an e-mail to her on Monday, with copies to dozens of managers and other employees at BPA. The e-mail, which the sender claimed to be sending on behalf of a group, "The Anonymous of HCM," complained that a particular manager was harassing and abusive toward other employees, and gave some examples.
The e-mail may have struck a nerve, because later that evening BPA went around to the computers of the people who had received it and deleted the e-mail -- not, however, before some of the recipients had passed the e-mail along to the outside world. Tuesday morning the manager to whom the e-mail was addressed sent out an e-mail response, quite professional and well-reasoned, giving other ways in which employees could bring personnel problems such as harassment and abusive conduct to the attention of BPA management, and asking the recipients to delete their copies of the original message.
Therein lies the problem: once the electronic cat is out of the bag, it can never again be corralled, and efforts to recapture the cat and give it the Schrodinger treatment only draw more attention (such as mine) to the escaped cat.
Who knew? In addition to its designations as Interstate 84, the Columbia River Highway, U.S. 30, and the Banfield Freeway, that freeway running through northeast Portland is also Quebec Route 366. Just ask Google Maps! Click the image for a full-size view.
Last week Willamette University spammed the mailboxes of hundreds of lawyers as it advertised an upcoming continuing legal education program. The announcement itself wasn't so bad; the problem was that Willamette sent to a mailing list it had created, leaving the listserv address in the "TO" field, so every lawyer who responded with "unsubscribe" or harsher words sent his or her message to the hundreds of other involuntary participants. These were followed up with several dozen admonitions not to hit "Reply to All," which also went to everyone on the list.
Willamette got the message. Here's what it sent to the lawyers on its list, this time by USPS and not e-mail. The other side of the card offers a $20 discount on the admission price to the event itself.
Willamette Law School sent out an e-mail today to a list that it had compiled, mostly of lawyers, to advertise a program of continuing education that it plans to present in December. Apparently most of the people on the list had no idea that they were on the list. Well over 100 of them sent back an "unsubscribe" message -- to the list. As lawyers' inboxes filled up this afternoon, the messages in response got more vituperative. Dozens of messages complained about people hitting "reply to all" and were in turn sent to the entire list. Mixed in with the angry messages were some laced with humor, in particular one from a Portland tax attorney (let's call him "Mr. K.") that started with "Every one of you who wrote 'me too,' or words to that effect, should hire a lawyer before ever hitting the 'Send' button again." Mr. K. pointed out that the lawyers who demanded to be removed from any and all lists (as some did) were making that demand not only on the hapless soul at Willamette who touched all this off, but also on everyone else who received the message. Some of those people, Mr. K. noted, might want to remain on some of those lists, as for example his list of lawyers to whom he refers work, and Santa's list of good little boys and girls. After Mr. K.'s bit of good humor, tempers seemed to subside, maybe because we're getting close to Christmas. I don't know that his message would have been as effective if this had happened in April.