Geography project

Anselm Lingnau

Message 19032 · 25 Oct 1999 20:17:29 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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[Several people have independently asked me to comment on the `geography
project' message. Remember that this is all IMHO, since I'm not the list's
moderator or censor -- I just try to keep the Strathspey wheels turning.
- A.]

This kind of project is very well-meant (and probably cooked up by
geography curriculum experts with no real knowledge of the Internet or
the geometric progression). Usually the school in question comes to
regret even having considered the idea within days of sending the
original message, as their e-mail `inbox' is flooded by thousands of --
similarly well-meaning -- replies, to the exclusion of any other use of
the connection. Also huge, important parts of the world aren't going to
show up on the resulting map, since many developing countries don't have
much in the way of Internet connectivity. Anyway it seems that somewhere
there is a list of interesting class projects for geography teachers
that says `54. Try to get people from all over the world to send e-mail
to your class and plot the result on a map'. That list (or that item, at
least) should be removed from circulation ASAP, and here's why:

It is fairly easy to get a message forwarded to almost anybody on the
Internet within, maybe, 5 or 6 iterations of forwarding. This is a
corollary to the well-known proposition that any two people in the world
have a chain of less than 10 or so mutual acquaintances between them
(think this through in a quiet moment). The forwarding takes around a
week at most, so for the rest of the two months that the project is
supposed to take the mail just goes around in circles. Furthermore, it
turns out that this kind of thing is almost impossible to kill off; the
message tells us that the project goes on until November 19th but many
people won't read that far or that closely and will continue flooding
that poor school with e-mail for months to come unless their e-mail
provider yanks their account first (which I'm told has already happened
in the case of this school) -- providers don't like chain letters as a
rule, and in fact chain letters are illegal in many places (such as
Germany, AFAIK).

Much as I hate to spoil those students' fun, I would like to ask every
subscriber not to use Strathspey to propagate chain letters. The same
goes for the ubiquitous `Don't open any e-mail message saying `ALFRED
E. NEWMAN IS REALLY ELVIS IN DISGUISE' or it will make terrible things
happen to your computer etc.' `virus' warnings, which usually turn out
to be hoaxes. A good place to find out whether that kind of thing is
actually for real is

http://urbanlegends.miningco.com/culture/beliefs/urbanlegends/

Anselm
--
Anselm Lingnau (Frankfurt, Germany), Strathspey SCD mailing list maintainer
xxxxxxxxxx-xxxxxxx@xx.xxxxxxxxxx.xxx-xxxxxxxxx.xx (`Subject: help' for info)
SCD stuff on WWW at http://www.tm.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de/strathspey/

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