I spent Thursday catching-up with correspondence and all day Friday in Newham at an Employment Appeal Panel.\nThe latest copy of Local Government IT in Use magazine included Helen Olsen\u2019s article, "Get it Right First Time\u201d, which followed a survey of Councils who do not send \u201cbounce\u201d messages in response to misaddressed e-mails. This was prompted when Helen was frustrated when e-mails to my PA went unanswered because she got the address slightly wrong.\n\u201cThis made us here at LGITU start wondering if this was \u2018normal\u2019 operations for a local authority email system. And if so, what effect could that have on citizen service \u2013 most pertinently, in relation to National Indicator 14, \u2018reducing avoidable contact\u2019.\u201d\nHelen therefore surveyed all Local Authorities, sending slightly misaddressed e-mails, to see how they responded. Sixty-four, like Newham\u2019s, were not responded to. Newham has now changed its policy and sends bounce messages when misaddressed e-mails cannot be delivered, but the reason that it, and other Councils, previously did not is that nearly all such e-mails received are spam with randomly generated addresses. Responding to these e-mails validates the addresses and lets the Spammers know that they\u2019ve found valid targets.\nThe exercise convinced Newham that it should change its policy \u2013 organising for the benefit of its customers, rather than for administrative convenience, but that got me thinking about other ways in which we can make life difficult for customers. Among my pet hates are the frequent failures, in our industry, to organise services for access online rather than by \u201ctraditional\u201d means. Magazines, such as "Local Government IT in Use", typify this when they are produced as A4 landscape editions with print columns that mean you have to scroll up and down the page to read them. I, and I\u2019m sure many others, generally print them to read \u2013 but that\u2019s something we should clearly be avoiding in the names of efficiency and greenness. I asked Helen about this, and part of the answer was that people say it\u2019s not something they want. (I do, please.) Part of the answer was to do with the extra cost that would be involved.\nAnd there\u2019s the rub; very often service providers are faced with decisions about convenience versus cost \u2013 in local government terms, higher Council Taxes or better services? Newham analysed the e-mails it received in one week. The results are below. (I don\u2019t know what happened to Friday and Saturday. Presumably, the analysis was done on working days for the previous days.)\n\nThe first column in the table contains the total numbers of e-mail received. The second column contains those that are not immediately identified as Spam. The third is those that have invalid addresses, and the final column is the estimated number of those, following manual examination, that have invalid addresses, but are not deliberate spam.\nNewham is just implementing the latest version of Microsoft Exchange Server that has additional functionality to improve the detection of spam, including \u201cprobing\u201d spam, but prior to that the manual effort involved in dealing with incorrectly addressed e-mails was reckoned at one full time equivalent per day. So, does the extra cost merit the added customer convenience? I\u2019m still not totally convinced \u2013 I can request a \u201cread receipt\u201d if I want to know that my e-mail has got through, but there\u2019s nothing I can do about magazine articles that I find inconvenient to read online!\nIncidentally, Socitm also publishes material online in traditional formats. We have the same considerations of cost and customer requirements as Helen. I\u2019d be interested in your views!