Editorial: I’m Going to Disneyworld! Not!

"We’re caught in a firestorm of information; yet there’s barely enough knowledge to light a candle."

Mark McGwire’s going. He told us the day after he hit home run number 62. That’s unless Sammy Sosa passes him by the end of the season. I’m not going, and neither are you, unless we make reservations, well in advance, and pay for it like everyone else without e-mail. I’m talking Disneyworld.

As I kid was enthralled by the story of some wacky old lady who smuggled a giant rat home from Mexico, thinking it was a little lost dog. I was "grossed out" by the spider eggs found in BubbleYum bubble gum, and terrified of the Jersey Devil driving back from the shore through the pine barrens – it’s an East Coast thing.

As I "grew up" and entered the workforce I watched as people gathered thousands of tiny beer and soda can tabs in coffee mugs, buckets and waste baskets to eventually fill huge trash bags full of them. They were everywhere – in hallways, in HR offices and on desktops … one even had a label - "Tabs for Tangalia." Apparently people accepted that each tab would provide another 10 seconds of life to poor Tangalia or Timmy, in some nearby state, who was on a dialysis machine. And people did it. Why not? How else can you go home feeling morally superior for literally doing nothing more than drinking a Coke and putting some trash in a bag.

Well it seems the Great American Myth has gone hi-tech. No doubt most of you have received e-mails promising great rewards, such as free trips to Disneyland, cold hard cash from Bill Gates or guest appearances in movies. And all you had to do was forward the e-mail to as many, relatives, coworkers friends or enemies of which you could possibly think. (I’m curious about the others out there, so why don’t you send me some of your favorite e-legends.)

And like most myths, legends, hoaxes and other forms of cons, the message is full of people who swear they know someone who has a friend in a reputable position who can verify the information. However rarely does anyone check and when they do, well who wants to admit they were duped. For example, I received several copies of an e-mail saying Walt Disney Jr. Himself (is there even a W.D. Jr?) hanging with Bill Gates, needed me to help test software that tracks the addresses of forwarded e-mails. All I had to do was forward the e-mail, and the first 13,000 addresses tracked would receive a one-week, all expense paid vacation at Disneyland the summer of 1999. And the first 1,300 would receive an additional $5000 cash.

For the record we checked. You know what? Un-uh, no way, forget it. Disney’s response:

"The individuals who have initiated the chain letter you are referring to are in no way affiliated with The Walt Disney Company. We do not endorse or support any chain mail letter promotions."

But these chain mails do more than make us feel a little foolish. They invade our homes and offices, distract staff, waste bandwidth and choke system performance. They’re not even entertaining, like the Jersey Devil was, is. In fact, the e-myths are indicative of a much greater problem in the age of e-info, that being information inundation.

We’re caught in a firestorm of information; yet, we can’t find enough knowledge to light a candle.

Never before has the adage "you can’t believe everything you read," been more true. From Ken Starr’s Report to recipes for BBQ chicken, the Internet has transformed the "knowledge worker" into a "Information Sifter." Most corporate policies clearly define the use of the Net; however, it is up to the individual user to police him or herself and use this tool responsibly and productively. See you at Space Mountain.