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U.S. Post Office and E-mail 188

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the of-crap-we're-obsolete dept.
PenguinRadio writes "The Post Office, masters of innovation and cutting edge technology, are now moving into cyberspace in a big way. The Washington Post is reporting a new effort to move the snail mail carriers into the electronic age, with a number of new proposals including assigning an e-mail address to every physical address in the United States." I'm reminded of that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer discovers that the Post Office is obsolete.
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US Post Office and Email

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    So, they want an e-mail address for every location in the US. Why?

    I can already receive e-mail, in my home, at work, or even on vacation. But, we don't need these silly ISPs, when we can get our own e-mail "free" from the USPS. If you're too stupid to log on, they'll even print them out. Why? Cui bono?

    Simple: you charge the sender per message. Think of how much junk mail you get right now. Imagine how much cheaper it would be to produce online and send electronically. Multiply your present junk mail by a factor of 5 or so. Then charge 20-30 cents (as long as it's cheaper than regular paper mail!) per item sent. Now add up the additional revenue to the USPS. Paper not sent is miles not driven, gas not burned and carriers not paid. This is a substantial increase in revenue and decrease in overhead for the USPS.

    E-mail addresses tied to mailboxes guarantee advertisers an audience. resident@123mainst.gov. The market share is equal to the number of addresses (since people can have multiple individual e-mail addresses, tying it to a location prevents redundancy). The lower cost per message and lack of paper drops the overhead on advertising. The growing number of users means the USPS will have to print out only a few messages, tiny in comparison to the revenues the system would generate.

    What is it? A dedicated SPAM account, courtesy of the USPS. I think I like it. USPS gets more money, ad companies place more ads at lower cost, and I can toss it all into the trash without ever looking at it to see if it's a bill. Let's vote it in.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    For those of you who think that $0.33 is too much for first class mail, checkout the rates in other industrialized nations like Germany, France, UK, etc. For $0.33, you can send a letter from Bangor ME to American Samoa, and have it delivered in a couple of days... now thats service!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    1. Be doubleclick or some other banner add company.

    2. Spam everyone using the USPS email addresses.

    3. In the spam, include a 1x1 invisible gif with the USPS email address as an option.

    4. Record the association between doubleclick or other ID and the USPS address.

    5. Send real targeted paper mail to the suck^H^H^H^Hcustomers.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Snail mail is dead and gone for one reason and one reason only. The fully opensourced eCheese delivery system. It's long been held that the only reason for keeping such and archaic and proprietary system around was the convience of home-delivered Cheeses (believe it or not, there are STILL some people without thier own dairy!!!). All this has changed with the new eCheese system from Transmeta and LinuxOne. A small device resembling a toaster is hooked up via an unused USB port (in fact, there are those that believe USB was created for this reason and this reason alone), and is powered by Transmeta's new "insta-cheese" chip. The USB drivers and application software were written by LinuxOne, and have been in development since the get-go, while tossing out a red herring of a distribution in order to go public.

    How the device works is simple. You select the cheese from a list of 350 varieties currently supported by the OpenCheese network, and almost instantly your cheese is delivered to your eCheese unit over your existing internet connection. Because it is open source, you are free to write your own drivers for cheeses currently not supported, or even to invent your own cheeses. This shall be a great boon to cheese lovers and computer users the world over.

    With swift and open solutions such as eCheese, who would ever want to use the post office again? Oh, and I hear you can communicate with friends over an internet connection as well. But with cheese, who needs friends?

  • I thought of that. The problem is the hassle this involves for no apparent reason.
    Yes, people could notify all their friends, and unsubscribe from all their lists, but what is the point? And why take the chance that they might miss someone important?
  • This one does have possibilities...
    Unfortunately, it does promise to complicate things for the post office. Say 100 million people using the system. Everytime they move you have to add an address...
    Not an impossible database to keep (including multiple forwarding addresses, and multiple moves) but a depressingly complex system for no real purpose.
    Plus, I wouldn't count on US postal service actually managing to handle something like that.
    Hm. Let's say the average person moves 5 times in their life.
    100 million users, 500 million e-mail addresses with a significant amount of duplication.
    Ouch.
    Also, this doesn't take care of the problem of someone with the same name moving in at that address.
    No, the idea of adding physical address information to e-mail is a non-problem.
  • Surely all of you have friends/relatives/acquaintences who still don't have email (older relatives, for example). What would be really useful would be the ability to send an email to say 'hand_deliver@uspostoffice.gov' and have it ultimately be printed out and sent to the person via snail mail. The email would need to contain the person's snail mail address (obviously) and possibly some encrypted credit card information so that I can be billed for the service but I for one would certainly pay more than 33 cents for such a service. I think the ability to send snail mail with the ease that one sends email would be a very handy thing.
  • But not completely so. The postal service is not going to become a competitive force in the internet economy per se.

    But they could definitely enhance their value in what they already do. The idea of having the P.O. accept electronic documents and print them near their destination is cool. They could add electronic tracking to messages sent, or allow you to query the status of your P.O. box electronically. They could reduce stamp costs by supporting an e-cash like system for printing your own stamps, etc. There is definitely room for the postal service to improve themselves using the internet. Assigned e-mail addresses to every physical one is not, or course, one of them.
  • by Bwah (3970)
    Am I the only one who would buy one of those nifty new stamp printers _IF_ they didn't charge you extra? What a bunch of crap. I'm paying for the gear and saving them time/money, but they are charging me more ... and they want to boost it even further. Bah!

    dv
  • True, but you can't deny that people order things and ship them via USPS. Lots of people use priority mail. I've seen lots of e-commerce sites that offered the option of going with a private delivery company like UPS or going with the USPS.

    Mankind has always dreamed of destroying the sun.

  • I think I'd rather have my email sent to me, not to my house. I'm not sure why they'd choose to do it that way, except to reduce anonymity, and of course for targeted email marketing (AKA spam).

    The real benefit is that people without email addresses will get them (The homeless are still SOL)... assuming that they have computers or know how to use a public library, which surprisingly few people do.
  • I believe this is the logical conclusion of

    snail://USA/33709-4819/63Way/4331

    ... an address I've always wanted to write on an envelope to see if it got delivered. :-)

    (though no doubt the USPS will choose a different protocol identifier...)

    Cheers,
    -- jra
    -----
  • The USPS has been in the business of privacy and security a lot longer than most other corporations in the USA have existed. Even considering the fact that they have extensive "powers" granted to them - some of which might be even be considered unconstitutional - I think they have a better track record than most other companies.

    Let's just say that I'd rather trust the USPS with my secure documents than the typical ISP or, God help us, AOL or Microsoft...

  • Well, the obvious thing they'd do to pay for the free email portion is the same thing as all the other free email accounts, sell advertising space along with the messages.
  • I'd like to know what business the US Post Office has trying to compete with the private sector.

    Forgetting the fact that at least half of these ideas are completely hairbrained (printing email? Puhlease; and email is supposed to be discrete from physicality), USPS is getting Government backing for its work. UPS and FedEx are not and neither are any of the other smaller American courier companies that specialize in fast delivery. What right do they have to compete against the taxpaying managers of FedEx?

    The United States Post Office serves one task: to ensure that anyone can send a letter anywhere in the country for a reasonable fee. They've proven they can barely do that job (I don't get mail delivery when it snows hard or hails), and I am downright afraid of what they'll do to the email system if they jump into this fray.

    They should stay in the physical world where they've always been and, as email starts to push snail mail into the dustbin of history, fade out of existence willingly. The USPS is not chartered to pull a profit or compete in a free market.

  • The advantage of an e-mail address is that IT'S NOT TIED TO A STUPID PHYSICAL ADDRESS!. When I move, my e-mail address doesn't have to change. Are these geniuses suffering from a condition brought on by sitting on their brains or what?

    And if I move I suppose their idea of convenience is for me to have take an afternoon off from work to stand in line at the post office to fill out a change of e-mail address form?

  • My bet is that the smart fellow with the net has an unfortunate "accident" and the other nine men go back to fishing with spears.
  • Both UPS and FedEx have a few sorting stations throughout the country that ALL packages in that region go through, in this case the East. FedEx's main sorting complex, I believe, is in Memphis.

    So if I sent a FedEx package from Pittsburg to Philadelphia via FedEx, it would go through memphis first. Obviously they have figured out that it is more cost effective to do it this way than to have hundreds of small sorting stations.
  • Then, there's the fact that they'd be printing the e-mails out. Ummm - that means they'd also get to read them. The reason I use an envelope is to stop that. This seems a very retrograde step.

    the swedish post office tried this a couple of years ago. you paid them to get an email address and the post office printed your mail and snailmailed (or maybe faxed, i can't recall if that was an option) it to you.

    an interesting defect in their system was that their software couldn't handle @ signs anywhere in the messages, so in the printed copies of your email, email addresses would appear as foo(a)bar.com...

    needless to say, this service didn't catch on. it was cheaper to buy a modem and an account with an isp.

  • yeah, i was referring to the mug shot incident...
  • USPS factoids grabbed from a catalog that sells lists and stuff.

    130 million delivery addresses in the US

    38 million change of address per year

    3.4 billion pieces of mail delivered every week

    2.7 billion pounds of mail carried on commercial flights

    1.1 billion miles driven to move the mail annually

    24 pieces of mail for every household each week

    The USPS is the nation's larges civilian employer with more than 765,000 employees

    Handles 41% of the world's mail volume, 630 million pieces every day.


    can anyone out there convert these #'s into trees?

    --freq
  • Can they learn from it? The post office (and ups and fedex and etc...) do some nice things. Package delivery is one. Message delivery is another. (although I haven't sent a piece of actual mail in three years, but I have received several) What I would really like is for the post office to start to learn lessons from the net.

    I have an internet address. it is 209.116.217.40. It is also phoenix.hppc.com. If I change ISP's, my ip will change, but phoenix will not. We all take this for granted, and most of us know how DNS works, but it's pretty nifty nonetheless.

    I also have a postal address. If I move, it changes. I can do the whole change-of-address form, and tell people my new address, and so on, but in the end, chances are I'll lose some mail.

    Wouldn't it be nice if I just had a logical address that mapped to a physical one? If I move, I just contact the authority for my address, and let them know that my physical address has changed. My logical address continues to work. And even better, if I want to give someone my address so that they can send me mail, I don't have to let them know where I live.

    The USPS seems like a logical place to keep this database of logical to physical mappings. Does anyone else think this is a good idea?
  • > and if there is no internet access to a mailbox, they'll print it out and hand deliver it to the address"
    >
    > Now, let's see how many ways this is a bad idea...

    The post office _must_ charge someone for delivering printed email. I'm quite sure that the post office isn't a charity foundation.

    I don't think they can charge the receiver without his/her approval, so just disagree and they can't do much about it. (can they? I'm no legal expert)

    If the sender pays for sent mail, fine. Let the spammers pay. Sending 5 million emails $1 each is a nice retribution for the f***ers :-)

    Since I haven't seen SMTP support 'sending fees', I'd guess that the post office will use its own so-called email. Like a www-form you can fill your message (and credit card number) in. That can be more difficult to spam with.
  • The obvious extension of our current postal system would be a sender paid, by-the-piece price model. This would open up a new world of spamming, the crack spam. If you could crack a businesses email delivery system, send a million USPS.gov emails advertising your get rich quick scheme, and charge it to the business you cracked into, who is going to pay the $100,000+ charge you just racked up. Investigators would obviously know where to start looking, but if you were good enough at covering your tracks and kept your mouth shut, they wouldn't have any evidence and they couldn't do anything.

    Wouldn't they have to provide tech support for people trying to read their USPS emails? That's a LOT of stupid people asking a LOT of stupid questions.

    Basically, the system will cost in insane ammount of money to build, cause a ton of new headaches, and nobody with 4 brain cells is going to use it for anything important. That's not what I would classify as cost effective.

    -B
  • Nail an all weather line printer on everyone's gatepost. That way computer-phobes can read e-mail, and the post office can send a guy round every morning to fill it with paper :)
    +++++
  • Why should we subsidize the same US post office which undercuts competitors with the surplus it earns on first-class mail? (Remember, they're the only ones who can deliver it -- by law. That's a real monopoly.)

    are you aware, how expensive it is, to deliver mail to rural areas?
    in germany the firstclass monopoly mail fell just recently, and you know what happens?
    competitors pick the raisins out of the cake, and only do downtown first-class, which they can do very very cheaply. this cuts away from the earnings of the postoffice, and may end in the postoffice being forced to raise prices to deliver mail out to the countryside.

    this first-class mail monopoly, as bad as monopolies usually are, comes with a price:
    the price of being required to deliver anywhere!(*)

    greetings, eMBee.
    (*)can somebody confirm that this is actually true for the US?
    --

  • And, if you think the fee is unfair, tell me what exactly the USPS does for people who can't afford postage...

    i don't think the UPS fee is unfair, but i do think claiming 33 cents is expensive, is unfair.
    if you can't afford 33 cents, then you have other problems to worry about.

    greetings, martin.
    --

  • It's not a really stupid idea if done to include the name of the person:

    john.doe.123main.9digitzip@usps.gov

    This then opens up mail forwarding when you move. You could keep receiving mail even if you move and change isps and not worry about lost mail. (hopefully)

    Now, anytime I change isps, I have to notify everyone, unsubscribe from lists and resubscribe with the new address. Wouldn't it be easier to just notify one place and have it forwarded to you new address. change notifications could be sent back and automatically processed by other sites to use the new address.

    --jeff
  • This could be good, but watch the implementation very closely.
    The Postal Service has a mandate to provide "universal service" to Americans, regardless of where they live. If the ability to receive e-mail is to be a "right", then the US Postal Service seems to be the best choice. This seems to be a case where a natural monopoly has desirable characteristics. "Universal service" means they have to serve the boondocks and can't just pick the highly profitable routes.
    With the problems with domain registries, would the Post Office be a better choice?
  • Nope, the congressional offices must pay the post office to send the mail. There is no such thing as free mail anymore. Of course, Congress writes it into their bills that the taxpayers will pay for Congress' mail, but it is not free, the Post Office gets paid for every piece of mail it delivers.

    Don
  • That's an urban legend.

    http://www.urbanlegends.com/ulz/xema iltax.html [urbanlegends.com]

    Don
  • Remember that the tax money you pay goes in part to susbsidize the Postal Office.

    There is no subsidy, since 1983, by law the Post Office must be self supporting. They can borrow money from the government, but they must pay it back. Even the government and military must now pay for their postage. Most likely what you saw was the payment by the government to the Post Office for the costs of all government mailings for the year.

    Don
  • An email address for every physical address is not really do-able. It would be a pain, and, as has been stated, would lead to unheard-of amounts of spam. Which would mean the expenses for bandwidth that people would only complain about.

    There are definately some issues here, but it is doable. In Australia, every postal address has a unique identifier. It wouldn't be that hard to translate it to an email address, like say n537_smith_st@north.perth.mail.gov.au
  • Legal documents, bank statements, bills, etc. would not only be before the prying eyes of the USPS, but untrusted nodes along the route between your computer and the USPS mail servers.

    Let's not forget that while when we participate in e-commerce and do online banking, we're usually operating over an encrypted layer.

    If the USPS is to take this idea seriously, they would have to encourage and provide support for encrypted POP3/IMAP and SMTP connections. Otherwise, all of your mail is at the hands of the 17-year old hacker-wannabe kids who tend to work at ISPs nowadays.

    If this idea were taken seriously, it could encourage a more secure Internet. It could also expose your sensitive mail to people who really shouldn't be reading it.
  • A person will drive to your house, pick up the letter, take it to the airport, fly it to anywhere in north america, and drive it to the recipients house. For 33 cents.

    Wow, the US is expanding its borders ... "anywhere in the 50 US states" ... those retrograde louts at the USPS still recognize Canada (and, depending on your view of what constitutes "North" America, Mexico) as international destinations and charges higher postage accordingly =)

    Hadda mention this, though your basic point is, of course, quite sound. The Post Office does an amazing job most of the time.

  • You just described what MCI Mail did around 1983. For $2 (IIRC), you could compose a message electronically and have it delivered via the good old USPS to any U.S. address. I actually held an account on this service long enough to try it out--they laser printed the letter (a big deal back then)!
  • Unfortunately while I think you are correct that email will eventually gain more and more importance, I think you are forgetting one fairly large group of Americans. That is, those who don't have $1000 for a computer plus $20-$30 a month for internet access. How, precisely, do you think we will ensure that they can send and receive mail in the 'new world' that you speak of? Will the government pay to get them all computers? Or will they just drop completely under the radar, forgotten since they can't compete in the new world?

    --John
  • If you move, does the E-mail address go with you, or does it stay with the physical location? Then someone else would get your E-mail and v-v.
    Of course, you could send in that Change-of-address card, and they'll have to figure out which E-mail to forward and which not.
  • This is because UPS and FedEx are prevented by law from offering a simple letter-delivery service. They may only offer parcel delivery and "special", more expensive, letter-delivery services (next-day, express, etc). The USPO has a government-granted monopoly on ordinary-letter delivery, which is the only reason it still exists. (The only reason why anyone is ever impressed with the whole "They'll deliver a letter for $0.25...$0.30...$0.33 cents anywhere in the country!" thing is that no one seems aware of that fact. Great free propaganda.)

    And now the Post Office wants to get into email. Can you say "dying government entity looking for a new lease on life?"

  • Gee. The post office is the only entity legally allowed to convey a one-ounce letter over the course of 3 or 4 days. Every other would-be mail carrier must offer this as an "next-day" or even "same-day" service. And, guess what, everyone else's service is inherently more expensive (compare the costs of physically conveying something any distance in one day or less versus three-or-four!).

    Of course, because of that, they're evil bad private companies who can't do half the job of the shining government monopoly. Probably even better propaganda than the War on the Constitu-, oops, sorry, War on Drugs campaign.

  • When was the last time you heard about any government agency calling large scale attention to the fact that it needs to update itself for the times and serve its paying public better than ever, with new functionality and features?

    The last time I heard about a government agency that wanted more revenue.

  • An arm of the US government using encryption to protect the privacy of the communications of ordinary citizens? Not on this planet, bub.

    More like, "gee, now we can grep the post office".

  • I can send a one ounce letter 3-day fedex any time, so what the heck are you talking about? I believe it's called "economy 3 day" delivery or such.

    I'm talking about the Private Express Statutes. No private entity in the United States may deliver a package for less than $3 or a letter for less than twice the cost of the United States Postal Service's price.

    UPS offers a "Three Day Select" service, but skirts this law by requiring a minimum billing weight of one pound. FedEx offers the "Express Saver" service, which is three days. For a letter envelope weighing one ounce, FedEx in fact charges the legal minimum amount; UPS charges more. Of course, I did select "own packaging" when I priced it at UPS, so that might have raised the price. I'm on a slow link, so I don't want to retry. (Low Bandwidth Mode Slashdot all the way!)

    All I said was that they'd like to have their cake (profits from easy deliveries) and eat it to (not have to deliver to or from less profitable areas)

    I've never heard of a location UPS or FedEx wouldn't come to for package pickup. You just have to pay the fee. And yet, a lot of people in this country, mythology aside, do not get home delivery or pickup from the post office. If you do in fact live in Nowhere, AR, you'll probably have to drive to a dropoff box or the post office to send something or pick up a letter. As for dropoff, if the sender pays for it, UPS and FedEx will go virtually anywhere in the world and and hand-deliver it. The PO tends to leave yellow notes that ask you to drive to the nearest PO and pick up your package...during regular business hours, naturally.

    Show me a plan that fedex has to deliver the mail even if they go bankrupt and I'll support letting them do first-class mail.

    Well, aside from the insurance you can get on any package you send by FedEx or UPS, if either goes backrupt, you could go to court to recover your property. I'm willing to admit that there'd be complications if either (incredibly successful in the real-world) company went under, though we'd actually have warning in the real world and be able to avoid a foundering mail carrier. I'd like to see a plan that forced the USPS to deliver its packages as reliably and with as few losses as UPS and FedEx, and with a money-back guarantee if it's as much as a minute later than the quoted time of delivery.

    Here's a good analysis [cato.org] of some of the flaws of the USPS.

  • This is just such a bizarre claim. I used to live a fair ways out in the country and I'd see UPS trucks drive regularly around the area for deliveries. Pay the fees, and they'll pick up and drop off almost anywhere - without a legal mandate.

    And, if you think the fee is unfair, tell me what exactly the USPS does for people who can't afford postage...

  • 3) Begin closing the legacy Post Offices around the country and opening these Post Offices in strip shopping malls with lots of parking.
    So I take it you have been to the 24 hour post office at the Minneapolis/St. paul international airport? Parking there is hurrendous(look out for the swarm of Semis), and no matter how late you go there, it always has a long line of customers. Plus, the place wouldn't let me use my debit card since I put "SEE ID" on the signature part, so they made me write a check. Uh, okay. The place needs to be revitalized. Yet I go there for all my postal needs since its 24 hours, since the post office closer to me(with awful parking conditions too) has inconvenient horus, and the place looks like it hasn't changed since 1962.
  • Given enough government backing, many of these ideas could succeed.

    We need to keep the almost 800,000 postal workers employeed or this could have major repurcusions in the economy.
  • I believe there is a certain security issue with this. I remember in days of old, certain stores acted as a local post office, but robbing such a place could also be considered a federal offence.
    I am under the impression that post offices today are isolated, partially to prevent it from being a direct target of crime( as would be the case in a grocery store ).

    I'm sure it's possible to reside in a mall, but I get the feeling that there's a good reason to not.
    -Michael
  • I remember reading something about this on Slashdot a few years back. US Postal were complaining that the flow of snail mail was down, because of email and that they were taking some actions to prevent it.
    Looks like their descions aren't made much faster then they deliver the mail. *grin*
    Seriously, though, not everyone has a computer. I knwo it is strange in this day and age. But there are still alot of people who are not interested in learning how to use one of these things, let alone even purchasing one for that new email system. Maybe when the generation gets replaced, things might be different. Only time will tell.

    I'm reminded of that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer discovers that the Post Office is obsolete
    Actually he just got miffed at the post office because they kept sending him crap through the mail, and when he tried to send it back, they sent him more. So he eventually tried to cancel his mail altogether, and then Neman nearly had a heart attack like he was losing a most valuable customer.
  • Well, with the USPS wanting to have an email address for every postal one, and offering to print out and stuff your email into an envelope (for those who don't have a computer), it brings back a question that's been preying on my mind for a while, namely:

    What exactly is the relationship between the USPS and the United States government? Not to start some sort of conspiracy theory or anything, but this raises some serious privacy issues.

    Any comments?
  • I don't think so. What would really happen is that all those 10 men would all use nets and the village would catch 100 fish per day. For a while they would be rich from exporting the surplus, but eventually they would deplete the fishing stock and then the village runs out of fish.
  • This would open up a new world of spamming, the crack spam. If you could crack a businesses email delivery system, send a million USPS.gov emails advertising your get rich quick scheme, and charge it to the business you cracked into, who is going to pay the $100,000+ charge you just racked up. Investigators would obviously know where to start looking, but if you were good enough at covering your tracks and kept your mouth shut, they wouldn't have any evidence and they couldn't do anything.
    It wouldn't happen. The legal controls on the USPS are pretty stiff. What good would advertising a get-rich-quick-scheme be if you couldn't tell people how to contact you or something related to you? Then it wouldn't be hard to track you down.

    The punishment for sending mail like this wouldn't be $50 an email or anything like the current anti-spam laws. You'd be tampering with the USPS, which has specific laws covering it, and you'd almost certainly go to jail.

    Even sending fraudulent mail with the USPS is specifically covered in laws, so even without cracking the system, simply sending pyramid-scheme mail is illegal, and those laws are enforced.

  • Here's a Linux Journal article [linuxjournal.com] about the post office and optical character recognition.
  • (*)can somebody confirm that this is actually true for the US?

    Yes the USPS has to deliver first class letters to every postal address in the US for the same price, which may not neccessarily mean home delivery in rural areas where people may live a mile or so from their mailbox (I'm not sure the limit).
    --
  • Isn't linking your e-mail address to a physical location a really, really, stupid idea?
    Doesn't this mean that every time you move you have to update your address? What about the person who gets yours? Do they promise not to read the mail? What about passwords?
    The great thing about e-mail is that so long as your account exists, you can be anywhere in the world. I even have one of my more stable addresses printed on checks instead of a phone number.
    The Post Office should just face up to it's obsolescence and move on. Some restructuring to specialize in efficient parcel delivery might work, but they would be competing with more trustworthy companies like UPS and FedEx there.
  • Since several years ago, the Spanish post have been providing the Burofax service. You can send a fax from the Post Office and if the receiver can't receive it, the Post Office will print and deliver it. You can get receipt confirmation.
    --
  • Can you substantiate this claim that first class mail subsidizes bulk mail? I've been told by several different people at different times that it's exactly the opposite. Bulk mail arrives at the post office pre-sorted and even at low rates the total payment for a bulk mailing is significant. First class mail is intermittent and usually has hand written addresses rather than bar codes which makes it more expensive to process.

    Prior to junk mail, I used to only receive mail once or twice a week. Now I get something every day. Economies of scale are important in any business. I don't think the post office could maintain its infrastructure based only on first class mail.
  • Maraist dun said:

    I believe there is a certain security issue with this. I remember in days of old, certain stores acted as a local post office, but robbing such a place could also be considered a federal offence. I am under the impression that post offices today are isolated, partially to prevent it from being a direct target of crime( as would be the case in a grocery store ). I'm sure it's possible to reside in a mall, but I get the feeling that there's a good reason to not.

    Kentucky must be simultaneously advanced AND in the past, then. :)

    Where I live in Louisville, they actually DO have a post office in a strip mall; I've seen other post offices in strip malls around here, too, though not quite the size of a grocery store around here.

    Conversely, until around six months ago there was a grocery store where I used to live in Louisville (specifically Melton's, which was a meat-market/grocery chain which is now sadly defunct except for one store) that had a post office inside (no PO boxes, but they did sell stamps and one could get registered mail services, etc. through them--it was considered a branch office of the main branch office in Okolona). Also, I've seen post offices in "hypermart" type stores, such as Meijer's and Wal-Mart Supercenters, both here in Louisville and (at least for Wal-Mart Supercenters) in Sevierville, TN.

    As for why they typically don't go to strip malls--I would guesstimate one reason is (due to parking needs for USPS vehicles, sorting, etc.) because it is actually cheaper in some areas to buy a piece of land and build a building than to attempt to get frontage space in a strip-mall. (Most of the strip-mall post offices I've seen are either where the post office was one of the first tenants, or where a strip-mall is so impoverished that about the only places that WILL rent it out are ethnic food supermarkets, bingo halls, Big Lots (odd-lots "salvage" store), smaller salvage stores, and the USPS.) This is especially true in areas where there are a lot of stores and limited space--most companies will hire out to an established company that is working for profit rather than to the USPS. :P

    As a minor aside--I can't speak for other areas of the US, but among three of the major shopping areas in Louisville (along Hurstbourne Lane, along Outer Loop by the Jefferson Mall, and along Shelbyville (?) Road by two large malls, Mall St. Matthews and Oxmoor) there are literally SO many shopping centers along the sides of the roads that in truth the roads can be considered extended strip-malls. In all three of these areas it's literally gotten so bad that movement in traffic is next to impossible starting around a month before Christmas...it is just a bit surreal to see nothing but strip-malls and "real" malls for over a mile or two in most of these areas (and n the case of Hurstbourne, a good five miles--and Hurstbourne Lane is widely regarded as having the worst rush-hour traffic in Louisville, hands down (even though it's a four-lane highway...so many strip malls have built around it that it is impossible to expand the road any further :P).

    And people wonder why I hate suburban sprawl :P

  • Let's see...something like 75% of the US population is *not* on the Net, some people *like* things like cards, and letters, and then, of course, it's sorta hard to squeeze jars of jam, or canned hams, or sweaters, or ...even books, like userfriendly, over the wires of the net.

    No, guys, information is not quite everything. It's what you *do* with it, which, at some point, comes back to the physical world. If FedUps, and the other delivery services aren't obsolete, then neither is the Post Office.

    mark
  • For the deliver of anything other than actual physical objects or documents with 'real world' signatures, snail mail is obselete. Eventually once a good digital signature standard is worked out and legally recognized only parcel post will survive. I see no reason anyone will be sending actual 'letters' in twenty year's time.

    There are those few old-timers that claim 'nothing is better than a real letter' - I've got news for you, the upcoming adult generation has teethed on email and holds no such warm fuzzies for the printed word.

    The Post Office's days are numbered. When it comes down to delivering pure information there are myriads of companies that are in a better position to do it faster, better, and cheaper than the Post Office.

    About the only thing that could allow the Post Office to survive is for it to morph into a FedEx/UPS parcel delivery competitor. In this way it could leverage it's huge, already established physical distribution network.

    The next big 'public service' to fall prey to technology will be the Library. Imagine, a world without libraries and the US Postal service. What will civil servants do?

    -josh

  • There are plenty of people that cannot afford a computer or internet access who can afford a cell phone or pager.

    There are already email pagers, and they will get better and cheaper. It will not in the future(and does not now) require a $1000 computer to get email.

    There are any number of devices in the works that would allow very low income individuals to cheaply send and receive email. Maybe the US government needs to be subsidizing these rather than an obselete, bureaucratic paper pusher. Ultimately it has to be cheaper overall to deliver text messages (or letters) electronically.

    -josh
  • For 33 cents, you can put a letter in a box out in front of your house. A person will drive to your house, pick up the letter, take it to the airport, fly it to anywhere in north america, and drive it to the recipients house. For 33 cents.

    Actually, it's more like: A person will drive to your house, pick up the letter, stick it in a big sorting machine, put it on a series of trucks (unless it's Priority or Express mail or going to Alaska/Hawaii or it just happens to end up on a plane), and drive it to somewhere near the recipient's house, for 33 cents if and only if it weighs less than an ounce.

    I say "somewhere near" because at least 25% of the time I receive mail for one of my neighbors.

    OTOH, UPS has this annoying habit of shipping ground packages from Memphis to Oxford, Mississippi via Philadelphia (yes, the one in Pennsylvania), on an apparently-regular basis. FedEx seems to actually know it's ass from a hole in the ground, but you pay through the nose for it. Maybe RPS (now FedEx Ground) can extend their cluefulness into ground package delivery.

    But, to get back on target, isn't anyone else concerned about the privacy implications of giving out your snail-mail address on the internet? Unless your address is going to be mangled by a one-way hash function (whcih seems to defeat the purpose), I'd be leery about associating my physical address with an email.
  • I guess I forgot to mention that UPS has a major sorting station in Memphis (Oakhaven Hub; you'll see it if you ever track stuff from Buy.com, since one of their main warehouses is just north of Memphis).

    That, and Oxford is about 60 miles from Memphis.

    About 3/4 of my packages via UPS arrive before I even know they've been shipped (Buy.com seems to wait several days before figuring out that things have been shipped). The other 1/4 seem to go on a long sojourn first.
  • What exactly is the relationship between the USPS and the United States government? Not to start some sort of conspiracy
    theory or anything, but this raises some serious privacy issues


    The USPS is a private-public corporation, mandated by the government to deliver the mail. They're supposed to turn a profit (and do) but if they can't they still have to deliver the mail (unlike fedex and UPS who are allowed to say "screw you", burn all your packages, and declare bankruptcy).

    As a government agency, they have all governmental restrictions on them that any other agency does -- meaning its probably less likely your privacy will be violated by the USPS (which has to declare damn near everything publicly and ask your permission) than by a private company that is entitled to do whatever they want with your information behind closed doors.
  • The post office is the only entity legally allowed to convey a one-ounce letter over the course of 3 or 4 days

    I can send a one ounce letter 3-day fedex any time, so what the heck are you talking about? I believe it's called "economy 3 day" delivery or such.

    Of course, because of that, they're evil bad private companies who can't do half the job of the shining government monopoly

    You're the only one saying they're evil. All I said was that they'd like to have their cake (profits from easy deliveries) and eat it to (not have to deliver to or from less profitable areas). Show me a plan that fedex has to deliver the mail even if they go bankrupt and I'll support letting them do first-class mail. Show me the commitment fedex has to do daily pickup and delivery in nowhere, arkansas, and I'll support them. Until such time I suppose they'll have to be happy making gobs of money the way they are now...
  • Duh! Fedex would love to be able to take a letter from you for $0.25 and deliver it the next day. But they can't, because that
    would be illegal. Read up on the history of the Post Office sometime, and how they got the government to ban cheaper
    competition.


    Perhaps you should do the same -- the problem is that the USPS is required by law to deliver mail, from anywhere to anywhere. Fedex and UPS (and other, earlier competitors) don't want to HAVE to deliver mail. They want to deliver mail where it's profitable and not deliver it where it isn't profitable for them. Good deal for the stockholders, bad deal for citizens of the country who are left without mail service.

    And then you could explain just why postage *should* be the same regardless of distance? Why shouldn't I pay less for a letter
    which is only going ten miles to a letter which is going a thousand miles?


    I never even addressed variable rates in my first response -- simply stated that fedex charges 30 times what the post office does. The fact that fedex will charge you a hundred times that rate for a delivery further away simply proves what a good job the USPS does.

    However, I believe that -- like flat-rate calling plans and unlimited internet access -- it's simply easier to deal with a single price for all domestic mail (keeping in mind you can pay less for 2nd or third class mail, or for postcards, or pay more for international, so it isn't quite as "flat rate" as it seems). For the volume of mail the USPS handles it's just a headache they don't need to have to deal with calculating rates on a case-by-case basis (keeping in mind they were handling fedex's volume of mail manually in the 1800s and currently process an order of magnitude more than fedex or UPS does).

    I'm personally quite glad I can just buy a roll of stamps and know that my letter will get there without having to write my credit-card number on the letter (ala fedex/ups) or wait in line for a person to tell me what it'll cost. Stick on a stamp, drop it in the mailbox.
  • Wow, the US is expanding its borders ... "anywhere in the 50 US states" ... those retrograde louts at the USPS still recognize
    Canada (and, depending on your view of what constitutes "North" America, Mexico) as international destinations and charges
    higher postage accordingly =)


    Really! I thought they did include Mexico/Canada as non-international destinations. Now I'm bummed...
  • Why? Because it could make many forms of spamming fall under the jurisdiction of the Postal Inspectors...

    Just think, every annoying type of spam from MLM to "lose weight fats...." that are fraudulent would be investigated by the post office!

    Sign me up!!!!!!

  • Hey man, how much do musical cards cost in the store? What $3 minimum? Ok, now take that and multiply it by the number of relatives and friends that a person sends an E card to (for free), lets go with 20. At three bucks a pop, the cards in themselves are $60. Tack on the postage and the cost of an envelope and you have $7 more. ($0.32 for the stamp and $0.03 for the envelope). Now that's $67 spent plus 3 days of wait. Sending an E card that plays music and is animated (Still dont have animated paper) costs nothing, and gets there within minutes. Best of all, its FREE!!!

    There is still one thing that will keep the post office in business though. Pictures. Ever try to send a picture to someone who uses AOL? (Personally I hate AOL, but millions of people out there still use it) I have, three times, it's a bitch. AOL doesn't like pictues as email attachments. The last time I finally gave up, went and got a free geoshitties account, coded the page and uploaded the pictures for my friend to see. A lot of work? Yes. Could most users figure out how to do it? No. Would a normal person just give up and mail the pictues with an actual hand written (or printer printed) letter? Yes. Does that keep the post office happy? Yep.

    Plus what about shipping packages? Are you going to scan my mail order items and send them to me? My printer doesn't print large enough paper for me to wear dammit!

    Just my two cents and the other three because I dont like pennys. :P
  • Umm, because Canada isn't part of the US... meaning its highly unlikly that the USPS will be handling the mail past the border. Meaning the USPS has to pay Canada to handle it. That payment comes out of your postage. DUH
  • 1 - Government is slow, realy slow. They will have a very hard time adapting to these changes for several reasons - most are outlined in the article.

    Accually the USPS isn't a governmental entity. They have monopoly protection, like many utility industries had in the past. But they are privatized now. Accually I think they are virtually a non-profit orginization. The US government doesn't give them any money, and they are only allowed to charge for stamps to cover the cost of operation. (Now that doesn't mean part of the cost of operation isn't in paying the management a lot of money)

  • It applies to US Congressmen and Senators who can keep in touch with their constituents without paying postage. There was, maybe still is, reduced postage rates for sending newspapers and such.
  • You forgot two important ones:


    5. E-mail requires a computer!
    This should be pretty obvious, but one of the real advantages of paper in general is that it's portable, consumes no power (heck, it's even a power *source*!), requires little in the way of special care to preserve the data it's carrying, and doesn't tie you to a box on a desktop or a $illy laptop with a ridiculously short battery life.

    (Believe it or not, there are documented cases of paper documents sucessfully retaining their data for dozens of centuries or more!)

    6. Magazines!
    The "killer app" for Postal Services worldwide. It will be a very, very long time before we can electronically represent the visual and pixel density richness of a simple good-quality magazine. Oh, and then there's the unparalleled browsability of magazines, something that our programs called "browsers" are notoriously poor at...

    The more I use E-mail, the more I HATE IT - but not as much as I'm beginning to hate people who say we should do everything "electronically"!

  • by maraist (68387)
    Just through I'd give my opinion on the matter after reading as much as I could get my hands on.

    Pros:
    Allows me to communicate with my grandparents, or any known non-techno savy people.
    Allows me to contact relatives I don't know the email of, or to people I haven't contacted in years and can not be sure of their email address( and don't feel like making a phone call ).
    What I find interesting is that the USPS is probably in a better situation to do this than commerical companies, since they already have access to the address of every man-woman and child, so to speak.

    Cons:
    If not done properly, it can lead to spam, unwanted charges, or wasted use of paper. It is essential that they do it right the first time.
    Even worse would be the exploits that we ( or their committee ) don't think of.
    You now have a new form of a publicly viewable Social Security Number. It's only a matter of time before companies REQUIRE your private / personal email address for services.. Simple string parsing would validate the request. Now, just like the Pentium III Serial ID, or your social, malicious companies could exploit known shared info. Possibly credit history would be attached, medical records, etc. In fact, all SSN info could be mirrored by your USPS ID. Heck, some sites would probably try and link SSN to USPS ID. The solution to this, I believe is to not allow a per-person email address, even though this doesn't fully eliminate the problem ( now we just track house-holds, instead of individuals.. But it's a house-hold that buys a product, so it's still valuable info ).
    Additionally, since USPS is federally subsidized, any significant innefficiencies are partially passed along to the people. It is important that this not become a huge multi-million/billion dollar flop which requires federal bailout. Thankfully I doubt the system would allow a perpetually innefficient system to exist.

    Proposals:
    Optionally allow mail forwarding to existing address. Their site would simply provide a consistent address. This minimizes their cost, since they wouldn't have to store the mail long term if we didn't regularly log in. Also doesn't require us to have yet another email account to check daily / weekly.
    As with USPS mail, the sender is billed. This alleviates much junk mail / spam. The downside to this is in auto-reply email, where a person registers with a web site, then puts their USPS-email address which for some reason is mapped for printout. Now my poor free web site is being charged for many "potential customers". Additionally, it provides for a seriously expensive DOS attack. You now have the ability to rake up millions of dollars worth of USPS bills if a target email-responder site is repeatedly hit.
    The solution, in my opinion is to set up a billable account with USPS, and then potentially billable email would have to be authenticated and authorized ( just as in any e-commerce transaction ). The default auto-response web-site would obviously not provide a mechanism to send billable email. Unfortuntaely, this would either require a client side program ( possibly in java ), or to make use of CGI's that require either cut-paste, or browser-file-uploading. None of these are ideal, since they don't make full use of your existing email programs.
    Another method would be to simply send the email, then if it requires payment, a notification is returned, requiring you to log onto their web site and authorize the transaction.. Unfortunately, this makes it easier to spam, since everyone can be mailed, and the payment-based transactions would simply be ignored.

    In order to alleviate spam, the central site could possibly monitor mail volume, and automatically charge accounts that exceed a certain volume, with the notion that spam/ junk mail is the intention. High volume is expensive for the central web site in any case ( due to excessive local storage, etc ). Another thing I like about this, is that it minimizes chain mail, since you'd be addressing dozens, or hundreds of people regularly. I don't consider this stiffling of free communication, since you'd still have your other email addresses to use for such time-wasting things. I'm not a big fan of email-based mailing lists anyway. That's what bulliten boards are for. If it's supposed to be daily, then they can regularly check the bulliten board, with little or no excuse.

    I definately think this issue deserves attention, since there is a lot at stake; Our privacy, financial obligations( for both sender, receiver and USPS ), and our dear forests. I do not, however believe that ostrige-like-fear should hamper progress.

    -Michael
  • I'm thinking the most likely way for them to be doing this is to offer a free receiving-account for every person who is willing to give their social security number (NOONE is supposed to use that but the SSA, but everyone does). Probably lastnamefirstinitialnumber@postoffice.gov or something like that. Or perhaps just number@postoffice.gov, to make it easier on them. Yes, very predictable. However, you charge for _sending_ an email.
    Being the post office, they could charge whatever they wanted, though they'd do better with it if they charged less than a stamp to do it. (snip)
    I wouldn't send anything other than 'Hi, Mom, how are you?' type letters though. Sending anything through a government agency that you don't want them to see is just asking for it. Not that I have anything to hide, I'm just really paranoid.

    A much better option would be to use it for a Hushmail type system. Tons of encryption built into the system. Anything from one @postoffice.gov address to another is guranteed secure, no one but the sender and recipient could ever see it, and it is treated the same as regular postal mail. People could use it for official mail, stuff that right now requires certified mail, stuff like that. If it got the same federal protections as regular mail and was electronically secure, people would use it.
  • If they try and keep the current charge "paradigm", then the SENDERS would have to pay for the delivery of paper messages, and anyone who doesn't want to pay won't get their messages delivered.

    Dunno what they'll do about messages which are delivered via e-mail successfully - perhaps charge somewhat less for the overhead of administering the systems?
  • Ah - yet another way that corporations could coopt a "public" government institution.
  • Actually, if the post office can charge the sender at the normal rate of postage for the "junk e-mail", then this probably wouldn't be too bad - a couple of million junk e-mails at $.33 per message would probably discourage a lot of junk e-mailers from sending to those particular e-mail addresses.
  • Who do you usually use to ship stuff? Every E-Commerce site I've been on has used UPS, FedEx or Airborne. None of whom are related to the Post Office.
  • The USPS could embrace PGP/GPG and offer to register public keys into a nationwide network for a nominal fee per year. Hence if I want to send CmdrTaco an encrypted E-Mail, I could hit a USPS server and pull down his public key (My mail software should handle this directly) rather than having to try fingering him and searching his web page and stuff. You could register as many keys as you want and they could verify (Through photo ID or whatever) that you're actually you. Keys on a USPS server should have pretty high trust.

    Then we could incorporate the GPG encryption into mozilla and do decent E-Commerce, though you still have to worry that the company you're doing business with doesn't have a good security policy.

  • This is not supposed to replace snailmail completely, it's just an addition, and I think it would actually do some good.
    When I want to send a message to someone in the US who doesn't have a working e-mail address (believe me or not, there are some people like that!), it usually takes about 2 weeks to get there (I'm in Europe).
    Now if I sent an e-mail to
    john_doe.1_linux_ave@linuxcity.snailmail.com
    It would probably get there in a day or two - I'd call that an improvement. Also, eliminating the stupid monopolist and over-expensive European post-offices from the chain, it would be a lot cheaper.
  • Everything can be abused - if it gets introduced, all we need to do is completely outlaw spam at the same time, and problem #1 is gone. (So even if you never use e-mail-to-snailmail, that would be beneficial... ;) )

    Problem #2 is IMO not a real problem, because people aren't forced to use this.
    I'd prefer having the possibility to drop someone with a broken computer an e-mail nevertheless over actually having to write snailmail.
  • I disagree with you. I have written a little scenerio to illustrate me point

    Let's say that you live in a tropical village with ten men in it. These ten men spend all of their day at the edge of the water catching fish with their spears.

    On day, a smart fellow invents the net. Now, one man can catch as many fish as ten men used to catch. Are those nine out of work men going to sit around and do nothing?

    No.

    Now those nine men are free to go out and build huts, invent ovens, invent fences, etc. The "net" will have a positve impact on the ecomony because it will improve productivity.

    This is true for the modern economy too. The "net" will free us from walking or driving door to door and it will allow us to take on other productive tasks.
  • It's hard for me to understand why the US Post Office is so worried about their business while UPS and FedEx are so excited about theirs.

    Each of those companies are crowing about the increase in package deliveries and they are seeing increased profits in the face of higher fuel costs.

    The US Post office is doing the right thing by building a web site that allows you to see the status of your shipment. However, they are years behind FedEx and UPS and shouldn't brag about that too much.

    In short, it good to see that they have recognized that the Internet will change their business but I won't be handing out any awards until they stop playing catch up.
  • An email address for every physical address is not really do-able. It would be a pain, and, as has been stated, would lead to unheard-of amounts of spam. Which would mean the expenses for bandwidth that people would only complain about.

    I'm thinking the most likely way for them to be doing this is to offer a free receiving-account for every person who is willing to give their social security number (NOONE is supposed to use that but the SSA, but everyone does). Probably lastnamefirstinitialnumber@postoffice.gov or something like that. Or perhaps just number@postoffice.gov, to make it easier on them. Yes, very predictable. However, you charge for _sending_ an email.

    Being the post office, they could charge whatever they wanted, though they'd do better with it if they charged less than a stamp to do it. They will get spam - from the companies that would be spending more on paper ads. However, I don't think the internet spammers, who could get it for free, would be as likely to switch over to a per-email charge system. Not to mention that a credit card would be the most likely payment system, _verifying_ the sender of the spam and letting the lawsuits begin.

    I wouldn't send anything other than 'Hi, Mom, how are you?' type letters though. Sending anything through a government agency that you don't want them to see is just asking for it. Not that I have anything to hide, I'm just really paranoid.

    The fact that it is an enforced government monopoly is a different issue, and one that I don't think is really on-topic, though interesting. And scary. :)

    -Elthia
    We _are_ headed for Shadow-run, or perhaps a combination of that and the states in Snow Crash. The advantage: remember what the United States looked like in Snow Crash? *giggle*
  • there's even a story somewhere in the archives on it. that said this is a bad idea, email is crap. that and these things would mostly just be spam accounts anyway(that you would be forced to check)
  • yeah, that link is some of the funniest shit there is, i found it at redmeat : )
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 24, 2000 @06:07AM (#1344143)
    There is certainly lively discussion here, but I think people are missing the point(s).

    1. E-Mail can't replace the shipment of physical parcels.
    Email doesn't deliver my computer to my doorstep. It doesn't ship boxes of tools around the countryside. It can't get your locally-bought Christmas present to your loved ones (don't talk to me about on-line shipping - guess what happened this year when people tried to make e-returns. Didn't work too hot, eh?) Until we find a way to create matter out of energy (Star Trek, anyone?) it just isn't going to happen any time soon. (Even the energy-to-matter scenerio wouldn't work too hot...you would need a full-time nuclear reactor at each residence to send something the size of a deck of cards.)

    2. Email is (incredibly) insecure
    Email is incredibly insecure, the equivelent of an old-fashioned postcard. It's so insecure that I don't trust it for much more than a "Hi there, how are you" type message. Nosy system admins, hacker wanna-bes, private investigators, and my neighbor's overgrown chia-pet can all easily read my email, provided that I don't take the precation of encrypting it. Sure, I can understand encryption, but do you think Joe Average will? Do you trust Joe Average to use it correctly (ie. not do something stupid like send passwords, social security numbers, etc. over unsecured channels?) When I send a letter, it's normally covered with an envelope. If I'm concerned about privacy, it will be a privacy envelope (the inside is covered with a quasi-random dark pattern that prevents see-through attempts - and yes, I know about the "letter visualizers" that make paper transparent). Physical concerns? Well, let's just say that the only way to read the letter is to open the envelope - a sure sign that someone has compromized the letter along the delivery route. (What's that? You mean you thought envelopes where merely for holding all the contents? Acutally, envelopes were an assurance of privacy from centries ago, in a time when sending controvercial material could get you hanged or worse. The envelope was the assurance that the materials presented to the recipient were from the original sender, UNTAMPERED. The closest we could come to in a digital world would be something like quantum crypto packets)

    3. The USPS has it's hands tied.
    The USPS is a government agency. It means that it must answer not to just the public but to all the people in power who think they "know better" but really don't. The next time you grumble about the postal service being a quasi-competitive industry, you should thank Mr. Regan (48th US President) for the current state of affairs (and the people that put him in office, namely the "baby boom" generation - you know who I'm talking about, it's our parents). (we'll politely avoid all of the other brain-damaged things he did while in office - never mind the suspicion that he had alzheimers while IN office...)

    and lastly...

    4. Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.
    What saddens me the most is that the younger generation of people in the USA seem to think, "well, we embrace a new way of life and living, therefore we should not only discard the old way of doing things, but completely forget why we did them that way to begin with". There are REASONS for why things are the way they are, and assuming that the old way is "the stupid way" really shows just how ignorant, gullible, and thoughtless American youth have become. In fact, I'll probably have several attacks on this point of interest - it'll be a shame, because each attack will simply validate my point (ie. I'm trying to say that understanding the history of something will allow you to understand why things happen today, and give you a better perspective of what will happen tommarrow).

    Forgive the spelling and gramatical errors, frankly, I don't have time to correct them this morning. The essence of this diatribe was to get a clear message across to those who are "historically challenged" (er, that's PC-speak for ignorant and under-educated).

    Thoughtful opinions graciously accepted, especially well-thought-out counterpoints that attempt to refute these statements. Flames, especially thoughtless ones, are given a tidy arrangement in /dev/null.

    Oh, I don't believe in login accounts for things like this. Personally, I feel Slashdot needs cookies vs. the clumsy login system.

    Signed,
    - Avery Payne.

  • by timothy (36799) on Monday January 24, 2000 @04:23AM (#1344144) Homepage Journal
    jd asked "Last, but not least, what problem is this supposed to be solving? If it's the transfer of information, then they'd be better off buying ultra-fat pipes and selling space on them."

    Good question.

    If it is the transfer of information (and that seems the only reasonable) answer, then by all means, let the post office kindly slither back into its corner and let my ISP, my phone company, my cable company, my electric company, my cellular provider, Hughes satellite, and anyone else who cares to join the fray hash it out. (Will the local water / sewage utilities offer IP packet delivery over a very fat pipe?)

    The post office has enough trouble with delivering postcards from my brother. Why should we subsidize the same US post office which undercuts competitors with the surplus it earns on first-class mail? (Remember, they're the only ones who can deliver it -- by law. That's a real monopoly.)

    The business of "establishing" post offices (the part the constition Mentions) I'm fine with the PO doing -- but until and unless the actual work of mail delivery is privatized, they have no business getting to the broadband market. (As in, no Constitutionally established right.)

    Just thoughts,

    timothy




  • Hey, they may be obsolete, but I really like their www.stampsonline.com site for buying stamps online. I can pick the ones I want (unlike the local office) and shipping and handling is only $1! Try it once, it's cooler that you'd expect at first.

    --LP
  • by dsplat (73054) on Monday January 24, 2000 @04:11AM (#1344146)
    Now, let's see how many ways this is a bad idea...

    You forgot that the addresses will certainly be derived by some obvious algorithm (e.g., 123_main_st@9-digit-zip-code.usps.gov) or they will simply be a sequence of nonsense addresses that fit an obvious pattern (e.g., e-mail-box-74351a@usps.gov). Either way, building spam lists with hundreds of millions of addresses will be trivial. Those e-mail addresses will all be in a single domain. I can just imagine the volume of spam that will start hitting them days after this scheme starts.

    Oh, and the mailbox will effectively carry the name Resident and will be passed on to the next occupant of the house. That raises the possibility of people subscribing other people to all sorts of exciting mailing lists.
  • by InkDancer (101386) on Monday January 24, 2000 @04:07AM (#1344147)

    I have to argue that the post office is really going anywhere soon. While they might not be sending "Hey, How you doing?" letters as much as they used to, they (along with UPS, etc.) as benefiting from the internet boom along with the rest of us. Someone's got to get all those books from Amazon out to us, and somebody's got to deliver me the money orders from Ebay bids.
  • with a number of new proposals including assigning an e-mail address to every physical address in the United States.

    This sentence hurt my brain so early in the morning. Email transcends one's physical location (especially with POP3 accounts) and allows me to move around the country without changing anything. Making my email address based on my physical address would be analogous to attaching a RJ11 to a cell phone.

    In the past year and a half I have moved 4 times, twice across the country. (Please send condolences to my poor wife). My US Mail is hopelessly confused and mis-redirected. Moreover at each new residence I received 3 generations of previous occupants' mail. Ugh! Imagine receiving the email meant for previous occupants from people or companies about whom those now-departed (but not dearly...) didn't care enough to update their whereabouts...

    Worse, it seems to me the only advantage in a physically-tied email address is demographic clustering for targeted advertising, or, can you say "SPAM ME ALL DAY LONG"?

    How many of you would give up the personalization (and anonymity) of a true "e"-mail address for a re-packaged target-market adverstising box (UPSP Mail Box)?

    :-only kona in my cup-:

    :-robert taylor-:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 24, 2000 @04:32AM (#1344149)
    The idea of creating email addresses for every physical address in the U.S. is just the latest "reengineering" mistake of applying automation to an outdated process.

    It's quite simple... people get mail, not houses. Nobody sends mail to a physical address -- they send it to a person or company. The physical address is just the only way the post office had to identify a particular location where that person or company was to receive its mail.

    In this age, that addressing scheme is taken care of and the physical element is worthless.

    If they're going to assign addresses, they should do it for every PERSON and COMPANY in the U.S., not every physical address. Of course, I don't know of an addressing scheme that would make this easy (sounds like we need PIDs of some sort -- like social security numbers but not usable to trace health records and the like).

    The Post Office was actually originally offered the first crack at Internet mail way back when the Internet was first being developed. They passed on it saying it didn't interest them. So this is hardly a new idea.


    Dantelope

    (who STILL cannot figure out how to get through the DaimlerChrysler firewall to find his password that goes to an email address he no longer has access to -- *sigh* -- weren't computers supposed to make my life EASIER???)
  • by coreman (8656) on Monday January 24, 2000 @04:01AM (#1344150) Homepage
    "and if there is no internet access to a mailbox, they'll print it out and hand deliver it to the address"

    Now, let's see how many ways this is a bad idea...

    1) Spam will kill trees and fill physical mailboxes. I hope "postage" is charged back to the sender and not delivered "postage due"

    2) The benefit of paperless communication with someone is short circuited
  • by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Monday January 24, 2000 @04:12AM (#1344151) Homepage Journal
    There's something about a hand-written letter that just can't be duplicated, electronically. And, no, it's not the ability to scrunch it up and throw it in the fireplace.

    Then, there are some letters which would become very complicated (if they aren't, already). Legal documents, for example, go through an obscenely complex process, to ensure that everything is as it should be. If some nutcase in the post office can tamper with it, electronically, that would make things very awkward. (And, yes, I know it's possible to prevent things like that, eg: PGP. But how many lawyers would -you- trust to use anything more complex than a quill pen correctly?)

    Then, there's the fact that they'd be printing the e-mails out. Ummm - that means they'd also get to read them. The reason I use an envelope is to stop that. This seems a very retrograde step.

    Next, there's the problem of assigning that many unique e-mail addresses. Your average PHB likes to use the firstname.lastname@somewhere format. This won't work, when you've thirty John Doe's on the same street.

    Last, but not least, what problem is this supposed to be solving? If it's the transfer of information, then they'd be better off buying ultra-fat pipes and selling space on them. They could probably manage that, without making a mess of it, and it might give the backbone a decent capacity for a change.

  • by Effugas (2378) on Monday January 24, 2000 @04:57AM (#1344152) Homepage
    Are you kidding me?

    Here we have a government organization that recognizes its present limitations and is working hard at finding new and unique ways to serve the taxpayers of this country and we complain?

    Have we become that cynical?

    When was the last time you heard about any government agency calling large scale attention to the fact that it needs to update itself for the times and serve its paying public better than ever, with new functionality and features?

    C'mon. This is something to be proud of--an agency that doesn't deny its faults.

    And, incidentally, we kinda *do* need their help.

    Lets not forget for a moment that while email *is* the killer app, it's also the most insecure system in wide deployment by an immense degree. I can't easily forge your identity on websites using cookies, and your credit card transactions are reasonably secure, but all I need to know is your email address and I'm sending mails as you.

    There are lots of competing standards for digital signatures--which, incidentally, will become a globally accepted technology long before encrypted email content worms its way into public acceptance--but whatever wins, I guarantee you we can expect the USPS to be involved.

    And I'm happy to have them. Folks, I actually think it's kind of an interesting concept to have Email to Physical Address gateways--given the cost of a postcard, I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see advertising agencies start trading the right to gateway for the right to display advertisements to both the sender and the receiver. But I see something beyond that...digital signatures, authenticated by government agencies and valid in court, set into paper by the nearest available USPS printing center, and couriered ASAP to a final destination. Sounds cool to me.

    It's not my job to think up new and cool uses for postal service technology, but I'm proud to see that someone, somewhere within the USPS, has taken up that role.

    More power to him!

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com
  • If the Post Office really wants to survive in the 21st Century, they need to do the following:

    1) Get Congress to modify the laws so that the other express carriers can deliver to P.O. Boxes.

    2) Develop a next generation Post Office that would make practical the delivery of every thing one can buy via e-commerce, particularly perishable goods. These Post Offices will need to be open and staffed 24 x 7. You would get your packages stored there for a modest monthly fee based on your historical package volume and/or type.

    3) Begin closing the legacy Post Offices around the country and opening these Post Offices in strip shopping malls with lots of parking.

    I believe this will work as a strategy because a lot more people who do not have computers today can be convinced to get computers or internet appliances if they think e-commerce is useful. The problem is that large scale business-to-consumer e-commerce cannot be made practical until delivery of perishable and large items can be made secure and relatively inexpensive for the shipper.

    If people really bought into this, the Post Office could end up being a strip shopping center anchor tenant in many towns. By this I mean, the size of a supermarket. I'm not sure how this would work in cities, although I'm pretty sure that this would not be an issue in places like Manhattan, due to the fact that door-to-door delivery with extended hours.

    --

    Dave Aiello

  • Perhaps you missed the point--

    For 33 cents, you can put a letter in a box out in front of your house. A person will drive to your house, pick up the letter, take it to the airport, fly it to anywhere in north america, and drive it to the recipients house. For 33 cents.

    Fedex and UPS will charge you at least 30 times that amount (about $10 for a letter), and they won't pick it up unless you are a business. If there's no UPS or Fedex near you, you're SOL.

    Of all the monopolies in the world to complain about the USPS is about the last that deserves it. For as insanely inexpensive as the service is, the fact that 99.99999% of mail gets to its destination on time, and that it is available even in the most remote parts of the country, is an amazing accomplishment.

    As the first poster pointed out, it's one of the only government agencies (and indeed one of the first companies ON EARTH) to completely embrace technology and automation to save time, money, and reduce costs. The USPS has been using automated systems to sort mail since before Bill gates was arrested and Fedex was a gleam in a venture capitalist's eye.

    Save your attitude for the phone companies...
  • by Pfhreakaz0id (82141) on Monday January 24, 2000 @04:07AM (#1344155)
    My dad is retired from the Technical Training Center here in Norman, OK and they had some neat stuff. Post Office (along with Pitney Bowes (sp?)) did some pioneering research on Optical Character Recognition for auto-sorting letters. This HUGE fricking computer/letter sorter thing that took up this giant room. These letters flying (lots a second, I don't recall the number) through a scanner reading the addresses and sorting them.

    People bad mouth the postal service all the time. My success rate at sending packages through the mail is still way higher than my sending attached files in an email to any non-geek. I still say, for them to deliver a physical piece of paper in a few days to any house, anywhere in the country is damn impressive.

If a 6600 used paper tape instead of core memory, it would use up tape at about 30 miles/second. -- Grishman, Assembly Language Programming

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