Is it really you? 

Carousing around the Web lately, I found myself back at the City of Detroit's site (www.ci.detroit. mi.us/) to see what improvements could be found. I was heartened to learn that Detroit City Council members have finally received e-mail accounts.

Without hesitation I selected Councilmember Ken Cockrel Jr.'s name to conduct my own cyber test. Never before had I performed an interview via e-mail only. I'd set up telephone conversations or interviews, but I hadn't relied entirely on the Internet to deliver all my information.

To my surprise, Cockrel responded within days to my list of questions about his use of new technologies to stay in touch with his constituents.

"I increasingly get inquiries or complaints via e-mail rather than by paper or phone call, which is cool," he wrote. "Like everyone else, I find the worse thing about e-mail is receiving tons of spam which I get more and more of these days."

He wanted to know if there was any software to screen it out. I told him the only way I've found to eliminate the crap is by setting filters in my e-mail program.

Filters can be set to look for key words or phrases in the address or subject lines. Messages containing those words can be sent directly to a separate file, where you can just mass delete them periodically. It doesn't stop them from coming, but it may help keep them out of your main incoming messages box.

The downside is that filters are based on the keywords you assign. If a friend sends you a message with a subject line reading, "make millions on the Internet," and one of your keywords is "millions," tell your friend to send you more interesting e-mail messages.

Cockrel relayed that his favorite work-related surfing sites tend to be on the research side -- SEMCOG (www.semcog.org), the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments site, and Michigan Comnet (comnet.org), run by the Southeastern Michigan Information Center, which serves Michigan non-profits with free site hosting and technical support services.

He claims he does get some fun in, at home though (sure, wink), at the View Askew site (www.viewaskew.com), "not a local site but actually the home site for the production company of Kevin Smith, director of such films as Clerks and Chasing Amy. I'm a fan." And a very cool site it is.

In addition, he writes, "I'm moving toward developing my own portion of the City of Detroit's Web site."

Should we believe him? Should we believe it was really him writing me back? Hmmmm ... what do you think?

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