The circuit

Box Office Success: Part I

The Office of Personnel Management drew 309,000 visitors to its revamped USAJobs Web site on its opening day this week.

Emulating a dot-com site launch, OPM sent e-mail messages to almost 293,000 job seekers and 740 recruiters to announce the site's new features, which include a faster job-search engine, sorting capabilities and a more attractive appearance. The 18,000 job listings on the old site and the user accounts, including 366,711 resumes, were consolidated into the new one, which was launched last week.

USAJobs' first-day popularity marked a sharp increase from Monday of the week before, when only 36,000 people visited the site. OPM officials said the average visit on the new site lasted about 14 minutes, which suggests the site has stickiness, meaning that it holds users' interest — a highly prized accomplishment in the Internet world.

Box Office Success: Part II

Defying critics who said that it would never fly, General Services Administration officials say state and local governments bought $8 million worth of products and services via GSA schedules in the first eight weeks since cooperative purchasing rules took effect.

"That's pretty good, because it just opened up," said Neal Fox, assistant commissioner of GSA's Office of Acquisition. The rules opened the schedules to state and local governments in mid-May. Critics said those governments might not use the schedules for a variety of reasons, such as already having their own procurement systems.

Fox said he didn't necessarily expect much activity in the early days of the program. "We viewed anything we got [in the] near term as gravy, because we haven't had time to advertise the program widely," he said.

Sizing Up the Enemy

Here's a scary realization: It takes online marketers only eight minutes to find e-mail addresses set up by the Federal Trade Commission. The test was part of a research project about spam, also known as unsolicited commercial e-mail.

As part of the project launched last fall, the FTC opened 250 new, undercover e-mail accounts in 175 locations, including chat rooms, newsgroups, Web pages, free personal Web page services, message boards and e-mail service directories. The commission wanted to determine how quickly spammers harvest or capture addresses through computer programs.

"Within eight minutes, we got our first spams," said Eileen Harrington, who heads the FTC's Direct Marketing Practices Division, during a national conference last month. In the six weeks after posting, the 250 accounts received more than 3,500 spam e-mail messages.

The FTC division has even established a mailbox to study spam, inviting the public to forward such e-mail messages there. The 11 million-plus message database receives 130,000 messages from the public daily.

Thirty-five states have passed antispam laws and Congress is also getting into the act. Antispam federal legislation is likely to pass this year, but Harrington admitted it's not likely to solve the problem. She emphasized improved technology as a better way to combat the problem.

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