Will surveys seriously damage your belief that the bug doesn't hurt?

Don't breathe easy it ain't over yet!

Don't breathe easy it ain't over yet!

Karl Feilder

Ground Zero

Don't breathe easy it ain't over yet!

You may have caught the string of tongue-in-cheek anti-smoking commercials during December - sad and pale people telling us how much worse they felt since they had made the decision to quit after 20 years. (For one marvellous moment I thought they were advocating giving up the technology treadmill, but sadly I was mistaken.)

It was a fascinating piece of anti-marketing, appealing to that small portion of our New Britain brain which can still distinguish reality from fantasy.

And it was successful. Of course it was. If it had been ineffective we would have heard by now wouldn't we?

Therein lies my point. How do we, intelligent, 21st century, ape-descended beings, actually know what is going on in the world? I don't mean to sound paranoid, but just think about it for a moment.

If the anti-smoking campaign (or it could have been anti-having-a-good-time from the expressions on the actors' faces) was not successful, how would we know? Would long queues of people telephone the TV station and confess all?

"Yes I tried to quit on 31 December, but now I'm back to 40 a day."

I don't think so. It's not human nature to invite embarrassment or ridicule (save, of course, for those sad bunnies who appear on the Jerry Springer show), and so no one will call.

And so it is with the bug. Not the cough-cough-splutter-have-a-week-in-bed flu bug, but the other one.

There have now been a couple of surveys - one here and one from the United States of Disney. In America, more than 3,000 individuals confessed all. The result - more than 25% had been bitten by the bug, with nearly 40% of these still not fixed 10 days into the new year, and 56% said the bites were "unanticipated". Of course, back in Blighty we did much better.

Only 7% of UK companies said that they had been bitten. Who's telling the truth - and who's too embarrassed?

I don't think we'll ever know. But one thing is sure - the situation is a lot better because of all the hard work we put in. Pulling together and achieving impossible things in unrealistic timeframes.

Karl Feilder is founder of Greenwich Mean Time, developer of the Check 2000 range of PC millennium tools

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