It has been fairly common practice for both pokes and verbal communication to be used since the very beginning of UO.
I feel like the tone you are using here Jimbo is fairly passive aggressive for what wade was actually stating. It seemed that wade had a misunderstanding of the intent of your post as was I to be brutally honest. I feel like this could have been addressed in a slightly less demeaning tone to another user who simply had a misunderstanding.
You mention that you would've preferred a verbal que but an aspect of being poked is a verbal que. I can assure you that I myself during the many years that I've played here that users have VERY frequently sent pokes to individuals in the waiting room. I can assure you that these users were regulars and officers. And I can almost guarantee that during your 5+ years with this community that you have been poked about an event/mission change/concern. This is not an unknown practice to send out pokes for concerns such as these.
I am not entirely sure why a single poke once every hour+ would be an issue but as it appears it is for some I agree an opt-OUT feature should be included. The system should be opt-out personally as most users will typically skip over or miss an optional feature on something that they are passing through quickly.
The system doesn't appear to have malicious intent but I can see how it could be abused by users. The issue is that a system like this already exists and I have used it in the past to do the exact thing. The spam system was never an issue as my usage was during my tenure as a regular. Thus, we can make the assumption that it very unlikely for the system to be abused in its current state soley due to the spam filter already in place.
Ultimately, I think the best course of action would be an attempt to have this managed through AUTH, as this would put the system under control of the community which arguably addresses almost if not all of the issues already brought up in this thread. The only issue would be the physical integration as time constraints on our WSO/App Devs must be considered.