BLOG: My Email Tirade of the Day

I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying.

Charles C. Finn

This quote by Charles Finn certainly provides some food for thought because I am often puzzled by the state of email communication at the time of this writing. Email is certainly a great method of communication, but it seems people do not always use this method of communication in the best way. Instead of my friends telling me interesting things that happened to them during the course of their week, my inbox is filled with an onslaught of silly jokes and urban legends. Perhaps I might get more information in emails if everyone wasn't blogging away their lives in online journals.

There are a number of things I dislike about the way people use email; here are my top choices:

  1. Joke forwarding Probably the single biggest waste of anyone's time, as well as bandwidth. I cringe when I see subject lines such as "This really works!" or "This is really funny." Not only do I get the same jokes from everyone, many of the jokes are not that funny at all. Anytime our country goes to war, the tone of the email jokes changes to back-slapping anti-everyone-but-American jokes that seem to have been generated from somewhere deep within the Redneck Riveria. Luckily, Thunderbird has a good filtering system, and I can easily filter these types of messages into my Black Hole filter. By the way, I have asked some of my relatives to remove me from their joke lists, but apparently they haven't complied with my request.

  2. Spam Spam is like being sick and never getting better. Weeding through spam and training your spam filter isn't much fun. If we could track down a lot of these spammers, we should arrest them and sentence them to spam-monitoring Bill Gates' inbox, which allegedly gets four million pieces of spam per day. We could also make them read all the spam and then give them a quiz, if we really wanted to punish them further. Or perhaps we could sentence them to the same facility as Martha Stewart and have them work on developing SPAM recipes in their spare time.

  3. Avoidance Email allows people the opportunity to "pass" on things that they don't want to deal with. People say "I'll send you an email," but I never get one. I may ask a series of questions in an email, but in the reply message I rarely get all the answers to the questions I posed. Even being direct in email sometimes doesn't work. When all else fails, you may need to use the telephone, or turn on Thunderbird's return receipt option to see if people are even reading your mail.

  4. Difficulty discerning tone When people communicate on the phone or in person, it is often easier to tell when they are upset about something. In email mode it is often difficult to read tone, and certainly that leads to many more misinterpretations than if we just picked up the phone and asked the question or addressed the issue in person. If you are going to compose an email that has an underlying questionable tone, make sure that you think it through carefully before you send it.

  5. Proliferation of smiley faces Too many of these have invaded our shores; in my book, there should just be two categories, a happy face and a sad face. Anything purely in-between doesn't make sense. I don't want people I am communicating with to know my every mood. I would much rather be purposely vague.

  6. "Thank you" replies Another waste. I definitely don't need any more of these thank-yous filling up my inbox. If you asked me for something and I provided it, I don't require a thank-you; I deserve a raise.

  7. Using CC and BCC options, and using Reply All unnecessarily There are reasons that email clients have To CC and BCC options. Use them. Also, don't "Reply All" to an email if you don't want to include the other parties in what you are saying. Sometimes I get emails that go on wild tangents because someone "replied all" to an email and started a completely different thread that is of no interest to me. Think before you click "Reply All."

Despite the fact that people don't seem to always use email in the most useful ways, there are a lot of things to love about emailhere are some of my favorites:

  • Across the miles Email is a good way to communicate with people when they live far away and it is tough to connect via phone. If you like to travel to faraway places, email has overtaken the fax machine as the preferred method of communicating with hotels regarding reservations and confirmations. Most airlines can now send you an email confirmation. There are many ways that email has improved our efficiency as it relates to global communication.

  • Sharing information and links to websites I don't often have time to surf the information highway, so I appreciate when someone takes the time to forward an article that they think might be of interest to me. I also enjoy when my friends send pictures of their kids frolicking in the snow, or sprawled on the beach with an ice cream cone in hand. One caveatif you are going to send twenty pictures of your kids frolicking in the snow, consider putting them in an online album instead of attaching them to the email message you send me. Why? Large attachments (especially images) can cause very slow download times.

  • The "reveal" Sometimes information is "revealed" that might not be otherwise. Sometimes you are added to a thread and happen upon some interesting information that may be useful. This usually happens in corporate settings.

  • Bill reminders This is so much better than a Palm Pilot alert or tracking these things manually using a calendar. I use Thunderbird's "To Do" feature for my bill reminders and then periodically go back and check to see which ones I have to follow up on.

All in all, email is a great method of communication. I hope I have given you some food for thought. If you want to forward some jokes, please be selective about what you send. Take a moment and forward a picture of the splendid New England foliage to your friends who are marooned in the desert. Think about learning about the features that are present in Thunderbird and using them to their fullest advantage. There is a lot to be said for getting the most out of your email experience. You have the opportunity to use Thunderbird; don't underestimate its power! Finally, remember to have fun with both Thunderbird and your emailin the end, that is what it is all about!

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    Firefox and Thunderbird Garage
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