Emailing is rude

Emailing is rude

The SMTP protocol originated in 1982.

According to Wikipedia most large email providers have proprietary protocols for exchanging data, all of them use SMTP while delivering outside the scope of their know protocol.

I have put together a list of truths about email to bring to lite how utterly rude and lazy it is to send another human an email and have an expectation that they take your request sincerely.

 

Emails are idempotent

Ever tpoy in an email beofre?

I certainly have. Most communication standards today allow for updates to messages. Facebook, slack, Instagram, YouTube and many others all have an edit button next to your message.

In fact, there is a company called Twitter that explicitly does NOT allow editing of a message. This is controversial but is ultimately part of what makes Twitter so trustworthy.

There is a reasonable expectation that if a user is using Twitter, that they accept the fact that their messages are idempotent.

Why in the hell do we think it’s a good idea to send idempotent messages to other humans to organize our thoughts? Organizing thoughts is notoriously hard and complicated, and it would be great if we had the ability to edit a thought after having it.

Guess what? Humans change their minds some times. 

Imagine a text editor that didn’t let you use the backspace key.

There is a reason we no longer have typewriters…

Reasons for sending email

I would say 99% of the emails I receive fit into one of the following categories.

  1. Dead end content
  2. Convenience
  3. Request for action
  4. Scheduling

And if you think about it:

2 is really just an extension of 1 and 4 is really just an extension of 3

So to break it down even more granularly, here are really the 2 categories of email a person might receive

  1. Dead end content
  2. Request for action

Every email I have ever received in my life is genuinely in one of these two buckets.

Dead end content

This is content that does not require action on your end. Usually it is sent as a convenience, FYI, or just to help me sender feel better.

Ever get an email that just says thanks?

Ever get an email where the subject contains FYI?

There are so many reference emails that could hit your inbox that it takes large amounts of conscious effort to cipher through the noise. If you send these you should punch yourself in the face.

Imagine buying a book that was packaged like your inbox and instead of having chapters and a table of contents was just a pile of pages without any order. It would be hard to read the book, and would require a lot of effort just to abstract the story from the pages.

Furthermore what if some of the pages had requests for you to do something on them? And if you didn’t comply with the requests you would lose your job. Literally this is my inbox.

If you have something to say that does not require input or action from me it belongs on a web site, and not in my inbox. 

Request for action

This is probably the worst part of email. Humans actually do this, and I can’t understand why anyone thinks this is a rational thing to do.

Humans literally hide requests for action behind text blobs.

Hi Kris,

I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions?

I was wondering if I could talk to you about my company BoringCorp. We are a successful startup from Silicon Valley and are on series F funding. Today is our 3 month anniversary in business. We were wondering if you would be interested in attending our inaugural company ball as a guest of honor? It would be an honor to have. I hope you are well.

Regards,

J

 

There is a large block of text above, but let me break it down what just happened.

  1. The sender sent a message with an expectation that I will respond to their request for attending their company ball.
  2.  The sender did not provide all the information I would need to correctly respond to their request.
  3. The sender has implied that the event is important to them, so I should treat the request also as important.
  4. The sender sent a lot of information, and most of it isn’t relevant to the request.
  5. The sender’s name probably starts with J.

So now not only do I have to invest time into deriving the request for action from the email, but the sender has burdened me with guilt if I do not comply with their request. Thanks.

In the year 2017 we have an entire industry built around best ways to organize thoughts and ideas. We have large agile platforms like Jira, Asana, and Trello that help user’s organize tasks. In fact, in most cases there is a reasonable expectation that you won’t even be able to generate work without minimal criteria.

Imagine a request for action that contained information like when, and where, and how to define success? Imagine if a user couldn’t even request action from you if it wasn’t delivered in a way that was meaningful to the person you are requesting action from? This is a reasonable expectation for other parts of the internet, but email just seems like forgive people for acting like complete asshats and requesting action via text blob.

Imagine a restaurant that didn’t serve you a meal but rather gave you a huge blob of junk with your food buried somewhere in the pile of junk. That would be crazy. That restaurant clearly would not be successful if compared to restaurants that spend time and effort preparing a lovely meal for you.

Because packaging is important. And email encourages users to NOT package well; because the interface for sending an email is just a giant text field just waiting to be filled with complete garbage instead of small discreet text fields that represent minimal criteria for the person requesting action.

Emails come with implications

hi,

are u coming?

J

This is a completely normal email for me to receive, and that is completely unreasonable.

Here is what just happened

  1. J has covered their ass

That’s it. Now if anything goes wrong it’s my fault because “Well I sent her an email about it…”

But I don’t even need to explain all the things wrong with this message. It’s just completely bullshit content. There is nothing concrete here, and J seems to think I can just imply information like

  • What would I be coming to?
  • Where is this place at?
  • When do I need to be at this place?
  • Is this meeting important to you, or important to me? Neither? Both?
  • Do I need to bring anything to the meeting?
  • Is this even a meeting?

Implying is bad, and usually humans get it wrong. Period.

As it turns out, J was asking if I would be coming to the meeting he scheduled via text blob. It is important to him that I come to his text blob meeting.

Meanwhile I am too busy getting shit done to deal with deciphering text blobs all day.

Emails are lazy

So it’s easy to just dump into a text field. Anyone can do it, and it doesn’t require much thought.

Furthermore the act of sending an email is relatively safe, because the other person doesn’t have to respond immediately.

So sending an email is a way for a human to send some message, without having to concern themselves about how it was packaged.

Imagine if communication worked this way. Where you would just walk into a room and say whatever in the hell you wanted, and walked out with the expectation that whoever your message was intended for will receive and respond to your message.

If you send emails, you are lazy. 

If you want me to take action, we first need to have a discussion about how we will work with action requests moving forward. After we come up with a way for us to work together, we can begin to create viable action items.

If this sounds like too much work, consider how much time you spend deciphering bullshit from your inbox each day. I personally would be willing to trade time from me figuring out your bullshit, to you figuring out your own bullshit.

Be awesome.

Figure your bullshit out first, so I don’t have to.

 

Email clients are different.

Ever see an email that looks like this?

 

kris?

>

>

> >

> > >

> > > >

> > > > >

> > > > hi,

> > > > are you coming?

> > > >

> > > > J

Because my inbox is full of them.

It seems that ever piece of software in the world respects the golden rule except email clients.

It’s never okay to mutate data that is not yours

Email clients fucking love to mutate your data. We are gonna add colors, and characters, and tabs and spaces. We are gonna insert wingdings into your email. You name it, we are gonna do it.

So not only do I receive messages with vague text blobs that require effort on my end to understand, but chances are it’s not even the original bullshit text blob you sent anyway.

 

In conclusion

We need to figure out ways for humans to perform creating dead end content and requesting action that doesn’t involve email.

In the mean time, can you please for fucks sake be considerate of your messages to me?

I get upwards of 5 thousand messages a day, and the least you could do is spend a few seconds and make your message to me easily digestible.

And remember, if it’s dead end content then put it on Facebook, or Twitter. If I like it I will give you a 👍. But there is no reason to bundle that in with my other messages that may or may not be needing something from me.

 

 

 

10 Rules for writing an email that doesn’t suck

 

1. Start off the email by apologizing for using email.

Just get it out of the way, and admit you know what you are doing is evil. But please keep it short and sweet

Hi $name, sorry for sending you an email but $content?

 

2. Respect the subject

The subject of an email is an important as naming a function. It should be descriptive enough to explain what the email is about, and still let a reader know what to expect within the content of the email.

Furthermore, you should clearly define if your email is a request for action, or dead end content.

 

 

3. No more than 1 reply. Ever.

The rule is simple, it is only okay for one person to reply to any email once before the email is locked and nobody else can reply. If you feel like you need to send another message, draft a new email with a new meaningful subject.

 

4. Do one thing and do it well.

Yep. I Unix philosophy‘d you. Emails are only allowed to do one thing. If you combine multiple requests for action, or multiple sets of content in your email you are doing it wrong.

5. You get one sentence, use it wisely.

A complete sentence is used to express a complete thought. A single complete thought. Which means your email should never be longer than 1 sentence. If you are good, you can even combine that with your apology for using email.

Hi Kris, and I am so sorry for sending you an email, but I was wondering if you could attend our company ball [URL to more information about ball]?

 

6. End your sentence with proper punctuation.

Always make sure to use proper punctuation at the end of your sentence. In the case your email ends with a period . you should copy/paste the email into a Tweet or Facebook post and not send the email.

In the case your email ends with a question mark ? you should re-read your email to make sure it’s well crafted and check your subject to make sure it’s meaningful. Then you may press send.

7. No forwarding

Thats the rule, never forward email. If you forward email you are doing it wrong. You can copy/paste email content from one email to your personal blog. Then you can reference that blog from the next email you need to send.

8. No more than one recipient

If you send an email to more than one person, or ever hit reply all you should punch yourself in the face. If you expect each person you are sending a message to to respond to your message you need to demonstrate that you are willing to spend that much time on them. They get a personal email, or no deal.

9. Your signature must be smaller than 100 bytes

For your signature you get 3 choices

  1. Full legal name
  2. Preferred name
  3. Notable online handle

Your signature should never be more than 100 bytes.

10. No attachments

Ever. Never is it okay to attach anything to an email. You have two options for including media in your email:

  1. You may reference the media’s public URL
  2. You can opt out of using media.

LEAVE A COMMENT

2 comments
  1. Jerri Kohl
    April 18, 2018 13:29:pm Reply

    Wow! That was pretty hardcore! I assume you’re taking a stance at least somewhat more extreme than your genuine stance, so as to make a stronger point.

    • Kris Nova
      April 29, 2018 22:42:pm Reply

      Yes – this post is entirely to point out the absurdity of email – I don’t mean any of this sincerely.