Tuesday, June 24, 2008


NPR series about email

I was a bit disappointed in the series about email that National Public Radio’s Morning Edition aired last week. It’s not that it was bad, just that I thought it was sort of fluffy, with little real meat. Here’s my executive summary of the series:

  • Sunday: Friends and family members send a lot of junk — “jokes”, urban legends, inspirational messages, chain letters. It’s annoying.
  • Monday: There’s too much email, and it’s a main factor in information overload. We need strategies to deal with it. And it helps if you don’t contribute to the problem.
  • Tuesday: A company has come up with a strategy. Their software makes you assign “importance points” to each message, and you get a limited number of points to assign. Use them wisely.
  • Wednesday: Your mail is backed up and archived, and exists forever. Your business mail might be subpoenaed and searched during legal proceedings.
  • Thursday: Encryption can keep your mail private, but almost no one uses it. You’re especially exposed if you use public networks. But most people don’t care.
  • Friday: Some offices have established mail-free Fridays... and an opinion that that’s just running away from the problem. Also, some talk about stepping away from your BlackBerry.
  • Saturday: There's a plethora of ways to communicate (email, IM, text messaging, phone, Skype, social networking...), and senders and recipients have to choose among them, and adapt to each other. Also, a discussion of “friending” on social networking sites.

There’s a bit more stuff on the web site, along with a few links that one might find useful. And, to be fair, it’s likely that I find it a little fluffy because I’ve been intimately involved with email technology for the better part of 30 years. Probably, the average listener found the series interesting. Saturday’s installment was the most interesting to me.

And, too, I’m not sure what I expect them to say. Maybe more advice that’s practical for the average user. Maybe something done in layman’s terms about up-and-coming email or anti-spam technology. Maybe even just a FAQ — despite the ubiquity of all this, I still hear the same questions all the time. Like, “Why is this guy sending me spam?” (A: He’s not; the sender address is faked.), and “How did I get this message? It wasn’t even sent to me.” (A: Yes, it was, on the envelope; it just doesn’t say that in the message.)

Anyway, give the series a listen. And, if you’re so inclined, comment here about what you think of it.

I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter
And make believe it came from you
I’m gonna write words, oh, so sweet
They’re gonna knock me off of my feet
A lot of kisses on the bottom
I’ll be glad I got ’em

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