Monday, August 06, 2007

Random anti-bad-idea post:

I learned about this a while ago via Daring Fireball. John Gruber was endorsing the idea.

Basically, Mike Davidson complains that answering even short e-mail questions may take very long, and also that as he gets too many e-mails, he tends to prioritize the easiest ones to answer, not the most important ones.

Don't we all. But his solution makes me shudder. He now always responds in five sentences. He wanted to do a word or char count, but that's difficult, so he arrived at counting sentences. He then posts a short Q&A at the end of all of his messages ("Q: Why is this e-mail five sentences or less? A:") linking to a little explanatory website he operates, where he sums up his policy.

What's wrong with this? Everything. First, writing short messages is not always easier than writing longer ones. You'll soon find yourself fighting the tool. Second, why be so damn restrictive and dogmatic? Couldn't you just strive to spend less time on answering e-mails? How about a timer? Or nothing at all, just an effort to keep it short? Maybe you'll average on five sentences, maybe you won't, but why this "one size fits all" approach?

And don't even get me started on the sociopathic explanatory link at the end. If your correspondants are insulted by your brevity, a pre-recorded explanation will only rub salt into their wounds. Guess what, you've been handled by a policy. You're not so important.

My suggestion: strive to spend less time on answering e-mails. If some of them end up too brief as a result, add this sentence at the end: "Sorry to be brief, I'm really busy."

No weblink or clever URL, though.

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