A blog about the new generation of work

Leaning on e-mail

2250563337_4f62366a75.jpgJohn Gruber linked to this interview with David Allen a while back. I’m just getting to reading it now. Allen is the mind behind GTD (or “Getting Things Done”), which is something I don’t know much about. (I’m interested, though. I plan to pick up the book.)

Anyway, in the interview Allen says this:

One of the problems that’s endemic with the younger generation people who have grown up with computers and with email they make the assumption that email is a fine medium for communicating anything and everything.

Which, for some reason, provoked a really strong emotional reaction in me as I read it. “He’s wrong!” I thought, imaginary daggers in my eyes. “He’s wrong wrong wrong.”

Thankfully, commenter Joost laid it down before I had to:

Please. One of the problems that’s endemic with the older generation is that they make the assumption that email is only appropriate for communicating a small narrowly defined subset of human communication.

Why do we have e-mail?

When I first started work, I’d write long, detail-heavy e-mails to my co-workers. My rationale was that it was better to cover all the bases all at once than risk the finer points being missed. My e-mails were (at least in my opinion) well-written, friendly and easy to understand.

Unfortunately, nobody read them.

A lot of my issue was just that I overestimated the amount of time people have for reading e-mail. A lot of older people regard it primarily as a nuisance, and like to spend as little time reading (skimming, really) e-mail as possible. And that’s okay. That much makes sense to me.

What NEVER made sense to me was the people who picked up the phone or waited until they saw me to communicate a message. Or, instead of sending a response, booked a meeting to discuss what I had e-mailed. If that’s how work is going to get done, I thought, why even HAVE e-mail?

Trusting technology

One of the really impressive things Generation Y does is communicate widespread messages effortlessly. If you’ve ever watched an event come together on facebook (or through another evite app) you know what I’m talking about. It’s simple: five minutes of work and a few clicks can result in a packed house the next night.

We trust that the app — the technology — is going to work. It’s going to effectively communicate the message.

The older generation seems to have trouble with this.

Image by m-c. Licensed under Creative Commons

Five non-sensical things people do with e-mail

2254557397_4af3380f89.jpgI love e-mail. It’s undoubtedly my primary means of communication at work, to the point where I feel as if I could give up my phone tomorrow and not really be impacted. Honestly, I think being able to communicate effectively via e-mail is an absolute must in pretty much ANY industry these days, including unlikely ones like carpentry and stock car racing.

And while I love to rail on business for being backwards technologically, I’d be really hard-pressed to argue that e-mail wasn’t adopted quickly enough. Because it exploded onto the scene and became incredibly pervasive very quickly.

That said, there’s a whole lot about e-mail — and, more accurately, the way people use e-mail — that drives me crazy. Having spent many of my years in the office in a mostly unofficial ‘tech support’ role (something I’m sure a lot of Gen Y workers can relate to), I’ve seen absolutely mind-bending practices from co-workers when it comes to their e-mail programs.

I think a lot of the odd behaviour stems from the fact that e-mail did come into offices so quickly. If you think about it, nobody was ever really trained on e-mail, at least not like they were trained on how to use the copier (or whatever). Habits that may have made sense for composing, sending or filing ‘real’ mail were transferred over to the electronic Inbox, despite the fact that those habits make almost no sense when dealing with electronic media.

In that light, I don’t blame anyone for adopting these bizzare practices. But I’m still going to make fun of them.

What follows is five non-sensical things people do with e-mail.

Read more »