The e-mail really is deadlier than the mail

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Skynet, Apr 3, 2010.

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  1. From The Times
    April 3, 2010
    The e-mail really is deadlier than the mail
    My inbox makes more work than my in-tray ever did, but would I go back to paper? Please don’t reply
    Matthew Parris

    Many, many years ago, I was an MP when my secretary, Eileen Wright, only in her mid-fifties then, was introduced to automatic typewriters. Do you remember these? Transitional technology between old-style typewriters and computer-linked printers, they were electric typewriters with a primitive form of electronic memory. They could store the words you had tapped in, and type the document (automatically) whenever required, with whatever corrections or additions you chose to introduce. You could prepare “standard” replies, then customise them.

    Mine would thank the constituent for his or her views, set out the position as I saw things, and explain what I could or couldn’t do about it. One day we were ploughing through a huge postbag from constituents protesting at possible cuts in overseas aid — scores of which, from members of Methodist congregations, were identical in both content and typeface. We were sending our standard reply to each. “Thank heavens,” Mrs Wright remarked, “for our new automatic typewriters. How ever could we have replied to all these in the old days?”

    “Eileen,” I laughed, “in the old days we’d never have received the letters. The churches have been getting them typed on their own automatic typewriters, then doling them out to their congregations to address, sign and post. When people had to hand- write their letters we got far, far fewer. Has an MP’s secretary’s workload decreased since you started in the Commons in 1946?” She shook her head. “It’s increasing all the time.”
  2. My own ha'porth is that the bane of the modern workplace is over-correspondence. Everybody seems to feel the need to broadcast correspondence lest they be accused of hoarding information. It's a training issue, true, but there's a culture to be overcome too. People need to develop the confidence to not send things.

    There's also the problem with most improvements in communications: if you make something effortless to do then people will put no effort into doing them. Useless, needless and time-wasting correspondence makes up the vast majority of things I receive. In particular emails sent by people who think because it takes them seconds to send it must take me seconds to reply, not realising I actually have to find out the answers first. In the time it takes me to find out, I've received half a dozen "I've emailed and emailed but just not got a response" emails which have to be read before I can know they can be safely deleted. There's a vicious cycle if you try to respond personally to everyone in that each one delays the response to the next and the longer the delay the more emails each person sends, panicking about not getting a response quickly.

    Having colleagues with some faith in their co-workers and the business processes would help. If you really need to pass absolutely everything on by email then you're either a) a very small organisation or b) one with tonk systems. Or possibly c) a cretin.
  3. Many, many moons ago, just getting my first post-uni job, I suggested that the company investigate this new-fangled word processing, primarily to improve the turn-around time of documents by saving the secretaries the effort of retyping whole tracts to accomodate small insertions/deletions or revisions (it took about 3 days to get a tech memorandum ready for release). I even suggested that the engineers could type in the initial draft and save themselves (and the whole process) some time as well.

    One of the objections from the secretaries was that they might run out of work. I countered this by noting that document production was a major programme bottleneck and the same number of documents would still need producing. In addition, engineers might be able to get a rough first draft ready, but most were incapable of, or too busy, to sort out the grammar, spelling, formatting, layout, etc, etc - moreover, if engineers wanted to do this kind of stuff, they'd have gone to secretarial college, which they didn't.

    Well, that was the idea anyway. I now sit here in total bemusement wondering where it all went wrong, and why expensive engineers spend 30% of their time fighting MS Word (*) and being asked to faff around making minor amendments.

    (*) Excognito's Hypothesis states "An MS Word user's blood pressure is proportional to their IQ raised to the number of degrees they hold"
  4. Agreed we can be driven mad by too much communications!
  5. There seems to be something inherently wrong with the sentence: "... we can be driven mad by too much communications", but I just can't put me finger on it ...

  6. I had an interesting final fifteen years of my several careers when I moved across from Logistics Management into IT and QA . One of the observations I made when I retired was the danger of information overload …. Managers and staff coming back from holiday to 100’s of E Mails many of which were not essential . It is so easy now to add on ” cc “ or the dark “ bcc “ to the circulation .The communication systems may have become largely paperless but I honestly believe there is a real danger now because of this information overload . To be quite honest I still prefer for critical information to be able to work on a hard copy document .
    Added into this overload now of course is Internal Voice Mail .

    Edited .... minor text Mod
  7. Possibly it should be either "too many communications" or "too much communication"?
  8. I cannot believe that BCC is even an option in military communications.

    For any retards willing to learn what it actually means, its stands for BLIND CARBON COPY, you get the exact message, but are blind to who else it goes to.

    Some quite severe implications available.