Links and articles about technology, design, and sociology. Written by Rian van der Merwe. Follow @RianVDM
The virtues of short emails and long conversations
Eric Spiegelman writes about the virtue of brevity in email:
Long emails are, more frequently than not, the worst. When you send someone an email, you make a demand on their time. If you use more words than necessary, you waste their time. Sure w’re talking maybe a fraction of a minute, but given the number of emails the average person sends in a day those fractions add up pretty quick.
This makes intuitive sense, and anyone who gets a lot of email would agree. I’ve even tried to adhere to the Five Sentences philosophy for a while — with not much success.
But there’s something in me that wants to resist this move to get rid of all the “fluff” in email. Sure, it makes you less productive if you have to read through a bunch of stuff that’s not relevant — but I wonder if there’s a danger that the way we talk in email will spill over to the way we talk to our friends and family. Just like “LOL” jumped from text messaging and IM to enter our vernacular in all kinds of weird forms like “For the lulz”1.
Patrick Rhone recently wrote an article called Twalden (it’s worth reading just to discover why he chose that title), where he discusses why he’s taking a break from Twitter:
Ultimately, I don’t know if what Twitter has become is for me, or the people I care about, or the conversations I wish to have. The things I want to know are “happening” — like good news about a friend’s success, or bad news about their relationship, or even just the fact they are eating a sandwich and the conversation around such — I wish to have at length and without distraction. Such conversations remain best when done directly, and there are plenty of existing and better communication methods for that.
The phrase at length and without distraction really stuck with me. When’s the last time you had a discussion at length and without distraction? It seems to become rarer and rarer these days. I’m not trying to draw a causation effect between short, get-to-the-point emails and the general distractedness of our everyday conversations. I’m just saying that it’s probably ok to say “Hi!” and “Thank you” in emails every once in a while, because it’s nice to be nice.
Ok, maybe I just hang out with really weird people. ↩