About this site's lack of design: Yes, it's supposed to look this way — I'm helping create a new sandbox theme for WordPress (see it on GitHub).

Dan Rubin's SuperfluousBanter

Design, random musings, and the Web. Since 1977

Archive for February, 2008

Email Doesn’t Scale

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

I’ve been wanting to write about my problems with email for a while now, but keep coming up short when it comes to explaining exactly why it fails for me. That is, until reading Tantek’s latest on the subject:

“I’m probably responding to less than 1 in 10 emails that are sent directly to me, even fewer of those that are sent to a set of people or a list. The usability of email for me has deteriorated so much that I exclaimed on Twitter recently: EMAIL shall henceforth be known as EFAIL.”

He goes on to explain his thoughts on why point to point communications do not scale, and how emails in general are becoming too bloated (the lack of a singular focus in many emails I receive definitely impacts my likelihood of responding), as well as how 1:many or 1:all mediums are superior to 1:1 methods (e.g. email). This is exactly what I’ve been trying to figure out how to say.


Tantek certainly isn’t the first to write about the the problems with email – Mike Davidson’s solution last year was to reduce the length and detail of replies to a specific number of sentences, but that hasn’t allowed me to make a sufficient dent in my inbox.

Similarly, Inbox Zero (a process many of my friends use to keep the noise down) just doesn’t seem to work for me. Plus, having an empty inbox won’t stop people from communicating with me via email when they should be using another medium.

It’s not you, it’s me

Both Inbox Zero and Sentenc.es aim to reduce the impact of the full inbox by making it easier to empty on a regular basis, but for me that doesn’t solve the problem as I see it–it isn’t a matter of finding a way to work around what email has become, it’s just that email is being used improperly, and I’d rather use other methods of communication that are more appropriate to the type and relevance of the message.

How do we fix it?

Email isn’t broken for everyone (or at least, if it is they don’t realize it yet), but I find more people becoming frustrated with email every week. Add the whole SPAM problem into the mix (over the last 6 months, more and more of my valid incoming/outgoing messages are getting caught by SPAM filters than ever) and I just see email continuing its downward spiral.

I’m not sure of the solution – as long as my clients continue to send me emails and expect a response, I’m a bit nervous to tell them to shove it (it’s hard enough to get them to all use Basecamp instead for project communication, let alone stop using a method that still works for them), but perhaps that’s what it will come down to. Tantek’s article ends with a list of suggestions that can serve as a decent starting point, and his Email Reduction project is also worth checking out.

Does email = efail for you? How do you feel about the future of email?



Pardon Our Dust

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

If you’re visiting this site for the first time, and are seeing the default WordPress theme (aka Kubrick), please rest assured that a custom designed theme is hiding somewhere within the WordPress installation–WordPress is just having a bit of a tantrum lately, and has decided to keep reverting back to the default shortly after I reset the custom theme in the admin.

Those of you who are return visitors are hopefully missing the usual orange and brown goodness that has graced these pages for almost 2 years.

Hosting Woes

For the last few weeks, my homepage hasn’t been loading at all – Dreamhost didn’t seem to think it was a problem on their end (though I’d made no changes to the site between it working and ceasing to work). After going around in circles with them for too long, I uploaded a fresh install of WordPress, moved my plugins and theme directories, changed a few hard-coded absolute URLs, and things were working again. For about 5 minutes.

Artificial Intelligence?

Perhaps my blogging software is trying to tell me something? I’ve planned a redesign for well over a year, but other endeavors have taken priority (e.g. Sidebar Creative, Webgraph, Rounders, various client/consulting work, presentations, workshops and toying with things like Virb). I’ve also been seriously thinking about hitting the redesign over the last month or so–is WordPress now smart enough to read my mind? Or is my soon-to-be-replaced theme getting jealous? It’s creepy from where I’m sitting…

Separating Content From Presentation

Okay, so it’s not the use for which that phrase is intended, but in a way, it’s interesting to see my content without its custom skin. I’ve been reading through many of the articles I’ve written, and paying more attention to the text. Perhaps this is a normal issue with designers trying to objectively read their own content while getting distracted by their own designs–if you haven’t tried it, give it a shot sometime; it may help expose issues with your design, or your content, or at the very least allow you a fresh perspective on your own writing.