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

Suffering from chronic idiocy 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.

Semi-solutions

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?

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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.

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