Email: Consider Your Audience

In Why Fight Email?, I explained how OnlineGroups.Net makes email useful for group collaboration. Unfortunately, however, even though OnlineGroups.Net inherently adds useful metadata to email, it does not provide immunity from the GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) effect. If people send bad email, people receive bad email. Receiving bad email causes email overload.

Inbox-management tools such as ClearContext and Xobni, and the more drastic email free days, and email bankruptcy tactics are admissions of powerlessness in the face of bad email. They are ambulances (or body bags) at the bottom of the cliff.

I can’t hear anyone complaining that they receive too much clear, concise and useful email. I do, however, hear increasing calls for consideration before clicking the “send” button. The latest of these is Seth Godin’s checklist of 36 things to think about before sending an email. Although, I agree with every one of Seth’s suggestions, 36 is just too many things for me to think about for every email.

Our own exhortation to write clear and thoughtful posts (part of the User Guide that is on every OnlineGroups.Net site) lists seven things to think about. Actually, for emphasis, two of these are more or less the same: consider your audience.

I have renamed my “send” button, the “zen” button. Each occasion to click this button is a zen moment, a moment for mindfulness of myself, what I am here for, the addressees of the email, what they are here for, and how this email creates what we all seek. This practice is not specific to email, although with email there is more time to write and to read carefully, than in face to face moments. In Psychodrama, this is described as role reversal: imagine yourself as the recipient of the email. Does this email make your day better?

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