Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

except for all the others

Farhad Manjoo thinks the Clinton campaign email scandal proves that email in general needs to be ditched:

Email sometimes tricks us into feeling efficient, but it rarely is. Because it’s asynchronous, and because there are no limits on space and time, it often leads to endless, pointless ruminations. If they had ditched email and just held a 15-minute meeting, members of the campaign could have hashed out the foreign-agent decision more quickly in private.

In other words, limits often help. Get on the phone, make a decision, ditch your inbox. The world will be better off for it.

Sounds great — but what if “members of the campaign” weren’t all in the same place? I guess then Manjoo would say “get on the phone” — but have you ever tried arranging a conference call? If more than three people are involved it’s next to impossible. Talk about “inefficient”!

Also, when people hold a conference call to make a significant decision, it’s typically recorded so there will be a record of what they’ve decided, which is necessary in order to avoid the “that’s not how I remember it” problem — but that means that you have something that can be stolen later by nefarious parties.

Manjoo recommends Slack or Hipchat, which can work, but only when the conversation is among people wholly within a given organization.

Email drives me crazy the way it drives everyone else crazy, but I can set aside certain times of the day in which to use it. If I had to have my work interrupted eleven times a day for phone conferences, at someone else’s convenience, or had to have a Slack window open and pinging merrily away all day long, I’d never get anything done. Churchill’s famous comment about democracy — “the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried” — might be adapted here: email is the worst form of business communication, except for all the others that Manjoo recommends.


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