Friday, March 27, 2009

Email is killing us all...

How was the world before email was invented? I wouldn't know as I've been unfortunate enough to have always worked for companies with email, from day one of my almost 30 year long career. My first job was actually of a trainee in the so called 'Office Automation' dept. at Continental Bank (CINB from Chicago, Illinois), when I joined them in Brussels back in July 1980. We were so 'cool' then doing email in those early days that my boss and I were often invited to showcase our 'experiences' in local ICT venues filled with anxious IT managers gathering info about the beast... Forgot to mention... we used to connect to our servers then at a few dozen baud modem speeds with acoustic couplers doing those funny sizzling modem noises... Oh, the good ol' days... not?

Anyways, before email and wordprocessing became common practice, I imagine, when one worker wanted to send a memo to a co-worker, he'd have to ask a typist to type the darn thing, and after a few correction cycles with mutiple draft copies, margins filled with countless mark-ups, he'd sign the 'final' and send it out. The mail boy would eventually pick it up from the dude's 'out' box and get it somehow to destination. Few days later, the recipient might have reacted in similar ways with an answer, and the story repeats. Sounds like turtles moving on Galapagos shores. For this reason alone, people would typically send typed memos to each other only if the stakes were high. In that case, they'd make the extra effort to structure their text properly, avoid typos as much as possible, and write their thoughts down in descent ways to make you proud to be... an American. Memo's were kinda 'sacred' material and had a lot of face value. People respected them. The 'heaviest' among them, those coming from bosses, would also carry the necessary quantity of stamps and seals to 'feel' like serious shit.

You realize, with slow processes like these, typically office workers didn't send paper memo's around too often. In urgent cases, they'd pick up the bleedin' phone and call the dude right away. Or even better, walk to his desk and talk it out. With immediate results. And a lot of value. People used to walk a lot more those days from desk to desk, and suffered a lot less from arthritis clogged joints. And they'd still have time to watch blond secy's rouge-ing their lips.

We don't bother much about that nowadays. We live behind TFT monitors for most of the day. Our blonds are made of pixels. Email, SMS and IM is the name of the game. Once upon a time members of families used to sit around the table for dinner at the end of the day and actually talked to each other. They watch TV on laptop computers and mobile gadgets these days while rush dining and exchange emails, IMs and SMSes with one another while still living under the same... roof. Trust me, been there done that!

Ok fine, where's the problem? As long as two humanoids decide to exchange ideas and feelings asynchronously, via technology gadgets of all sorts, instead of using good ol' sound waves pressing the air from one dude's mouth to the other dude's ears, in real time, and they're still OK with it, fine. They'll probably end-up like those Wall-e Utopians... but that's fine. I have another problem though and I need to be pretty cranky about it.

See, very few people learn to write properly at school. Very few people can put their ideas on 'paper' so that a reader, any average IQ reader, is able to understand their deeper meaning correctly. It becomes far worse in places where workers need to write in another language. English is common place for most international companies nowadays and many poor sods, locals, whose English might be their second or third language, are really struggling. I used to manage groups in Italy, Germany, Spain and France for many years... I could have assembled material for a NYT comedy bestseller if I kept a record of all those literature diamonds. That is not to say that an average Joe (the plumber) native English speaker is far better than any of them aliens. You wish... No way. Even more, 99% of email messengers are not aware of the elementary requirement for a simple exchange, for instance, a recipient's prompt acknowledgment of reception. And a large percentage among them e-mailers are using the wrong grammar, expressions, words, phrases, and innuendos that drives recipients up the freakin' wall and starts each and every day office cockfights in all colors and shades, adding no value whatsoever to anything. WTF!

I often advised my co-workers: If you feel mad about something, don't write a bleedin' message. Talk it through with your intended recipient face to face. Go have a beer. A shag. Anything, but don't write a fucknozzle email text. And if you still gotta write it... fine... write the bastard... but don't hit 'send'. Sleep over it! Read the prick once more the day after. And re-write it again and again, until it gets the sort of message that wouldn't drive your systolic to 25 if it was sent to you!

As a thought, how about us all doing with email what Toyota Belgium did to its BlackBerry owning workers: Bring back to the office those BBs, dudes, to save some mobile network data fee money and shag the BB and iPhones and all the bleedin' Smartphones together. And, you know what? We'll still be building Corolla's and Prius'es again tomorrow morning, right? Without you lot emailing 24x7...

I heard of somebody I know, bringing his BB with him in the toilet on Saturday mornings where he does his... thing, while checking his freakin' email! C'm on dude! Get a life! Your company will still be around in two hundred years when your great grand children will be long retired, for crying out loud! And get your stress levels down. Because, stress hurts your immune system... and cancers will start growing in your body... and you'll end up crippled and dead one day, much too early... Trust me... I know... been there done that! Not dead yet... but been close enough a short while ago.

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