OK I will admit that RFC 882 did not have a true “usage” section but I can guarantee that if the folks at ARPA knew (not like they aren’t alive anymore) what we were using E-mail for we would certainly have this wonderful tool take away from us – much like a child’s toy is taken away when it is misused. They define this as the “Standard for the format of ARPA Internet text messages”
When I was in high-school, e-mail was exclusive to higher education and governmental sections. At the time, I took a shop class (where you learned how to build things with wood and such) and my teacher informed me that the Screwdriver was the “Most misused tool” in the tool belt. While I would agree that I have used a screwdriver as a hammer, a chisel, a saw, a crow bar, an awl and probably nine hundred other things, I would have to say that it is no longer the “Most misused tool”.
I would like to submit my nomination for the current “Most misused tool”: E-mail
Let’s talk about the ways that I have seen E-mail used over the past few weeks:
Replacement for the “I know the answer to this but…” IM
Instant Messaging (essentially an extension of “Internet Text Messages”) is one of the fastest and most non-intrusive way of asking a question that you probably know the answer to but are too lazy to figure out for yourself. I do it myself quite often. However, IM offers the receiving party (the one you are interrupting for this stupid question) the option to answer your question or not. I can’t count the number of times I have received an e-mail – responded to it – and then realized that about 10 e-mails later, that user had already responded saying “never mind”.
Alternative to true IM message
Last Friday I responded back and forth with one of my colleagues more than 15 times in under ten minutes on three topics. Essentially, some back and forth that would have been better suited for a quick chat via IM. The kind of conversation that didn’t leave either of us with any “action items”. Funny thing was, about an hour earlier, we had an IM conversation for about 10 minutes where we exchanged a ton of comments on what was going on between us and work.
Mechanism for sending large files
I know that we haven’t totally solved this problem yet and while there are a ton of options, most of them require you and the person you want to send files to an account – but there has to be a better way. I received 20 e-mails this week with attachments – 4 of them were over 2 MB. Ideally, I should have no issue keeping my mailbox size under 500MB but this becomes a challenge when e-mail’s are misused. A reminder: They called “Standard for the format of ARPA Internet TEXT messages” – TEXT.
Method for sending and spreading crippling Viruses
For most of this unfortunately, this is related directly to the above, however if we were capable of keeping e-mail to simple text messages – we would not have this problem. Virus writers would have to search for other ways to to send viruses. 2 places I won’t have to worry about getting Viruses from: Twitter and IM (it is not IM but the file sharing aspect of IM that causes problems).
I commend people that are beginning to write about this: Whipping up a batch of effective communications and Struggling to evade the E-mail Tsunami. I can guarantee that my children will have solved this problem, not because they have to think long and hard about what an e-mail is and what it shouldn’t be, but because they will have available to them a whole new set of tools which will make the use of e-mail already either obsolete or useful for specific tasks only.
Update: 4/21/2008 – 19:21
How timely, I am now receiving 30 e-mails a day about an e-mail that I could not deliver:
Your message did not reach some or all of the intended recipients.
Subject: Эффективная система обучения и развития персонала
Sent: 4/21/2008 5:22 PM
The following recipient(s) could not be reached:
email@example.com on 4/21/2008 7:10 PM
The e-mail system was unable to deliver the message, but did not report a specific reason. Check the address and try again. If it still fails, contact your system administrator.
< internet.referent.ru #5.0.0>
Um – yeah I must have a virus or something because I surely did not send an e-mail with the subject: Эффективная система обучения и развития персонала. Awesome!
And – I also recieved this e-mail today (withholding senders address):
Subject: It’s too big…
Message: I will post it to the web
Oh boy I love e-mail =)