This was sent to staff on Monday, February 15, 2010.
The Wall Street Journal recently listed ten tips for making better use of e-mail, and they directed it towards business managers. I’ll share a few from columnist Tim Flood:
- Don’t use vague subject lines.
- Don’t bury the news. Put important details up front, in the beginning (dates, times).
- Don’t make e-mails unnecessarily long.
- Don’t send attached documents when a simple copy-paste of text will do.
- Don’t forget e-mails can last forever. Deliver negative feedback in person, or over the phone… or wait until your temper has eased.
One of the things I’ve been noticing over the past year is how e-mail is an “old world” tool compared to “new world” alternatives. For instance, these tips (or this newsletter) really belongs in my blog. There’s nothing really to reply to, unless you like a tip, or wish to add your own. Then, the blog should be the place for that. But, I also want to make sure folks read these tips, and so, sending an e-mail is the most efficient way of mimicking my placement of these tips on a sheet of paper in your box at school.
Yet this efficiency has a price. Too many people buy-in to the efficiency of e-mail that you, the teacher, or you, the principal (or if you are neither, imagine you in your own role) have too many things to read and deal with. Better technology tips might be great for a snowy day off, but in the throws of a regular school week, it’s hard to decide which 15 e-mails you’re going to read in the 20 minutes of time you have before you collapse into bed at night.
I learned about Flood’s e-mail tips via Twitter, a microblogging service that shares a current popularity with social networking site Facebook. Anywhere you go, you’ll see the Facebook “f” and the Twitter “t” next to signs and advertisements. At Ukrop’s for instance, I can receive information about specials via Twitter or Facebook. But what makes these new world tools better than e-mail?
For one, we have a physical analogue to e-mail: a note or a letter. I don’t even open “junk mail” at home in my mailbox, and consequently, I pay for a program at home to take all of the “spam” out of my e-mail. So, while a company like Ukrop’s might get my e-mail address when I sign up for their loyalty card (was I that silly to give it to them in the first place?), it seems tedious to get their daily specials in my in-box. I either mark it as spam and eventually spend money to a) receive, b) filter, c) store, and d) delete these notices, or else, I can “follow” them using a service which allows me to pay attention when I want.
While e-mail is efficient at delivering messages which ultimately solve a number of tasks, the fact that everyone is using the same tool to do so many things ultimately kills the system. So, here’s my call towards letting e-mail do what e-mail does best: send personalized, even formal communication between individuals. We have new social tools for broadcasting information, we have our blogs for sharing content within our community, and we have iChat to virtually knock on a colleague’s door to ask a piece of advice.
Getting to the new world isn’t easy—it takes both time and patience. So this won’t be my last e-mail to you in the forms of a TechnologyTimes newsletter, the future ones may simply remind you to visit my blog. 🙂
Update: RES teacher Karen Neylan adds: Not to reply all when a msg is sent to a group and you have an individual reply. We could also defray the number of emails by showing teachers how to create groups to send emails: eg. second grade, res staff, res teachers. Only those people will receive instead of the entire county!
Thanks, Karen. I think I have a short video to create!