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When Can I Expect an Email Response? 232

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the turnabout-is-fair-play dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ever sit there waiting for an email response and wonder what's going on? Did they get it? Did it get filtered? A study looks at the responding habits of a large group of corporate users. They find, among other things, that users would try to 'project a responsiveness image. For example, sending a short reply if a complete reply might take longer than usual, intentionally delaying a reply to make themselves seem busy, or planning out timing strategies for email with read receipts.' Tit-for-tat, 'Users would try to reciprocate email behaviors -- responding quickly to people who responded quickly to them, and lowering their responsiveness to people who responded slowly to them in the past.'"
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When Can I Expect an Email Response?

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  • by HotBlackDessiato (842220) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @05:55PM (#16011160)
    ...anymore. you never respond to my comments.
    • by eln (21727) * on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @05:57PM (#16011176) Homepage
      Hey, I just wanted to get a quick reply out to you to let you know that I read your comment. I'll post more in detail later, I have a meeting I need to get to.
      • by furchin (240685) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:08PM (#16011269)
        Thanks for sending me an email. I'm taking a short break today, Wednesday 8/30. In my absence, please talk to KaraM about the MxTK project, JuhnA for workflow issues, or HiuS for general questions.
      • by poopie (35416) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @07:03PM (#16011666) Journal
        Hey, I just wanted to get a quick reply out to you to let you know that I read your comment. I'll post more in detail later, I have a meeting I need to get to.


        Hi Eln,

        Thanks so much for your prompt response. This is now urgent! I'm cc'ing all of the dev managers and the VPs of developments so that we can all track your responses to this issue. Please respond to all ASAP!!!

        Oh, can we set up a meeting tonight at 8pm to discuss your findings? I've added this to everyone's calendar - I realize that this is short notice, but attendance is mandatory.

        If anyone has any thoughts, ideas, random musings, opinions, or collateral information please respond.

        Thanks everyone!

        Bob
        Senior SCSSACP
        TPS report generation, QLDT division
        AGAAP
        email: bob@corp.com
        fax: 1-212-212-1212
        Mobile: 1-212-212-1223
        Telex: TP-10925645
        Pager: bob7979797@pagingservice.com
        GPS coordinates: N36 06.285', W114 46.655'
        IM: hotlovr69@msn.com
        What I'm currently listening to: Mr. T - Respect yo Mama

        The opinions epressed in the above email represent my opinion and do not represent the opinion of my company or management. This communication from corp.com may contain forward looking statements or confidential information and must not be forwarded or archived.

        --

        THIS MESSAGE WAS SENT FROM MY BLACKBERRY

        --
        THIS MESSAGE HAS BEEN SCANNED BY AVG-PRO AND FOUND TO BE VIRUS FREE
    • Ob. Beatles (Score:5, Funny)

      by jb.hl.com (782137) <joe@joe-b[ ]win.net ['ald' in gap]> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:20PM (#16011373) Homepage Journal
      you never respond to my comments.

      You only give me your funny mod points...
  • by doxology (636469) <cozzyd@m[ ]edu ['it.' in gap]> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @05:56PM (#16011172) Homepage
    I just the other day got...an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday, I got it yesterday.-Ted Stevens, honorable US Senator from Alasak

    See, it's not that people time e-mails to make themselves look busy, it's that the tubes get full!
    • by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:40PM (#16011516) Homepage
      Ted Stevens, honorable US Senator from Alasak

      You mean Alaska has an honorable Senator with the same name as the bridge guy? What are the odds?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by shigelojoe (590080)
        Ted Stevens, honorable US Senator from Alasak

        You mean Alaska has an honorable Senator with the same name as the bridge guy? What are the odds?

        No, it's from Alasak, which is like Bizarro-Alaska. Here, the senators are honorable, the winters are quite pleasant, and they really *are* in a box off the coast of Mexico.
  • because the email is down due to clogged vacuum tubes.
  • by hellfire (86129) <deviladv@gmCOFFEEail.com minus caffeine> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:01PM (#16011213) Homepage
    The first comment to the article on that page is awesome and must be shared:

    some additional behaviors that I've seen while working at a 30+ person startup:

    - certain people respond to all emails in person, by getting up to talk to them or yelling across cubicles

    - certain people prefer to communicate by email even when the recipient is sitting right next to them

    - there is another group of people who send very few work-related emails, but who send interesting and/or funny emails to the entire company now and then.
    • Not only all the behaviours from TFA, but also those noted in your post, are exactly as they were back in the snailmail era. Only the medium has changed.

      Back when I was a lad, we had actually write with pen on paper, address envelopes, lick our own stamps, and trudge to the post office uphill both ways in a snowstorm! you kids have it easy, what with email to do all the dirty work. Think of the galoshes makers!!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Back when I was a lad, we had actually write with pen on paper, address envelopes, lick our own stamps, and trudge to the post office

        You had a Post Office??? You had it easy! We only had pony express, and we had to run to catch him because he never stopped here. But the behavior was exactly the same then too...some people would take a week to chisel a response.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Reziac (43301) *
          Damn, that's rough... did you have a problem with the dinosaurs chewing up your stone tablets? I've heard they're subject to breakage.

      • I disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:51PM (#16011585)
        We're the Cut'n'paste generation. We don't really think about what we write before putting 'pen to paper' anymore for the following reasons:

        1. You can cut'n'paste you sentances to make some resemblance of ordered thought.
        2. You can get a quick response, so if you're imprecise, you'll know about it quicker.

        So basically latency has plummeted, but we're probably less efficient at doing things than we used to be before all this 'new fangled technology'.

        Am I going to read this comment through? Do a spellcheck? nope, I'm going to spin in out, with it's imprecision, flaws and ambiguity, for I know that someone else will pick up on those point very rapidly and therefore I do not need to bother...
        • Re:I disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Reziac (43301) * on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @07:10PM (#16011710) Homepage Journal
          An AC makes some insightful side points, which I'll quote for the +2 masses:

          ======
          We're the Cut'n'paste generation. We don't really think about what we write before putting 'pen to paper' anymore for the following reasons:

          1. You can cut'n'paste you sentances to make some resemblance of ordered thought.
          2. You can get a quick response, so if you're imprecise, you'll know about it quicker.

          So basically latency has plummeted, but we're probably less efficient at doing things than we used to be before all this 'new fangled technology'.

          Am I going to read this comment through? Do a spellcheck? nope, I'm going to spin in out, with it's imprecision, flaws and ambiguity, for I know that someone else will pick up on those point very rapidly and therefore I do not need to bother...
          ======

          Unfortunately, this is very accurate. The digital age has made the hurried, poorly-thought-out, flung-to-the-winds reply that much easier to commit, as any flamewar veteran can attest.

          The nearest pen-and-paper equivalent would be to read only the first line of each snailmail letter received, then reply by scribbling on postcards, right three at the post office, and immediately throwing them into the Outgoing Mail slot.

          • by The Amazing Fish Boy (863897) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @08:17PM (#16012094) Homepage Journal
            An AC makes some insightful side points, which I'll quote for the +2 masses:

            And I'll quote this bad boy for those of you that have "Insightful" posts modded down, and anyone that has added me as a "Friend"

            We're the Cut'n'paste generation. We don't really think about what we write before putting 'pen to paper' anymore for the following reasons:

            1. You can cut'n'paste you sentances to make some resemblance of ordered thought.
            2. You can get a quick response, so if you're imprecise, you'll know about it quicker.


            So basically latency has plummeted, but we're probably less efficient at doing things than we used to be before all this 'new fangled technology'.

            Am I going to read this comment through? Do a spellcheck? nope, I'm going to spin in out, with it's imprecision, flaws and ambiguity, for I know that someone else will pick up on those point very rapidly and therefore I do not need to bother...
            ======

            Unfortunately, this is very accurate. The digital age has made the hurried, poorly-thought-out, flung-to-the-winds reply that much easier to commit, as any flamewar veteran can attest.

            The nearest pen-and-paper equivalent would be to read only the first line of each snailmail letter received, then reply by scribbling on postcards, right three at the post office, and immediately throwing them into the Outgoing Mail slot.
      • by yali (209015)

        Not only all the behaviours from TFA, but also those noted in your post, are exactly as they were back in the snailmail era.

        Yeah, and they worked pretty well for Darwin and Einstein [msn.com]. At least that's what I keep telling myself when I forget or ignore colleagues' emails.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Naviztirf (856598)
      What I hate is taking the time to compose a long email in which multiple issues need to be addressed and receiving a short reply that answers only the first question. For those people I end up sending them an email for each question... Well at least is isn't paper *sigh*.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'll often send an email to my boss rather than going down the hall to his office just so that there is a written record somewhere of what I requested from or reported to him.
    • by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @07:23PM (#16011786) Homepage
      If you send someone an email, you want to be able to hold them to what they say in the reply.

      If you talk in person instead of email, you don't want anybody to be able to hold you to what you say.

      It's all about repudiation.

    • by dangitman (862676)
      - there is another group of people who send very few work-related emails, but who send interesting and/or funny emails to the entire company now and then.

      Sorry, but there is nothing funny or interesting about those emails. In fact, they create a sucking hole of anti-funny, which theatens destroy all joy on this world and throughout the multiverse.

  • Its all individual (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mordors9 (665662) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:03PM (#16011226)
    I have 8 people that work in my Unit. When I send out an email to the group needing an immediate response, I know that only 2 will respond right away (assuming they are at their desk). The rest of them check their email at different frequencies. The little notice they get apparently does not stimulate their curiosity as it does mine. One of them will check each hour. I have one person that will check it each morning and that is it. So if you need an answer before that, you have to call him.
    • by RevDobbs (313888) * on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:13PM (#16011306) Homepage
      . . .The little notice they get apparently does not stimulate their curiosity as it does mine. . . . I have one person that will check it each morning and that is it. So if you need an answer before that, you have to call him.

      Which is fine. It means he is concentrating on the task at hand and not being easily distracted.

      If you need an immediate answer, why the hell are you resorting to email? There is no reliable way to even be sure that he received your message, let alone that he is going to read it right away or take the time to addesss it.

      If you need an answer for something, never rely on email. It is great for "please review the attached doc and get back to me by Friday" (if followed up with a phone call before Friday) or "FYI" stuff. But it isn't a substitute for a phone call (which may still be shunted to voice mail), or a physical visit if the person is close enough.

      • by canuck57 (662392)

        If you need an immediate answer, why the hell are you resorting to email? There is no reliable way to even be sure that he received your message, let alone that he is going to read it right away or take the time to addesss it.

        So for every issue I have to call like a baby sitter? No fraking way. If a chair mushroom does not respond to simple issues appropriatly, I start cc'ing their manager, and then their manager's manager. Maybe include their peers. Even went up to the CEO 6 layers up once, got a goo

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          All you're doing is forcing your desired communication method on other people. Have you even tried picking up the phone? It usually takes less time than an e-mail. Learn which ones respond well to e-mail, which ones always pick up the phone, and you'll not only get better responses, but you'll also not be such an asshole. Try that shit on me and you'll get a blunt reply, CC'd wherever you feel like it, that I'm just too busy and can't do anything for you until tomorrow, if you're lucky. Unless you legitimat

    • Mail shouldn't be high priority. That is what pagers and phones are for.
    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @07:21PM (#16011779) Homepage Journal

      I have 8 people that work in my Unit. When I send out an email to the group needing an immediate response, I know that only 2 will respond right away (assuming they are at their desk).

      I've had a request to "send" "data" to someone, with a deadline of thursday for a few weeks now. It began, "OK, fine, no worries just tell me what data you need and in what format." No response. The owner of this project starts sending me colour-coded emails. "Urgent send data" I reply to him, "Give me an idea which items you need and in what form to send it." I get back "put it in an excel spread sheed, I don't know, here talk to this person xxxxxx@xxxxx.org" I email their contact and a week goes by. I get another urgent email. I reply I still don't have any spec or specifics and get another email. I send out a query to that one. Days pass and nothing. Finally I'm getting orange (which I presume is more urgent than red) and another plea to "send data soon, deadline approaching." I reply, to the entire list of those cc'd with the plea. "these people need to contact me, I need specifics, I don't just send "data" any old way." Finally someone kicks the people at xxxxx.org in the pants and they phone. Bam! It's taken care of in mere minutes. Got exactly what they needed.

      So why did it take so long?

  • Surprised? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gemini_25_RB (997440) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:03PM (#16011230)
    I'm not. Frankly, I would have guessed this, especially considering that this is _corporate_ america, where looking busy can be more beneficial than doing good work. It is interesting how people would send an email and then keep checking "constantly" for a response. Why not just pick up a phone (or walk to the next cubicle in some cases) if you are that concerned about the message? Reciprocating, however, is ... odd; What do all the OCD emailers do the first time they contact someone?
    • Ok, mod me down if you must, but I'm genuinely interested in this.

      I work for a company in the UK which works with a company in the States. Sometime I have to email fairly technical (ie its about source code and programming in general) messages to my counterpart in the States. To make the process as simple as possible I spend some time breaking my question(s) into pieces, numbering them, and making them clear and hopefully straight-forward. The American company practically *always* only replies to the first
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by WuphonsReach (684551)
        Two words: top posting

        I work for a company in the UK which works with a company in the States. Sometime I have to email fairly technical (ie its about source code and programming in general) messages to my counterpart in the States. To make the process as simple as possible I spend some time breaking my question(s) into pieces, numbering them, and making them clear and hopefully straight-forward. The American company practically *always* only replies to the first point in the email. If their reply addres
      • The American company practically *always* only replies to the first point in the email. [...] Is this a widespread practice? And if so......why?

        Yes.





        Ok, fine, I'll bite on the "why" part. Actually it's been my experience that these problems are due to a combination of short attention spans and generally poor reading comprehension skills. I've experienced it globally, for what it's worth, but it certainly may be more prevalent in countries with pathetic mandatory schooling.
      • by gfody (514448)
        ADD is running rampant in America. I think it might have something to do with all the MSG in our food.

        It's so bad almost everyone I talk to on a daily basis doesn't hear a word I say. It's like I'm not speaking english and they're just talking at me about what they think I said or what they think I think. It could also have something to do with their deeply rooted arrogance that causes them to stop reading after the first few sentences and think something like, "what an idiot", then presumptuously answer a
        • by treeves (963993)
          To respond to your first point (wouldn't want to do more than that and ruin your stereotype!):
          Are you serious about MSG?
          Do the Japanese have a major problem with ADD/ADHD? No? Case closed.


  • I know for me personal vs business is a whole matter. I'm a project manager for an architecture firm. During the day I'll recieve maybe 15 ligit e-mails, 5 of which may involve some type of emergency on someones part. Our industry is such where when you do get a communication from a client, public official etc. it ususally requires immediate action on my part, or on teh part of my design team. So as a rule of thumb I dont' answer my e-mails in order. I review them address the emergencies first. Then sch
    • Hey, that makes my strategy of quickly responding to business e-mail (and putting personal e-mail on a lower, 24-hour cycle) correct!
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:41PM (#16011521) Homepage

      The same applies to improtance. ohh yea, the importance flag in outlook is of no use whatsoever because an emergency on your part, doesnt' mean an emergency on mine, unless your a client in which case see above.

      Agh! E-mail "priorities". In my experience, anything marked "!" important was absolutely not important at all. I used to work for a company where some people would set that on every single e-mail they sent, no matter the content. I ignored it for a while, and then I set a casual rule for myself that anything with a little red exclamation mark next to it got ignored for 10 minutes minimum. Still, it annoyed me, so I made inbox rules to reverse any priorities (setting e-mails marked "low" to "high" and vice versa).

      That was all well and good until my boss walked by and noticed all his e-mails were marked low priority. "Oh... huh, you didn't set them low priority? I just thought you were being considerate to my schedule. Must be some kinda bug!"

      • Is it funnier if I explain that I was a helpdesk tech at the time?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by X86Daddy (446356)
        Lotus Notes also has the Important flag available, in a column to display various pre-set icons for type of message... I've built dialogs for myself to insert custom icons into my messages (Notes hackers: the field is "_ViewIcon", values are positive integers). If used sparingly, you can definitely get someone's attention when your message shows up in their Inbox with an icon they've never seen there before. :-D
  • by stefanlasiewski (63134) <slashdot AT stefanco DOT com> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:04PM (#16011238) Homepage Journal
    "Email means that someone can ignore you instantly"... this after sending 25 emails and making 10 phone calls to someone else in the organization, and that person's supervisor, and the supervisor's supervisor.
  • "Ever sit there waiting for Slashdot post and wonder what's going on? Did they post it? Did it get ad-blocked? A study looks at the posting habits of a small group of Slashdot editors. They find, among other things, that editors would try to 'project a responsiveness image. For example, posting a short summary if a complete summary might take longer than usual, intentionally duping a story to make themselves seem busy, or planning out timing strategies for posts.' Tit-for-tat, 'Users would try to reciprocat
  • Well, yeah... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:05PM (#16011242) Journal
    Most users check their email "constantly"

    One thing that contributes to that is Lotus Freaking Notes' brilliant feature of checking email, putting up an alert when you get new mail BUT NOT ACTUALLY DISPLAYING IT IN YOUR INBOX, thus forcing you to break your activity to make sure it's not something that can't be ignored.

    As with much of Lotus Freaking Notes, this is a) an interface issue that was ironed out by the rest of the developer world 20 years ago and b) would have taken maybe 15 seconds longer to code properly than it did to do it wretchedly.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jeffy210 (214759)
      You know that's one thing I think Microsoft got right in Outlook 2003. When you recieve an email you get a semi-translucent pop up in the lower right corner of your screen with the sender, subject, and the first two lines of the email. If you move your mouse to it, it'll turn solid and you can open it, delete it or flag it right then and there. If you choose to ignore it, it just goes away after about 3 seconds.

      I've found it's really made things easier because I don't have to check every time I hear a new m
    • by British (51765)
      Outlook is not immune to that either. Rarely, the "new message icon" in the systray gets stuck on.

      What bothers me is that emails that get rule-processed(even if I choose to "mark as read") still do not turn off that envelope icon. I have to empty out my deleted items folder for it to go. I do a lot of filtering too. No, I don't care to read if you are out of the office.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ConceptJunkie (24823)
      There's a rumor that Lotus Freaking Notes was actually developed by the Soviet Government in the chaotic, budget-starved 1980's using East German war-surplus vacuum-tube computers and unemployed Czech and Romanian construction workers. Sources suspect the real reason Reagan walked away from Reykjavik was that CIA intelligence obtained beta copies of the software, and he realized that a government using this system would surely collapse within a decade and ultimately posed no security threat to the United
  • Email all day (Score:5, Interesting)

    by floppy ears (470810) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:05PM (#16011247) Homepage
    At my company, almost everything is done by email. Most messages are responded to nearly immediately, and so everybody's expectation is that email is more of a conversation than something that will be looked at in 24 hours (may as well be 24 years).

    Of course, little actually gets done since interruptions are contstant. Seriously, probably 2/3 of my time is allocated to just sending and receiving emails. And I work in a major, highly profitable company. I just don't understand how we do it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by susano_otter (123650)

      Seriously, probably 2/3 of my time is allocated to just sending and receiving emails. And I work in a major, highly profitable company. I just don't understand how we do it.

      Labor-saving devices at all levels of your operation, painstakingly integrated into your operation over more years than you've been alive, allow you to get more work done than previous generations even in the face of greater distractions.

      (Indeed, it allows your employer to grow into a major, highly profitable company even while employing

      • Actually we own some highly valuable intellectual property that allows us to make gobs of money without needing to be efficient. I think. In any event, you are correct that I don't have a huge clue about how we run, just my little neck of the woods. But I don't think that labor saving devices do so much for us.
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      It seems the alternative is to call a meeting on ever little thing, ignore processes and best practices, and generally fail to manage your staff because that would mean taking responsibility for their performance.

      Think yourself lucky that you communicate with anyone at all, in most companies people don't.
    • You're just down the hall from me, right? Let's setup meeting sometime.
  • Personally, I think email replies strategies are consistent for individuals, but I haven't seen a general rule that applies to people in general. For example, there are some people I email that always reply promptly while others do not. And some people tend to send detailed emails while others never write more than two or three sentences. I think this has more to do with general philosophies of work and the importance of email as a means of communication to the individual. Some people are always "too bu
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WuphonsReach (684551)
      It depends on the person's preferred method of communication. (I'm sure I'll mess up the categorizations.) Most people prefer one specific type with less preference for the others. Some folks are equally comfortable with multiple types.

      Tactile? Those are the face-to-face meeting folks. They're not comfortable unless they can see you in the same room and watch the body language. They process new things by working with them in a hands-on fashion.

      Visual? The e-mail and IM gods. Written is best for
  • I've cut back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mccalli (323026) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:15PM (#16011322) Homepage
    I've massively cut back my response times to email, and deliberately so. Maybe five times a day I'll go through and reply now, sometimes maybe three.

    Instant messenger I tend to reply to...well...instantly. Even if it's only to say that I'll have to answer in a couple of minutes. Your best bet for getting hold of me is a phone message. Why will sound familiar to many. I was getting so distracted and interrupted by email that I turned off any notification that I'd received any. From then on, I found I was able to concentrate on my work a lot more.

    What's been interesting is that people I regularly correspond with have noticed this and fitted in with the pattern fine. I don't think they've consciously done it - they've clearly learned how to get hold of me if they need to, and what kind of response times to expect otherwise. It's beneficial all round really - the key is that the two methods of getting hold of me quickly are interactive methods - phone or IM. This cuts down misunderstandings, stops people wasting time formulating the perfect email to send me because they can just get through it in a normal conversational style, adds informality as we're able to use a spot of humour whilst discussing whatever needs doing...it's just better. IRC aside, flamewars are more common in email than in IM. And phone-based flamewars? When's the last time you ever heard of one, if ever? Personal contact always mitigates such behaviour.

    So email is no longer a quick way to reach me at work. It's a conscious choice, and it's worked out absolutely fine.

    Cheers,
    Ian
    • Re:I've cut back (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @07:18PM (#16011764) Journal
      I generally check my email at least once a day, probably several times. I can use the distraction.

      It's extremely odd. As a programmer, distractions make me more productive, so long as they aren't actually interruptions. In Deep Hack Mode (TM), I won't be interrupted at all, so I simply won't check my mail. But most of the time, going to lunch, going for a walk, putting my feet up on my desk, or reading Slashdot will make me more productive, because it makes me think about something else.

      Counterintuitive, but it works, because when I come back to what I was stuck on, I see it in a new way. It's almost as if the less I work, the better I work.

      Of course, a significant amount of my time is spent doing more of a grind -- fix this bug, tweak this margin, look up that CSS property, go back to a co-worker and explain a fix I need. I can do that for days at a time. But when I'm actually doing what I'm good at, the programming work itself, that's when breaks make me productive.

      However, even if this were not the case, I doubt I'd put it off for more than a few days. Unless I'm really that busy, I see no reason to. If it can reasonably be done over email, it makes sense that way, and when it can't, I pick up the phone or I walk into someone's office. I don't often see flamewars, and I don't try to formulate the perfect email -- I type in a normal conversational style.

      I guess I separate interactivity from urgentness. For instance, if a server goes down and I'm needed to put out fires, a simple email, IM, SMS, phone call, or absolutely any way of getting the message "COME TO WORK" to me is fine. Another example: Discussing requirements with a client must always be done in person, but isn't necessarily urgent -- that meeting could be set up five days from now.

      But that's just what's worked for me. I can understand people crafting the perfect email, or avoiding email for various reasons -- it doesn't have to make sense to me. It's probably the same sort of psychology which causes people to have rules about never taking work home, and having a place of work and a place of play that are distinct and separate -- the same psychology which suggests that you shouldn't do anything in bed other than sleep or sex.
      • by mccalli (323026)
        It's extremely odd. As a programmer, distractions make me more productive, so long as they aren't actually interruptions. In Deep Hack Mode (TM), I won't be interrupted at all, so I simply won't check my mail. But most of the time, going to lunch, going for a walk, putting my feet up on my desk, or reading Slashdot will make me more productive, because it makes me think about something else.

        I understand what you're saying and agree with it entirely. I think the key for me is that the kind of distraction
    • by Rich0 (548339)
      Interestingly enough I've tended to take the opposite approach. I rarely check my voicemails and almost never answer the phone (I have a few exceptions - generally people that I know tend to raise genuine urgent issues).

      My logic is that if somebody wants me to do something, if they write an email it forces them to organize their thoughts. When I check my voicemails it tends to be a lot of "hey, this is so and so, can you give me a call so that we can go over ". As a result I have to chat on the phone wit
  • Black Hole (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:17PM (#16011341)
    I'm surprised they didn't mention the people who are black holes. You send them emails, they read them, but they do nothing until you walk over there and prod them to see if they have read it and only then will they give you an answer.

    I've tried all sorts of things to coax an answer out of people like this through email... writing shorter messages which only ask one yes/no question, writing longer ones, etc etc nothing I try seems to be able to make them type that damn reply.
  • or planning out timing strategies for email with read receipts.
    Options --> dig around a bit --> 'Never Send a Read Receipt'

    Is there some kind of etiquette involving read receipts that I don't know about?
    • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:27PM (#16011427)
      I like to copy the text from a read receipt and then send a dozen or so messages containing that text to the sender over the next 30 minutes. : p
    • by lubricated (49106)
      Options--> dig around a bit --> ask me to send a receipt.

      I like to know who the lamers sending the receipts are.
      Sometimes I also like to pretend I never got the message.
    • by JKConsult (598845)
      Is there some kind of etiquette involving read receipts that I don't know about?

      Yes. Don't use them. "I need to know you read this", blah blah blah, I've heard it. Read receipts suck, and people who use them (on a regular basis; I can see an argument if you either rarely use them when you send email to me, or you always use them but don't send a lot of email to any one person) suck worse. I've only recently had to start using Outlook again (at work), after about a 5-year hiatus of working either for
  • And (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Fred Porry (993637)
    Its also really interesting, how people behave when you send them a job application: they just wont send a reply, even if you send another shit-friendly email, you can do whatever you want, they just wont effin' reply to your emails/whatever! No way!!!
    I'm sorry, beeing unemployed just totally sucks...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Venik (915777)
      As a sysadmin I know a thing or two about the way our HR operates. They have things well automated. Emails with job inquiries and resumes are automatically processed and added to the database. They run keyword searches against that database when looking for someone with a specific skillset. Hence the importance of having two versions of your resume: one for sending to specific individuals who might actually read it; and another one optimized for a keyword search.

      Let's say they are looking for a sysadmin for
  • Not a study, but I did write about it...

    "When I send somebody an e-mail, I expect them to respond. One day is nothing. Two days if you're busy, I can understand and appreciate that. Three days is rude, and anything beyond that is stupid. We're not talking about sitting down to write an essay here, some grand quest to prove to everyone that you do actually know how to spell, use grammar, punctuation, and occasionally capitalize letters. I'm talking about a simple "Sorry, I don't have any information about
  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:37PM (#16011496)
    FROM: Potamus, Peter
    TO: Falcone, Blue
    SUBJECT: That thing I sent you!

    Did you get that thing I sent you?
  • 24 hours (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Wylfing (144940) <brian AT wylfing DOT net> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:40PM (#16011511) Homepage Journal

    Cripes, what is funny about this is that I have already metmodded posts from this topic.

    Anyway, when I first started in business, which was a surprisingly long time ago given what I'm about to say, the head of our company met with every new hire and, among other things, said this:

    Respond to every voice-mail within one hour, and respond to every e-mail within one day.

    I have always taken that as a maxim of business communication. Professionals should respond in those timeframes, or else you need to assume (a) something went wrong with the transmission (this covers a lot of professional gaffes, which is good when the person you are accusing is your client), or (b) they have been too busy to respond (which means you should "annoy" them anyway -- busy people like to be gadflied with important items), or (c) they are intentionally ignoring you, which means you should assume #1 or #2 anyway.

  • Your PHB wants you to cc'd him on every email when contacting people related to the project but outside the department to make absolutely certain you're not conspiring with someone to get him fire.

    That was fun. I did that for six months before getting another job. Why was I required to do this? Turns out my PHB was lying to people outside the department, and, since I didn't know that and wouldn't care anyway, my habit of documenting everything related to my project got him in hot water. He got annoyed wh
  • by jeblucas (560748) <jeblucas@gmaCOFFEEil.com minus caffeine> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:44PM (#16011539) Homepage Journal
    ARRRRRGGGGHHHH! I can't stand these. I hate them times a million. I have one vendor that wants a receipt sent when I DELETE their message. (I'm CC'd only, I'd yell if I could). I, as a rule, never send receipts back. Never. Not to my boss, no one. If you want to know that I got your message, call me and speak to me. That's a pretty good way to verify, and say, while you're at it; maybe you could just tell me what's up. If you want the aloofness and lack of immediacy of email, then I'm sorry, you don't get to immediately know when I've read your message.
  • I've dealings with an E-store that is going to deliver some anime books to me, however for the last week I have yet to receive a response, my package has not been sent according to the site but I've 0 response with them. It's horrid.

    Personally if you're in the service industry a fast response gets you more business. A response "we'll get back to you with in 24 hours" is all most people need right away. It shows you're worthy of doing business.

    If you ignore people you'll lose business obviously and a delay
    • Actually, if memory serves, the first real spam was from a group of lawyers that were trying to advertise back when the net was a much smaller place and the fines for unsolicited emails were taken very seriously.
  • I ignore them until I want an interrupt, then I deal with them in the priority *I* give them. I do not acknowledge how important you think it is (or how important you think you are). If they come to my desk, I tell them "I'm in the middle of something, and will get to your email/call soon".
  • Maybe the person didn't get it yet. Mail can be delayed for many different reasons. A spam fighting technique is to use greylisting. Some mail servers will simply queue the tempfail and not try again for a few hours, or maybe not until tomorrow. SMTP servers will guarantee delivery. They won't guarantee delivery in a few seconds.
    • SMTP does not guarantee delivery. It guarantees delivery or a bounce.

      Your comments about timeframes are spot-on, however.
  • Heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by andreyw (798182) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:59PM (#16011631) Homepage
    I tend to reply as quickly as I can (that might depend on a lot of factors), but I never take into account how slowly someone responded. Just because (for example) someone doesn't have any respect for me to convey a timely reponse to me via email/sms/im/pm, doesn't mean I need to lower myself to that level.
  • I hate people that never respond. Sometimes they justify it as they were only CC'ed not in the main To:. Or they were one of a small list of recipients in the To:, even if the first listed.

    I hate people that put return receipts on everything they send out. They get pissed when you elect not to send the return receipt.

    I hate people who will copy a great number of people in an organization that aren't remotely involved with an issue just to point out that someone in the organization did something wrong. I usu
    • I hate people...

      I hate people...

      I hate people...

      I hate people...

      Froggy, froggy, all green and bumpy.
      Why do you frown and act so grumpy?

    • by dbIII (701233)
      If people are expecting emails from those that are slow to reply they can implement two annoying behaviours. The first is to set their email client to pop the mail server at one second intervals (yes - people actually do this!). The second is to bother the sysadmin with the words "the spam filter is stopping emails from getting to me - fix it", which is the start of a long search through two months of textual dross for a non-existant email from an unknown sender. The third is the person who pretends to h
  • My tuppence worth (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TractorBarry (788340) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @07:04PM (#16011680) Homepage
    Personally when I'm at work I only look at my emails about once or, if I get really bored, possibly twice, a day. With my private email accounts it's now got to the point where it may be as little as once a week. There's just that much crap being transmitted by email that I can barely be bothered to use it at all any more.

    At home it's the never ending spam that's worn me down. My ISP runs spam filters and I run local spam filtering prior to downloading any actual messages and, whilst the level of spam became reasonable for a while, it's getting worse all the time and I get really bored deleting all the crap - even though most spam is automatically marked for me by software.

    At work 70% of the email is useless noise which has been forwarded down the entire management chain with a message to "cascade to all staff". Sadly these message are usually along the lines of "Fred Bloggs has just been appointed as deputy leader to Mike Hunt and will now be reporting to Freda Smiggles" and whilst this is obviously a source of pride for Mr Bloggs, and undoubtedly useful for anyone who has dealings with Mr. Hunt and Ms. Smiggles, it has absolutely nothing to do with me or the team I work for. And in case you're wondering the other 30% consists of:

    10% poor quality or old jokes, "unfunny" images and simply awful powerpoint slide shows.
    9.9% good jokes or "funny" images.
    0.1% funny powerpoint slideshows.
    4% false rumours,
    4% true rumours and
    2% useful information.

    Luckily though most of the mangement stuff get's processed by my mail filters so that it's automatically "marked as read" and moved into a spam folder (which is named "Management Information" :) as I simply can't be bothered reading it. It's somewhat depressing really as everyone is aware of the problem and if there's actually important information in one of these mails then either a telephone call will ripple down the management chain or there'll be a desk visit to pass on the information as well.

    I've found that the more prevalent the use of email technology, the poorer the "signal to noise" ratio has become. I therefore long ago took the decision to give email less status than normal mail. So I have a quick scan first thing in the morning, seperate out the stuff that looks interesting and then either bin or ignore the rest.

    If I'm sent something that requires a reply then I'll usually get round to it but very rarely with much regard to timing. I also always refuse to allow anything like "receipt reports" or "the email has been opened reports" and if I ever lose the ability to do this I'll just not run my mail client more than once a week.

    So if you're expecting a reply to an email you've sent me then don't hold your breath. I'll do it when I get round to it. But by the same token when I send emails I don't expect a reply in any great hurry so at least I'm consistent :)

    Personally I think the whole idea of a letter, whether transported via a physical medium or the aether, is to facilitate offline communication. You send it when you feel like it and I reply when I feel like it. That's a civilised way to communicate.

    Devices and methods which facilitate urgent communication should be used sparingly and should be restricted to life changing/threatening events such as a loved one being taken ill or imminent disaster. Personally my job involves me concentrating on the matter in hand and I do not appreciate being continually interrupted with trivial crap.

    Just my tuppence worth.
  • by EnsilZah (575600) <EnsilZah@nOSPaM.Gmail.com> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @07:11PM (#16011715)
    I just sent a mail professing my love to a girl i know and the suspense is fucking killin me.
  • When can I expect a response from you?

    How about NEVER? Does that work for you?
  • I'm starting to find that more large entities (St. Louis University, etc.) are starting to filter mail more aggressively. This by itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, but many of them are doing it poorly, by silently dropping e-mails that they filter. It's really frustrating when many of your e-mails get through, but one doesn't, and you never know about it. Did they receive it? Did they just miss it? And if they're filtering on content, you can't just reply to your first e-mail and ask "Did you have
  • I have found the reason a lot of people use email over phone, IM, or in-person meetings is that when email is sent, they have a (semi-)permanent record of that message, and it provokes a response back in the same manner, resulting in the same record. This "paper trail" then allows someone to go back and claim they discussed topics, brought up facts, alerted the appropriate people, and generally did everything they were supposed to do, and if a response did not happen... it's not their fault.

    This is a doubl
  • ...but I use MsgTag(www.msgtag.com) as they are infinitely more reliable than sending a return-receipt or the like. I know I could create my own system like this but overall it's been pretty cool.

    Admittedly, if you write to unix geeken who still use pine, elm, etc. then it won't work(it uses html tags inside the messages) but it's a fairly accurate indicator of when someone has read your messages.

    If anyone knows of a freeware project like MsgTag, I'd love to hear about it.

  • Many times I just don't answer at all. Especially if I got trown into a CC battle of top, bottom and HTML posters. Most of the time it is from people who are either 20 metres away max.

    Many emails are also a waste of time because it is notthe apropriate way to communicate. People use it to chat and expect an answer. If you want to chat or discuss, walk by or phone me if the distance is a problem.

    Timewise it will go much faster to have an interactive conversation. e.g.
    What are the numers for today?
    - 75 and 12
  • Yeah, my girlfriend. When I send her an email, I never know if she received it or not. That's because I send her email after email after email and she never answers them. I think her filtering software just puts the stuff right in the trash. But why doesn't she ever look in the trash to see if there's a message from me? Come to think of it, she never answers the phone when I call either. Maybe because she dumped me four years ago? Nah, couldn't be.
  • "Resist the pace of urgency"
    These are the wise words from the Director of my department. She has a lot of experience dealing with kids with Attention Deficit Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder, who believe it or not, resemble many geeks [wired.com]. For those of us who provide technical support this doesn't mean ignore or stall. It means prioritize and set reasonable boundaries for yourself. Some people seem to think better after they've articulated their problem in an email. Half the time, given some perculation

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