Archive for September, 2010

Information Overload before Email

Posted on September 23rd, 2010 · Posted in Impact and Symptoms

Real time communication over large distances has been around for millennia, if you count smoke signals and bonfire beacons; but it’s really taken off in the 19th century after the arrival of Morse’s Electric Telegraph in 1844. Suddenly it was possible to freely send text across the nation, and the new invention spread as fast as new wires could be strung up. Isn’t progress great? The transformation this brought to all aspects of life was sweeping, and is described in Tom Standage’s fascinating book “The Victorian Internet“. My favorite part of this book is the quote from a speech made.. Read more

The occupational hazards of handling information

Posted on September 17th, 2010 · Posted in Impact and Symptoms

Handling stuff has always carried occupational health risks. Back in previous centuries it was physical stuff: if you worked in a coal mine your lungs would get shot; if you lifted product (“16 tons”), your back was at risk; if you dipped matches you’d be poisoned outright… and even dealing with books and ledgers involved the stereotypical “scholarly stoop” or myopic eyes. In this new century the stuff that matters is information, which is odorless, weightless, and non-toxic; you’d think there would be no hazards associated with its handling. And yet, there are distinct health issues related to Information Work… Read more

Is the brevity of SMS language compromising our emails?

Posted on September 12th, 2010 · Posted in Impact and Symptoms

An interesting observation in a client meeting: we were discussing the contribution of language gaps in a global company to email overload, and one participant pointed out that these days many younger employees use the super-abbreviated “SMS language” in their emails, leading to more misunderstood messages than in the past. Writing brief emails is not a new device; I notice it particularly among senior executives, who respond in one-liners and even in ALL CAPS to maintain communication despite the overload. These, however, tend to be older people and they write these brief emails in English. For instance, a baby boomer.. Read more

The collaboration-killing desk

Posted on September 7th, 2010 · Posted in Analysis and Opinion

Collaboration is a crucial aspect of work in most hi-tech companies. Office cubicles, for better or worse, are also present in many of them. You’d think, therefore, that the latter would be designed to facilitate the former… No such luck, however. Consider the most common type of desk seen in the cube farms. Image courtesy GraceFamily, shared on flickr under CC license. The basic concept seems to make sense: the L-shaped desk, bridged at the angle by a diagonal area for the keyboard, allows one to sit facing the screen while having everything else – phone, file trays, drawers, and.. Read more

Five tactics to prevent your email from reaching the wrong eyes

Posted on September 3rd, 2010 · Posted in Individual Solutions

In a previous post we saw that it’s all too easy for your email to find its way to people you hadn’t meant it for. So, what can you do when sending a sensitive message, to prevent such embarrassment (or worse)? Here are some tactics to consider: You can put in the message an explicit plea for discretion, such as “For your eyes only” or “DO NOT FORWARD”. You can also put “[Private]” in the subject, though that may draw the attention of hackers and people passing by an unlocked PC in the recipient’s absence. But of course, this is.. Read more