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The Protocol of E-mail:
A guide for the new communication.

Within the April 19, 1999 issue of The New Yorker, in an article about several women whom carried on a pen-pal relationship with a man on Death Row, Barbara Sproul, a one-time board member of Amnesty International states "If you are a letter writer, you know how intimate that connection can be over the years." Barbara is not the sort of person who designates the term "letter writer" on the occasional scribbler of informal notes or the yearly Christmas card. Indeed it is a phrase to be applied to those who consciously apply themselves to what they view as an art: the ability to achieve the fullest of human relationships primarily (sometimes solely) through written communication. It is, as some say, a dying art form, being replaced by such newfangled devices as the telephone, the audio cassette and the video camera (with which one can send "video postcards.") However, is it truly a skill set on its lasts legs or one about to be pulled (kicking and screaming) into the modern age?

The salvation of letter writing would assumably be the e-mail. Through the advent of Internet communication, letter writing is back with a vengeance. This time however, the words are not recorded on paper documents and hand delivered by the friendly postal carrier, but converted to digital information "packets" and piped through a matrix of wires and connections to be reassembled on your computer screen. Whereas only ten years ago people had serious fears that the human race would eliminate the need for the written word and delegate itself purely to vocal communication, now we of the internet age are bombarded daily with miniature notes, blatherings from old acquaintances, sales pitches for Viagra or inane mumblings from series of newsgroups.

Every form of communication needs a style guide, a way of spelling out simple rules for its practitioners to follow. E-mail has yet to have created this guide, and indeed the lack of such rules have created some interesting problems for people unskilled in transferring their ideas to digital paper. Certain phrases work fine in spoken communication, yet suffer when converted to the written word. Other verbage works fine in the formal setting of Victorian letter writing but loses something when scribed into the less casual setting of e-mail. This article hopes to pinpoint some of these problems and spur society towards the creation of some standard guidelines of this new communication form.

Addressing the Issue of Over-Politeness.
One of the big problems with e-mail currently is the abundance of over-politeness. E-mail is indisputably a disposable communication tool, the equivalent of an electronic post-it note. Nonetheless people seem unable to release e-mail from the inanities of modern "smile-till-it-hurts" business protocol. The result are e-mail strings like this:

JuliaGlibb@Hotmail.com
Subject: Barney, Need favor

Barney,

Howís it going. I meant to stop in at your office yesterday during lunch and say Ďhi.í Howís Peg and the kids? I thought little Todd was absolutely adorable in his junior theater version of "Death of a Salesman."

By the way, do you have the Excel spreadsheet for the Timmons account we worked on together last year? Aliciaís computer went down Thursday (Surprise!) and the network boys wiped her hard drive. Any chance you could forward it to me?

Thanks, and I look forward to seeing you at the Little League championships. Of course you must know the Boilers are going to wipe up the mound with the The Owls.

Julia

MadDoctor@FarleyAssoc.com
Subject: Re: Barney, Need favor

Julia,

Zoicks, Iíll have to see if I can track down that spreadsheet. I pretty sure we backed it up to zip a couple months ago but Iím not sure how well those were labled. Iíll see if I can track it down during my lunch break.

Unfortunally, you are sadly mistaking with your prediction for Saturdayís game. The Boilers are powered by very little other than hot air. The donít call us the Owls for nothing. Hoot, hoot!

Barney Thompson
Executive in Charge of Accounts Payable, 3rd Division John Farley and Associates

"What have you done with Spock's Brain?"

JuliaGlibb@Hotmail.com
Subject: Re: Barney, Need favor

Barney,

I hate to think of you wasting your lunch hour to track down the Timmons spreadsheet. We donít need it ASAP, just whenever youíve got the time. I know you like to use your lunch break for that martini at MacFlanneryís.

Just kidding!

Julia

MadDoctor@FarleyAssoc.com
Subject: Re: Barney, Need favor

Julia,

Just so you know, I havenít forgotten about your request, I just ran out of time yesterday. One of our temps spilled a cola on the fax machine and it started smoking and ended up setting Loriís dress on fire. I finished up supervising our cleaning staff to mop up the floor because the fire extinguisher went off.

Iíll get to it as soon as possible.

Barney Thompson
Executive in Charge of Accounts Payable, 3rd Division John Farley and Associates

"What have you done with Spock's Brain?"

JuliaGlibb@Hotmail.com
Subject: Re: Barney, Need favor

Barney,

Thanks once again for doing this. Sounds like things are just as crazy over there as they used to be. I really appreciate this.

Also, Barney, I thought about my martini joke the other day, and Iím really sorry. I shouldnít make jokes about things like that especially when Peg tells me youíve been trying so hard and doing so well. When I talked to her at the Spring Cleaning sale at Sears she said you were like a changed man. Iím sure theyíll eventually let you get your license back.

Hugs,
Julia

MadDoctor@FarleyAssoc.com
Subject: Re: Barney, Need favor

Julia,

Thanks for your apology. I guess I didnít want to admit it, but your joke really did hurt me. It reminded me of the old me, someone Iím trying to forget. The truth I wasnít able to find the spreadsheet yesterday because I really didnít try. Iím sorry.

I have to tell you, I wake up every day just thankful I didnít kill that women.

Barney Thompson
Executive in Charge of Accounts Payable, 3rd Division John Farley and Associates

"What have you done with Spock's Brain?"

JuliaGlibb@Hotmail.com
Subject: Re: Barney, Need favor

Barney,

The important thing for you to know is how many people out there love and respect you. Youíve just got so much to live for, three wonderful children and beautiful wife (Tell Peg I donít think she looks overweight at all.) In truth, we all saw what you were doing with your life and didnít make any attempt to step in a do anything. We were your enablers.

We are all Godís children,
Julia

MadDoctor@FarleyAssoc.com
Subject: Re: Barney, Need favor

Julia,

You shouldnít blame yourself for what I did. Iím my own person and I made my own mistakes. But the important thing is that I learn from them.

Attached is the Timmons spreadsheet. I was able to retrieve with my usual expediency, huh? (LOL)

Thanks for your support.

Barney Thompson
Executive in Charge of Accounts Payable, 3rd Division John Farley and Associates

"What have you done with Spock's Brain?"

EXCUSE ME PEOPLE BUT ARENíT WE SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING HERE?!?! Maybe we should start charging by the letter. Couldnít that conversation have gone much more efficiently along the lines of

Julia: Barney, Do you have a copy of the Timmons Spreadsheet.
Barney: Here you go. (See attachment.)

The Loss of Tone
It also needs to be understood with e-mail, that the tone one can communicate with the spoken word is also lost when translated to a computer screen. Often humorous techniques like sarcasm or mock-seriousness can get lost and little to sometimes painful miscommunication as the following illustrates.

BadMothahhh@triffod.com Subject: tan-go-ray and chronic

Dude, that hash recipe kicked ass. Me and Stone Doggy cooked up some brownies on Sunday and they ripped! We sat around watching Heavy Metal, like, 12 times.

However, the leftover stuff in the bowl was all fuckiní weird. Wet and sloppy, like the time I had sex with your mom!

Chill, D

charmshool@peace.org Subject: Re:tan-go-ray and chronic

Dude, fuck you! I donít need to hear that shit, you cocksucker! Fuck off and die!

RastaMan

BadMothahhh@triffod.com Subject: tan-go-ray and chronic

Dude, mellow brotherÖ I was just joking. Of course I didnít have sex with your mom, thatíd be like fucking a ball of hair.

Take a chill pill brother.

Chill, D

charmshool@peace.org Subject: Re: tan-go-ray and chronic

Dude,

Your the one who needs to chill. I canít believe you thought I was serious about that. You must think Iím one thinned skinned motherfucker to get pissed off about something like that. Ever heard of sarcasm? Look it up on your computer dictionary you trust fund hippie.

RastaMan

BadMothahhh@triffod.com Subject: tan-go-ray and chronic

Give me some credit man, I knew this was all a joke form day one. Can you say the same? I think maybe that women of yours is turning you all sensitive and stuff.

Peace
D

charmshool@peace.org Subject: Re: tan-go-ray and chronic

Dude,

Itís great how we can joke about all this stuff and insult each other and we both knows itís cool. Itís like my brother Chet, if you talk to him like that he gets all pissed and uptight and shit. Fucking establishment motherfuckers.

Catch you at the Rage show on Friday, I should have some killer Pink blotter.

RastaMan

P.S. Check out this great porn site http://www.sluttymammas.com

The Technical Aspects of Carbon Copying
The ability to CC (Carbon Copy) an e-mail and send it multiple addresses is a tremendous time saver and communication tool. In the business world, Project Managers can update various teams with a single click of the send button. Home users can send digital Christams Cards out to large lists of acquaintances with ease.

However, problems often occur when people send response to CCíd e-mails not realizing their response will go to everyone on the list. For example, the following discourse could lead to a multiple of problems:

JimB@ColoradoMutual.com Subject: Blanket Notice CC:RonB@ColoradoMutual.com,CarolXavier@ColoradoMutual.com,
TimLeschi@ColoradoMutual.com

Team:

Great work on the reassessment for the Navajo Blanket Loanís Kidís and Fun Internmenship program. Just a few final words:

Ron: can you gather up the postscript documents we got from the Indian Heritage center and forward them to me and Carol.

Carol: I still need those 1998 brochures.

Tim: Work with Ron to compile a contact list for next years event.

Thanks people,
Jim Brewson Information Technology Specialist in charge of Digital Networking and Special Projects
Colorado Mtutual Foundation

JimB@ColoradoMutual.com Subject: Blanket Notice CC:RonB@ColoradoMutual.com,CarolXavier@ColoradoMutual.com,
TimLeschi@ColoradoMutual.com

Jim,

You realize of course that if I have to work with Ron on any project Iíll have no choice but to finally snap and kill him. His utter inefficiency and painful lameness have proven themselves time and time again and I feel we would all be better off if he was replaced by a lobotomized spider monkey.

I wouldnít mind poking his wife though.

Tim

It can be assumed that Tim did not intend to send that message to Ron as brief perusal of his CC field indicates he did. This sort of event could be problematic in any business office, especially if Ron is much larger than Tim.

E-mail at the Speed of Thought
With the advent of technology designed to enable paraplegics to interact with computer by literally "jacking in" from their brain directly to the computer, itís is presumably not far off that technological citizens will be able to simply "think" their e-mail. Though on many levels this could be advantageous to society, problems may occur. Human nature would dictate that e-mails such as the following would be sent.

Webby@webster.net Subject: No.. Donít SendÖ

Mom,

I was wondering if you could forward this month's living allowance early (Donít tell her itís for drugs!) My car died and Iíve been catching the bus into campus (Donít tell her they kicked me out of college!) Once my paycheck comes in from work I should be able to cover next month. (Donít tell her that I was fired for shooting up in the bathroom! Damn it, Iíve got to stop thinking this stuff! Canít send it now, No donít send, NoÖ Donít press "senÖ."

As one famous scientist once speculated, if you are told not to think about bananas for a minute, the next sixty seconds of your thoughts will be filled with nothing but.

E-mail is a wonderful and convenient new way for us to communicate. However, as with any for of communication, a protocol must be established to dictate itís use. Ideally, this article will stimulate thought on the design of this protocol and its use.

What do you think? Leave your comments on the Guestbook!

Wil Forbis is a well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy, he is making the world safe for democracy. Email - acidlogic@hotmail.com

Visit Wil's web log, The Wil Forbis Blog, and receive complete enlightenment.

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