Saturday, November 12, 2011

Followup to my EMail experiment

So the Hacker News folks are having a discussion about my email experiment last April. Many interesting points were raised. One fair question is “how did the experiment work out?” 

In short, it worked incredibly well.

I was mostly worried about annoying the folks sending me email. But the only feedback I got was positive. 

I was also a little worried about folks abusing the [urgent] flag. But that didn’t happen, either. I had perhaps 5 or 6 urgent emails, and they were indeed things I needed to handle when I got back. Maybe I’m just lucky when it comes to the people who correspond with me.

The experiment had two positive effects on my life. First, the vacation was genuinely a lot nicer not having to worry about the sacks full of mail piling up for me when I got back. Was that selfish of me? Perhaps a little. 

I wasn’t expecting the other side effect. Since I returned from vacation, the quality of email I receive has improved, and the quantity I receive has dropped. I still enjoy interacting with all the people I need to interact with, and I still get to answer all the questions that need answering. It just seems that my inbox is somehow more focussed.

I have a theory. I think that, during the course of the preceding few years, I’d become something of a slave to my email. I’d answer stuff as it arrived. And those rapid responses would in turn trigger another round of email, and another. There was almost an adreneline rush to it.

So my vacation broke that cycle. And now things are sane (or at least closer to sane).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

So I'm trying an email experiment

For the next 2 weeks, here’s my vacation message:

Subject: I’m on vacation, and I’ve deleted your message—really

I know this sounds brutal, but here’s the deal.

I can’t remember the last time I took a vacation where I didn’t actually end up working a few hours each day handling e-mail. I felt I had to, because if I didn’t, the Inbox would just grow and grow, waiting for me when I got back—the idea that I’d be flying home to 5,000 messages would always be nagging at me, detracting from my holiday. So I worked (which also detracted from the holiday).

 This time, I’m taking a different approach. I’m asking for your help to make my break more enjoyable.

 I’m going to be discarding email I receive. That’s right—your email will be recycled into warm, fluffy bit-jackets for underprivileged children. I won’t see it.

If it’s something you think I really, really need to know, you can bypass this brutality by putting “urgent” in the subject line. But before you do:

  • if it is something that can be handled by the wonderful Pragprog support folk, could you send your message to

  • if it can wait until I get back on April 25, please resend your message then.

It’s an experiment. Bon voyage à moi!