I received this letter from Fast Company via snail mail the other day. Talk about good customer service. I had given a gift subscription of Fast Company to a friend, and he had moved, and the magazines were not getting to him. So FC sent me this letter in the hopes of fixing the problem.
I know this wasn’t an altruistic gesture on Fast Company’s part. FC needs subscribers to generate ad revenues, and by correcting his address, they have the chance to keep two subscribers, rather than frustrate—and lose—two of us. Motives aside, I remain a happy customer, in good part due to this note. Thank you, FC.
One suggestion to the folks at FC; while the note is certainly clear, it could be more personal, and a lot less machine-generated in tone. Especially from a magazine that is supposed to be covering the edge.
We are having difficulty delivering copies of FAST COMPANY to one of your gift recipients. That person’s name and mailing address as supplied to us is shown below. The Post Office has informed us that this address is undeliverable.
Please verify this address and if it is not correct, make note of the correction on this letter and return it to us. We will then correct the address and make the necessary adjustments so service can be restored.
I got my first email address in college. I think it was for CS 21, an Algorithms and Data Structures class at Brown, with the late Professor Kanellakis. Email wasn’t very useful then. After all, not many people—that I knew—had email addresses in the mid-1980s, and anybody who did was probably just a few Apollo nodes away in the computer lab.
My daughter, on the other hand, says that she is ready for her first email address now, in 5th grade. Several of her friends got their first email address last year, which has led to many a discussion that begin with the old saw, “It doesn’t matter what other families do.” Haven’t we all heard that line before.
My philosophy is this:
While email is a wonderful and convenient way to communicate, it’s also a responsibility, something that’s always on your todo list. How many times have you said, “I need to catch up on my email” or “I’m so behind on mail.” Plenty, I suspect. I don’t want her to carry that burden, yet.
But it’s inevitable: middle school is just around the corner. At some point, she is going to have an email address. And when she does, I want her to have a playbook. Sure, children learn by making their own mistakes, but remember, many of us had our first email address in college, not in middle school!
So here’s my first draft of Email Do’s and Don’ts for my children. What do you think?
Never send an email when you’re angry. Write it if you must, but save it as a draft, for later. And then revise it—or delete it—when you’ve calmed down.
When drafting a sensitive email, make sure that the To and Cc lines are empty until you are ready to send it. You don’t want to accidentally send a message that is incomplete or half-written; it might hurt someone’s feelings or make you look foolish.
Before you send, check your To/Cc lines carefully: are you sending the email to the right people? Many of us have forwarded an email to exactly the wrong person. Talk about wanting to hide under a table. This is a mistake worth avoiding.
Don’t send anything in email that you wouldn’t want on the front page of the newspaper. One of the recipients could accidentally—or deliberately—forward your message, or post it on their facebook page or blog. Email is not the place for sharing your secrets. Nor for gossip.
If it’s a difficult message, pick up the phone instead. I’ve drafted countless emails, only to realize how easily the message could be misunderstood. In those cases, pick up the phone. Or, send an email that says you’d like to talk in person and setup a time.
In most cases, short and sweet is better than an essay. Either you choose what people read, or they choose what portion of your email to read.
Don’t include passwords or other confidential items in email. This goes for your mother’s credit card number as well!
USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS makes it seem like you are YELLING. Don’t use capital letters, unless yelling is appropriate.
Make your Subject lines count. Some people decide whether to read your email, or not, based on the Subject line.
Don’t forget to call your friends. Remember: the phone is way more personal. Hands down. It’s not just tone of voice, it’s the ability to interact in real-time and to use more of your senses to communicate.
Apparently they were amazing at San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival a few weeks ago. You’ve just got to listen to it.
I’m not a music junkie. While I enjoy music, I apparently don’t love it enough to dedicate time to buying music or spend time taking care of my music collection, a collection that has seen only a small amount of growth since having children a decade ago. There are simply too many other things that are higher on my priority list. Sure, I have an iPod, to use on airplanes, and a shuffle, to use while exercising, but they haven’t seen much growth after the initial setup. Still, every once in a while I’ll hear something that I just love, and then I’ll buy the CD and rip it. Here’s such an artist. Wow. Thanks to Caterina Fake for the link.
Another webcomic of choice for engineers and geeks is xkcd. The subtitle says it all: xkcd is billed as “A WEBCOMIC OF ROMANCE, SARCASM, MATH, AND LANGUAGE.” The graphics are deceptively simple and the social commentary rich. Thanks to Hal Stern for first introducing me to it, and a bigger thanks to Randall Munroe for authoring it, warning label and all.
Here’s a recent xkcd post from Randall that you might enjoy, called Still Raw.
Updated daily, the election map depicts the book buying trends on Amazon for political books across the country, state by state, in the time period that you choose leading up to this year’s presidential election. You can also compare the data for the 2008 vs. 2004 election years. A full explanation of Amazon’s algorithm is here.
Amazon takes the common “blue is Democrat” and “red is Republican” approach, and uses yellow for states that are split 50-50. And of course they are careful to point out that just because you buy a book does not mean that you subscribe to that particular belief.
This map doesn’t give us a crystal ball with which to predict the election, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Thanks to Amazon’s Omnivoracious book blog for pointing it out to me.
I discovered some amusing webcomics last year. A favorite of mine is Geek and Poke. It’s not so much a webcomic as it is a blog on tech memes that uses graphics more than words. I particularly like that Oliver Widder finishes each post with a one liner explaining the genesis of the comic, and linking to the article or blog that sparked the idea. He answers the question I always have when I read something compelling: where oh where did the author get the idea for this?
I had just had this exact conversation with my mother, a gadget lover extraordinaire, who told me of her plans to purchase another iPhone. I didn’t get it—hadn’t she just bought an iPhone? Wasn’t she happy with it? Why would she possibly need another one?
It’s true: a geek’s life is hard. As is my mother’s.