[My Computational Complexity Web Log] Email's Curse of Success
Computer Scientists have communicated via email since the mid-1980's. Back then email worked quite well: You would send a message and usually get a quick response. We avoided telephone tag, trying to reach each other by phone when we needed to talk to each other quickly. Research ideas spread quickly; the world became smaller. Even within a department communication became paperless as one can get a message out to everyone far quicker electronically.
So what went wrong? We still use email today as the primary source of communication among computer scientists. But send a message today and I've learned to wait on average a couple of days to expect a response, if I get one at all.
Spam is the obvious culprit. Spam does clog our inboxes and even worse many of us don't carefully go through our spam folders and some legitimate mail gets unread. Spam has also made some computer scientists reluctant to share their email addresses online. But spam is not the only issue.
Email has become the communication of choice in the rest of the world as well. Besides messages from other scientists, I get email about my daughter's soccer team, announcements of upcoming concerts, warnings from the local police departments, a morning summary of the New York Times, financial information, utility bills and much more. All legitimate and usually useful email but it takes longer to work through it and slows down the time to respond to other scientists. Not to mention the many other web distractions such as news and weblogs (So stop reading this blog and respond to my emails. You know who you are.)
I can't rely on older technologies; since computer scientists expect email they check even less often their phone messages and postal mail. I can't rely on newer technology; computer scientists are surprisingly slow in adapting to new tools (like mail attachments) and it'll be years before instant messaging becomes common in the scientific community.
Oddly enough in our highly connected society it becomes harder and harder to get someones attention. So what am I doing? Slowly collecting the cell phone numbers of other computer scientists. Want mine? Send me an email.
Posted by Lance to My Computational Complexity Web Log at 9/15/2004 03:07:04 PM