Email Doesn’t Suck. It’s Email Clients That Need Improving

from Wired

POSTCARDS MAY BE one of the most obvious examples of Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum, “the medium is the message.” Regardless of what you write on one, a postcard tells someone, hey, I was out and about in the world, and I was thinking of you.

I am an inveterate sender of postcards. For all the instantaneousness of today’s communication options, nothing quite conveys a message the way a postcard does. Another aspect I find McLuhanesque is the gap between when you mail the postcard and when the person receives it. The card is independent of both sender and receiver; third parties carry it to its fate.

I also love email, which I’ve always thought of as the digital equivalent of a postcard.

While email doesn’t have the physical limitations of a postcard (though email is similarly “open” in the sense that anyone with snooping skills can read one in transit), there is a shift in time between sending and receiving in both formats. And I would argue that the best emails follow the same format as a postcard: simple, focused messages.

Not everyone loves email, of course, but I am convinced that much of the dislike we have for email comes from the software we use to interact with it. That is, email clients.

More here.

Posted in Innovation, Technology and tagged , , .

11 Comments

  1. I disagree with a lot of the opinions that are stated in this article. Email is a part of people’s everyday lives and I think that many of us actually take it for granted. One thing that I disagree with is that the author finds notifications and badges to be annoying. However I believe that notifications are one of the more important aspects of emails. This applies more to the professional life of someone than anything else. Examples include when a professor emails the class that class is canceled that day. This can help commuter students especially from having to pay the costs of commuting to class. During the early days of the pandemic when resources such as the vaccines were being made available, and when there were open and available spots for a shot, one would have to sign up within a period of time or else companies would run out of resources, so being notified as soon as possible was important.
    The author keeps bringing up this idea of making the purpose of an email the same or at least similar to that of a postcard. The author has a common theme reciting that emails should be shorter and only contain the important information. But as we learned in our freshman year English class every piece of writing has a rhetorical situation. In other words it has a purpose and a postcard typically has a different purpose than that of an email, especially a professional one. Sometimes an email needs to be longer in length. Maybe it needs an accurate description of an issue that is happening on an assignment, if a student is email a professor about a homework question. Or maybe an employee is giving step by step directions of what they did hoping that their employer can find a fault in their process so they can troubleshoot. So the narrative of having short emails is just unobtainable at times and I think the author forgets that.
    Another idea that is brought about by the author is the notion of pictures are unimportant in an email. But I believe that the author is actually contradicting themself when saying this. They open the blog with them raving about postcards. Included in a postcard is a picture of the destination of where they are. However the author finds pictures to be annoying when in an email. Having images in an email typically relate to the content and can be more helpful than trying to describe something in words.
    Lastly the author states that they have a function on their computer that will get rid of the signature on the emails that they receive. Again in a postcard most people will sign their names. On some emails people have electronic signatures which are a way of trying to humanize the electronics.

  2. I have been using email since 2011, I agree with somethings stated in this article while I disagree with others. I have used email as a form of communication with my teachers and classmates since 2011 and the most irritating part about using email was the spam. Having to search through various spam emails from different websites or companies sending promotions made it painful to use. Since the addition of signing up for rewards and creating an account using your email, it has been unusable. Having to search through countless junk constantly while looking for important emails from a professor, relative, or classmate is exhausting. An example includes when a professor is emailing their students to tell them that class is cancel that day. Many of their students might not see the message if they are not looking for it if they have too much spam. This is somewhat a problem with my student email, I get constant spam from Microsoft, DOVE, the ministry office, and random seton hall staff that fill up my inbox and make it harder for me to see important emails. Now imagine having to searching through tens or hundreds of spam text messages when looking to respond to a text from your friend. Another thing that I disagree with is that the author does not like notifications. Notifications can be really helpful when having to sort through a bunch of spam and clutter.
    I do agree that email should be short and straight to the point, and should not have special formatting, fonts, or images. All that does is produce more clutter in an already cluttered form of communication. The author compares the idea of an email to a postcard. They should be short, sweet, and get to the point.

  3. One of the best forms of communication is email, after text messaging of course. The one form of communication I have not tried is postcards. Personally, I think postcards are not sufficient. First, you have to find the address of the recipient of the postcard. Second, postcards are small so you cannot write a lot on them. Third, postcards cost money. Even though a postcard costs a few dollars, those few dollars could have been spent elsewhere. And finally, there is no definitive that the postcard will be delivered to the recipient in general or in a timely manner. Emailing solves all these problems. Emailing is free, has enough space to write more than a few sentences, and if someone were to email me, I would receive the message within five seconds. With that said, I disagree with Gilbertson’s comment that email is the digital equivalent of a postcard. I do agree that Gmail can be slow to load, however, Outlook is a fast and organized email client. Prior to this article, the only email clients I have heard of and used are Gmail and Outlook. I was interested to hear that some other email clients include Mutt, Pine, and Eudora. I do agree that signatures and images displayed in emails can be unnecessary, so Mutt’s display of plain text would be convenient and an email client I would use. I do think it is very important for email clients to cater to your work and personal needs and increase productivity. Nowadays some email clients add features that are distracting and unnecessary, so using a system like Mutt would be useful. As much as I want to like postcards after reading this article, I simply do not find them practical, especially in this internet-driven world. One additional issue I have with postcards that was not mentioned in the article is that you can forget what you wrote on them. If you are sending multiple postcards with different information on them to different recipients, the only way you will remember what you wrote to them is when you receive a postcard in response. With email, this is not an issue; you can easily go back and look at all your sent items to refresh yourself on what you wrote and to who. Postcards seem to have many problems associated with them unlike emailing. Therefore, emailing is better is a better communication tool than sending postcards. However, email clients do need to improve how emails are formatted, sent, and received.

    • I love that email is free and instant; I don’t have to wait for the mail and the postal service to bring it; it’s just instantaneous. I also feel that writing letters are an excellent form of communication that is dying out. I think there is an instance and occasion for both email and letter-formed writing.

  4. I think that email is one of the greatest inventions ever. Many people believe that it is useless in this day and age, but I would completely disagree with that. Many people do not see the upside to email because of texting. Texting seems so much easier and quicker because an email takes longer and is more complicated. Just imagine that all of your communication was through texting. All of your professional clients in whatever field you are in, and so much more. Your text notifications would be packed and you would get very confused. Email is great for doing professional, career types of messages. Also, your email is great for promotions and whenever you sign up for something they send you confirmations and all sorts of things. If all of these things were received over text message, you would not even know where to find your mom to text her. While the exact number could vary with users, experts generally agree that the average person receives around 100-120 emails daily, even without including the spam. This is significantly larger than the amount of texts that somebody receives which is why email is so important. Emails are also great for company marketing. I did some research and found some facts about emails such as “Among marketing channels, email marketing yields the highest return on investment (ROI) for the past 10 years. It also has the highest conversion rate (66%) for purchases made in response to promotional messages” (Fool.com). This statistic is very important because this shows that companies that use email for marketing do most of their sales and promotions through email, and it is the most successful. From my personal experience, I used to own a website where I would resell all kinds of different things. I had a decent amount of customers who would buy things from my website on a daily basis. When my website traffic would slow down, I would send out an email to all of the emails they used to create an account saying to come back and visit the website because we released new items. This would increase my traffic almost instantly. I’d also send promotions and coupons through email which was very good for my sales. I think email is extremely important in society and is taken much for granted.

  5. The article by Scott Gilbertson provides very good insight as to how email is helpful and harmful to our lives. He briefly describes how postcards were used and it’s effectiveness. But now we have transitioned to e-mails and there are some pros and cons of using it. One of the pros of e-mail clients that the author talked about is organization. You are able to customize the application as much as possible, unlike web-based emails like Gmail. That certainly sounds appealing to me because I always have a tough time with organizing my emails. I receive many daily spam emails and often times my work or school related emails get lost in all of the spam emails I received. So now I have to go through all of the emails I received that day to make sure I did not forget about anything. Although I do like coupons and sales, what I do not like is receiving the same notification every day telling me that a product is fifty percent off. Another annoying thing about web based emails are the formatting and images. Every time I receive an email, I either have to download the image or click a message that will let me display the image. It would much more easier if the email would just contain the valuable information rather than making it look fun and important. Another takeaway from the article is that emails actually make us less productive. Sure it does make our lives more convenient, but what many people don’t think about is how emails distract us. Like I said before, everyday I receive spam emails and I always have to look in my inbox to make sure I did not miss anything important. In web based emails, there is not much options in terms of customizing what type of emails you receive, it would be so much more time efficient to create an organizational system in which my work, school, personal, and spam emails are all separated. But it is hard to do so in Gmail. After reading the article, the author described some of the difference between email clients and web based emails. From some of the key points described, it does sound like email clients are faster, more organized, and convenient. I have never heard of email clients so I certainly have to give it a try. It is a shame though, that postcards are the past. As the author described it, postcards were used to create a better connection to the receiver. It is a better way to show the receiver that you care about them.

  6. Emails are a quick and easy way to relay a message to someone. It is certainly an upgrade from past ways of sending a message to someone, and has saved a lot of time for everyone. But there is one positive to writing a letter and sending it to someone over an email. That is when someone receives a card, they feel obligated to write back since the other person took time out to send it. But with emails, the viewer has the option to reply or not while not having any guilty conscious over the matter. This is harmful for communication overall, because it promotes laziness and slows down trying to talk to someone over a computer. I find this issue a lot when writing to a teacher or to a job I wish to apply at. First off, I will contact my teachers when I have a question on a homework or if I have to inform them that I will be absent for class. No matter when I write to them, it will usually take 2-3 days for them to get back to me. Again with job searching, I will send my application through Indeed to jobs and I won’t hear a response from them until 2-3 weeks later. This not only slows me down with my schedule, but it also harms communication between a student and teacher or a future employee and their boss. While it may take longer to send a card to someone, You can be assured that they will receive it and will most likely write you back accordingly. With the future being centered around technology, it seems that mailed letter will be a thing of the past. But if we can improve our response time on digital letters and keep communication flowing, it may prove to be for the better.

  7. An email is a form of communication that makes it possible to relay a message from person to person in a professional context. Nonetheless, there is one benefit to using the hard copy method and sending it instead of using an email. As a result, when anyone receives a letter, they feel compelled to respond because the sender put in the time to do so. Emails, meanwhile, provide recipients the flexibility to answer or ignore them without feeling guilty about it. As it encourages procrastination and makes talking to someone online take longer, this is negative for communication. Whenever communicating with anyone, whether it is school or work, I frequently run into this situation. I will then get in touch with my instructors if I have a concern about a homework assignment or if I have a reason for not being present in the class. It usually takes a few days to get a response, irrespective of when I contact them. Also, when emailing my managers at work, at best, it takes a week or more to get a response, regardless of the sense of urgency.  This not only affects my schedule more, but it also prevents the capability of a student from interacting with their instructor or communicating with their supervisor. Although receiving a card can be more challenging, you can be confident that the recipient will read it and likely reply much faster. It indicates that communications sent via mail are becoming obsolete as technology takes center stage in the future. Yet, if we can expedite our responsiveness to digital letters and establish a line of communication, things might turn out for the benefit.

  8. The internet has given us wonders and has made our day to day lives significantly easier through the help of databases, but most importantly, Email. This article raises a lot of questions as to how can the author live without email.. I mean to first start off I do not really understand, nor do I agree with the points that are brought up. One idea that I find a little hypocritical is that the author states that they do not really understand the importance or the idea of sending pictures within an email. Yet they briefly state that they are “An inveterate sender of postcards. For all the instantaneous of today’s communication options, nothing quite conveys a message the way a postcard does”. The author starts off by praising postcards and whatnot, yet is against the idea of including pictures within an email, even though it is essentially the exact same thing as a postcard, yet digitally. I feel as though that having pictures in an email that you send can help the receiver imagine or even understand what you are trying to say. On top of that, a postcard can take DAYS to get mailed out and shipped, while an email is literally a couple clicks and you are done.
    Email in my opinion is one of the greatest and most important inventions that this world has seen aside from the wheel. Email gives us a way to communicate to literally whoever we want, whenever we want, and it is just a few clicks away. Email is something that has been utilized everyday for years on end, especially during Covid 19 when no one could even go near each other. I had utilized the power of emailing during the pandemic because I had no other way to communicate with my teachers if I had a question outside of class. It allowed me to practice both writing and organizing emails as well, along with understanding just how useful emailing can be. One point that I actually agreed with that was brought up by the author was the organization aspect of email. Email gives you the power to make as many folders, bookmarks, and pins as you want in order to stay organized. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have pinned an important email in order to get to it quickly instead of digging through thousands of spam and junk mail. To quickly go back to disagreeing with the author, an aspect of Email that I personally like and actually find helpful are all the notifications and banners you get. The author exclaims that these components are simply annoying. If we were to boil down all the reasons as to how email is much more effective than a postcard, you would quickly soon come to the realization that an Email is way more easier and quicker than a postcard. To conclude, email is one of the top forms of communicating with someone aside from text messaging them. WHile postcards are classic and seem to bring joy to those who still enjoy them, if you want to know something quick and in an easy way, then emailing would be 100 percent the route to take. Emailing has been and is the reality we live in, it has both revolutionized and enhanced our ways of communicating with one another.

  9. Electronic mail better known as email is a new form of communication that was introduced in 1971 and was invented by Ray Tomlinson. Email nowadays is often used a lot, whether it’s on terms of professional or non-professional basis. Electronic mail has transformed the way people across the world send things and communicate with one another. For instance, before electronic mail was invented; in previous centuries it would days, sometimes multiple weeks for a person to receive a letter/paper mail from one another. Electronic mail fixes the delay problem because due to how advanced technology is in the modern-day era, electronic mail gets delivered most often in seconds; but sometimes in minutes depending on how big the email is. Emails have done a lot for modern-day society, by allowing them to access people so easily and allow them to communicate with them. Personally, since I am currently a college student it feels like I’m sending numerous amounts of emails every single day; to either contact a professor, classmate, friend, or even family back home. Sending an email makes things so easy because you can proceed to do so anywhere at any time. Although some of the latest technology is questionable, emails I feel are a great new addition and will help continue to help out a ton.

  10. Email isn’t something new. It has been used for a long time. I like how the article starts to state that “The technology behind email is one of the longest-lasting, most-used sets of protocols on the internet.”. They first said that it’s been “corrupted, neglected, and relegated to the back of the class. If we’re really going to learn to love email again, what we first need are better email clients.” I think that something is so true that it has to be. I have started using email from a young age for school and even for my own use. When you look up what email is it “messages distributed by electronic means from one computer user to one or more recipients via a network”. Email is a way to relay a message to someone. For many of us it is the first thing we check in the morning. It’s a form of communication and to relay a message from one to another. With this a completely different way of communicating from way before. This is a good thing when writing a letter and sending it to someone. If someone writes you a letter with paper you feel like you are forced to right back with. They took time to write with paper. The thing is with email is different. It’s not the same feeling as writing a letter with paper, with email you don’t really need to reply. But yet email can lead to people not caring anymore like before many can say. This leads to people not talking anymore and only talking to someone over a computer. I found it interesting how they bring up the way other people think. That email should include “formatting, special fonts, inline images, and all kinds of junk. Most of those emails I delete.”. I think it would be easier if the email had more valuable information then having it looks fun for me to read. This article makes you think that email is distracting to us. Email you receive so many that you don’t know what is important or if it is just spam. I think that email needs something that I can organize what is important from work, school, and even spam. But email doesn’t have that. This article states from email clients and web based emails. Just how the author state we need to improving your productivity, establishing a software workflow that conforms to your brain’s specific contours.” Then “remembering that you are sending postcards, not colorful flyers or busy magazines. You are not writing novels, or even essays. Go back to sending postcards. And use a good email client to do it.”. That post card is a better way to show that it is something important.

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