Informational Hygiene Directives

That's what I call my rules around contacting me, and getting a (non-vulgar) reply from me.

This is brought to mind by Wednesday's spam mail reaching my contact address, and why that made me so mad.

  • Casual, "hey what about" messages: Social media, currently @mdhughes@appdot.net — if this changes, it'll be in the About page. I don't always respond, if I do it's within 24 hours but rarely immediate, but I'll probably see it. I may or may not care, this is very low attention span, I may be drunk and posting about Dracula or Godzilla, it's not you, it's me.
  • Do not: IRC messaging, Discord messaging, etc. unless I'm specifically engaged in that activity at that moment, I won't see it, won't care.
  • Sorta: WordPress post replies (and replies from micro.blog) I will only see next time I load my WP dashboard; I use StupidComments.css to hide them on my front page, which I rarely visit anyway. I do appreciate post replies, I'd hit little favstars by them if I could, but they're not allowed to be intrusive.
  • Junk mail, Mailing lists: I have an email address for that on a popular and possibly hostile AI service, I manage junk there, messages to me are unlikely to get thru. This address generates no notifications.
  • Professional email: Only mission-critical services and people who have business to do with me should be using this address. This address does generate notifications.
  • Private email, iMessage, SMS, Slack: You probably don't have this. Unless you're one of a half-dozen people, and if someone else finds it I tell them the correct junk/professional address to use and block them. This gets notifications. The one time I let one of these slip while I was working, tragedy ensued, so I won't do that again.

When I was all business business business numbers, I got at most a couple dozen emails a day on my professional box, from direct reports, management, and interested outside teams, and I hated it, but that was manageable. Since I got The Man's boot off my neck, it's much lower, but I like barriers and being able to utterly ignore stuff outside one box if I feel like it.

Which brings me to today's hilarious idea of email sabbaticals. There's more recent people doing the same, it's not just this one Microsoftie 10 years ago, but I'll address the original.

What is wrong with you? Thousands of emails in 2 weeks (hundreds a day)? Everything you're doing there is wrong. Everyone sending you stuff is playing "my problem is your problem", and it is NOT.

Organize, filter, and delegate.

  • Organize: Use message boxes to put away automated or group content you don't need to pay attention to now. You can read that when you have spare time, or not, because it's not directly affecting you.
  • Filter: Don't let people throw everything into your "must read now" box. Block the people who can't learn.
  • Delegate: If you do have a firehose of stuff coming in, you probably can afford to hire someone to read it all and just send the useful parts to you. If you're running an open source project, you're kind of screwed, but there may be volunteers (or you can "voluntell" some overly enthusiastic but less useful contributor). You can also set up a wiki or forum for the Kilkenny Cats solution.

Walt Mossberg had this ridiculous screed about getting hundreds of emails and too many notifications… Now, he's a (now-retired) journalist who does get a lot of legitimate "my problem is your problem" email. But he also complains about birthday notices, CVS pharmacy ads, Starbucks ads… Turn all that shit off! Nobody needs any of that crap.

"A text, or short internet message, on the other hand, seems to demand instant attention, and may even lead to a whole thread of conversation."

No, it does not. Mute, delete, block anyone who can't learn. If people persist in sending you junk, you can't let them have access to a ringing bell.

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