where ideas go to die

February 11, 2008 at 5:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Email, something we now do so often its a reflex, can be a treacherous landscape. A friend of mine spent the week upset because an email of hers was forwarded to someone, who then forwarded it to her boss, who took it out of context and came after her in a harsh email. She said it was like a slap in the face — but such a quick spiral out of control would have been impossible in an earlier decade; a simple “reply” could just not have traveled so fast. In another blogosphere, Ali writes that she prefers to do all her dirty work over email, choosing the non confrontational route over picking up the phone. A few years into my professional career, I have learned the hard way that you do not deal with sensitive matters over email. Tone is lost, a record is created, and broad distribution is just one click away.

I am a part of an online coalition which operates entirely through strings of emails in working groups, networking youth AIDS activists. After a few exciting years as a start-up, we are now struggling on how to move forward, and I think it is because we have no mechanism to meet face to face. It is not possible for sparks of creativity to live long in an email message. Especially when our young people that are living on the front lines of the AIDS pandemic are stricken with power outages, paying for internet usage, and English is there second or third language. With limited resources, non profits especially rely on email to do our international work, but are we sacrificing the spaces where are ideas are born and momentum is created?

In Blog Marketing, Jeremy Wright writes that, “emails is where ideas go to die.” As a fan of the written word, I don’t know if I would go that far, but it can be a harsh environment, and I spend hours of my days living in it.

Ironically, I have been planning an entire conference in Rwanda over email, and things have been going just fine. I think it is because we treat our correspondence like it is sacred, writing formal, thorough, respectful email. We use titles, electronic signatures, and I think if we had to use the telegram or fax to send messages, our content would not change. This formality is the saving grace of our work together.



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  1. At work, we only use email to “get it in writing.” Most all business and policy is made with a verbal agreement, and then someone (generally my boss) says, “Oh, email him/her just to get it in writing…”


  2. I am reminded of all the times I have written a letter or an email then thought oh hell no I am not sending this and I delete the message.
    Email is the only thing we have that takes any time these days. Were far to accessible on our phones, it gives us the time to create thoughts.

    In my band many ideas and opportunities have been lost due to how long it takes for a group to responded. We think about issues far to much making it hard to keep people focused on the bottom line. Musicians are different breed and Mugicians are hopeless. Herding cats comes to mind.

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