Email appropriately

For further thoughts on reducing email, see Doug Cornelius’ blog post Email Deluge about trying to free yourself from email on KM Space and the comments string. And for a more lighthearted take, read Lucy Kellaway in Monday’s FT, Shock of BPC: before personal computers.

I have just started a 24-hour low-tech vigil to mark the stepping down of Bill Gates, who more than any other human being has made the modern office what it is. I wanted to celebrate his departure from full-time work at Microsoft by reminding myself of what life was like when windows were things that let the light in.

Last Tuesday afternoon, I composed an automatic e-mail reply that said: “Lucy Kellaway is in the office, but not on the computer. You can send me a letter, or ring, or visit me on the second floor.” Then I pressed Submit, but got a message saying: “Error. Database has too many unique field names. Ask administrator to compact database.” God, I hate computers.

I love them, too. I have no truck with the idea that they have frazzled our minds and shrunk our souls: most office workers seem to be doing perfectly well, as far as I can judge. Although I am addicted to e-mail, it’s quite under control. Twenty-four hours’ cold turkey would be no problem.