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Tech Columnists' Day Without Email

Hemos posted more than 9 years ago | from the oh-the-humanity dept.

Communications 204

Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "When a recent power outage disrupted email service at WSJ.com, our tech columnists were plunged backwards into a time before every meeting, every little task, came with an email-program reminder, and where checking the bottom right of the screen for a new-mail envelope was futile. "Some of us quickly got a reminder that email is the lingua franca of projects that bridge different departments and involve a lot of people," Tim Hanrahan and Jason Fry write. "For all the talk of whiteboarding, it's email threads that we rely on to remember where we left certain questions and what our next moves are. Similarly, email has become our storage system for important documents and works in progress--how often do you email yourself? It's also replaced the telephone for lots of our routine touching base between colleagues, friends and families: Instant messaging is simultaneously too casual and too intrusive, and weekday phoning is reserved for more-substantive matters and emergencies. So a lot of that social lubrication went out the window.""

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204 comments

No FP-s either, eh? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737434)


Interesting story, just one question: (1)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737439)

Um, how is email hardware?

Re:Interesting story, just one question: (2, Informative)

Phisbut (761268) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737456)

Um, how is email hardware?

It all started with a power outage... I guess you *need* the hardware to read the email...

Re:Interesting story, just one question: (2, Informative)

AviN456 (863971) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737584)

Well, all the email obviously must go through a server(s) at some point. If those go down, the email is effectively down. If the client computers go down, You could still get your email from elsewhere, but in an office setting, thats usually not feasable.

Re:Interesting story, just one question: (1)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737610)

Um, how is email hardware

Could be because you need hardware to read it, hardware to store it and hardware to transmit it? Email itself may be software, but everything that supports it is done in hardware.

Power stops, hardware that supports e-mail transmission, delivery and viewing stops. No email for you.

Re:Interesting story, just one question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737707)

Well then I guess there's no such thing as a software issue since you need hardware to run any software.

Re:Interesting story, just one question: (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737611)

"Um, how is email hardware?"

Hardware failure. Caused the email to go down.

Re:Interesting story, just one question: (1)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737680)

It's hardware because the 'business' or 'social hindrances' headings this particular article would go under are definitely NOT news for nerds. The news is that even the WSJ suddenly thinks Smart Nerds are Necessary, after one day of doing without 'em. Neat, eh? However, not something a proper heading should exist for.

Ah, well that explains it (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737441)

our tech columnists were plunged backwards into a time before every meeting, every little task, came with an email-program reminder

Ah, well that explains the recent tech rumor flurry then; the WSJ had simply been transported back in time to 1996, when Apple was dying

Re:Ah, well that explains it (1)

koi88 (640490) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737604)


Ah, well that explains the recent tech rumor flurry then; the WSJ had simply been transported back in time to 1996, when Apple was dying

Did I hear "beleaguered"?
Ah, the old times...

Don't Despair! (1)

ImaLamer (260199) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737730)

Don't worry, their systems are back online and back to reporting the current news: the death of *BSD

I know what you mean... (3, Interesting)

teutonic_leech (596265) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737442)

I was working on a development contract when our CEO decided to cut Internet access for all consultants (someone was caught bidding on eBay - not me ;-) Anyway, I was so distraught, I quit the next day...

Re:I know what you mean... (1)

Leroy_Brown242 (683141) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737496)

For many, cutting internet access would mean a severe drop in productivity too. Internet access for me doesn't directly effect my job, but it sure does lower my stress levels a bit. :)

Re:I know what you mean... (2, Insightful)

teutonic_leech (596265) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737524)

Yeah, that was actually my reasoning. Although they offered to open up access to all java related sites I still refused to stay there. At the end of the day - if you treat people like children they will act like children. Finally, I also wanted to draw a line in sand - we techies have been taking a lot of sh...t in the last few years and sometimes it's good to tell them to f...ck off when they try to cross the line. Hey, don't mess with my slashdot access, alright? ;-)

Re:I know what you mean... (2, Interesting)

Leroy_Brown242 (683141) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737543)

"if you treat people like children they will act like children."

Durring the great belt tightening after the bubble burst, I saw this happen countless times at several jobs. Once you start restricting people's freedoms at work, geeks tend to just push back or leave.

Re:I know what you mean... (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737630)

I'm one of those people who gets random CS projects thrown at them all the time...no standard languages, no general theme, just get it done. Without the internet I couldn't DO my job...I need to be able to hit forums and online documentation and download app frameworks and junk like that.

If I couldn't do that, I'd have to have a huge tech library, and some kind of dedicated Special Ops force that kept tabs on OSS developers, kept track of what their software did, then kicked down their doors and got copies of their files whenever I needed an upgrade.

Re:I know what you mean... (1)

Phisbut (761268) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737599)

I was working on a development contract when our CEO decided to cut Internet access for all consultants

I used to work at Ubisoft when they provided full internet access to employees... lately, to be coherent with the industry's concept of "let's piss our employees off as much as possible", they decided to completely cut off internet access. I'm not there anymore (left way before they cut), but I still have a couple of friends over there, and we used to MSN a whole lot on boring days (yes, they can have that sometimes...). Now, it's mostly just boring cause they ain't online anymore...

We tried using only telephones (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737809)

An employee suggested to me that we install telephones in a few offices here as an evaluation. I was skeptical at first but he explained the benefits of using telephones instead of having to buy Eudora. I decided to let him install them in 5 offices to see how the employees got on. Besides, our IT manager had been using telephones at home and he hadn't reported any problems - why not try it on our employees?

Once he'd got the employees up and running with telephones we let them try it out. It all seemed fine to start with: The telephone system was a pretty good replacement for those shitty Eudora boxes we'd used before and the employees could still do their work as normal.

Alas it did not stay that way. After a few days, I had lost count of the number of complaints received from our employees. Users could not do things they could before (like manage their contacts). The final straw came when one employee lost several hours work when the PBX suddenly froze up, effectively destroying our communication infrastructure.

Needless to say, the community offered no support whatsoever. I made the employee destroy the telephone system and lets just say he's not with us anymore.

Re:I know what you mean... (1)

tanguyr (468371) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737871)

I was working on a development contract when our CEO decided to cut Internet access for all consultants

I know of at least one company where consultants/contractors don't have a telephone on their desk... real life is sometimes more dilbert than dilbert.

ugh (5, Funny)

Alcimedes (398213) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737444)

Remind me not to work someplace where they promote "Social lubrication".

Re:ugh (1)

stinky wizzleteats (552063) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737570)

Remind me not to work someplace where they promote "Social lubrication".

Nor where they randomly hurl it out of windows.

Re:ugh (2, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737613)

The visual imagery from that term is horrible, something akin to a bunch of people standing in line to dip their hands into a really large jar of Vasoline which everyone shares.

Re:ugh (4, Funny)

Lord Dimwit Flathead (668521) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737860)

You should be grateful they're using their hands.

Re:ugh (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737667)

Oh I don't know. If I get to pick who I socially lubricate I can see certain advantages in it.

KFG

Re:ugh (1)

ArielMT (757715) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737679)

F---edCompany.com [f---edcompany.com] - The official lubricant of the new economy. Not work-safe, but definitely worth hotlisting. :)

Re:ugh (1)

WGR (32993) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737735)

Social lubrication: just another word for beer.

e-mail... it's a natural evolution (5, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737446)

Seems to me the advent of e-mail as a key role player in managing information is pretty natural evolution. In the face of all efforts to create information management systems, data mining systems, et. al., e-mail quietly assumes a central responsibility for more people than ever. And this has probably happened for a few reasons:

  • e-mail has been around for a long long time, and has finally been socialized to be as everyday common activity or vernacular as "google" (ironic).
  • e-mail is comfortable. People abstract e-mail easily from their previous snail mail universe. Interestingly I've seen people actually evolve e-mail habits to mimic their snail mail habits, e.g., checking only once a day, managing "turn around" times to the tune of days, not minutes, etc.
  • e-mail has leveraged the rest of IT technology as processors and storage have increased through the years.
  • e-mail is central, i.e., you can (once you get comfortable with this) pretty much start managing much of your data life around e-mail... why not? You have to pretty much go there all the time for communication anyway, why not send yourself reminders, links, data, etc., and use e-mail searching to retrieve.
  • e-mail is now amazing with the leverage of third party technology like Google Desktop search. I've pretty much gotten to total (okay, heavy) reliance on Google Desktop and e-mail for managing data in my Windows environment.

Probably a lesson learned from the article is the importance of some contigency plan, but losing e-mail for a day sounds like it turned into a positive experience for the authors. Regardless, it appears once you lose e-mail access (in power outage, system outage, etc.), you've lost essentially your context of IT anyway, and contingency is pretty much old school interaction (phone calls, paper trails, MBWA, etc.)... no biggy.

Re:e-mail... it's a natural evolution (1)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737536)

but losing e-mail for a day sounds like it turned into a positive experience for the authors
Similarly, accidental castration would probably make me more a more sensitive person, being wrongfully incarcerated would teach me to look after myself in all situations and getting terminal cancer would teach me the value of life. That doesn't mean I'd like any of those things to happen.

Re:e-mail... it's a natural evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737600)

getting terminal cancer would teach me the value of life.
You know I believe that this is the entire point of the movie Saw.

As a bonus, it also seems to teach you the value of killing other people, horribly.

Re:e-mail... it's a natural evolution (1)

Uruk (4907) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737732)

I hope that the natural evolution provides for changes to the email system. I'd agree with your points, but email is far from perfect for about a million reasons. Examples:

  • E-mail is not a file transfer mechanism. Don't even try it with really huge files, and it probably shouldn't be used as a file repository (Everything you've gotten over the past 5 years, including 10 iterations of the same document, etc)
  • It's lacking in metadata in many places. Headers are great, user-added headers are better, but there's some semantic metadata that's missing and would be helpful.
  • People violate standards in creative ways about the main text of the message (is it text, is it an HTML attachment, is it HTML as the text, etc) and encoding of attachments.
  • Interchange between systems like lotus, outlook, straight internet email, various groupware packages. These lose email addresses and only use name aliases with forwarded messages, and so on. You have a huge problem with gateways between systems
  • Non-standard integration with other packages, such as sending meeting announcements as a very particular type of email message (Outlook). This is another example of missing metadata - rather than being a particular piece of text, it should be flagged as what it is - a meeting announcement

It seems that with IPV4, people designed a network to operate in a particular context (academic research 20-30 years ago). Later, it was acknowledged that the first cut standard doesn't do everything that's needed for a global distributed network, and now we're moving to IPV6. Why shouldn't the same happen with the email related standards and systems?

A THought (-1, Offtopic)

killproc (518431) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737448)


Wouldn't it be ironic if nobody replied to this thread..

DOH!!

asdf (0)

professorhojo (686761) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737449)

they still had instant messaging to fall back on, right?

Re:asdf (2, Funny)

Ithika (703697) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737740)

That would be difficult without power. Unless, by "instant messenging", you mean you write down a message and a hamster instantly runs along the hall with it to its destination. Hmm, I might be on to something.

Re:asdf (1)

CableModemSniper (556285) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737853)

It was a power outage in the datacenter that held the email servers, not in the actual WSJ offices. You'll note that the article mentions some people still having email during the outage cause theres was on a different server.

Get it in email (5, Interesting)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737457)

Let's not forget the chant of the manager "Get it in email". In some companies email is also used for the Wheel of Blame, everyones favorite management technique.

Do not talk to someone on the phone. Do not talk to him face to face. Do not IM him (and hey, what IT department hasn't locked IM along with everything else down anyhow). Ask questions and expect answers in email, or do it in meetings with witnesses. Leave a paper trail and keep it documented.

This sounds like cynicism, I think it is, but it's not mine. This is how many corporations appear to "work". Email is the ultimate accountability tool.

Re:Get it in email (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737531)

Yup, and from being optional it has become mandatory.

Hell, companies have lost billions of dollars [slashdot.org] for not documenting their actions and lack of email accountability - so you're absolutely right.

However, this is also a bad thing, it takes away excuses. ;)

Re:Get it in email (1)

aero6dof (415422) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737533)

I think its more that email has become the most consistent form of corporate long-term memory of commitments (medium-term with most companies email retention policies).

Re:Get it in email (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737644)

That's how it goes where I work, mainly for security reasons. If someone requests a report or system access, it's got to come through email.

Re:Get it in email (1, Insightful)

arkanes (521690) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737716)

........

Because of emails well-known resistance to impersonation and spoofing, right?

Re:Get it in email (1)

brickballs (839527) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737848)


"and hey, what IT department hasn't locked IM along with everything else down anyhow"

I am half the it department at my company. I was trying to get ahold of someone and he hadnt responded to my emails. I noticed he had an msn account, so I signed up for one. we got the problem solved in 30 minutes.

The point is that we dont block everything, because some of it has legitimate uses. It's an innocent-untill-proven-guilty sort of thing.

Good old days (2, Interesting)

moz25 (262020) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737459)

It amuses me to think back about arguments I've had several years ago about the merits of the internet and of using email. The other guy (management-ish type) didn't get the point and said that if he wanted to contact a person, he'd just pick up the phone and call them. Fast-forward to 2005...

Frankly though, I've had a bit of an internet-outage at home once or twice. To my own surprise, I found it a bit refreshing to not have access for a short while.

Re:Good old days (1)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737821)

I've found outages refreshing except when the weather sucks. A couple years ago, I was living on campus during Christmas break, so everyone else had gone home. Portland had a big ice storm, and since Portland isn't equipped to deal with rarities like that, doing stuff around town wasn't a good idea for several days. Comcast was being Comcast and was already 2 months behind schedule hooking up the campus with cable service after the old provider went under, so all I had was the local channels, which had cancelled most of the regular programming for "Winter Storm Watch," which was completely redundant after about an hour. Then the brand new Netscreen firewall, which we had literally installed 3 days before, loses a power supply. Nowhere to go, no TV, nobody around, library is closed, and NO INTERNET. After walking to Fred Meyers and back half a dozen times, I ended up borrowing a shovel from the grounds crew and clearing sidewalks until my hands bled, I was so bored.

One day it's "Everyone's addicted to email" (1, Interesting)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737460)

The next it's "OMG WHERE'S MY EMAIL?!?!?!" Make up your minds.

Re:One day it's "Everyone's addicted to email" (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737796)

Yeah? So where is the logical inconsistency in claiming that "everyone's addicted to email" and then giving a demonstration of such?

This story is a "See? I told you so."

In any case dude, you are neglecting the fact that saying, "I could quit if I wanted to," is one of the signs of addiction.

Addicts don't make up their minds. Their addictions do.

KFG

Re:One day it's "Everyone's addicted to email" (1)

zev1983 (792397) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737844)

"One day it's "Everyone's addicted to email" The next it's "OMG WHERE'S MY EMAIL?!?!?!" Make up your minds."

It's called withdrawal.

Re:One day it's "Everyone's addicted to email" (1)

temojen (678985) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737866)

Could it be both? if you think "Everyone's addicted to Email" and "OMG WHERE'S MY EMAIL?!?!?!" are contradictory, you don't understand addiction.

No lube?! (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737463)

So a lot of that social lubrication went out the window.

So long as it was only the social lubrication and not the other kind. Non-lubed is definitely not a good thing.

Re:No lube?! (1)

mountiealpha (731251) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737534)

Wait a minute - isn't this Slashdot?! How do you know if non-lubed is not a good thing?

Re:No lube?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737640)

Lube is for pussies.

;)

Re:No lube?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737862)

Lube is for tightasses...

not too bad (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737469)

You should have seen the day they had to go without toilet paper!

Social Lubrication is Good and All, But (2, Interesting)

ultimabaka (864222) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737472)

(a) Am I the only one who thinks it's a bit much when coworkers who sit RIGHT NEXT TO ONE ANOTHER communicate only through e-mail? It's frightening how often that happens in my corporate office - how about you guys?
(b) So it occurred to absolutely no one in all of the Wall Street Journal that you could have asked to save a copy of your previous e-mails and Calendar information onto your own computer? Not being able to send e-mails in the present is one thing (and the phone works fine for that), but to tell me that your entire past was wiped out cuz you were too dumb to ask for your stuff to be saved? C'mon.

Re:Social Lubrication is Good and All, But (1)

Zerbey (15536) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737615)

Maybe they are not allowed to? Default setup for MS Exchange is to save everything on the server (which makes pretty good sense). You can configure Outlook to keep a cached copy on your local machine, but many places don't or have policies forbidding it. I'm sure most other groupware systems work the same way.

A better question is, why didn't they have a backup power solution?

Re:Social Lubrication is Good and All, But (1)

Ann Elk (668880) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737766)

Am I the only one who thinks it's a bit much when coworkers who sit RIGHT NEXT TO ONE ANOTHER communicate only through e-mail? It's frightening how often that happens in my corporate office - how about you guys?

It depends on the nature of the conversation. Sometimes it's good to have a durable record -- for one thing, it makes it easier to bring other people into the conversation.

Of course, sometimes it's best to not have a durable record...

Re:Social Lubrication is Good and All, But (2, Informative)

AviN456 (863971) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737824)

At my office, we use NET SEND to talk to each other. It has nothing to do with productivity though, we're just all nerds.

What color is the sky on their planet? (2, Interesting)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737476)

I don't use e-mail in the way described by the article, not at all. It is too full of utterly useless garbage to be of any use as a reminder or storage system. I routinely go "a day without e-mail", and the only disruption it causes me is the extra time it then takes the next time I sift through my inboxes for things I might actually want to read.

Re:What color is the sky on their planet? (3, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737509)

At work, I'm pretty much dependent upon email. So going without would mean not bothering coming into work at all.

On my private address, I have a few friends that send infrequent correspondence, a few small mailing lists (no 300 messages a day crap) and a few writing projects I'm working on with some other people. None of these require me to look every day, and if I've got better things to do, email can wait.

Re:What color is the sky on their planet? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737835)

So going without would mean not bothering coming into work at all.

Hey, works for me.

KFG

How did they manage? (2, Funny)

falzer (224563) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737485)

Without reading the article and knowing precisely what the story was, I would say that they all cracked eachother's heads open and feasted on the goo inside.

how often do you email yourself? (2, Insightful)

smithberry (714364) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737495)

Err, not very often. Is this how most slashdotters keep track of thoughts, or are the folk in the article unusual?

Re:how often do you email yourself? (2, Informative)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737815)

I frequently email files to myself, or store info in drafts. And with 2.2GB of webmail mailbox space, it's very, very convenient.

It makes for an easy way to transport data from one locale to another without resorting to a USB pen drive, or other portable media. It also gives me a way to download a file once from a slow server, and store it on a faster one for when I need to retrieve it later.

That explains it! (4, Funny)

mbbac (568880) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737502)

This explains how the WSJ missed Steve Jobs' e-mail saying "we're not moving to Intel, jackasses!"

Re:That explains it! (3, Informative)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737702)

Funny, maybe... but at the WWDC keynote just a few short minutes ago, Jobs officially announced the rumors are in fact true, and they WILL be going to intel.

Re:That explains it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737872)

You and all other AMD/Apple fanboys are just going to have to lick it up, because it is true.

TinyURL.com (5, Funny)

xbrownx (459399) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737505)

Does anyone else take a deep breath before clicking on one of these links at work?

Re:TinyURL.com (1)

cuzality (696718) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737577)

Yeah, and what's the point of using it when the actual link isn't even displayed except in the status bar?

Re:TinyURL.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737602)

Sounds like a good use for a Greasemonkey script: go out and look up the redirected URL at tinyurl.com and display it when you hover over the tinyurl link.

Re:TinyURL.com (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737612)

Deep breath? No.
Total avoidance? Yes, yes indeed.

Re:TinyURL.com (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737686)

Heh. Same here. Clicking on /. is risk enough.

I've even had NSFW links off the main page here before, when people who were pissed off at being slashdotted changed their main page to a full screen of tubgirl or something.

Re:TinyURL.com (0, Redundant)

mooncaine (778422) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737726)

Nope, because I don't click them.

it's been my fault even ;-) (2, Interesting)

downsize (551098) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737513)

in my past, I have worked as an admin. actually not that long ago I worked for a company that still ran NT 4.0 with Exchange vDinosour. The machines ran on tar from the tar pits.

Anyway, my job was to keep those damn things from extinction - it was a near impossible task.
On a couple of occasions the email server would get completely full (how's a total of 16GB for a 200+ person International company grab ya?) and email would stop. I would have to jump through hoops to get space back - force users to make personal .ost files yadda, yadda

The kicker was always that everyone would scream and bitch about loosing money and can't operate without email.

My point was always A) switch to linux and B) if you loose money and operations cease, why not spend ~$20K and get a stable email system in place? If they would have put any money into their cornerstone, life-blood system (email) or used an outside service provider [shinyfeet.com] - I'd still have a job and they would not be OOB! :-P

Re:it's been my fault even ;-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737733)

You know that if you wanted to you could set up warnings based on user mailbox sizes

in my lousy opinion, anybody who uses Email as an archive for important documents is playing with fire.

Re:it's been my fault even ;-) (1)

downsize (551098) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737812)

You know that if you wanted to you could set up warnings based on user mailbox sizes
oh I wanted, believe me. there were all types of "i wanted to"'s that they never even considered. obviously I am getting the last laugh (for the most part).

that company was a POS, it was ran off personal feelings rather than business sense "but I like to see all the SPAM, I'd rather spend 3 hours going through spam than miss 1 potential lead" or "I don't want my mailbox limited to 2GB, I need everything in there dating back to 1992, including all my friend's comic attachments they sent me"

person to person vs person to group (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737537)

The first case, email. The second case usenet or other group forums. Email is too high priority for this kind of communication, or at least it should be, you end up sorting and filtering like mad to regain some control of the junk that is thrown at you.

Asimov knew it (5, Interesting)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737541)

In the Foundation trilogy (*), Isaac Asmimov portrayed a stilted society full of academic "scientists" who never ventured into a lab, but did their scientific work by critiquing the work of others.

While he was mostly lampooning the way academic scholarship can replace actual research, I think he would have smiled knowingly. A news organization whose workers are lost without the ability to have news delivered to them would have fit perfectly into the pre-Mule galaxy.

Or maybe I'm just reading more into the story than the WSJ folkd deserve. Maybe it's just a sign of the times that email has so thoroughly penetrated business operations.


---
(*) I haven't read Asimov in 20 years, so I apologize for my hazy memory and the arrogance to expound on it.

Re:Asimov knew it (1)

lottameez (816335) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737714)

This is probably offtopic, but I remember the part in the trilogy where an ambassador from another planet visited for 3 days. After he went home, the hosts ran everything he had said thru an analyzer and found that everything cancelled out; he'd effectively said nothing for three days.

Reminds me of many a meeting or sales call.

Same 20 year disclaimer applies here. I should probably reread it!

Hehe (1)

BlightThePower (663950) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737754)

Or maybe I'm just reading more into the story than the WSJ folkd deserve.

On the other hand if we were talking about the New York Times...ahem.

Just the type of users who I like to avoid (4, Insightful)

rsax (603351) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737550)

Similarly, email has become our storage system for important documents and works in progress

If I had a penny for each time I have repeated this to users frustrated with their email account quotas: "Our mail server does not exist to fulfill your file storage needs." The file server is where people can store their important.......wait for it........FILES!

Re:Just the type of users who I like to avoid (1)

mooncaine (778422) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737701)

This is becoming an issue at my workplace, where internal clients need files quickly, but are a diverse group, largely without much technical knowledge or even interest. It serves them best if I can just send/receive files, but the email server admins have gone nuts about it, saying basically "does not exist to fulfill your file storage needs". I don't doubt it, but I think that it should -- that is, I think we should plan on using it what way, if possible. It's far simpler for most users here [a university] to use email than to figure out how to transfer files in other ways [btw, there are no other officially sanctioned ways except sneakernet!, which is sad]. Users aren't permitted to FTP, SSH, IM or use web space [where quotas are too small to be of any use]. A great deal of productivity can be realized by just building out the email system so that users can send and receive their files and use the email as storage.

Re:Just the type of users who I like to avoid (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737793)

"Users aren't permitted to FTP, SSH, IM or use web space [where quotas are too small to be of any use]"

I think I've just identified your underlying problem.

Re:Just the type of users who I like to avoid (1)

Enigma2175 (179646) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737802)

A great deal of productivity can be realized by just building out the email system so that users can send and receive their files and use the email as storage.

The problem with this approach is that email is one of the most inefficient ways to transfer files. MIME encoding was just a hack on top of a text-based system. Sending files via email tends to add about 50% to the size of the file (i.e. if you send a 10MB file it will make a 15mb email). To use email in lieu of a file server you need 50% more space.

Re:Just the type of users who I like to avoid (2, Insightful)

Snowmit (704081) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737864)

If I had a penny for each time I have repeated this to users frustrated with their email account quotas: "Our mail server does not exist to fulfill your file storage needs." The file server is where people can store their important.......wait for it........FILES!

And here is the fundamental problem with IT departments. IT departments do not exist for the sake of IT although they sure do act like it a whole lot. IT departments exist for the sake of users, you know the people that it's so fashionable to arrogantly hate.

I suggest that if a great number of your users are using email as a file storage system that you as a diligent IT guy should spend some time figuring out ways to make it work for them.

Shouting "You're doing it wrong!" does not count as making it work.

Email Considered Harmful (1, Interesting)

Nyhm (645982) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737566)

The focus of email-as-life-manager within this article concerns me. To me, this article is a cry for help: WSJ is in desperate need of a software system engineered to meet their actual work environment. It sounds like they need some type of dynamic workflow and collaboration tool. Discovering and documenting their work environment would be very challenging and interesting. Further, deriving software requirements and architecting a software system to aid in their daily jobs would be a very valuable undertaking. This could help everyone at WSJ communicate and collaborate more effectively.

My resume is available upon request.

What do other /. folks feel about this type of "abuse" (i.e., not using/developing the right tool for the right job)? Should we just use what is immediately available or take the time to develop tailored solutions? Does anyone know of a Free and open source system for building workflow and collaboration systems? Does JBoss fit these scenarios, or should we start from scratch?

Re:Email Considered Harmful (2, Insightful)

mooncaine (778422) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737775)

All the effort you describe would no doubt be rewarding to you, but the client, WSJ, would be better served by having more robust email with larger storage capacity, ubiquitous user access, and appropriate security. Far better to use a pencil you already understand than have someone come build you a fancy pantograph with optional 3-handled family gradunzas attached, just to do the same thing you happily accomplished with a pencil.

WSJ != Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737585)

This might be news for the WSJ, but this should be no more than a big fat "Duh!" for Slashdot readers.

Why is this a front page story????

slashdot (4, Funny)

3770 (560838) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737628)

How would productivity be affected if /. was down for a day?

Re:slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737690)

Why don't you close your browser window and find out?

Re:slashdot (1)

GweeDo (127172) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737769)

None, I would still hitting refresh and praying it was back.

"weekday phoning.. (1)

BigGerman (541312) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737637)

..is reserved for more-substantive matters and emergencies"

I think I missed this new trend: so basically you supposed to call people on weekly basis to summarize all the heart attacks and child births that happened?

;-)

Document storage? (4, Insightful)

Ars Dilbert (852117) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737645)

email has become our storage system for important documents

No yuo! E-mail should be used only for collaboration. Documents belong on a file server or some kind of a Web based document management system.

How big is your mail store? How long does it take to backup? How long would it take to restore in case of a failure? Half a day? I'm guessing that 95% of your mail store are file attachments that shouldn't even be there...

How do you share those documents with others? Forward them via e-mail of course. Thus compounding your document versioning problem, and increasing the mail store size. (Single instance storage can only do so much.)

Re:Document storage? (1)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737846)

Yeah, but...

Storing your documents in the email system means you can access them from anywhere and any machine. I store three of my most important documents in encrypted form in email. This also provides a simple offsite backup method that also helps protect against loss and outages.

(and the encryption program I use and highly recommend is this one [sourceforge.net] ...

What is truly amazing is (1)

BronxBomber (633404) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737713)

[sarcasm] that humanity managed to go nearly 2000 years without email, yet we still managed to invent:
  • Fire
  • the wheel
  • the printing press
  • electricity
  • the telegraph
  • the microprocessor
  • any of the myriad other major innovations of the past 20 centuries
Frankly, I dont know how Gutenberg got any work done without being able to email, text message, IM, or phone his associates back in the printing press office.

Humanity is truly amazing indeed

[/sarcasm]

2000? (1)

3770 (560838) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737757)

Did we have Email 2001 years ago but forgot about it?

I found some evidence.... (1)

BlightThePower (663950) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737819)

From: urgh813@homonidcave.com
To: urgh212@homonidcave.com
Date: Tue, Mar 18 160,000BC 14:36:14 PST
Subject: Urgh

Urgh Urgh Urgh Ugg.
Urgh Urgh Ug. :0)
Urgh.

OS X MOVING TO x86! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737746)

From Apple-X.net covering WWDC:

10:34: Development machines will be in the hands of developers soon. Video playing explaining how to compile for Intel.

10:32: The demos of the last half-hour of Tiger have been on a Pentium 4.

10:31: We face two challenges. The first, is Mac OS X on Intel. We've been maintaining Mac OS X on Intel AND PPC, secretly, for the past 5 years, just in case. Now is the time. Every prior release of Mac OS X has been compiled for multiple architectures.

10:30: June 2006 will begin our Intel transition. By June 2007, we will be complete.

10:29: Why are we switching to Intel? Intel offers great performance. Intel offers great power consumption. The transition will take a few years, but it will be worth it. We want to be making the best computer for the customer going forward.

10:27: We've been through many transistions. 680x0 to PowerPC, Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X. Today we begin a third transition. It's true; We are switching to Intel.

10:24: Mac OS X 10.5 will be called Leopard.

mod uP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12737799)

EDue to the troubles what 4rovides the

How often do you email yourself? (1)

mooncaine (778422) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737852)

Almost daily. Since my work is entirely Internet-based, I must check my email constantly. Sending reminders to myself, shopping lists, contact info, etc., works well for me because I'm so often using email.

Good day (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737882)

Your emails account have been suspended for improper activity. Please see the enclose attachment for instruct.

Bill & Ted's Email Adventure (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 9 years ago | (#12737885)

When a recent power outage disrupted email service at WSJ.com, our tech columnists were plunged backwards into a time before every meeting, every little task, came with an email-program reminder

Bill: Ted we are about to embark on a most
excellent journey through time!
Ted: Where are we going?
Bill: 1984 or so should do the trick!
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