The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'email'
The first ever case has been reported of someone sending emails in their sleep. The emails were reported as being haphazardly formatted, in a mixture of upper and lower case, and written in strange language, though more or less comprehensible:
The 44-year-old woman, whose case is reported by researchers from the University of Toledo in the latest edition of medical journal Sleep Medicine, had gone to bed at around 10pm, but got up two hours later and walked to the next room.
She then turned on the computer, connected to the internet, and logged on by typing her username and password to her email account. She then composed and sent three emails.
One read: "Come tomorrow and sort this hell hole out. Dinner and drinks, 4.pm,. Bring wine and caviar only." Another said simply, "What the……."
A piece by online communication expert Suw Charman-Anderson about how and why email is so dangerous to getting things done:
In a study last year, Dr Thomas Jackson of Loughborough University, England, found that it takes an average of 64 seconds to recover your train of thought after interruption by email (bit.ly/email2). So people who check their email every five minutes waste 8 1/2hours a week figuring out what they were doing moments before.The distractive (and some would say destructive) effects of email come down partly to the psychology of addiction and reinforcement:
Tom Stafford, a lecturer at the University of Sheffield, England, and co-author of the book Mind Hacks, believes that the same fundamental learning mechanisms that drive gambling addicts are also at work in email users. "Both slot machines and email follow something called a 'variable interval reinforcement schedule' which has been established as the way to train in the strongest habits," he says.
"This means that rather than reward an action every time it is performed, you reward it sometimes, but not in a predictable way. So with email, usually when I check it there is nothing interesting, but every so often there's something wonderful - an invite out or maybe some juicy gossip - and I get a reward." This is enough to make it difficult for us to resist checking email, even when we've only just looked. The obvious solution is to process email in batches, but this is difficult. One company delayed delivery by five minutes, but had so many complaints that they had to revert to instantaneous delivery. People knew that there were emails there and chafed at the bit to get hold of them.Things like weekly "no email days" don't work either, because they don't actually change people's compulsive email-checking habits. Charman-Anderson's article recommends other notification technologies, such as Twitter and RSS aggregators, as better alternatives.
On a similar tangent, one of the tips for getting more done in Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Work Week is a somewhat counterintuitive-sounding low-information diet; rather than binging on magazines, news, books, blogs, podcasts and such, he advocates cutting that out as much as possible, reasoning that we can get by on much less information than we habitually consume and still know enough, whilst having more time to actually do things. The holes in what we know will soon enough be filled by what we hear in smalltalk, learn from friends unavoidably see in front of the newspaper kiosk on the way to the shops. (Which sort of makes sense; think, for example, of the how much you know of the plots of various well-known movies you haven't seen or books you haven't read. Whether or not you've seen Star Wars or read Animal Farm (to cite two examples), you can probably come up with a summary of what they're about.)
An email, incorrectly claiming that Apple's iPhone and Leopard had been delayed, wiped US$4bn off the value of the company. Once Apple issued a clarification, stock soon climbed back to most of its original value within about 15 minutes.
I wonder whether whoever sent the email managed to snag some bargain-priced Apple shares.
It turns out that web filtering software from US company Symantec has been blocking anti-war emails. Mails containing links to www.afterdowningstreet.org were blocked by Symantec's anti-spam software, because the link allegedly received 46,000 complaints. Which means either that all it takes to censor the public's email in the US (and, presumably, other countries which buy Symantec software) is the capacity to send a lot of complaints (which is not hard these days), or that it is Symantec policy to use its power in the marketplace to impose a specific political ideology, à la Wal-Mart. (Does anybody know whether the owners of Symantec have a specific political bias?)
A proposed solution to email spam, which takes into account advances in character-recognition algorithms (which can now trivially break many "captcha" schemes) and the economics of spammers hiring sweatshop workers to transcribe the codes in question. It involves automatic whitelists, disposable sub-addresses, and are-you-a-human tests based on interpreting computer-rendered scenes involved humanoid figures and flowers.
Charlie Stross has a rant up titled "Ten reasons why I do not read HTML email".
While I don't take as hard a line on it as Mr. Stross, I pretty much agree with the sentiment; HTML email is wasteful, a nonstandard kludge mandated by the Microsoft/Netscape marketing departments and rarely if ever does it do anything text can't do. I also use Mutt as my mail client; reading my mail involves logging into a UNIX machine I have a shell account on and running mutt; this means I'm not tied to reading my mail where I keep my (hypothetical) copy of Outlook/Eudora/Apple Mail and don't have to depend on webmail systems (which are, at best, a compromise; they're good if you're backpacking through Outer Mongolia or something but not something you'd want to use from day to day).
I still don't read mail with JPEGs/Microsoft Word documents/&c. though. And when Microsoft Trusted DRM-Mail or whatever comes in, I won't read that.
Surprise, surprise: If you use web-based email or ICQ from work, your employer can read your mail, regardless of what the banner ads say. (via Slashdot)