If you work in a giant bureaucracy for any amount of time at all, sooner rather than later you’re going to receive a mass email blasted out to the entire workforce with information that is of dubious value to more that five or six people. When that happens, what I’m going to need you to do is resist the temptation to click that ever-so tempting reply-to-all button and blast back a request to be removed from the distribution. You don’t want to be that guy.
You don’t want to be that guy because as annoying as getting one over the world email is, getting the second one within ten seconds is what really triggers the most unfortunately string of events. It’s this second email that gives people permission to respond themselves demanding to be removed from this mythical distribution list. Before you know it, because you couldn’t keep your filthy booger picker off the reply all button, there are dozens or hundreds of response generated that we all then have to delete.
Whatever smartass comment you’ve included in the 124th response to this problematic email just isn’t funny. In fact it should be a completely valid reason for your colleagues to hunt you down and beat you bloody with a three-hole punch.
Please. I’m begging you with tears in my eyes, don’t reply all unless you personally know everyone on the reply line and honestly believe you have something of merit to add to the conversation. If those conditions aren’t met, just operate from the assumption that what you’re about to send is spam at best and your own little denial of service attack at worst.
On the other hand, it lets me know that 124 people I have no need to ever talk to in the future. Their rapidity to reply all and get their two cents in tells me everything I need to know about them as human beings.
I’ve been using WordPress as my blog platform since 2010. It’s been a good, feature-rich home that is about as straightforward to use as anyone could reasonably expect. There have been a few hiccups along the way, but overall it’s the kind of happy technology that just works and lets itself fade into the background so you can focus on content instead of the nuts and bolts of how the website itself functions. I’m just not geek enough anymore to be particularly interested in that side of running things.
The last couple of weeks, though, I’ve found myself inundated by an unexpected and unprecedented amount of spam message traffic making its way past the WordPress filters. Each and every post on jeffreytharp.com seems to generated a responding barrage of dozens of likes and follows from click bait sites filled with brilliant marketing strategies and tips for monetizing your page. For the purposes of my writing here, each and every one of them is both pointless and annoying – spam messages in their most pure form.
Until now, the filters provided by WordPress were sufficient to hold this onslaught of wasted electrons at bay. Since that is true no longer, I’m trying to manually enforce some kind of discipline on what makes it through to my inbox. That being the case, I’ve had to impose rather draconian restrictions on what notifications I’m receiving from WordPress. The free and easy days of letting everything flow through to my inbox and sorting through one or two messages a day seem to be over.
So look, if you are trying to reach me through the blog for some reason, chances are I haven’t seen your message. Feel free to leave a comment, though, because for the moment I am seeing those notifications without undue amounts of spam getting in the way. It feels like there should be a better way to manage this sort of thing but it’s the best I was able to implement on short notice. Frankly, though, any option that stops the flow of this junk to my inbox is more than welcome so I don’t see any major changes in the foreseeable future.
1. Tax reform. This country needs real reform of the tax code. Whether you fall into the “tax the rich in oblivion” camp or find yourself in the “Why the hell do 50% of Americans not pay a penny of income tax” team, the need for reform is the one thing we all seem to have in common. The terms of the current Republican tax plan are still largely shrouded in secrecy, but I’ve already seen two items kicked around that will be will mean I can’t support it as long as they’re in play. I’ll be writing my representative this weekend to let him know that the home mortgage deduction and state/local tax deduction are non-negotiable points for me. Those are two big pots of available cash and I know how tempting that must be for the average politician to put their filthy hands all over… but still, going after two of the most popular deductions around feels like just about the most tone deaf way to get the process started.
2. Temptation. There was beer at work today. Sort of. It was the start of this year’s Oktoberfest celebration – an event that my employer has a tremendous amount of love for, which I can only assume comes from the number of employees who have spent some part of their career in Germany since 1945. Look, if the option is to go sit around listening to oom-pah bands and knocking back cold beer or stay at my desk and pretend to be interested in email, well, there’s not really much of a competition. The problem comes when you’re a few drinks in and everyone is starting to get a little lubricated and entertaining. That’s when the little voice in my head trips an alarm to remind me that it’s probably time to go before I say something that’s both funny and true, but wholly unprofessional. The real temptation, though, was to stick around just out of curiosity to see what offensive or inappropriate sound bite might come flying out of my pie hole.
3. Jared Kushner. Having spent a good portion of 2016 being hot and bothered by Secretary Clinton and her email server, it’s only fair that I call out Jared Kushner in his capacity as Senior Advisor to the President. His use of private email to conduct official business should be investigated by Congress. His files and records should be subpoenaed. If there is evidence indicating he has broken the law, he should be charged criminally and tried. While I’m on the subject, I’ll remind those on the left screaming for Kushner’s head, that there is a world of difference between official email and classified message traffic. That being said, it’s apparently impossible to keep either one on non-government servers. Asshats.
If you stick around any place long enough you’ll find that you’re often able to predict trouble spots in most of your standard and repetitive procedures. The place where I didn’t expect it to show up this week was in finding myself personally responsible for one of the 60 people who just didn’t bother to show up as scheduled.
It turns out that even though 59 other people received the voluminous email messages addressed to “Dear Random Major Event Attendees”, and showed up as directed, email is “not a sufficient way to communicate.” The other, simpler, possibility is that someone just didn’t bother to read and follow the directions that got, literally, every other person on the list to the right place at the right time.
Look, I don’t mind taking my lumps when I well and truly fuck something up. By all means, lay it on. However, when the fault lies plainly on the 1 in 60 that failed to comply, well, I don’t know what to tell you… Maybe plus up the budget a bit so we can hire a full time invitation engraver?
If you’re wondering what the deal is with that word up there in the title line, it represents the total number of emails I received today. Being a careful shepherd of my limited supply of vacation days, I realized that burning one off on the Monday before Independence Day was likely to be a tragic waste of resources. I thought this for two reasons 1) I was scheduled to work from home today anyway and 2) Virtually no one who can avoid it is going to come in to work on a single day between a weekend and a federal holiday.
My assessment of the situation proved to be entirely accurate although just how dead it proved to be was well beyond my expectations. Neither of the messages I received called for immediate action… and in fact one of them was just thanking me for providing some information requested last week.
I don’t have a years long study to back up this supposition, but I’d be willing to stake my questionable reputation on the fact that Uncle Sam could save a shit ton of money by just closing up shop on these oddball occasions that pin a work day between two days off. Then again, if Sam went around doing things that made sense on a regular basis, I’m not sure I’d even recognize the place. I suppose we’ll just carry on then.
My inbox is a war zone. It’s a maelstrom of electronic strife sorting itself daily between the dozens of easy to do things that each take 1-2 minutes or the majestically hard to do ones that command hours and days of constant attention just to sort out. I find if I focus too long on clearing the deck of the easy to do, hard stuff becomes a raging hairy beast. If I focus on the growing beast, however, the easy multiplies until I find myself as Gulliver – surrounded, cut off, and overrun by Lilliputians.
Time management “experts” will tell you to only respond to email at certain times of the day and give you tips and tricks on how to run triage and only engage the “really important” bits. I don’t know who these lunatic experts work for, but every SOB that lobs an email at my box expects an answer. Yes, some are more timely than others, but it’s the rare gem that gets flat out ignored.
To me, it feels like nothing so much as a grand opportunity to pick your poison. On any given day you’re entitled to a death by 1000 cuts or by a enormous rock falling on your head from a great height. Maybe some days, if you really foul things up right and proper you can have both simultaneously, but don’t get greedy because you’ll have to rise again tomorrow and fight the battle all over again.
1. Superfluous email. I’ve been keeping a rough track of emails I receive – specifically those in my inbox at the start of the day or after I’ve been away from my desk for a few hours. Though not purely scientific, I’ve found that only one out of every four emails is something I actually need to see. One in six are messages resulting in my needing to actually do something. Might I recommend not cc-ing everyone who you’ve ever tangentially met on your email messages? If feels like it would save us all hours every year of time we currently spend reading and then deleting email that has absolutely nothing to do with us.
2. Being a watched pot. I’ve got the assignment. I’ve told you when I’ll have it finished. I’ve gotten awfully good at estimating things like this over the last fourteen years. What I don’t need you to do is call and email me every 7 minutes asking if it’s finished. All that serves to do is 1) annoy me and 2) slow down the process making final delivery later than it would be otherwise. I do good work and good work takes time. Believe me when I tell you know one wants a project off my desk more than I do.
3. Syria. Two or three years ago, I actively advocated for putting American troops in harm’s way to try to bring order to that chaos. The Syrian war in 2017 is a far cry from what it was in 2015, though. Back then there was still a fighting chance for the sides opposing Assad to win the day without the direct assistance of an overwhelming number of American and allied personnel. Back then a nudge – in the form of material support and “advisory” personnel – could have made the difference and toppled a tyrant who was busy killing his own populace. The battlespace has changed and it increasingly looking like Syrian government forces will be the “last man standing” after a long and bloody fight. Landing American troops, on a mission with no clear objective and even less prospect of an exit strategy, would be a mistake – and those calling loudest for it today would be among the very first to denounce it as “Mr. Trump’s War” and a “foreign policy disaster” when the butcher’s bill came due.