Thursday, January 26, 2006


By the way, MarsEdit is not free. My 30-day trial expired recently.

One of my professors this quarter, Clifford Nass, is the best lecturer I've ever had. Maybe I should say he's the funniest ever, but funny is good, and thereby he's the best. His impression of a rich, white, educated male is even better than Dave Chappelle's. I need to bring in my camera to class and tape this guy. Some of you might've heard him on NPR yesterday. He said he was going to be on one of the programs.

Email is so popular, despite what I think is a pretty bad way of doing certain things it frequently is used for between people. Obviously the social interface is great, but isn't there a way to improve group discussions via email? Something like a temporary news group... to figure out tonight's dinner plans... or decide which color shirt we want to go with for the intramural basketball team.

Update: The NPR bit I talked about showed up in my ITConversations podcast feed. He's not nearly as entertaining as he is in lecture.


Alex said...

Why is email bad for those things? I can only think of two complaints: 1) when people can't properly use email and don't reply all (and break the chain), and 2) stuff like this fills up your inbox.

I agree, there's no good solution for concern 1. Some people are just dumb. The second concern doesn't bother me so much. As long as I'm tangentially connected to the email, I file it in the right place or delete it, and it doesn't bother me as much. Though I guess too much information gets annoying.

But what about the other solutions? I can't think of any that are better. Any other solutions involve a lot of setup time, and they also add more steps to the user's workflow. Let's say you choose a forum or a temporary newsgroup. You still have to inform the person of that new group's or thread's existence. Then they have to go to whatever site and respond. How would you inform them? Email? RSS? Either way it's cluttering up some information chain.

The only really cool solution I can think of is to email them a link to a webapp that aggregates opinions and make's a decision. Link them to an online poll and have them vote on a color. Or have them mark off free blocks of time. Even then, that gets very impersonal or rigid. And even then, there's a setup cost.

Martin Davidsson said...

We had to pick two colors we could use for our shirts for IM basketball, and we ended up doing what you said: sending a HTML email with a poll. It worked that time because essentially only one person was interested in the results (our captain) and he then notified us of the results. Otherwise the webapp has to notify you of the results, and usually that's done through a link back to the page, which I find annoying after a while. Just tell me the results in the email. Also, how does the webapp know when everyone on the team has taken the poll?

Your other points are good too, it's hard to do what I want without either changing their workflow or breaking some other link in the chain.