Who is the world authority on email etiquette? He/she/it -- ok, let's say it -- seems to have left some pressing questions unanswered. I don't want to know about the use of smileys or about reply-all versus reply or about useful subject lines. But I would like to know, for example, about the ethics of replying. (Ha.) If you sent me a nice chatty email one year ago and I ignored it all this while, would it be rude of me to reply to it today? How long can one wait before replying? Would it be inconsiderate to reply immediately, seconds after receiving your long and well thought out message? Would it be rude not to reply to an email when the sender clearly expects a reply? How rude? Would it be rude to reply to an email when the sender does not clearly expect a reply? How about if I passed on your original message to some other people without your permission? What if I did that only to be better able to answer a question you had asked?
What if I emailed you a weather bulletin every day without invitation? What if the bulletin was usually inaccurate? If I spammed you, would you prefer a long essay or a one-liner? If you want spam, is it still spam? What if I boycott email entirely? Is that wrong? What if I throw your computer into the canal out of scientific curiosity? Would you mind?
- Unarchived Life Post, 23 Apr 2005
Well, that was a difficult exam, but I think I have a few answers.
0. Etiquette and ethics are totally different.
1. I guess it all depends on why you changed your mind from ignoring it for a year to considering a reply. Sometimes this happens when acquaintance suddenly becomes an advantage, a means of serving some end. If this be the reason for your reply and the person is smart enough to see through it, then it is definitely rude, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Of course, it could also be that you never got around to replying, and one day you overshot your quota and started getting automated messages, and while cleaning up your inbox you found this nice email you never replied to. In which case, go for it and make someone's day.
2. Quick replies are awesome. But if your correspondent isn't the type who'll wait a couple of days to see if there is more where that came from, you might as well put them all in one basket.
3. I have forwarded emails from people (not you) to other people (sometimes you) without permission. It's best if you don't do this, but I am too lazy to work around it. Obviously, if you do ask for permission, you should be open to the possibility that they will deny you the privilege for all eternity. It has happened to me and it sucks.
4. As you know, my one-liners are cheesy, and my essays are full of one-liners. Your one-liners are equally bad, but your essays are good.
5. Whether spam depends on perception is a debate that goes back to George Berkeley. You probably haven't heard of him, so look him up.
6. Donald Knuth stopped using email in 1990. Nuff zed.
7. I don't own a Dell laptop, so the water is not going to turn into superheated steam or anything. But if you can get NSF funding, I'll let you brokit my Thinkpad.
Boo 07:22, 8 April 2007 (EDT)