The Old New Thing

A possibly unbeatable record for the shortest amount of time between an email message and its resend

I occasionally bring up the issue of people who ask a question and then repeat the question, especially people who repeat the question with some impatience. At the time, the record for the shortest time between the message and its repeat was eight minutes. But I think I have something unbeatable. From: X To: ABC Team I hit this crash in...

You already got your answer, why are you re-asking the question?

Today's rant is a blend of two earlier rants: People didn't answer your first email for a reason and If you didn't like the answer, asking the same question again is unlikely to help. A customer submitted a list of questions (via their customer liaison) to the Widgets discussion list, and somebody wrote up a reply, which was sent back to ...

When you are looking for more information, it helps to say what you need the information for

It's often the case that when a question from a customer gets filtered through a customer liaison, some context gets lost. (I'm giving the customer the benefit of the doubt here and assuming that it's the customer liaison that removed the context rather than the customer who never provided it.) Consider the following request: We would like ...

No good deed goes unpunished: Helping to redirect a question

It is a common occurrence that a question is sent to a mailing that is close, but not quite right. Usually somebody will provide information to help redirect the question to a more appropriate mailing list. But this effort does not always go unpunished. From: X A customer is encountering a problem with Product Q when they blah blah ...

Email tip: Just because you get answers when you misuse a mailing list doesn’t doesn’t mean you should continue to misuse it

A few years ago, there was a question on a mailing list for topic X, but the question was about unrelated topic Y. The question was nevertheless answered by the people on the topic X mailing list out of the kindness of their hearts (above and beyond the heart-sourced kindness that powers most mailing lists in the first place). I...

If you didn’t like the answer, asking the same question again is unlikely to help

I find it surprising how often this happens. A customer liaison will send a question to a mailing list like this: From: X To: Gizmo Discussion Hi, everybody. My customer is using the Gizmo Toolkit and wants to frob a gizmo without first registering as a frobber. They created the gizmo with CreateGizmo, passing all the default flags, and...

Email tip: If you want people to look at a screen shot, you have to tell them what they’re looking at

Some time ago, Ry Jones decided to take something that I wrote and condense it to make it funnier: Don't embed pictures. ... This isn't Highlights magazine. Those ellipses are deceptive, because they hide a change of topic! As a result, the two unrelated sentences appeared to be connected to each other. The comment about Highlights ...

Email tip: If you ask a question that can be answered in only one way, but that’s not the answer, don’t be surprised that nobody responds at all

It's not infrequent that I see somebody ask a question that can be answered in only one way. But if that's not the answer, then nobody will respond. Is there a module that does XYZ? This question can be answered in only one way: "Yes, here it is." If nobody has written such a module, nobody is going to reply saying, "No, nobody has ...

The cult of PowerPoint, episode 2

PowerPoint is a fine presentation tool, but some people have elevated it to the level of a cult. The most recent member of the PowerPoint cult was a customer who decided to use PowerPoint in an email message. No, I don't mean that the customer attached a bad PowerPoint presentation to the email. I mean that the customer's email was itself a...

If you use an absurd signature, I might end up sending it back to you

Despite my previous rant, absurdly elaborate email signatures are still common at Microsoft, and I'm not just talking about the ones that contain information that may be required by department policy. I'm talking about signatures that use bright colors, large fonts, maybe a bitmap or two, sometimes even a photo of the sender! I will ...

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