Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What is it you're emailing me about?

Recently I received this email:

Sent: Monday, August 04, 2008 9:39 AM
To: Birenbach, Mike
Subject: RE: foo_block : synthesis constraints

Hi Mike,
I am going to verify the foo_block in foo_chip instead of John Smith.
I have looked at the test plan and gone through the build creation process.
The process described in the document is specific to environment at San Diego.
I will be verifying the foo_block at foo_my_site. I am thinking of copying  specific files
in verification env from San Diego and replace dut with the current release in foo_my_site.
In this case, could you please tell me the files I need to copy from the current 

What is going on here? The author has asked for information but blasted it into an existing thread. This is called Thread Hijacking. Wikipedia says this has two issues:
  • disruption to email clients that display discussions in a hierarchical, or threaded, fashion. An email client usually cannot do content analysis of messages to make this determination; rather, it relies upon an In-Reply-To: header field that records the Message-ID of the respondee. Thus a threadjacked message is mixed into the tree of an unrelated thread, rather than in a new one.
  • degradation to search. Email clients often default to searching the Subject: line, rather than the more voluminous bodies of messages. An attempt to search for a message with contents very different from its Subject: will then be thwarted.

I have a very bad internal reaction to this behavior. I receive almost 100 emails a day, I spend a lot of time reading, deleting, sorting, and responding. This one made the hair stand up on the back of my head. The author has put an added responsibility on me when he really just needs information from me. I have to either respond right now or flag for later. No real hope for searching easily.

What to do? When I do respond I'll usually add to the subject line something that matches the new topic...

What about you, what is your strategy?

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