The incredible, appalling display or rudeness and rancor that sometimes occurs on mailing lists has a lot to do with the fact that email is incredibly easy to get wrong. The podcast “I Can’t Believe You Sent That: E-mail Disasters, Large and Small and How to Avoid Them“: ( direct mp3 link ) … is an excellent and entertaining talk that helped me understand how things go so very wrong in my own email communication and has helped me get more out of email. Email requires more work than dashing off a few words.
Email is communication. It requires the sender to communicate an in a way that the receiver can understand. It requires the receiver to participate in decoding the message, and to ask for clarifications if things are misunderstood. It requires give and take. When give and take does not occur, when assumptions get made, when pressures are brought to bear, when ego is allowed to go unchecked, you get miscommunication and escalating tensions. On a mailing list, it’s only worse. A dozen or so well-meaning hotheads misunderstanding each other soon results in the harshest of flamewars.