Sunday, January 13, 2013

When a click will do: A proposal for "liking" email

Photo by: Owen Brown, Used under Creative Commons license

As someone who loves writing, language, and the nuance that a command of the language can convey, I feel slightly self-conscious about making the proposal that I’m about to. OK, I’m just going to say it: they should add a “like” button to email services like Gmail. That doesn’t mean, as many have suggested, that it would function as “like” buttons on blogs, which send the item of your liking to Facebook. It means that there should be a quick way to acknowledge the receipt of a message or convey approval when a detailed text-based answer is unnecessary.

Here’s an anecdotal syllogism that could be idiosyncratic to me, but I suspect not:

Premise 1 — I get a ton of email everyday

Premise 2 — I feel that it’s good form to reply to almost every email to acknowledge it, even if the response is just “thanks!” or “ok”

Therefore — I respond to a ton of freaking email, many of these responses being a single word of acknowledgement/approval.

So what if, next to the buttons for reply, forward, etc, there were a simple “like” button. It would be a binary communication device that, when clicked, would instantly display to the sender that their message was understood.

Examples: “Great, I’ll be at your house tomorrow at 7pm.” Like. “I ran your budget report and put it in the shared drive for you.” Like. “Everything is going well with the project.” Like.

 Of course, as on Facebook, you could opt to accompany this with a brief message/comment if you so chose, but you would have the option to nicely wrap up a conversation with a  single click.

I think that I, like many, have become accustomed to processing large amounts of information in a scroll, click, and comment style of information filtering and interaction. In Facebook, I move quickly through my newsfeed, reading, liking, briefly commenting, and learning about what my friends are up to. In Twitter, I can read through the tweets of people I following and retweet with the click of a button. In Google Reader, I can move through hundreds of blog posts quickly, sharing with a single click. Why not email too?


cheryl franco said...


Gavin Burris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gavin Burris said...

How about multi-modal? Less email, more chat. These kids these days with their instant communication.

Or is it a question of appropriate levels of etiquette for the situation? Say for example, in a busy shop of any type, politeness is dropped in favor of ruthless efficiency, after a trust relationship has been built.

I'm with you on not liking single-line emails. I would prefer a face-to-face hand shake and smile when I see someone, rather than constant one-line emails that amount to noise.

Chris Mustazza said...

Thanks, Gavin. I guess I'm actually, believe it or not given my usual verbosity, advocating for less than one line of text in certain situations! I think your point about multi-modal communications is a good one, and it's definitely worth considering that sometimes email might not be the best medium.