Sunday, April 5, 2009

You sent what???

Did you ever send an e-mail and wish you had it back? E-vidently it's an e-pic problem in higher e-ducation. Check this out from MSNBC:

"New York University officials weren't laughing when hundreds of people mistakenly received word that they'd been accepted to grad school on April Fools' Day. NYU says it sent out acceptance e-mails April 1 to 489 applicants to the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Those applicants should have received rejection letters instead. The school sent out a second e-mail about an hour later to the applicants, saying they hadn't been accepted after all."

That was April 1, 2009. Now check this story from the day before, March 31, 2009, as reported in the San Diego Union Tribune:

"The University of California, San Diego accidentally sent a welcome e-mail to about 29,000 applicants who had been rejected.The e-mail sent Monday evening invited all 47,000 students who applied to an admitted students' day on campus.UCSD Admissions Director Mae Brown apologized for the mistake Tuesday and explained that the e-mail was supposed to go to about 18,000 accepted students.Less than two hours after the error, she sent out another mass e-mail apologizing for distress it may have caused to anxious applicants and their families, Brown told The Associated Press."

Then we have this from the LA Times about a December 2008 higher e-ducation e-mail accident:

"Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management said a technological glitch caused erroneous notices of acceptance to be sent to about 50 students who had not been admitted last year."

And, this message of e-ducation e-rror comes from a 2003 report in the New York Times:

"In 2003, Cornell University sent welcoming letters to 1,700 high school students who had submitted early-decision applications, including nearly 550 who had already been rejected in December."

Duke University did the same thing a few years back, as did their neighbor, UNC at Chapel Hill. Are we starting to see a pattern here? Do the academics at our institutions of higher learning not get the picture. Are these people not reading about each other? Is e-mail really that troublesome? Well, yes, of course it is. Why do you think they call it "e-vil mail" and "e-vidence mail"? It gets a lot of people in trouble. We type; we send. We have a brain fart in between.

Certainly this happens e-verywhere, not just in the hallowed halls. So, what's to be done about this modern malady? I see the problem with e-mail this way. We love the speed. We love the power. We need a lag. We need a tool that suspends all e-mail messages so that we can read them again before we send them. You know, examine them for e-vidence of e-diocy and/or stupidity.

E-mail is hyper fast and hyper e-asy. We need something to slow us down. I'm not talking about hours of lag, just minutes. E-ven if we have to wait ten minutes, we will likely reduce the numbers of e-rroneous e-mails by half (and that will cut costs in half). And, these are just the e-mails that don't flame somebody e-lse. For those messages that are dripping with invective, we need to wait a day, at least! We know that e-mail makes shouting and snarling e-asy! It gives us the power of snark! But, it then gives us the resulting guilt and regret. To some of us, it gives infamy.

As for infamy, ask Neal Patterson from the software firm, Cerner, in Kansas City, whose flaming e-mail message to his managers in 2001 caused his company to lose over $300 million of its valuation and landed him in hot water with his shareholders whose stock price fell from $44/share to $30/share in three days. That bonehead e-mail also landed Patterson in the New York Times Technology section and in half a dozen communication text books and thousands of blog posts. I'm guessing, he'd vote for an e-mail lag system. He doesn't e-ver want to hear his shareholders scream at him again, "You sent what??"

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