Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nick Bilton on digital etiquette

Nick Bilton doesn’t like it when people e-mail him to say thanks. He thinks you should use Google Maps to find the way to someone’s house rather than ask the person for directions. Bilton and his mother communicate “mostly through Twitter.” And last year, his father learned a “lesson” about leaving voice mails for his son: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette (New York Times).

After reading this column, I see no reason to change the advice I offer in How to e-mail a professor: “When you get a reply, say thanks.” For students e-mailing a professor, this small courtesy is a good choice. And it closes the loop. A professor who prefers not to receive such replies can let students know.

I will go further and suggest that everyone say please and thank you and and hello and see you soon and so on in e-mail. So many inefficiencies? No, they are ways of being human together. They are what we need to make time for.

One of my earliest learning experiences online happened when someone on a fountain-pen mailing list offered a lengthy and helpful answer to a question I asked. I e-mailed him backchannel (remember backchannel?) to say thanks and acknowledged that I didn’t know whether it was standard practice to do so. His reply: “A thank-you is always welcome.” That made and makes sense to me. My correspondent later proved a great source of advice on all things Pelikan.

Related posts
E-mail etiquette
How to e-mail a student

[I’d hate to be Nick Bilton’s parents. Who, by the way, would know the best route to their house.]

comments: 2

Geo-B said...

Students, for example, since that is most of whom I deal with, can leave me messages on my office voice mail (which I'm a little unclear how to retrieve), on email, or on our university electronic course system (which I must open and check class by class). Although that seems like a lot of possibilities, it actually I think offers too many choices and impedes communication.

Michael Leddy said...

I think I’d agree. Many years ago, I chose not to set up voice mail with my office phone, which saved me the problems I soon saw colleagues having with middle-of-the-night messages from students announcing absences and asking for extensions.