Why I’d support an email tax

No, there is no such thing on the order paper in Canada, the US or even the so-called People's Republic of China. But really, someone needs to instigate some sort of serious disincentive to e-mail. This is a rant about why.

email tax one way to stop email abuse No, there is no such thing on the order paper in Canada, the US or even the so-called People’s Republic of China. But really, someone needs to instigate some sort of serious disincentive to e-mail. This is a rant about why.

I think someone at work today thought they were being clever. They had an important memo from the head bean counter advising all and sundry that all expense forms had to be signed.

So they set up a word document, formatted the (two paragraph) letter, inserted a scanned image of the beancounter’s signature and e-mailed it (high priority!) to several hundred staff of the organization.

It arrived in my mailbox as a one megabyte file with a note to print it out and keep a copy in my files. So much for the paperless office. Hello clueless office.

Now I don’t administer the organization’s email server. And I don’t know how our particular server works but if that got sent to several hundred people, I’m guessing the server just lost several hundred megs of space. For one stupid boilerplate memo.

For the sake of my sanity, for the sake of saving the inteet, please, someone please develop the political will to tax the beejeesus out of the e-mailers. Here’s why:

As a mass communications medium it’s massively inefficient

Well, at least as far as computer-mediated communication goes. Every person gets their own copy be it two K or two megs. Then they get to decide what to do with it. Store it? Delete it? Forward it to half the known universe in case they didn’t get their own copy?

And what if they do delete it and then decide they need the information after all? Oh well.

You include the unwilling and exclude the willing

A lot of what I see polluting my email box are pitches or exhortations to do things. Some are from robots. Some are from people who just sort of reckon I’m interested in whatever they’re yapping on about.

Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. But if you’ve got time to process and spam text messages, why wouldn’t you post them to somewhere where you could guarantee that your readers would be willing readers? Like a web site about that subject?

The freelance spammers (who think “because I know your address, you must be interested in everything I’m interested in”) are annoying me (because I’ve got about six copies of the same damn message already), and ignoring a whole bunch of people who may actually want to know about the latest boycott, demo or Maude Barlow PR vehicle.

Automated content management systems are so simple and so cheap to set up. There really is no excuse any more.

With email you get all the waits of the web but none of the eyecandy

…no design, no typography, no graphics. Nada. Just a lotta monospaced text. But Chris, you say, eyeing your bloated address book, what about HTML mail, or RTF or all that? Well, I answer, how can you be sure all your recipients are able to view HTML mail? I don’t think you can. And what better way to ingratiate yourself with your audience than to make them download a 100K message (gifs, jpegs, code and all) only to be unable to make head or tails of it.

Besides which HTML mail is just hypertext and referenced images. If you’re going to all the trouble to set it up, why don’t you just display it in its natural habitat: on a server that anyone can visit? Why would you duplicate it umpteen times? If you must advertise it, just send the URL. That way readers decide if they really want to see it, they can bookmark it if they want to go back to it, and the data is only stored in one place. This leads me to my next point…

Ever try to correct an e-mail?

Good luck. Once you hit that send button you have a few milliseconds before it’s out of your hands and you have lost all control of it. If you make a mistake and send out your correction, you amplify the error and the irritation your readers feel at receiving the same thing twice.

I’m not the only person who thinks this way

Somebody e-mailed me some articles about this very subject but of course I’ve lost them. I’ll dig around and find a few web pages with similar rants to back me up. But I’m out of time now. I’ve got six messages I have to get to. I wonder how many of the senders actually know I’m on their lists?