Where have all the long, intimate, emails gone? Gone to work email…

Monday, 20 July, 2015

I still receive plenty of long emails, but I couldn’t quite say the same of long, intimate, messages. Fifteen, twenty, years ago, a different story though, when email had literally taken the place of handwritten letters.

Accordingly, I both sent, and received, in depth mails, though yes, rambling might be a more applicable term when it came to some of my stuff. I’m a writer though, so what would anyone expect? So what’s happened? Has email become passé? Do people use social media channels instead? Why email when you can snapchat?

Surprisingly, this state of affairs may be down to email itself, in particular its volume, the majority likely being work-related, that also seems to keep increasing, subsequently leaving little time, and energy, for composing drawn out personal messages.

According to the Radicati Group, a technology marketing firm, business email users now send and receive an average of 122 messages per day, up from 110 in 2010. Sealing and opening all those virtual envelopes takes a toll: A 2012 report from McKinsey found that workers spent 28 percent of their day on email. While the numbers cannot account for how many emails are personal, it stands to reason that few sent on business accounts are – and that people are often too exhausted from the relentless inundation to compose meaningful letters.

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Most people are not mind readers. Most people forget this

Thursday, 7 May, 2015

Frequently we fail to articulate our thoughts fully enough, or sometimes even just merely outline them, in the belief that others already know what we’re thinking, or what we want. How’s that meant to work anyway?

It’s something called the “the transparency illusion”, and it means many of us do not realise we are not making ourselves as understood as we thought we were, says US psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson.

Most of the time, Halvorson says, people don’t realize they are not coming across the way they think they are. “If I ask you,” Halvorson told me, “about how you see yourself – what traits you would say describe you – and I ask someone who knows you well to list your traits, the correlation between what you say and what your friend says will be somewhere between 0.2 and 0.5. There’s a big gap between how other people see us and how we see ourselves.” This gap arises, as Halvorson explains in her book, from some quirks of human psychology. First, most people suffer from what psychologists call “the transparency illusion” – the belief that what they feel, desire, and intend is crystal clear to others, even though they have done very little to communicate clearly what is going on inside their minds.

Over do the communication is one solution. At least others will understand you far better that way. And people who communicate clearly tend to be generally happier as a result.

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Your mission should you accept it, speak only if spoken to for a week

Monday, 20 April, 2015

This might, I say again, might make for an intriguing personal challenge… if maybe you live alone, and likewise work by yourself from home… not talk to anyone for an entire week, unless they talk to you first. Not talking first also means there can be no instigating of communication via the likes of texting or email either.

Unless you also live on a deserted island, I think it’d prove incredibly difficult, to say the least:

I ride the train to work in San Francisco every day. I habitually say good morning to all the people in my neighborhood along my walk and politely say excuse me as I squeeze like a Tetris piece between other commuters on packed train cars. This week was different. I felt more closed off from neighbors; I couldn’t initiate conversation. I could wave, but that’s kind of awkward to do when you’re passing someone that is about eight inches away. It gives off more of a “talk to the hand” vibe than a cordial “howdy.” The commute was awkward every day of this experiment.

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On devising sign language for the new words entering the language

Friday, 6 March, 2015

With new words entering our vocabulary almost daily, those charged with devising sign language terms for the deaf community must surely have their work cut out for themselves.

Just look at the Oxford English Dictionary, who added terms like “duck face,” “lolcat,” and “hawt” to their prestigious lexicon this past December. For the English-speaking world, these additions are anywhere from ridiculous to annoying but at the end of the day, the terms are accepted and agreed upon. But how do these new, internet-laden turns of phrase enter the sign language community? Was there a way of expressing “selfie” in ASL, was there a sign for “photobomb?”

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A star symbol means that the horse prefers not to wear a coat today

Thursday, 6 November, 2014

We’ve all seen at one time or another, horses wearing what appear to be protective, or warm, coats. But how do we know whether or not they’ve been saddled with said coat? What if it’s making them too warm for instance? Problem solved by the sounds of things, it now looks like it is possible to train horses to indicate their preference in this regard.

Using a simple series of easily distinguishable printed symbols, Mejdell’s group taught 23 horses to associate symbols with certain actions. The horses learned that one symbol meant “blanket on,” another meant “blanket off,” and a third meant “no change.” Once the horses had learned the meanings (which took an average of 11 days), the researchers gave them free rein to choose symbols and rewarded them with food for their selection, regardless of which symbol they chose. The team tested the horses under a variety of weather conditions, including sun, wind, rain, and snow, in Norwegian temperatures ranging from -15°C to 20°C (5°F to 68°F).

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Choose the public wi-fi networks that you access with care

Tuesday, 28 October, 2014

I often work from cafes and other public places, but am usually reluctant to tap into the free-for-all public wi-fi networks that are on offer, unless I’m forced to for some reason, preferring to use my private mobile broadband account.

After reading Maurits Martijn’s account of the ease with which some of these networks can be compromised, as it were, you might want to think twice about your use of public wi-fi networks:

We see more and more visitors log on to our fictitious network. The siren song of the little black device appears to be irresistible. Already 20 smartphones and laptops are ours. If he wanted to, Slotboom could now completely ruin the lives of the people connected: He can retrieve their passwords, steal their identity, and plunder their bank accounts. Later today, he will show me how. I have given him permission to hack me in order to demonstrate what he is capable of, though it could be done to anyone with a smartphone in search of a network, or a laptop connecting to a WiFi network.

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And you don’t send me text messages like you used to…

Friday, 24 October, 2014

It’s been six years since data scientist Alice Zhao first met her now husband, and to mark the occasion she has published an analysis of their text messages to each other over that time… needless to say there have been changes to both their style of texting, and the words they use now, as opposed to earlier on:

While we were dating, we started thinking about each other around 3pm in the afternoon and we’d send each other text messages until 3am in the morning. As a married couple, our texting schedule has pretty much flipped. We text all through the workday and never at night.

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I robot exist only to serve and hand write letters for you

Thursday, 2 October, 2014

If you’re someone who feels electronic and text communications are a little impersonal, but still don’t want to actually hand write notes or letters, or like me, have terrible handwriting, you could consider asking the Handwrytten Robot to handle such correspondence.

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Tracing the origins of storytelling back to… ancient campfires

Tuesday, 30 September, 2014

Sitting around campfires in the evenings, after a day of hunting, collecting, or farming, allowed our ancient ancestors the opportunity to talk about matters that were not quite so vital to day-to-day survival, and this is when storytelling began to emerge and develop.

A study of evening campfire conversations by the Ju/’hoan people of Namibia and Botswana suggests that by extending the day, fire allowed people to unleash their imaginations and tell stories, rather than merely focus on mundane topics.

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A sign language that defies our understanding of their development

Tuesday, 30 September, 2014

Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language, or ABSL, is a form of sign language that has emerged in recent years among the deaf inhabitants of a village in a region of Israel’s Negev Desert. What is particularly fascinating to linguists here however is the structure of the language, which differs somewhat from many others:

ABSL provides fodder for researchers who reject the idea that there’s a genetic basis for the similarities found across languages. Instead, they argue, languages share certain properties because they all have to solve similar problems of communication under similar pressures, pressures that reflect the limits of human abilities to learn, remember, produce, and perceive information. The challenge, then, is to explain why ABSL is an outlier – if duality of patterning is the optimal solution to the problem of creating a large but manageable collection of words, why hasn’t ABSL made use of it?

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