The first Google Wave invites went out late last week, which means the next couple weeks should see the ground breaking email/instant message/document sharing hybrid spreading through the public at a buzzworthy rate. On the off-chance you’ve missed the hype, we’ll sum it up for you: Wave reinvents email as a long string of chatroom-style reply-all messages, viewable all at once to everyone involved. TechCrunch is calling it the dawn of passive-aggressive communication (they seem to think that's a good thing), but it doesn't have to be that way.
In the interest of progress, we to suggest updates to email etiquette. It’s an incomplete list, but it should keep you safe for long enough to figure out what's kosher in the new medium.
Inboxes are pretty cluttered these days, and there are more than a few startups clamoring to clean them up. The latest is one called Gist, which aims to integrate email and social sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to give you a beefed-up version of your Outlook Contacts. But as often happens with Big Picture tech ideas, there’s a side effect that’s rapidly becoming the main story: You get to rank your friends.
Instead of arranging emails by time like every other PopMail app, Gist uses the power of social media to rank your contacts from most important (boss, date, tailor) to the somewhat less important (chain-mail loving aunt, tech-savvy president). The good news: you’ll get a head start on the next meeting request. The bad news: If it catches on, getting a foothold in a new contact’s inbox will get a whole lot harder.
Yesterday’s Washington Post had an interesting tech trend piece on email closers—you know, that awkward dangling word before your name. The main takeaways were that “best” is on the rise, “fondly” is for geezers, and “sincerely” usually conveys a barely contained animosity. Apparently Emily Gould writes “xoxo” a lot, an innocuous fact which has probably already ignited several flame wars in the Post’s comment section.
In matters professional, we’ve always found “Thanks” to be a bit passive-aggressive (“Could you get right on that? Thanks…”), so we tend to go with “truly” or “always”—after all, you’re always you. More creative options include “Namaste,” “tata,” and our personal favorite, “one love.” If you’re worried about overstepping etiquette, it may be better not to play the game at all and just give yourself a hyphen and a first initial. As with so many things, it’s a question of style.
The trend in the tech world has been consolidating gadgets—by now, we’ve got a phone, email unit, media player, camera, and game module in one…and counting—but the big companies have overlooked some of the simpler ideas out there.