I agree with some others here in saying that this is awkward. You don't strive for efficiency in social interactions. You stay an extra couple of minutes to let a friend babble on about a story you don't care about because you're socially tactful and tact is the lubricant that preserves our social relationships.
If we were working down the hall from each other I could pop my head in and ask you a quick question with enough extra social context (tone of voice, energy level, volume, facial expressions, etc.) to let you know I respect your time and just need a quick answer on something, not a full conversation, and that if you look busy and give me a short response, I won't be offended at all.
If I delivered that very same question via email, since you're a nice person you would wonder whether I would be offended by a curt response, and to err on the safe side you might spend more time answering it than I intended to ask you for. Then I feel awkward for having asked it, and there's awkwardness all around.
The problem is the age-old textual deadening of social cues, not this poster's solution, I think.
It's not that simple.
If I'm in the middle of a coding binge I can switch over and fire off a 'VSRE' without losing place. Converting that into a 'sociable' reply requires a mental context switch out of coding land and into human land. That doesn't cost me 2 minutes, It costs me half an hour . So either the e-mail gets a terse response, or the sender waits a couple hours till I hit a mental break point in what I'm doing.
I also use the following website to set a timer for however long I have to program (whether it be a 15 minute sprint or a luxurious 90 minute block):
As for the main topic, I have this as my signature:
Oh, _that_ explains the number of "Dear [full-version-of-my-name]", overlooking the shorter version in my own sign off.
You can't do that when you code and also run a business. I'd love for this to catch on, I'm going to discuss it with my team at least for IM.
I already do something like this regularly, but since there's no existing shorthand, it generally means adding something like, "I'm sure you must be busy, so if you literally want to just send a one or two word reply, that's no problem! Cheers." If there were a universally-known way to say that in 4 characters, it would make things a bit easier when both parties are busy. That said, you could also just use a macro to add the above to an email.
The closest parallel to the OP's suggestion that comes to mind is adding (nt) to the subject line of an email if there is no text, saving the reader the time of opening the body of the email. (Although this is made obsolete by most modern email programs, which show previews.)
So, if I pop into personal email for 5 min during work hours, I don't want to have to sit and think for a few minutes to reply to one email. If I don't pop into personal email every so often, then people complain that I'm unresponsive or do really intrusive things like calling me.
For some people it is a real problem... I get 100-300 emails a day and I know people who get a lot more. And these people aren't "well he's pg, of course everyone emails him for advice" these are just general day-to-day emails.
Personally I'm with you in valuing politeness over efficiency, but I do spend a lot of time reading and responding to emails, and sometimes I get a couple of days behind in doing so.
(Maybe my experience differs to that of many HN readers as I'm not a hacker, I work in advertising and publishing.)
Is this really something worth making an argument AGAINST?
I've timed it - many emails require at least 2 to 3 minutes for a very short, but properly composed reply. For me that's nearly 3 hours a day.
"If it was hard to write, it should be hard to read."
"If it took long to write, it should take long to reply to."
"Sent from my Windows Phone"
"Sent from my $OEM"
They all follow the same pattern these days.
(I know it's a rotary phone. But it existed pre-emoji so renders most anywhere, where U+1F4F1 [📱] doesn't.)
VSRE sounds great for anyone with limited time, and sufficient trust. I'd feel good using something like this with another person who I know well, or know to be businesslike. I wouldn't use this with someone I don't know well in a social context.
Social conventions aren't established by protocol drafts, they're organic.
Also, people write long replies for a reason. Wording indicates emotional state. If you have trouble reading emotional state, you don't care. If, like most people, you do care, then this proposal is ridiculous.
"How about we schedule lunch next week? VSRP"
VSRP: "Can't make it, extremely busy. Maybe next month?"
FULL: "Sorry to say, I can't make it. I'd really like to but we're in a crunch right now, and I've got a booked calendar. Perhaps next month when things have died down? I'd really like to catch up but this month is already overwhelming"
I might take the VSRP as a bit of an affront. The full explanation however is quite understandable.
There's a time and place for long communication and it's in person. Not in an email.
People are more important than "your time", and a failure to realize that is a dehumanization of the other party. The latter response demonstrates emotional sensitivity towards the other person in the conversation. Among most people, that is important. It makes the other party feel good. It reinforces that you do care about the other party enough to ensure that they are not potentially affronted by terse communication. This is why normal people, lacking in the self-absorption your post exudes, do this sort of thing.
And in any case it doesn't take more than a few seconds to write or read; when the hell did four sentences become a "bloody novel"?
Welcome to the generation of twitter. :)
"potentially affronted" is not a thing I particularly care about. If I want to affront you, oh you'll know. Believe me.
More interestingly, the only people I've ever seen write email like in that example are people who send/receive less than about 5 emails a day. The more they have to process daily, the shorter their messages become.
In written contexts, there often isn't. Without what I would call a significant amount of personal history, there isn't enough data and there aren't nonverbal cues to demonstrate terseness versus rudeness. Many people will assume rudeness, because that's what that pattern generally looks like.
Also, there's the nerd stereotype of being a standoffish jerk to consider, which you are doing a bang-up job of reinforcing with crap like this:
> "potentially affronted" is not a thing I particularly care about. If I want to affront you, oh you'll know. Believe me.
This is the sort of thing I would expect a teenager in the throes of self-absorption to say. I say this because I did. Then I grew up.
You're being an asshole. You'll be happier if you stop.
Not at all. I've noticed a general uptick in happiness since I started taking people at face value and stopped worrying about walking on egg shells for no reason whatsoever.
You know what you get by trying too hard to be polite and making absolutely certain no feelings could possibly get hurt? The language bureaucrats use to say "Your tax basis this year is X" on two A4 pages.
I hate it when people beat around the bush. So I avoid doing it.
Perhaps the acronym should've been something like VSRA (Accepted), or SROK (Short Reply OK) instead.
> Social conventions aren't established by protocol drafts, they're organic.
Organic stuff lends itself better to optimization - by constant feedback.
I often have to write FULL responses like the example you provided and find this incredibly annoying. There are many reasons to that. Sometimes, I just don't have time to craft a nice sounding and formatted answer at the moment (if I'm going FULL, I won't tolerate any spelling mistakes, typos, double spaces, etc. If one commits oneself to quality, it should be 100%).
But sometimes, the crafting of the answer FULL requires too much cognitive power. Quite often in situations similar to your example, my real reaction is a linear combination of things like "I'm not sure if I have time", "I wanted to go to a party on friday", "I'm worried what my girlfriend will think of this", "I really need some rest", "I'm worried we won't have much to talk about and it will feel awkward", "I'd really like to save this money for 3D printer electronics", "goddammit, I'll break my ketosis again if I'll eat a normal lunch with you", etc. It takes a bit of effort to craft a message that is a) nice, b) not an outright lie. A bit of effort I don't always want to make at the very moment.
So yes, I'm all-in for any kind of social protocol that would allow me to decline/postpone requests without having to explain myself to other party just for the message to sound polite.
The obvious use case is you are communicating with someone for the first time or for not so long, you are fine with a short reply and you know that recipient would like to write a short reply but will not do so in order not to sound impolite.
"Can't. Next month?"
"No. Next month?"
1) Because it isn't always worth the cost
2) Because we don't always fully understand the systems we are modifying
Which hearkens back to, "Don't fix it if it ain't broke". Inefficient is not automatically broke.
Don't fix it if it ain't broke seems to run counter to innovation. I'd try for improvement on a functional system if there's a positive expected outcome.
Heh. Forget IANAL; we need IANAA.
I wish this concept was more widely known though.
EDIT: original description (http://www.sl4.org/crocker.html) is dead but I found it's contents in cache, so I'm quoting it below:
Declaring yourself to be operating by "Crocker's Rules" means that other people are allowed to optimize their messages for information, not for being nice to you. Crocker's Rules means that you have accepted full responsibility for the operation of your own mind - if you're offended, it's your fault. Anyone is allowed to call you a moron and claim to be doing you a favor. (Which, in point of fact, they would be. One of the big problems with this culture is that everyone's afraid to tell you you're wrong, or they think they have to dance around it.) Two people using Crocker's Rules should be able to communicate all relevant information in the minimum amount of time, without paraphrasing or social formatting. Obviously, don't declare yourself to be operating by Crocker's Rules unless you have that kind of mental discipline.
Note that Crocker's Rules does not mean you can insult people; it means that other people don't have to worry about whether they are insulting you. Crocker's Rules are a discipline, not a privilege. Furthermore, taking advantage of Crocker's Rules does not imply reciprocity. How could it? Crocker's Rules are something you do for yourself, to maximize information received - not something you grit your teeth over and do as a favor.
"Crocker's Rules" are named after Lee Daniel Crocker.
Would a better name be "Crocker's approach" or "Crocker's style"?
Think about that carefully.
As for communicating "correctly", it's a matter of (mostly) definitions and circumstances whether putting people off and "correct" communication are consistent. You may have transmitted the correct information to someone's brain, but not annoying people is usually an important goal, sometimes even more important than that of transmitting the information. Maintaining someone's good opinion of you might outweigh the importance of whatever info you want to tell them.
I agree that not offending/annoying someone is beneficial and might outweigh the message you have to communicate, but that isn't relevant to discussion about the efficiency of the protocol. If in spite of brusqueness, your point comes across, then it's effective communication.
In a feudal society a lord might send a written missive to the King or Queen, and if they did it would contain a ton of horribly polite boilerplate, because the consensus of the time on both sides was that anything less was disrespectful.
It is very possible that your lack of words in a given communication sends a point across that you never intended, even if the point you had in mind also made it across.
VSRP analogue in computing: Unannounced, start omitting headers in response to HTTP requests. They are unnecessary baggage that gets in the way of the actual content of the message.
or something in your request, which allows the responding party to omit headers in the reply (or not).
Sheesh, how hard is it to type out "A one word response would be fine." It takes me less than 10 seconds to type that. C'mon.
I think "how hard is it?" is the wrong question. We should be asking "how can this be better?". It doesn't take very long to type something like "as far as I know", but we still routinely use acronyms like AFAIK, because as long as everyone knows what it means, it's often a waste of time to type the full thing out. The only difference here is that VSRE is not already a custom.
VSRE doesn't work. It's better to just type out what you want to say in this case.
It has the added benefit of potentially being a real-time conversation as well--this sometimes happens with a flurry of short emails, but it's much more awkward.
I was hoping Google Wave would take off an neatly combine the two. But it never did :(.
This is the best thing about Facebook messages: they’re hafway between chat and email and a conversation can seamlessly morph from one form to the other and back.
- You can't read them without announcing that you did.
- FB parses and might even censor you message if it contains blacklisted domains.
(The obnoxious thing is that both of our phones are Verizon iPhones; there's no simultaneous voice and data, and unlike me, she tends to do long voice calls with people. I'm trying to get her to switch to a SIP client, so we can do G.722 wideband and crypto/vpn on the voice too, and non-extortionate international long distance.)
I don't know about the site itself, I really only interact via my phone.
It's been around long enough now that you probably don't have to worry about it going away anytime soon, and its users really like it.
(I am not affiliated)
If the content you need a short reply to is a bit longer, you can also write a short summary before the longer part. Something like "Below is blah blah blah, wondering if you have any quick comments. Thanks, yournamehere." Then below is your multi-paragraphed whatever.
That surely drove Apple's PR team crazy...
Different suggestions from the comments.
CURT - condensed unfussy reply tolerable
CURT - CURT unfussy reply tolerable
NLRN - no long reply needed
TCRA - très courte réponse attendue
VSRA - very short reply acceptable
VSRO - very short reply okay
VSRW - very short reply welcome
VSRW - Very short reply welcome
BRIF - Brief response is fine
CURT - CURT unfussy reply tolerable
Often I send EOMs to imply a VSRE. For example, "Grill tonight? Have burgers. Off work @ 6. EOM"
Very interested in learning others.
Pro-tip: Use them as TextExpander snippets to avoid getting another message asking you to clarify what EOM/NNTR means as only a subset of people are familiar with & use these abbreviations.
Remember, a geek invented the smiley ( and I'm sure there are many other examples).
This one is shorter than the rest, and easy to grok. VSRE OR EOM? I'd have to look those up.
EOM, on the other hand, is immediately clear to me because of it's similarity to EOL (end-of-line) and EOF (end-of-file).
I know you can embed Google Forms, but don't know if they work for all email clients. Anyone use them?
I just wish it was optional so that certain contacts won't necessarily know that I've seen their message.
Thank you ..., I would be happy to ... but unfortunately I am unavailable. Please [....]
This shortened version takes as much thought as the 'very short' version and doesn't require a new acronym. There are cases where the longer reply would work better, but most of the time you don't need to give your reasons for saying no to someone. I'd say his response is pretty formal, and that's probably unnecessary for 95% of the unsolicited email he gets. In less formal responses you can convey some enthusiasm (real or not) with an exclamation mark, and that removes the potential rudeness ("Hi John, Thanks for your interest! Unfortunately I am not available that weekend. Best of luck, A. Guy"). Translating emotion to or from text does require a little bit of effort but it's really no different than normal spoken conversation.
(That's my new acronym for "It can totally be an acronym")
did you like my comment?
It seems like email is exponentially getting harder to manage all the time. One thing I've noticed is if I send a reply from my phone that has the "Sent from my phone" signature on it, then people are 100% ok with short, blunt replies where they wouldn't be without that signature.
Steve Jobs was famous for his terse replies to customer emails. e.g.
customer: "Will the forthcoming iPad support tethering?"
Jobs reply: "No"
I wonder if putting 'reply generated by short responder' at the end would make it socially acceptable
Perhaps instead of adding an acronym out of the blue — that very much no-one outside HN will ever bother figuring out — we could train ourselves and our correspondants to understand that there is no need for excessive form under the majority of circumstances. The medium is very flexible, but our attitude is stuck. And maybe the reason for the stuckedness is that email, unlike less pervasive media, is used by people of every age, every degree of computer literacy, every background, etc. There: one more reason why VSRE or any variation is unlikely to make it further than a couple of days from today.
In social interactions you DO NOT tell the recipient how to answer. You are talking to another sentient being, not a computer. VSRE comes across as an imperative, which is simply not work well for healthy communication. It basically tells the recipient (or recipients) reply my way or the highway.
It also depends on the question or how it was understood. With VSRE you are working under the assumption that your phraseology and verbiage is flawless and universally understood. Specially in a field such software development with tons of people from a ton of different cultures, VSRE will invariably cause more harm than good.
In fact, you could even suggest to your recipient, in a more amicable way to answer briefly.
VSRE, in my opinion, is the antithesis of what communication and technology should be about.
So, submitted to the Urban Dictionary!
"Can I marry your daughter?" "Sorry, no" or "Sorry, no, she's already married" isn't less polite inherently than a 30 page screed about how you would rather just give her a shotgun to kill herself instead of torturing her like that, etc.
In fact, my shorter replies are usually my most polite. I think there is a point where it gets too short (single word answers, like some of pg's answers on hn, might be below the lower bound).
Counter-examples aren't a very good denial of correlation though. Sure, you can come up with examples of long replies and short replies where the longer reply is less polite, but that doesn't say anything about the general trend.
Strictly: Très courte réponse attendue.
My preferred: Tout courte réponse attendue.
So maybe TCRA instead of VSRA...?
Many email guides recommend short emails. But it can take more time to craft a pithy missive than a longer explanatory FYI note with a question at the end that needs responding to.
I'm not suggesting that we don't take care in writing emails, but no one wants to spend all day editing emails to some arbitrary standard of brevity anymore than they do answering them.
VSRE. Brilliant convention.
I never say AFAIK aloud, but I do always pronounce it "a fake" in my head when typing.
Edit: um, viyesaree. Someone suggested VSRO elsewhere, for "very short reply OK" and I liked that a lot better, apparently.
I have tried to adopt the principle now, without including it in my footers.
In the environment that I'm in something like this would be great if everyone could adopt it - very few would in reality.
Obviously, this doesn't work in non-homogeneous environments.
But, likely my response would still be: "No."
Smilies can accomplish what the author intended.
"Can't, busy this week"
"Can't, busy this week :("
It's awesome to zip through 10 NNTOOR emails in one minute!
Seriously though, I'd rather have this built into an email system than relying on people to start understanding and following acronyms.
The meaning of the term RSVP was precise and encapsulated well before the word "RSVP" ever came into being. "Please Respond" is a common and well-understood expression for an invitation and RSVP is merely a shortcut and clever reference to specific school of French etiquette that used the phrase "respondez s'il vous plait."
In contrast, VSRE encompasses both a new form of etiquette and a new acronym that doesn't reference anything special.
Seems to me that VSRE/VSRO telegraphs what should be known anyway. I don't like it.
Many were fond of starting a discussion with 'ahoy', ending with 'that is all'. Alas, 'hello' and 'goodbye' won the competition.
That is all.
now just waiting for those downvotes...
B) It's one of those ideas that combines a very common problem with a very simple solution.
I like it, but I'd probably use it in the subject line. Similar to how some people use <EOM> to signal that an email has no body.
Now let's see if it gains traction.
I wonder if we could also request a RAQE without being rude.. (response to all questions expected). My pet email hate.
this is why i posed the question. how many people can the author honestly expect to reach through hn and twitter or blog to make this new acronym widespread enough to actually save time. if you want a short reply just add it to your signature, "please reply briefly"