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Annnnnnd this is why geeks have a reputation for social awkwardness.

Many of my most truncated email responses have come from executives and other businesspeople.

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.

I think that for a lot of the execs truncation is a well established way to communicate self-importance.

It's more about effective communication than power games. Brevity is natural when you have to communicate with lots of people via email and your main priority is getting shit done. What's funny is that for random/cold emails, i'm far more likely to reply if I can respond in a line or two without being rude.

That's a great point. While I can't see this catching on in the wider world, it could certainly be used in a small team, say at a startup. In fact, I think I'm going to pass it on to the other two devs on my team right now!

This is not social awkwardness. This is social efficiency.

No, you've got it all wrong! Geeks aren't socially awkward, they're socially "efficient"

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.

An example:

"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.

Personally, I find the latter response just disrespectful of my time. If all you want/need to say is you can't make it, don't write a bloody novel! All I need is an answer.

There's a time and place for long communication and it's in person. Not in an email.

That would be a problem between you and...you.

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"?

>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. :)

Thing is, we're not in high school anymore. We're all adults here and we should be able to see the difference between being rude and being terse.

"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.

> Thing is, we're not in high school anymore. We're all adults here and we should be able to see the difference between being rude and being terse.

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.

> "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.

I think two key parts of what you said are "most people" and "normal people". This normativity is taken for granted here. Preference for terse messages is ultimately a matter of taste and I've yet to see evidence that one belongs to a clear majority.

It may not be a clear majority of people, but it's pretty obviously a majority of people who set expectations in public discourse. That's why it's normative.

Four sentences constitutes a "novel" now? What is going on in the world that people dont have the time, or worse seem not to care, to communicate in a normal way?

This is strange to me. It was just 3 sentences, and you were the one who asked them for a response.

And I'd find anyone that wrote "VSRE" to be very disrespectful. And since I'm a bit hot headed I'd probably write a big long response, just out of spite. :-)

My understanding was that the whole point of VSRE is to be respectful of your time. The idea is simply to let you know that there's no need to write them a long reply if you don't have the time. You're still welcome to do so if you wish. How is that disrespectful?

Perhaps the acronym should've been something like VSRA (Accepted), or SROK (Short Reply OK) instead.

Or even more inviting: VSRW (Very Short Reply Welcome).

I think there's time and place for both VSRs and long responses.

> 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.

So, this is an attempt to add something organically. It's optional. If you would find a VSR an affront, don't say VSRE. The whole point is a declaration that the sender won't find it an affront. It says you don't need the emotional state transmitted like that.

No one is required to use it and even when you receive a mail tagged VSRE, you may still decide to write a long reply if you can not communicate your messag in a few words.

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.

Sounds like the VSRP would be more like:

"Can't. Next month?"

If we're really going for the gold:

"No. Next month?"

I'm liking

No ++month?


If we're really going for brevity above all else, then I think it can be taken for granted that the answer's 'no' if we suggest moving the month—so the 'no' can be dropped, too. (Alternatively, interpreting the reply as "Yes, how about next month?" seems to work perfectly well, though it's unusual.)

And organic things can be inefficient.

As we are not organic beings, clearly it would be foolish of us to accept such unnecessary inefficiencies.

I agree with the second part of your statement. Why not make things more efficient where we can?

The main reasons are:

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.

In this case I don't think that these reasons apply. Introducing a VSRE on the initiator side, or a Short Response, Not An Asshole on the responding side would be a worthwhile change with a manageable side effect.

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.

> Short Response, Not An Asshole

Heh. Forget IANAL; we need IANAA.

BTW. Since we're talking about efficiency down this thread, here's a very nice example of optimizing communication:


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.

Edited, thanks!

It is quite confusing that the "rules" do not seem to be set out explicitly as a list of rules, but that as those two paragraphs which seems to be written about rules (in plural) written elsewhere.

Would a better name be "Crocker's approach" or "Crocker's style"?

You say efficient, we say awkward.

Communication is about consensus. You can contend that you're right all day long, but so long as you put others off you'll be wrong.


Think about that carefully.

How is communication about consensus? You can put others off and still communicate "correctly".

Protocols are about consensus, almost by definition. In computer protocols, we get the consensus before we start using the protocol. In social interactions, we're molding the protocol as we use it.

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.

You can't communicate effectively without a protocol/language/etc, but communicating is not about consensus; it's about communicating ideas/thoughts/etc. Consensus is a part of communication, not its aim.

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.

Think of the "consensus" as the embedded state within a 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.

Sure, but that doesn't speak to my point that consensus is a component of communication, not its primary aim.

In computer protocols, we get the consensus before we start using the protocol.

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.

Not quite. If you're using VSRE, the information contained in those headers is already implicit. I can't think of an example off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are protocols where you don't need to send loquacious headers or equivalent with every response. "VSRE" says, "go ahead and assume I know what the headers would be and skip them". If you're not expecting headers, it's not a problem if they're missing.

Better analog, start sending


or something in your request, which allows the responding party to omit headers in the reply (or not).

Awkward would be to just go ahead and start replying in one word without trying to establish a netiquette protocol.

You say awkward, I say me and my efficient friends will have faster communication, tighter feedback loop and outcompete you in everything. :p.

Your reply is way to short to not be awkward. It should be expanded to at least two paragraphs.

At least the proposed solution is better than simply replying "ACK" or "NAK"

I'm glad I'm not the only person who had this reaction.

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.

Because if you take the trouble to write that out, there will still be slightly more pressure on the receiver to reciprocate by giving a more formal reply, despite the surface content.

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.

AFAIK, IMHO, INAL, etc. work because they are acronyms for very common phrases. Intelligent people can reason out their meaning based on context without you having to spell them out. That's why they are popular and why they work. There was never a global memo "Hey everybody we're going to start using AFAIK now."

VSRE doesn't work. It's better to just type out what you want to say in this case.

You just say "VSRE doesn't work" without mentioning that the only reason is that people don't already say it. That's my point. Maybe we can agree that we shouldn't jump straight to the acronym. But if we want this kind of custom, and I do, it has to start somewhere, not with a global memo but with people just doing it. I'm just going to start saying "short reply ok". With any luck that will catch on, and then we can abbreviate to "SRO" or whatever people wind up using, and the world will be an ever so slightly more efficient place.

Completely agree!

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