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."