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I think people tend to grossly exaggerate how many emails they really do get. Are you really that damn busy that you can't spend a minute or less writing a more natural and conversational reply that indicates to the other person that you're reciprocating the amount of thought and effort they invested in their message?

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.




I think it's simply a suggestion to compensate for the lack of social context that we all know exists in text-based communication.

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.


> Are you really that damn busy that you can't spend a minute or less writing a more natural and conversational reply

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 [0]. 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.

[0] http://blog.ninlabs.com/2013/01/programmer-interrupted/


When I'm programming, I close all email and instant messaging applications, as well as put my phone on Airplane mode. I find limiting interruptions in this way to be incredible for mental focus. I highly recommend it, if you don't already do this (?).

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):

http://www.online-stopwatch.com/full-screen-stopwatch

As for the main topic, I have this as my signature:

  Hi [name]



  Thank you,
  Paul Santana
I copy and paste the person's name from the To: field in Outlook (this ensures I never mistype someone's name), delete the last name, and write a few words in the middle. Done; professional and courteous email template without any additional effort.


> I copy and paste the person's name from the To: field in Outlook (this ensures I never mistype someone's name), delete the last name,

Oh, _that_ explains the number of "Dear [full-version-of-my-name]", overlooking the shorter version in my own sign off.


If you want people to address you by a shorter name why not put that in the from?


In some places you don't have control over the From (or the footer for that matter). E.g. I get a forced from in the form Ā»LastName FirstNameĀ« which I'd rather have the other way around (also because last-first without the comma isn't common here [in fact, I've never seen it before]), yet I cannot.


>When I'm programming, I close all email and instant messaging applications

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.


Why wouldn't you wait until you take a break to reply to emails? You're choosing to switch over during a "coding binge" when you don't need to.


I can't speak for the author, but sometimes the emails contain messages like "Major emergency - stop what you're doing right now" where, if I didn't get the email until 30 minutes later, could be problematic.


I have a filter, which pops up a notification only for certain emails. Those from my boss.


so all of your emergencies must come through your boss... that would not work for me


Many people do eventually get so many emails that they have to think about how to manage them better. I don't think his solution is very good - he probably should just not write back to every email, or just write back curtly without some odd acronym. People get used to it, and if they don't like it, they email you less.


Note that he's not suggesting adding an acronym to his replies. He's suggesting adding VSRE to emails you send to someone if you expect they may be busy, and you only require a short reply. If they have time and feel like writing you a long reply anyway, no harm done, but if they recognize the acronym, they can go ahead and send you a quick note.

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.)


It's not so much the volume, but that we tend to check e-mail in between other activities.

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.


> I think people tend to grossly exaggerate how many emails they really do get.

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.)


The difference is that not everyone who sends an email is a personal friend and not every email truly deserves that much time, either. I've found myself with the same problem, resulting in many emails not getting a response for over a week. I'm hoping this catches on. Anyone who thinks its too impersonal should simply not indicate VSRE in their email and not worry about brevity in their replies.

Is this really something worth making an argument AGAINST?


Just as a data point for you, I get about 50 emails a day that require an answer. I'd love people to show clearly that they're happy with an answer of at most 5 words, but mostly I have to top, tail, and generally be polite.

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.


> natural and conversational reply that indicates to the other person that you're reciprocating the amount of thought and effort they invested in their message?

"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."




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