Sunday, July 02, 2006

The US Coastguard says: F*** You

A member of the US coastguard responds to the evil genius post.


Actually the message was in 32pt Ariel but that is the text of the message. The point is that the message came from a address and it appears to be genuine.

This is an example of a problem a customer once described to be as 'emails too stupid to write'. Email is a powerful medium, an idea can be communicated across the world in less than a second. The problem is that many people put no more than a second's thought into the emails that they write.

The above memo being a case in point. If the person who sent it had realized that what he just sent is an official government communication from the Department of Homeland Security he probably would have thought twice before sending a message which sent to the wrong person could well be a career ending move.

Some people treat email like instant messaging but the recipients don't necessarily share the casual approach of the sender. The end result is that the company or in this case the service looks ill-disciplined and unprofessional.

Various approaches to fixing this have been considered, the latest fashion is for what amounts to an outbound spam filtering service to trap mail with expletives or other evidence of unprofessional conduct. They work about as well as you would expect them to, they reduce the nuisance value but don't stop the occasional atrocity slipping through the net.

I am a skeptic when it comes to user education, people are remarkably hard to educate. In this case though the goal has to be to change people's behavior. If people are writing emails with an Internet chat room mentality that attitude is going to be reflected in the rest of their work as well.

This is where I think Secure Internet Letterhead might help, or at least we should look to see if we can measure an effect. People might be less inclined to write unprofessional emails if they thought they were writing on company letterhead. They might even spend less time doing personal email on company time. Perhaps its wishful thinking but it is certainly worth checking.

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