Thursday, January 2, 2020

Biking in Gaborone


I have been coming to Botswana on a regular basis since 2011 to do research on the Khoisan languages. Usually, I live somewhere in Gaborone, and then make expeditions into the field. When in Gaborone, I try to bike every morning to wake up.

Grading E-Mail


Everybody knows somebody who is terrible at e-mail. Here is a system of e-mail grades for your colleagues, students and friends. At the end of each year (December 31), just send them their grade, and the description of what the grades mean. I guarantee that you will see a notable improvement in their e-mail performance the following year.

The grades are calculated by adding the positive (+1) and negatives (-1). The maximum score is +5, and the minimum score is -5.

A (Excellent)
4 and above

B (Very Good)
3 and above

C(Mediocre)
2 and above

D (Unacceptable)
1 and above

F (Failing)
0 or below

Positives (each worth +1):

The person responds to urgent messages on the same day.

The person responds to all messages, even if just to say that they have received your e-mail message and will respond later (specifying the date when they will respond).

If the person is on vacation, you receive an automatic reply telling you when they will return.

The person writes thoughtful and helpful responses to your queries. Their responses are well-written and easy to read.

The person follows the Goldilocks Principle: Their messages are neither too short nor too long. They are just right.


Negatives (each worth -1):

When the person writes you an e-mail message, the header often does not accurately reflect the content of the e-mail message. So your inbox is flooded with dozens of messages having inscrutable headers like “Today” or “Hello”.

The person sometimes presses “Reply All” when they mean to press “Reply” revealing awkward bits of information to large groups of people.

The person will sometimes forward your messages (which may contain personal, sensitive or confidential information) to other people, without asking you ahead of time.

The person uses e-mail to the exclusion of all other forms of communication (phone or talking in person), even if their office is close to yours and even when the topic is clearly not suitable for e-mail (e.g., it is a complex or sensitive topic requiring face-to-face communication).

The person has two or three e-mail addresses, leading to uncertainty about which one they use most and which one to reply to.