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Wondering, wandering, and making sense of the world.

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Archive for February, 2012

Media Trends

And I think we’ve reached rock bottom on our collective attention span.

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Professional E-mail rules

There are a lot of articles on e-mail etiquette and some these points may overlap, but as someone who uses e-mail a lot for work, I’ve been contemplating how to be a responsible professional with e-mail. Here are some rules that I try to abide by:

Read/scan every email (directed at you)

If people are sending you an e-mail they are doing it for a reason: they want you to know something. While you shouldn’t have to memorize the content line-by-line, you should know what’s in them so that you can follow the conversation and stay up to date. If you can’t do this, you might want to consider getting a secretary or changing your work process so that you aren’t in the middle of all this e-mail traffic.

Know how to retrieve anything that came in

Or also known as the “never ever ask someone to resend you an e-mail you already received” rule.

There are many e-mail storage paradigms from folders to large inboxes to inbox zero. Whatever works for you is fine, but make sure that you can get back  to any e-mail that you received.

Use appropriate subjects and thread accordingly

Having descriptive and accurate subject lines allows the recipient to perform rule 2, above, much easier. If you are starting a new topic, create a new e-mail thread rather than using an old thread (even if it requires copying and pasting multiple e-mail addresses from the old thread). Use descriptive subject lines rather than ones like “Hello” or “Meeting” and spell correctly so it’s easier to search for them, and never send an e-mail with a blank subject line.

There are many more guidelines that I follow in writing professional e-mails but those are more my personal preferences rather than something I think everyone should follow. Do you have any rules that you follow?

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Forgetting myself

(I wrote this over a year ago and just realized that I never published it. While I’m now beyond my regular teaching days, no longer 28, and have moved on to the next phase of my life, I feel that this is still relevant)

I always felt that the strongest advantage I have in teaching is that I have empathy for the students. Being 28, I can still relate to what the students are thinking and how the students are feeling. It was only few years ago that I was a graduate student at Stanford University learning design, and only a decade ago when I was a freshman in university.

Recently, however, I feel like I’m starting to lose that empathy. I still remember how it felt as a student, trying to optimize my grade by figuring out what exactly the professor wanted, trying to find the most popular and best party on campus next weekend, and trying to get an internship in the most reputable and famous companies and research labs. However, these days, I’m starting to forget the feeling as I sit amidst all the student during lunch time.

Morbid or not, as I age, I like to use the metaphor that I keep dying over and over, only to be replaced by a slightly different me. Who I was ten years ago is different from who I am today will be different from who I will be in ten years.

Is it possible to keep that empathy for your past self forever without it being degraded? I no longer have empathy for myself when I was a kid living in a foreign country for the first time, being homesick and trying (and often failing) at making new friends.

If such empathy can’t be kept, there are serious implications for design. If we are going to design something for a certain age group, we need people from those age group to be involved in the design. If we are making decisions that affect everyone, we need people from every age group to be involved. I always find it a shame that in most countries, politicians are almost always over forty, and often over fifty. If politics is going to be for everyone, we need every kind of people represented as well.

Getting back to my original point, how do we keep that empathy for those who we are no longer and not fall into the trap of memory bias?

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