Chess masters will sometimes play chess against a dozen or more competitors at once, walking from board to board and making a move. The way they do this isn’t to remember the games, but to look at the board, and make a decent (to a master) move each time. They look at the board, get all the information they need, and act. Remember that as context as you read the rest of this post.
So over the past few months, I’ve been noticing more and more people cutting the context out of their email, and replying in a way which can be read on a single screen. This is nice. Concise replies are often good. But where’s the context? Why are you removing all the conversation which happened before? I get and send a lot of email. I send roughly 15-20 messages a day from my personal account, and probably 30-50 a day at work. How many I get is a little hard to count because of all the spam, but it’s probably around the same into my inboxes.
The context of a conversation helps me remember what’s being said, and why. (This, incidentally, is why top-posting is good for short conversations that stay short, and bad for long ones.)
For example, I’m trying to set up an appointment to talk to a former co-worker about some stuff. I haven’t added him to my IM address book, and in his response agreeing on a time, he cut that information. Not only that, there was effort involved in cutting it. Maybe it’s only 1 or 2 clicks, or 10-15 characters of typing to find the rest of the conversation, but that’s still more work than having it all right there.
So please, think about context when you send email. Just like chess masters can see the board, let your co-respondent see what you’re responding to.
If you do, you’ll get more complete and useful responses faster. It’s in your best interest. That’s not just with me. Think about the usability of what you send to people–it pays off.