“As we learn to speak to Siri,” wrote Adam Lisagor a while back, “we’ll learn more about how we formulate ideas into words, how to express those so that they may be understood with less margin of error, ultimately shortening the gap between intention and comprehension. Which is to say, Siri will teach us how to talk to Siri but maybe more importantly, how to talk to each other.” Adam is right, but I think it’s part of a larger trend in communication. Being good to each other now requires that we get to the point.
OR: It’ll turn us all into demanding, impatient bastards with little-to-no awareness of the effect and beauty of a little politesse. This sounds distinctly like a programmer’s wet dream - those that work and communicate through instructing a machine with direct, blunt and unambiguous commands.
Centuries were spent forming and refining the creation of Polite Society: a Society that would treat all people fairly, equally and with respect. Decades of Business have worked to undo this (“You’re wasting my time,” “Get to the point,” “You’ve got 30 seconds.”) and BlackBerrys, Google and instant access have acted as catalysts in this process, bringing it to the mainstream and the everyman. Queen Victoria would turn in her Majestic grave.
Still, it’s a worthwhile read. I loathe long emails, and loathe composing them even more. It’s the wrong medium, and in that much, the author is dead on.
Emails should get to the point, people should be direct and there is nothing worse than a waffling bumbler, but a verbose wordsmith is not the same as a simply polite person. Keep being polite. In the words of Bill and Ted, “Be excellent to each other.”