Alex (yakshaver) wrote,

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Tech can _improve_ manners: an example

I just sent the following email to the house email list:
Date:    Sun, 17 Apr 2011 21:56:22 -0400
Subject: if you're missing a toothbrush....

I dropped something at the bathroom sink just now, which 
initiated a bit of a chain reaction.  Everything that I
_know_ fell was mine, but I couldn't help but notice that
there's a toothbrush and a (mostly?) empty toothpaste
tube near the top of the trash can.  So if your toothbrush
is missing, that's probably why.  Let me know what kind,
and I'll happily buy you a new one.



I've lived with housemates most of the last 20 years — and as those bits were flying off, it occurred to me to think about how I'd have handled this in the era before everybody had email and read it regularly. Back then, nearly every group house I or any of my friends lived in had a whiteboard somewhere everyone was likely to see it at least once a day. And the correct thing would have been for me to leave much the same note on the whiteboard. But I doubt I would have. I sent the email within five minutes of leaving the bathroom; BITD I would certainly not have gone to the whiteboard and written a message first thing. I would probably have gone to bed, telling myself I'd leave a note in the morning. Come morning, I would probably have forgotten, and would then tell myself I would just mention it to the housemates when I saw them. By which time someone might very well have been thoroughly pissed off about their missing toothbrush.

So essentially email + the fact that we have a house email list (a single address, which I can easily remember and can type in something like a second) + 802.11 + the fact that I have a computer on and handy pretty much all the time = a transaction cost for politeness that is a tiny fraction of what it once was.
Tags: housemates
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