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Responses in-line

For those of you who don’t remember, I am an ancient dinosaur who started using email in the 1970s.

Our screen had exactly one non-black color. One (fixed width) fonts. 80 characters. 24 lines.  No mice. No window system. No detachable keyboard.

It was then common to respond to an email by indenting the received email by four spaces (or with a combination of greater than signs (>) and space) and typing your reply starting at the left margin directly below the portion you were replying to. You would leave blank lines above and below your response.

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It looks like this

They originally said

I replied to them

They replied to me

I am replying now

or this

>>> They originally said

>> I replied to them

> They replied to me

I am replying now

To me, it really felt like a conversation. When eventually we got colors and fonts, it looked more like this

>>> They originally said

>> I replied to them

> They replied to me

I am replying now

To me, the blank line along with either and indents or carrot is really important. When I see

I said the first thing. They responded to the first thing perhaps it is a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really long response.

In the second things I said, I was extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra verbose. They responded to the second thing.

At this point, I feel really lost. If they have chosen colors badly (which they often do), I can’t even tell what is theirs and what is mine. Regardless, I have no idea what to do with my next-level response short of reformatting the entire message first.

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I hate it. To state that very clearly.  Very, very, very clearly. To avoid even the small possibility of being misunderstood.

I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

Yup, I really don’t like it. Not one bit. Not one tiny bit. Not one itty bitty teensy weensy little bit.

As a result, I don’t respond quickly or happily. Or perhaps at all. Whatever favor they’ve asked for is less likely to be granted because handling this has taken up all the time that I would have spent granting the favor.

Perhaps it is time to hire a virtual assistant, or write a script, or ask someone to write me a script to do this reformatting? Perhaps I should ask the next person who sends me an email like that to write me that script or hire me that assistant before I read their email and try to grant their favor.

Yes, a dinosaur can dream. Hopefully not of meteorites, but rather dream of a couple of lines of code that I can somehow use in superhuman or at least a Gmail browser window. But until then, I guess it is just part of the hazards.

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Written by Russell Brand

Russell has started three successful companies, one of which helped agencies of the federal government become very early adopters of open source software, long before that term was coined. His first project saved The American taxpayer 250 million dollars. In his work within federal agency, he was often called, “the arbiter of truth,” facilitating historically hostile groups and factions to effectively work together towards common goals

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