you’d think scientists would be tech-savvy

5 September, 2006

That’d be pretty silly of you. I call today’s exhibits “have you guys heard of IM?” I just had the following exchange over email.

Collaborator 1: Was our meeting set for tomorrow 2:30?

Me: I have Thursday at 2 in my notes.

C1: (Other Scientist) may be able to come to the meeting, do you still want me to propose that collaboration with him?

Me: [forwarding this suggestion to two labmates] What do you two think?

Labmate 1: I’ll be back tomorrow at 2, will call to discuss this.

82 lines this took. Due to the lovely business-world habit of never deleting anything — not even signatures — from replies/forwarded emails, that last email in the chain was eighty fricking two lines. I can see the point of preserving the paper trail, and do heartily approve of it in theory, but it bothers me aesthetically. And we haven’t even heard from Labmate 2 yet. Who has a long sig.

For Exhibit B, however, we have my interactions with Boss’ Boss, which are characterized by emails so short that the junk Outlook adds after my name in the “To” line is longer than their entire content. He takes the UNIX-command attitude towards communication — if it can be expressed in two or three letters, it will be. He includes a .sig of a few lines — but it has no contact information, just titles. See what I mean? Wouldn’t IM be perfect for both of those?

Waitaminnit you say. Interactions with Boss’ Boss? Who terrified you so in May? Why yes indeed. As I said at the time, he is just a glowery-faced guy who was thinking hard, and nothing was personal. In the intervening months there have been many opportunities for me to make other impressions on him. He’s currently preparing for his own big review of the kind that my boss went through in June, and we collaborate with him on the genetic side of his work, so he is emailing us a lot lately with little questions about this or that gene. And when my boss was out of town last month, guess who got the questions?

Back to work. The fascinating genetic papers that have recently come out, my tentative implementation of the GTD system, and my musings on turning that untrustable age will have to wait.


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