Civilized communication

I thought I should stop writing about stupid behavior on this weblog for a while but I can’t resist. I’ve recently read an interesting article What DNS Is Not by Paul Vixie. It’s about misusing the Domain Name System in ways that may look useful at the first glance but are actually harmful because their consequences were not properly thought of.

Well, we needn’t delve into Internet protocols to observe lack of competence and poor behavior. Our everyday communication demonstrates it more than enough.

Who knows about the 72 character line breaking limit in e-mail messages today? Nobody educates common populace about the limit but even people who should be more knowledgeable don’t respect it, as well as many e-mail clients that send such messages without warning the sender about common policy violation. This is simply arrogant to recipients. Perhaps the most common e-mail bad habit is citing the original e-mail at the bottom of reply to it. I read such replies as telling to me: *”Dude, I didn’t bother to respond to you in time so you probably don’t remember why you’ve written to me and I don’t expect you to archive your messages. As a courtesy from me, you can read your text after reading my words. I respond to various parts of your e-mail but my time is too valuable to bother with citing the corresponding parts, you the loser should find out yourself what I’m talking about, your original text is attached below after all.”*

Maybe this habit is somewhat related to chat conversions where citing the context makes little sense. Chat conversations also often demonstrate stupid behavior and lack of basic communication skills. A Jabber message comes from my colleague. He says: *”Good morning.”*. After a while the next message arrives: *”I need something from you.”*. Then the next surprising message informs me: *”I think you could help me.”*. If I’m lucky, the next round of messages finally describes the issue. Only after I was uselessly disturbed prematurely and for several times, only because the messaging person doesn’t understand the concept of message. And usually he additionally doesn’t understand when to use on-line messaging and when to use e-mail.

People also often don’t understand technical differences between different communication means. You can see it when people don’t put spaces after sentences in e-mails or on the web. They use to save characters in SMS messages and don’t figure out that other media may have different properties regarding readability and message size.

It’s not just about stupidity and rudeness. Even intelligent and polite people may demonstrate some kinds of behavior described above. Why? I can see several reasons:

  • Nobody educates us.
  • We are exposed to uncivilized behavior and simply follow it.
  • We don’t care much as we are usually too busy to actually think and to get more than very shallow understanding of things that we should know better.
  • The supposed experts such as communication client authors either lack the skills themselves (or they even invent new kinds of stupid behavior) or are unable to put guidance means to their software (or even guide users to behave in stupid ways).

Can we still hope for civilized digital communication or the September will never end?