Minimizing email oppression: 5 Months since IA Summit 2014

ukesummit2014-sqThis month, I got to attend an event I’ve been anticipating for over a year: the Strathmore’s Uke and Guitar Summit. Besides getting to enjoy the wonderful teachings of some amazing ukulele people, I also had a little fun experiencing a “conference” as a first-timer.

It made it a little easier for me to imagine how IA Summit first-timers must feel. The IA Summit is the one place each year I’m sure to get to catch up with the DC IA friends who I made through local events. Even my first Summit—Denver in 2011—felt so much like going home. Somehow all of us getting together in our home doesn’t occur to us. On the other hand, a reunion at IA Summit, wherever it may be, makes complete sense.

But going to a Uke Summit? I went in being acquaintances with a couple local ukers, and I wasn’t sure they’d be there. All those things that are easy when you’re familiar with a group become a little harder—Where do I eat? Which class should I attend? Who do I sit next to??

Happily, by the end, I had made some friends, just as I hope first-timers at IA Summit do.

Things that happened

As usual, there’s lots of collab happening in IA Summit world:

  • Co-chair meetings,
  • ASIS&T + co-chair meetings,
  • Web stage 2 work,
  • Accessibility research and checks, and
  • Venue visit scheduled!

Let me tell you more about that last point: During the week of September 7, Vanessa of ASIS&T, Dan our Experience Director, and I will be visiting our hotel in Minneapolis. We’ll be checking out the spaces, figuring out where things will be, and otherwise scoping things out.

Dan and I also plan to attend this UXPA Minnesota event on contextual inquiry, so be sure to say hello if you’re in the area!

Making email less oppressive

Reading email can be a pain, right? In an attempt to get things under control, I’m currently embarking on massive unsubscribes.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to write emails that are less of a burden on their recipients. Here are a couple tactics I’m trying out, including on my IA Summit emails:

  • Use action-oriented subject lines. If I want the recipient(s) to take an action, I try to put it in the subject. You get bonus points if you include a deadline. Example: “Requesting curation content feedback: By Fri EOD”
  • Use people’s names next to action items. If you’re emailing multiple people, put specific names next to specific action items. I learned this from a coworker at my first job out of college, and it’s brilliant.
  • Separate ideas into paragraphs, and maybe throw in a heading or two. I do this after I’ve drafted the email. It’s amazing the clarity that can come from grouping sentences into paragraphs. Note: One sentence paragraphs are a-ok.
  • Move descriptions into a doc. Sometimes I’ll start writing an email and then discover that it’s becoming hella long. That’s the point when I realize that I should move the description into a Google Doc, and link to the doc in the email.
  • Edit the subject line when the topic changes, or pull topics out into separate emails. When I do this, I use the “forward” feature so that the chain that sparked the conversation can still be referred to by recipients—including me.

These specific ideas happen within my emailing process:

  1. Decide to write an email about something.
  2. Draft the email.
  3. Edit the email.
  4. Decide whether to send the email.

The tactics fit into step 2 and 3. Step 4, though, is important, too. Sometimes I get through writing an email and realize that what I wrote is either (a) better handled at an upcoming or a new meeting or (b) important only to me. If either (a) or (b) is true, I take different actions instead of sending the email.

My motivation, besides the good ol’ “do unto others” adage, is this: I’m finding that folks are more likely to read, reply, and act on the emails I write. Now, that’s communication!

A new volunteer

We now have on board another IAS teammate:

That’s all for now!

But, consider this: At some point, we’ll open our call for proposals.

So, start thinking about what you know and what you’ve experienced that might help our community. The specifics of slots and submissions are second to your noodling and framing your story. No need to wait for us before you get started!

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About Veronica Erb

Designs, researches, illustrates, and writes code. Plays ukulele. Dances Balboa. Grew up in a geodesic dome, and hasn't gotten over it.
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