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January 28, 2003

Horror, only beautiful

This is a tale of Exchange services. As in Microsoft Exchange. Sorry about that.

Apart from yer bog-standard SMTP I've only used Exchange as a corporate email solution, with Outlook as my client. Which enables you to do some fairly cool stuff. My favourite being voting buttons at the top of emails. "Here's some stuff, do you agree or not. Speak now (easily) or forever hold your peace."

And then there's the return-receipt. Email's had that for ages, but doesn't quite have the 'liveness' of watching Exchange, which is speedy enough that you can almost use it like instant messenger. You can use that to find out whether people have read the bad news email you just sent them.

Another cool feature is the 'message preview' facility. It won't send a return-receipt, but it will show you the first few lines of that email, so you can find out what they said in reply. Before you open it and are then forced to officially react.

All beautiful. And useful. But fundamentally administrative. So you may question why I'm talking to you about it on what is normally a fairly drippy and self-centred blog - ostensibly about technology, but only as an excuse for me to whinge about stuff AGAIN.

And so, today I had to send out the invitation to my work leaving do. Invited about 70 people. Thought about 30-40 might turn up. Bit fretful about whether the venue was going to be the right size, so put 'Yes/No/Maybe' buttons at the top. Took a deep breath. Pressed send.

And then it started. In real time watching this sea of 'read' 'read' 'read' coming back. It's hard not to judge yourself at moments like this. Are you an arse people tolerate or not?

And then... 'yes' 'yes' 'yes'. Phew - I might be okay. Those people cared enough that they would click on a button.

Damn. A 'no'. Oh, but look at the message preview "Sorry, on hols." etc etc. That's alright. Out of their control, and could be bothered to say why.

After which it started. A sea of 'Yes' replies, all with comments. "I can't believe this day has come" "What is the world coming to eh?" "Hope you'll be back in no time at all" "A tragic loss". All that emotion, all that care, slowly scrolling up my screen. I didn't want to even open a single one at that stage - I just sat, surfing the emotions of other people at the fact I was leaving.

It was like watching a traincrash in slow motion.

Horrible, fascinating, and kind of beautiful.

Posted by Tom Dolan at January 28, 2003 09:19 PM

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