Mail call

October 12, 2017

Many US homes have a mailbox at the edge of the property that residents visit to find out what has arrived since they last looked. That is a much better procedure than having post pushed through your front door whenever the deliverer decides to deliver it because you find out what has arrived only when you want to know about it (“Compulsion to correspond”, Opinion, 5 October).

The same applies to email. There is no reason to have email messages arrive in real time. You can set your software to pick them up only when you want to see them. That way, you never get distracted by an incoming email while in the midst of something else. The article author’s advice to “use the ‘delay send’ function so that your messages are only received during normal working hours” is well-intentioned but mistaken. It is not for a sender to decide when a recipient should receive an email: that is for her to determine. For all you know, she may be unexpectedly stuck somewhere outside office hours and might wish to deal with her email to fill this otherwise wasted time.

A few years ago – when we all used the POP rather than IMAP protocol for email – all email worked like this, and everyone was happier. Then came IMAP and with it the idea of the sender’s “pushing” the email to the recipient rather than the recipient’s “pulling” the email to themselves. (IMAP does not have to do “push”, but that is how almost every university and company sets it up.) The solution is simple: find out how to set your email client to “pull” in incoming emails only when you want to read them. You need never again be distracted by that annoying “ping!”.

Gabriel Egan
Centre for Textual Studies
De Montfort University

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