Friday, February 15, 2008

Email wrong-number

Sometimes technology can have significant and unintended cultural impacts. Email in its infancy was a minefield, in that we never realized it was an inappropriate (and one-sided) tool for expressing emotions. It took us a while, but we finally taught ourselves to reread and pause before hitting the send button. In Japanese, there is a word for "unsay" to take something back, but alas not in English, nor is there a reliable unsend in email.

I've been using a Blackberry for phone and email for a while, and I've noticed an interesting phenomenon. I will call it the "Friendly wrong number". I meant to call Wendy A, but instead called Wendy B, since I dialed from my email address book and they were adjacent. "Hi, Wendy?" "Yes, who's this?" "Its Jon" "Jon? Oh, we haven't spoken for a few years, You still working at...?". Damn, wrong Wendy. But here's the kicker. I know Wendy and can't just say sorry, wrong number. This could get dicey if your boss is "Jamie B", and your best buddy is "Jamie C".

A variation is the call-back from someone you just spoke to, but by mistake. Some new phone feature must be causing that, I am guessing. Another variation is in email, the dreaded auto-fill feature in Outlook.

This makes me wonder what unintended future impacts technology will have. Many of my LinkedIn contacts have photos, and it won't be long before they also show on phone and email messages on my Blackberry. Will the prevalence of GPS maps make us lose our orientation, and we'll need to carry compasses with us where ever we go (Compass, what's a compass?). I guess we'll find out.

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