Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Ian Khan, Karyn Jeffery, Anders Wallgren

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

E-mail - Problem Solved or Created?

E-mail - Problem Solved or Created?

At the annual Alan Turing memorial lecture given by Grady Booch in London last month, he chose as his subject, The promise, the limits, and the beauty of software. It was an excellent address in which one of the themes was that for each of the incredible advances that software has brought to our lives, there is an almost Newtonian opposite effect that is negative and destructive. One such example given was e-mail: while making us able to communicate instantly with our peers, allowing effective and immediate information sharing, it brings its own set of problems. Issues with information theft, virus attachments, phishing, worms, and privacy are well documented and are very real threats although, to a certain extent, these are merely mirrors of real-world phenomena that e-mail merely amplifies and concentrates. The question that interests me the most is whether e-mail actually increases or decreases communication effectiveness.

The success of humans as a species over other animals can almost solely be attributed to our ability to communicate with each other. While this may have evolved as a mechanism to simply aid survival in the wild, it allows one generation to capture and record knowledge and information that it can share with its offspring. They in turn don't have to rediscover the fundamentals of how to perform a particular task, such as hunting, weaving, or building homes, and can enjoy a more efficient existence than their forefathers, and as a result can increase the body of acquired knowledge for their offspring. Discourse between individuals took the form of face-to-face encounters, where body language, speech inflexion, emotions, etc., are all present and the physical nature of a meeting constrains its length and duration. Telephones and, to a certain extent, instant message clients, extend the distance over which this exchange of ideas and information can occur. Printing, the act of recording words in text, was designed primarily as one-way flow of information between the writer and the reader. Twenty-first century e-mail is something that challenges us because, being text based, it lies in the family of printed media; however, its usage is less for publishing information and more as a forum for exchanging ideas and opinions and performing long-distance discussions.

One problem this brings is that once there are more end points and inputs available, the phenomenon information overload occurs. This describes a state in which a person isn't able to make a decision or informed choice about a particular topic because he or she has too much data to digest. It occurs because e-mail often creates a low signal-to-noise ratio where important content is buried in a swath of reply lists and carbon-copied exchanges that the recipient has to trawl through, often following external links to further citations that then link to more and more sources of information, making the information-gathering process potentially endless and unbound. A New Scientist report, www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7298, found that the net effect of e-mail information overload was to lower the recipient's IQ by 10 points; the same drop that occurs by missing a full night's sleep. Interestingly, men did twice as worse as women in the research, although whether this is due to the ability to process the volume of information more effectively or organize ones time more efficiently isn't concluded by the study.

E-mail addiction is another disturbing problem that has its own advice centers and, ironically, mailing lists you can subscribe to and receive helpful advice in your in-box www.netaddiction.com. Behavioral traits to watch for include answering messages during meals or social engagements. The reason this is problematic is because the urge to open the mail isn't because the sender is expecting it to occur; it's because the recipient's urge to know why and by whom he is being contacted is more interesting than his current surroundings. It reminds me of the old adage, "How do you keep a fool in suspense?", to which the answer is, "I'll tell you tomorrow."

Anthroposemiotics, the study of group dynamics, identifies that e-mail, like driving a car, gives people a sense of anonymous power. The same emotion that gives rise to road rage can cause people to exhibit aggressive behavior with e-mails where the language and tone of the exchange is one that would never occur if the conversation occurred face to face. Senders of flame mail are disconnecting themselves from reality by using their computer as an alternative reality to which their alter ego belongs. Just as video game fights and conflicts allow people to vent aggressive frustrations in imaginary virtual worlds, the computer as a machine is our medium in which people can reinvent themselves and engage foes with seemingly physical impunity.

The ineffectiveness of e-mail has even prompted various companies to ban it on certain days of the week, forcing employees to resort to more traditional communication means, such as having a chat in the hallway or talking to a colleague over the phone. Others have gone even further - including complete corporate-wide e-mail bans http://news.zdnet.co.uk/itmanagement/0,1000000308,39116502,00.htm. It seems draconian that such measures need to be taken, analogous to avoiding food poisoning by going on a hunger strike.

The problem with e-mail ineffectiveness can almost always be solved by applying simple time management rules to its usage and only visiting the in-box at sensibly placed intervals in each day, rather than operating in a reactive high-interrupt mode. While this does work to make one's day more effective, it does put the onus of responsibility back onto the user rather than the creator of the software. A disturbing trait I've encountered throughout my career as a software engineer is one in which programmers blame users for incorrect operation, with quips such as "they should have read the manual" or "user error, they were stupid enough to take the wrong option that deleted their data." Software is now so prevalent in our lives that it has become part of the fabric of society, and as engineers we should apply ourselves to thinking about the negative consequences of its usage and try to understand and prevent the extremes of its usage and abusage; whether intended or accidental. If nothing else, we owe it to the generation that follows us.

More Stories By Joe Winchester

Joe Winchester, Editor-in-Chief of Java Developer's Journal, was formerly JDJ's longtime Desktop Technologies Editor and is a software developer working on development tools for IBM in Hursley, UK.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Brian Smith 04/19/07 05:12:04 PM EDT

You should read Neil Postman's Technopoly.

Regards.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
24Notion is full-service global creative digital marketing, technology and lifestyle agency that combines strategic ideas with customized tactical execution. With a broad understand of the art of traditional marketing, new media, communications and social influence, 24Notion uniquely understands how to connect your brand strategy with the right consumer. 24Notion ranked #12 on Corporate Social Responsibility - Book of List.
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
Businesses are struggling to manage the information flow and interactions between all of these new devices and things jumping on their network, and the apps and IT systems they control. The data businesses gather is only helpful if they can do something with it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Witeck, Principal Technology Strategist at Citrix, will discuss how different the impact of IoT will be for large businesses, expanding how IoT will allow large organizations to make their legacy ap...
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
What does it look like when you have access to cloud infrastructure and platform under the same roof? Let’s talk about the different layers of Technology as a Service: who cares, what runs where, and how does it all fit together. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Lead Technology Evangelist at SoftLayer, an IBM company, spoke about the picture being painted by IBM Cloud and how the tools being crafted can help fill the gaps in your IT infrastructure.
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Sheng Liang to Keynote at SYS-CON's 19th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1-3, 2016 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kausik Sridharabalan, founder and CTO of Pulzze Systems, Inc., will focus on key challenges in building an Internet of Things solution infrastructure. He will shed light on efficient ways of defining interactions within IoT solutions, leading to cost and time reduction. He will also introduce ways to handle data and how one can develop IoT solutions that are lean, flexible and configurable, thus making IoT infrastructure agile and scalable.
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, provided tips on how to be successful in large scale machine learning...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
An IoT product’s log files speak volumes about what’s happening with your products in the field, pinpointing current and potential issues, and enabling you to predict failures and save millions of dollars in inventory. But until recently, no one knew how to listen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dan Gettens, Chief Research Officer at OnProcess, will discuss recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and OnProcess Technology, where MIT created a new, breakthrough analytics model f...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, will discuss the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports. The session will include a working demo and a technical d...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business in 2016. However, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will drill down to the components in this fra...
Digital transformation is too big and important for our future success to not understand the rules that apply to it. The first three rules for winning in this age of hyper-digital transformation are: Advantages in speed, analytics and operational tempos must be captured by implementing an optimized information logistics system (OILS) Real-time operational tempos (IT, people and business processes) must be achieved Businesses that can "analyze data and act and with speed" will dominate those t...
If you had a chance to enter on the ground level of the largest e-commerce market in the world – would you? China is the world’s most populated country with the second largest economy and the world’s fastest growing market. It is estimated that by 2018 the Chinese market will be reaching over $30 billion in gaming revenue alone. Admittedly for a foreign company, doing business in China can be challenging. Often changing laws, administrative regulations and the often inscrutable Chinese Interne...
I'm a lonely sensor. I spend all day telling the world how I'm feeling, but none of the other sensors seem to care. I want to be connected. I want to build relationships with other sensors to be more useful for my human. I want my human to understand that when my friends next door are too hot for a while, I'll soon be flaming. And when all my friends go outside without me, I may be left behind. Don't just log my data; use the relationship graph. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Boyd, Engi...