Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Jnan Dash

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
IoT solutions exploit operational data generated by Internet-connected smart “things” for the purpose of gaining operational insight and producing “better outcomes” (for example, create new business models, eliminate unscheduled maintenance, etc.). The explosive proliferation of IoT solutions will result in an exponential growth in the volume of IoT data, precipitating significant Information Governance issues: who owns the IoT data, what are the rights/duties of IoT solutions adopters towards t...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
Unsecured IoT devices were used to launch crippling DDOS attacks in October 2016, targeting services such as Twitter, Spotify, and GitHub. Subsequent testimony to Congress about potential attacks on office buildings, schools, and hospitals raised the possibility for the IoT to harm and even kill people. What should be done? Does the government need to intervene? This panel at @ThingExpo New York brings together leading IoT and security experts to discuss this very serious topic.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
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, discussed recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and OnProcess Technology, where MIT created a new, breakthrough analytics model for ...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
"We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Internet of @ThingsExpo has announced today that Chris Matthieu has been named tech chair of Internet of @ThingsExpo 2017 New York The 7th Internet of @ThingsExpo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. Chris Matthieu is the co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, a revolutionary real-time IoT platform recently acquired by Citrix. Octoblu connects things, systems, people and clouds to a global mesh network allowing users to automate and control design flo...
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, director/senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web co...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to simplify and streamline our lives by automating routine tasks that distract us from our goals. This promise is based on the ubiquitous deployment of smart, connected devices that link everything from industrial control systems to automobiles to refrigerators. Unfortunately, comparatively few of the devices currently deployed have been developed with an eye toward security, and as the DDoS attacks of late October 2016 have demonstrated, this oversight can ...
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 ...
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.