Mail call

THE (Times Higher Education) - - LETTERS -

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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