New Rule: No More Urgent E-Mails

A look at this contradiction in terms.
Mar | 8 | 2015

Mar | 8 | 2015


Over the last six months, some of my clients and friends had told me that I intermittently wasn’t responding to some of their messages. Twitter also wasn’t alerting me to direct messages (DMs). Oddly, the problem seemed to be exacerbating, and last week I finally decided to play data detective to figure out what was going on.

It turns out that Google Apps was incorrectly marking legitimate messages as spam—quizzically, these included responses to existing e-mail threads. (A very good friend of mine comically noted that Message Not Received must have angered the e-mail gods, and they were exacting their revenge.) To boot, the affected messages weren’t forwarding into my personal Gmail account as spam. (I periodically check my personal spam for false positives.) Google was blocking them.

If the medium is the message, then why is there such a thing as an urgent e-mail?

I solved the problem by moving the MX records of my business e-mail account to another provider, but there are several lessons. Even mature, robust e-mail services aren’t bulletproof. Yes, e-mail is extremely reliable, but foolish is the soul who believes that it’s infallible. Sometimes, messages aren’t received.

Simon Says

Occasional and annoying glitches aside, there’s a much larger point here. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the medium is the message. If that’s the case, then why is there such a thing as an urgent e-mail?

New rule: If an issue truly is urgent, then you cannot send an e-mail. Opt instead for the phone.

I know what you’re thinking: What if things break bad and I don’t know the phone number of [insert name of person or organization]? Allow me to retort: If you’re working on a critical project, then why didn’t you ask for that number in the first place?


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1 Comment

  1. Bill French


    Good points.

    >>> Opt instead for the phone. <<<

    Many of my clients, and especially those with urgent needs, have moved to Slack and created urgent channels. I have taken this method of conveying urgency and integrated it with SMS notifications.

    There are also types of urgencies that systems sense and to integrate that, we have an approach that allows us to drive automated notifications into Slack urgency channels. This makes it possible for a single automation script – running in Google Apps for example – to trigger a real-time event which then triggers emergency actions via the Slack channel.

    And in one case, the Slack channel is monitored for responses. If it sees no response into the channel, it continues to escalate the emergent condition by broadening the notifications.

    Slack has proven to be effective in this regard and all the emails concerning urgent conditions have ceased because there are no advantages for these users to resort to email.

    A phone call is good if you can reach the needed party, but often, it may require multiple people; conferencing is yet an additional level of complexity when time is of the essence. And phone calls become a complicated mix of hunting down people who may or may not be available, or may not even be in range of a signal.


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