Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Runaway email

This is my column today, September 2, 2014.


I found in my work email yesterday morning about 60 emails on a common thread from various people.  It was very easy to spot the emails because they all had the same subject.  It was an internal media mileage report generated by the public relations department of one of the top hospitals in the country.  The attachment was quite interesting as it detailed the peso value the hospital attached to its various media campaigns and gave a picture of the amount of money it spent on media campaigns.  It was meant to be an internal e-mail on an internal topic that somehow  found its way into the information super highway and became the cyber equivalent of a runaway email.
 Apparently, one of the email addresses was compromised – either because of a glitch, or because of a virus – all emails that were sent to the email address got sent to everyone who was in the corporate accounts list of that hospital.  I presumed this list included the top executives of most corporations in the country who are actual, or potential, clients of the hospital.  Obviously, someone in the hospital goofed, but the problem was exacerbated by many others who jumped into the frenzy and unwittingly added to everyone’s aggravation.  If no one responded to the email to point out the mistake, or to wonder aloud why he or she was a recipient of the email, or even to immediately ask to be taken off the list, or  insult the person who made the mistake – the glitch may not have been noticed at all and no one could have been aggravated any further.
But unfortunately, people were quick to the draw.  Someone gleefully pointed out the mistake and his comment got sent out to the world.  Another made a rejoinder, followed by someone else, and then someone else.  One email became ten, and then twenty, and ballooned  to thirty.  People started to complain about being inconvenienced by the emails.  Someone insulted the person who made the mistake and asked him to resign in shame; and as can be expected, people took sides, and before you knew it, the whole thing had resembled something that our senators would be interested  in investigating.  What happened was typical of how seemingly trivial events in this country escalate into monstrous nightmares.
This is illustrated when something trivial becomes a major event such as when someone makes a mistake on our roads - such as a taxi loading passengers in the middle of a street, an old vehicle getting stalled, or a vehicle almost but not scratching another vehicle, or a slowdown caused by the funnel effect. If people just exercise a little more patience, try to be a little more considerate, and not take matters into their own hands things would get sorted faster and normalcy would be restored immediately.  But sadly, it seems like most of us have become a little more impatient and unreasonably demanding. Monstrous traffic jams are created because someone decides to start a counterflow, or because two people decide to make a major issue out of a minor traffic incident, or decide to block everyone else, etc.
How did we all become so impatient and seemingly inconsiderate of others?
There’s a post script to what happened to the runaway email story.  At a certain point I decided to intervene and sent out an email asking people to exercise patience, stop responding to the email, or refrain from asking to be taken out of the loop as these only aggravated the situation.  I basically made light of the situation and reminded people that the world will not stop if they just deleted the email and let it pass.  The problem was that by responding to the email, I got deluged by hundreds of emails from mailer-daemon and from various mail delivery systems informing me of non-delivery of email due to wrong or non-existent email addresses.  Apparently, the culprit email list of the hospital contained hundreds of email addresses that should have been purged already.  So nice guys do get more aggravation.  But in the end, the few emails I did get from people who appreciated my attempt at intervention and who thanked me for expressing what was in their hearts as well, was all worth it.
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I must end this column with an observation.  Quite a number of people are castigating the Presidential sisters for siding with, or expressing preference for the Binays for personal reasons.  An article that came out in another paper over the weekend even mocked the Presidential sister (who must not be named in this space) for justifying her affection for Vice President Jejomar Binay because “I like him, we like him, he’s helped us a lot, he is always there for us.” To begin with, what the heck did people expect?  What kind of person expects a well thought-out, politically-correct, tactful, mature answer from a person who thinks her choice of color is a matter of national import?  And really, we are assigning too much weight on the opinions and decisions of a group of siblings as if theirs are the only ones that matter in this country.

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