Re: Use of email
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 06:03:23 -0800 (PST)
I am astonished at how durable and fertile is the e-mail debate.  Fax machines 
and cellphones have gone through their own periods of intense legal, ethical, 
and cultural controversy, but have now mostly settled down (fax, in particular, 
because it is a dead doggy).  However, my techno-prediction is that the e-mail 
debate will soon be upstaged by ...

Google Glass!

Philip Dowds

> On Feb 12, 2014, at 9:58 AM, Jim Mayer <jim [at]> wrote:
>> The "feedback cycle" of an email conversation is longer and more variable
>> than for face
>>> to face communication.
>> This is an interesting point. Can you say more about it?
> Sure... look at a group of people interacting in a room.  They're not just
> reciting prepared speeches!  Each person is watching what the others are
> saying, how they're acting, how they're reacting to the different agendas
> in the group, and how the group "overall" is leaning.  Not only are they
> watching the other members of the group, they're constantly modifying what
> they do and say in an effort to influence the group.  It's very fluid,
> dynamic, and extremely political.  People are good at political!  Also,
> because the group is in one room, the time between a person doing
> something, observing the reactions, and the reacting themselves is almost
> immediate.  In other words, the "feedback cycle" is extremely short.
> Now consider a group interacting through email.  People are still
> political, and they're still observing each other, but the feedback isn't
> as immediate anymore.  If I send an email at 9:00 AM,  I might see
> responses at 9:03 AM, 10:00 AM, 3:00 PM, etc.  Instead of the feedback
> being immediate, it may come back minutes, hours, or even days later. In
> fact, if someone does not respond, there may be no feedback at all.  This
> makes it much, much harder for individuals to figure out how the group is
> reacting.  In other words, the "feedback cycle" is both long and variable.
> I picked up the term from the idea of a "closed loop process control
> system".  An example of that is driving a car.  As the car proceeds down
> the road the driver is constantly making observations and taking actions
> (steering, brakes, accelerator, etc.).  Once we learn to drive it's all
> very natural.  It's also a short feedback cycle.  Imagine, though, what it
> would be like if when you turned the wheel the car didn't change direction
> for five seconds (this is part of why the people who pilot big ships make
> serious money).  That's a longer feedback cycle.  Now, imagine what it
> would be like if sometimes the car turned in five seconds, and sometimes
> the car turned in ten seconds!  That's a long, variable, feed back cycle
> (and a recipe for an accident).
> Anyway, people are so good at handling short feedback cycles that we're
> often not even consciously aware of them.  We're not so good at handling
> longer feedback cycles, and so those require more training and experience.
> As for good or bad, I think that different styles of interaction have
> different strengths and weaknesses.  It helps to know what they are.
> Off soapbox :-)
> Jim
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