Expedient Resolution

Expedient Resolution --- RichardGabriel 29 Nov 2001

. . . you have decided to write an email client and perhaps are thinking about adding chat facilities . . .

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Some messages are part of a quick back and forth, possibly in order to get a quick resolution about something like the time of a meeting or the place. There isn't a need for thoughtful discussion or well-thought-out opinions and discursive material.

The rhythm of communication is quick, not slow. The need is to get information back and forth without delay and without extra work. The rhythm is almost like a brainstorming session trying to find questions or new approaches.


Arrange for the textual communication system to support quick replies with short-circuiting of details. If it's technologically feasible, enable the client to arrange a chat or instant-messaging session with the recipient client when this rhythm of exchange is noticed or by a simple control or button.

Auto-completion based on a dictionary and words already seen in the message can sometimes help a person trying to get a message out fast. A palette of icons might be useful if they can be manipulated quickly.

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In cases like this it makes sense for editing-moving around in the text space and entering or altering text-to be as easy and familiar as possible, ideally using the person's most favorite text editing engine. See the pattern EditingEase.

Expedient Exchange (was Expedient Resolution) --- JoshuaKerievsky 11 Dec 2001

... you've created tools to account for different speeds and styles of online communication---SlowLetter, ?QuickChat, TimelyResponse. Now you want to make these tools accessible when they are most needed.

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Using email to quickly resolve a matter is like talking to someone on the phone, but having to endure prolonged periods of silence before hearing each others voices.

This isn't an indictment of email. Email has excellent uses. It just so happens that it isn't very good for conducting quick exchanges, particularly when you need to resolve a matter expediently. Chat programs are much better for such exchanges, but because they aren't integrated with our email software---GoodIntegrationWithOtherTools---we often defer to using email, even when using chat would be a better choice. The real problem is that when we need to communicate, we don't know who is online and who isn't.

Consider the case where two people are online, both of whom have chat and email software, and one of them sends the following message to the other:

	      I think today is the deadline for submitting
	to the conference magazine.  What shall we do?

Joe may or may not get a quick response to his email, depending on what Mary is doing. Say Mary is online but doesn't have her email software running because she is doing something else. In that case, Joe won't be getting an immediate response to his question until Mary checks email---but had Mary known that Joe was online, trying to contact her about this conference deadline, she would've gladly interrupted her work (InterruptionGradient) to communicate with Joe.

Or consider the case where Mary is online with her email running but she is deeply engaged in some non-email activity. She sees that email arrived, stops her work, finds Joe's message, responds to it and then gets back to work, repeating the process if or when Joe sends another response. This is a slow way to resolve a matter and has the downside of continually interrupting Mary in her work.

There are more scenarios like this, each of which has upsides and downsides. The real issue, however, is how to enable expedient exchanges with folks who matter to us, when we want to engage in those exchanges. To enable this level of sophistication, we need chat and email software to be integrated and cognizant of who is close to us and who is not and what kinds of interruptions and exchanges are tolerable or not.


Integrate email and chat software such that folks can know who is online when they must decide between writing an email or engaging in a chat. Blur the lines between these two tools so that if a chat message doesn't get responded to, transfer it to the intended receiver's in-box, or if an email is sent to someone who is online, offer the choice of turning it into a chat invitation.

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A ReturnReceipt can help expedite an email exchange, as can IntelligentFormLetters. In addition, expedient electronic exchanges are often CheaperToUse than picking up the phone.

Archives (KeepArchives) provide a way to safely store our Expedient Exchanges.


Last edited December 24, 2002
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