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This message was sent from me to you. | Thursday, November 4th, 2010

I'll admit it - I haven't lived a perfect life. I've said some things I may regret, and remained quiet at times when I should've spoken up. I've made some wrong decisions, some missteps, and in hindsight, haven't always handled things the way I should've. Hell, just a few weeks ago I 'accidentally' took a liberal bite out of a cashiers' lunch at a local food market, mistaking it for a free sample. I once wore this sweater to a blind date:

ugly sweater

That's mustard yellow. It was definitely purchased at either Kmart or Zellers, probably on sale, and - if memory serves - is possibly one half of a two-piece jogging outfit.

For all my lapses in judgement, however severe they may have been, there is one thing I've been steadfast about, never compromised or wavered on:

I HAVE NEVER SIGNED AN EMAIL WITH THE NAME OF THE DEVICE USED TO WRITE IT.

Well, not willfully, at least.

I had the misfortune of becoming the owner of a Blackberry Storm mobile phone for a few months this year, due to the slowly failing health of my stalwart, 7-year-old Nokia 7610.

The Blackberry was no cup of tea. It would lock up constantly. Every time it was charged, the touch screen would refuse to work until its battery was ripped out and replaced. Combined with the abysmal service provided by the least-abysmal mobile carrier I've tried so far in Canada, it was, shall we say, not the most pleasant of experiences. The nail in the coffin, however, came when I set up email access on the phone, and sent myself a test email message. The signature of the message read:

Sent from my Blackberry on the Rogers wireless network.

Now, though technically I am on the "Rogers wireless network" via Fido, I don't necessarily want to advertise that. Nor do I remember receiving any compensation from either Rogers or Research In Motion to hawk advertise their products to my friends and colleagues. For a long time I dismissed the usual "Sent via/using my [WIRELESS DEVICE] on [NAME OF PROVIDER'S] wireless network" signature as simple omission-by-naivete by technically-unsavvy but otherwise likeable and well-meaning folk who simply don't know how (or why) to remove that default signature from their mobile device. However, as time went by, I started seeing more and more of these messages / advertisements for Verizon, Apple and Research In Motion flooding my Inbox, originating from people I know and love, and who should also simply know better. To drive my point across I tried my hand at the game of subtlety, using tactics like ending every voice call with "Sounds good - have a nice day! Bye... This call was brought to you by my Blackberry Storm on the Fido Wireless Network" or telling friends that I'll pick them up in my "2007 Saab 9-3 Sports Sedan" instead of "my car". Few caught on, and I slowly abandoned hope. It is, for all intents and purposes, still largely abandoned.

bad sig bad sig

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Although the Internet is rife with opinion on whether or not it makes sense to include a notice to your recipient(s) that you're using a mobile device, let me cut through the chaff for you: it doesn't. The only translation I can make out for "Sent from my iPhone" is "Hey twerp! I have an iPhone and you don't. Booya!" Sure, it lets folks know that you're writing from a mobile device and therefore can't write a lengthy reply / avoid spelling errors / walk and chew gum simultaneously, but this just makes mobile email the latest culprit in the long list of perpetrators responsible for the dumbing-down of interpersonal communication online. If you can't take the time to write a legible, well-worded email to someone because you're 'on the go' (lame), 'in a meeting' (lamer) or 'in between flights' (lamest), do everyone a favor and just wait until you get back in front of your computer to reply. The ________ [fill in your language] language will thank you for it.

Mobile email can be a great thing in the hands of someone who knows how to use it when you understand its limitations. In a world where LOLs, GTGs, TTYLs and BRBs, are increasingly common, the intrinsic value of a well-written, legible and thoughtful message is rising exponentially. I don't make the rules, but I should, and if I did, there would be a minimum level of coherence and cohesion for an email message to make it all the way across the Internet, lest it break apart somewhere between its origin and its destination. It's a new take on the ole' "Don't bring a knife to a gunfight" adage... "Don't, errrr, bring a, uhhhh, mobile device, to, umm, a computer network, or something." Or something.

So, to everyone else who is mildly annoyed by these device- and network-based email sigs (Helloooooo? Echo?), here are some new, better ones we can all start using. Please note, however, that I do require attribution upon each use.

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