Archive for the ‘Information Management’ Category

Email Etiquette

Email Etiquette

By James H. Choi
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Dear Sabio Students,

You might raise your eyebrows at the suggestion of me teaching you how to write an email.  But many students lack etiquette.  They are not rude, just clueless, and etiquetteless.  As you apply to colleges, you will need it.

You’ll be selling yourself.  The schools will decide to buy the most professionally behaving students.  Show them how organized and polite you are in any emails you send them, and repeat this for the teachers you expect to recommend you to leave an imprint of “professionalism” in the reader’s mind. here is your etiquette breakdown for email:

  1. Use a subject line to highlight the email’s content.  Too many times I get emails stating the senders’ names in the subject.  I can see your name quite well in the “From” field.  I don’t need you to repeat it.  Besides, what you’re writing is not about you; it only concerns you.  What you have to realize is that those who receive a lot of emails have to sift through them all to find a single one.  When you write only your name redundantly in the subject line, you frustrate your reader, who neither cares nor learns anything about your name in the subject line.  If you are asking for a favor, such as “Please help me get admitted to a college,” make this clear in the subject line.  Because if you make the recipient unclear what all your emails are about, you’re less likely to get any favors done for you.
  2. Don’t send an email with your name in non-readable script, and expect to be treated favorably.  That is, if you come from a country where the script is not the Roman alphabet, which English (and French, Spanish, Portuguese, and so on) uses to write, then make sure your name shows up in this Roman alphabet as well.  Roman type is the script franca of the world.  Any computer in the world defaults to showing the script franca, so anyone you are writing will be able to at least make out some sounds to your name — no matter how weird it seems to them.  If you have two sets of friends with mutually exclusive scripts, then use both scripts:  one script  first then put the other scripts in parentheses, or vice versa.  Never send an email knowing the receiver cannot even read your name.  That’s rude.
  3. If you get an email with a “CC” (i.e. “carbon copy”), that’s because a third person needed to see this email.  For instance, a teacher might send a student an email saying he or she needs to turn in an essay right away and also CC the student’s parents so the parents know about the situation.  Whenever you reply to an email with someone in the CC field, give it a thought if it’s proper to reply to the whole group so that the CC-ed person is not left wondering if you replied or not.  You can reply to everyone by hitting “reply all,” which takes some effort to remember.  But you should.  If a counselor emails you to inform you that you’re late submitting an application, the faster all people — counselor, parents, principal, university officers — who have been CC-ed know you’ve replied, the more beneficial that will be to your application.
  4. But, at the same time, be aware of everyone copied on an email.  Because this could involve politics.  There may be cases when you don’t want to announce your reply to everyone on the list.  In that case, don’t use “Reply All.” But the main point is, you must pay attention to the people in CC field and make a conscious decision.
  5. Speaking of politics.  If you want other people except for the recipient to know that you sent an email, then put those other people’s email address on the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field.  The recipient won’t know and don’t have a way to Reply All to those hidden people.  This is what you would do when you want to prove to your parents that you emailed your school counselor.  You put the counselor’s email in the To field, and then your parents in the BCC field.  If you want your parents to also see the reply, then you put them in the CC field.  If your counselor knows how to use email, he/she will “Reply All.” If not, you will have to forward the reply to your parents.
  6. don’t use in4mal abbreviations when ur riting formally.  If you’re in a superior position, of course you can get away with anything.  The boss of a company, for instance, can make a typo in an email.  But if you’re not the boss or superior person in an email, then using these abbreviations invites the superior person to judge you.  You should use the most polite language you know, double-check your spelling, check your grammar, and certainly don’t abbreviate anything.
  7. Keep copies of all correspondence.  When you reply to an email, all past correspondence is automatically shown at the bottom.  This can get long, and looks really ugly and messy.   But leave it there.  This provides a record of the flow of the conversation.  If someone forgets what transpired between you and her, she’ll be able to look at the whole conversation right there instead of having to search through dozens of emails — all of which list your name as the subject.
  8. Edit your subject line as you reply back and forth. Here’s an example of one set of email replies:
  1. Student’s original subject line: “Feb. 29 Homework: Lesson 5, Questions 49 – 79, Odds Only.”
  2. Teacher’s edited subject line: “Feb. 29 Homework, Redo #71-79.”
  3. Student’s new subject line: “Feb. 29 Homework, #71-79 Revised”
  4. Teacher’s final subject line: “Feb. 29 Homework Total Grade”

At the time you’re writing the emails, doing so might seem tedious, but the value of editing your subject lines will become evident if you have to go back through your emails two years later — your organization skill will shine through.  Always imagine what you’d be looking for if you had to find this email two years from now; make that the subject.

As you run larger organizations interacting with more people, this kind of information management skill will determine the amount of information you can handle, thus how high you can rise.  Those who are working with you will see your effectiveness as well, and they will trust you with more information in turn.  In the information economy, the one who manages information better wins.

Where to store your important data?

Where to store your important data?

By James H. Choi
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During the Industrial Revolution, factories were required to own private generators because they could not trust utility companies to provide them with enough or reliable electricity to operate.  The same sentiment was true in the early days of Internet: Everybody wanted to hold his or her own documents in private computers.  Companies wanted to hold mail servers inside their systems.  It was unthinkable anyone would upload financial data to the Internet so that tax-reporting companies to carry out tax services online.  In fact, it was unthinkable to use credit cards online.

The sentiment has changed.  We don’t think twice about outsourcing our email servers online, paying with credit cards, and uploading personal and high-security information.  I don’t know what the long-term repercussions of this trend will be.

But if you have important documents today, such as college-application essays, you must store these online — not just on your local hard drive because there are only two types of hard drives: One that failed, and one that will fail.

Your hard drive will lose all data at the most inconvenient time.  For example, it will breakdown minutes before you submit your college-application essays.  Would you like to rewrite the whole thing again?   No, so don’t trust your hard drive.  Trust the hard drives online.  These backed up your data in more than one drive, so even if one hard drive fails, you won’t even notice.  Even if online storage company suffers a catastrophic failure, such as the whole building being destroyed, your data will come back soon because they store it on several locations. can upload all your important data to online hard drives several ways.  First, try Dropbox.  It’s easy and free for up to 2GB.  What’s best about Dropbox is that you don’t have to change any of your habits.  Once you install this software, any file you save into a specified folder is saved online in the Dropbox hard drive automatically.  You can access the same file from several computers, or even access them from your smartphone and from other computers at anywhere.

A second option is to work online, such as on Google Docs.  It is also free.   The downside is that they have less features, and they tend to slow down when the data/files get too big.

Some of these services are not free.  For example, Dropbox charges $9.99/month for 50GB of online storage.  Here’s a way to decide a fair price: Suppose you lost all your data today.  How much would you pay to bring back the data you lost?  You should be willing to pay 1/100 this amount every month to have your data backed up online.

Some large data, such as photo or video files, are too expensive to store online.  For these, buy two external hard drives.  The inconvenient part is that it’s hard to synchronize (automatically have an exact copy) small changes you make every minute while editing or working on the document.  So put any files you’re working on into your Dropbox folder.  And when you’re done working on the project and ready to archive it, just pull it out of Dropbox and put it onto your external hard drives.  Two drives with identical contents, one at home and one at another location to guard against a catastrophic loss — such as fire or flood — at one location.  This frees up your Dropbox space for more changing files.

External hard drives cost a lot, but think about what it would feel like to lose every document, video, photo, and audio file you have ever created.  What would you pay to get these back?  Considering this, the price of external storage is pretty cheap.   By the way, it may make you feel better to know that these drives used to cost ten times as much only a few years back.

Managing your information is a critically important skill in this information age.  And designing your life in such a way that you will never have to waste time looking for, or recovering lost files would automatically boost your productivity far ahead of your accident-prone, fate-blaming peers.

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