Craig Roth

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Craig Roth
Managing Vice President: Communication, Collaboration, and Content
4 years at Gartner
25 years IT industry

Craig Roth is a vice president and service director for Gartner Research, in Burton Group's Collaboration and Content Strategies service. Mr. Roth covers a wide range of knowledge and Web-related topics at the intersection of collaboration, content… Read Full Bio

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Sent from my iPhone

by Craig Roth  |  June 24, 2010  |  23 Comments

“Sent from my iPhone”, “Sent using BlackBerry”. Why am I beginning to dislike those little tags at the bottom of email responses?

Because there’s an implied apology built into them.  In longhand, I think they say “I know there may be typos or I may have been a bit terse, but gimme some credit. I’m typing this on 5mm keys with my thumbs while waiting for my sushi, so be happy I triaged your email to be important enough to respond to right away instead of making you wait until tomorrow when it might get lost in my email pile.  Gotta go … mmm, this food looks delicious …”

In fact, one email I received had modified that tagline to read “Sent via blackberry please excuse any typos.” (note the built-in irony of the missing capitalization, comma, and word ‘so’. She may as well have misspelled it “tipos” to make the irony complete)

First, let me get the counterfactuals out of the way.  I realize there are benefits to me as a receiver to getting quicker responses.  And boiling all the fluff away from emails and just dumping the answer can save us both a lot of time.  And I do care about the sender’s work/life balance and realize careful consideration and crafting of a response to my email may not be as important to them as it is to me.

But I still find an increasing proportion of instances where that signature follows an email that is annoyingly short on details and fails to form a connection.  For example, I may have brought up a complex issue and just had one minor part of it responded to. 

On my team we study the trends impacting collaboration, content, and software-based communication.  One of those trends is a move from email to other communication methods such as blogging, microblogging (ala Twitter), document libraries, text messaging, instant messaging, and collaboration room postings.  But what I am talking about here is that a familiar communication channel – email – is being used as if it was text messaging. 

Senior citizens gripe about how no one sits down to hand write a real letter anymore – we all just use email.  I’m of the next generation that is beginning to gripe that no one sits down anymore to type a real email – we all just tap out prompts and answers.

23 Comments »

Category: Attention Management     Tags:

23 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jack Vinson   June 25, 2010 at 3:30 am

    Thanks, as usual Craig. I have a couple reactions: The first being Right On!

    I used to think these taglines were bragging rights. “I have an iPhone / Blackberry and you don’t.” But then I realized they were supposed to represent excuses, as you do.

    The rest of your commentary about email is related to a similar problem related to how people are not well trained in the use of email. I often talk about making sure I (as the sender) am being as clear and concise as possible. If I am asking multiple questions, is that in the subject or first line? Those kinds of things.

    The second response: Those taglines are the default setting on the iPhone and Blackberry. Most people have no interest in customizing and / or they do not know how to do it.

  • 2 Craig Roth   June 25, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Jack – good point on the default settings. My Blackberry uses that as a signature as well (so I suppose “advertising” counts as another hidden message). One day while waiting on a plane I’ll have to recurse through the menu trees and figure out how to change it.

  • 3 Bill Grigg   June 30, 2010 at 11:17 am

    I am a sales rep for a company and am on the road for most of the day. I send emails all the time from my phone, and use a simplified version of my \regular\ email signature. No hot links, no graphics, just my name, cell number and email. I even save a bunch of drafts of canned responses, most of which have some version of \I am away from the office and will get you the answers you need as soon as possible\.

    Not all people are having sushi, or bragging about their tech toys. Some of us, probably most of us, are working.

  • 4 Travis Williams   June 30, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I don’t have an issue with those types of signatures. I actually find them more humorous than offensive.

  • 5 Jon   June 30, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I understand your point and it is well taken, but I think you’d better get used to it.

    I’m a lawyer. People pay for my time. They don’t want to hear from me tomorrow. They want to hear from me now, and from my point of view they are entitled. I have about a 200 mile radius I might have to drive on any given day. There is no way I can always have a laptop or an iPad ready to go. Indeed, sometimes, even using my cell phone can be indiscreet, but I understand the priority.

    They also expect a professional work product. When they get the e-mail back instantly they appreciate that. When they get a brief reminder that this is a rough cut, they also probably appreciate that I’m not a total idiot if I make a typo.

    Ubiquitous things are bound to annoy some people, but the professional reasons for these signatures is compelling.

  • 6 Rob Page   June 30, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Craig,

    This article is great! Thanks!

    Tim Ferriss makes some comments about mobile email in his 4-hour book. I have changed my email signature to be “Thanks! Rob” so that it matches my Outlook signature.

    This make it seem like I’m typing from Outlook, webmail, or my phone (except that I’ve noticed my iPhone makes the font different). Either way, I like the fact that it seems to “mask” where I truly am.

    Now if I could only go to checking my mail twice a day again I’d be money…

  • 7 Sam Ellens   June 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Honestly, I’d much rather get a brief email with some typos that lets me continue work on my end than have to wait hours for a more detailed response. I work in Film and Television, and if I have to wait for an answer it often means having to switch to another project – and changing gears takes time. I’ve had many 1 line emails which I couldn’t be happier to recieve, and when I see the tagline I appreciate that someone took the moment to get back to me.

    But then again I am quite a bit younger than you – you’ve worked in IT longer than I’ve been alive. I don’t care much about the chit chat in a work email – even if I quite enjoy someone’s company I’d prefer work related emails get straight to the point instead of making me search through to find the relevant part.

  • 8 Drew Bishop   June 30, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    For those of you responding that you would rather have an e-mail “now” with typos and an abbreviated message as opposed to a more complete e-mail a couple hours down the road, I think you’re missing the point of the article as well as the point of editing your phone’s e-mail signature.

    First of all, I literally have to go out of my way to misspell anything on my Droid Eris because of its typing auto-complete function. Granted, not every phone has this (though most all new ones do!) but especially if you’re only going to be sending a few sentences and you’re in a business environment, why not take the extra 30 seconds to check for typos? I realize that’s overly simplified and many people simply do not care about typos and grammar…but those are also the people that have normal e-mails rife with the same issues.

    My main question, though, is why not change that signature to something more generic? This article makes the point very accurately, by stamping all your phone e-mails as saying that they’ve come from your phone, you’re showing that you’re better than your recipient, especially if they are some poor desk-jockey that doesn’t have the privilege (or the need) to be sending e-mails when they are out of the office. Moreover, why make the distinction of where you are sending the e-mail from if it’s not necessary? I work in sales like some of the other commenters so I see a huge value in presenting my clients and clients-to-be with a single, unified message: You have my attention. If a client sees that I’m sending an e-mail from my phone at 2 PM on a Friday, maybe they make the assumption that I’m out golfing and slacking off even if I’m not. That’s bad business.

    In summary, why make the distinction of where you’re sending your e-mail from if you don’t have to? The first thing I did with my phone once I got it was to change that damn signature…my only hope is that people will see this article and decide to make the change as well.

  • 9 Sean   June 30, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    I understand the “I appreciate the immediate response” – but what if that response don’t make sense? Where is the value in that? I have a number of emails from upper management that are often too cryptic to be understood – and since these are often composed in the middle of meetings (another pet-peeve all together) clarification isn’t always possible until after the meeting.

  • 10 mikaelf   June 30, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    I agree! Whenever I get a mail ending in “Sent from my iPhone”, I delete that person from my contacts and never speek to him again. Or her.

  • 11 Dragos Enescu   July 1, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Maybe you are leaving out another potential “social” benefit. The tag says about the person that it owns an iPhone or a BB, which puts them in a “Business” category, as opposed to the “sitting all day waisting time on Facebook category”.

  • 12 Alexandre Hautequest   July 1, 2010 at 5:16 am

    This “Sent from my iPhone” article can’t be read from my iPhone.

    Interesting…

  • 13 John Frum   July 1, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Great article.

    ______________________________

    Sent from my HTC Evo

  • 14 Wahid Sadik   July 1, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    One of my ex co-worker has a email signature that reads “Sent from my microwave oven”.

  • 15 Nick   July 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    The most common reason I hear as to why you should change your default signature? “Oh, they’re just bragging!”

    I rarely pull my iPhone out unless I actually need it while in public, precisely because I do not want people knowing I have it – it makes me a target for thieves. I carry a gun, but I’d rather not use it to protect a device that costs a maximum of $600!

    Anyone who thinks a person should brag about having an iPhone, Blackberry or whatever thinks way too much about what people think about THEM. Really, it exposes them as the social-status-minded, money-obsessed person. Millions of people have these devices. This isn’t 1992. You aren’t flipping special because you have a cell phone.

    If someone is being ridiculously “SMS-like” in how they type emails, I get it… but it has nothing to do with the signature and everything to do with the person’s laziness.

  • 16 Kevin   July 1, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    As Jon articulated above, my clients want an answer sooner rather than later, and I don’t always have time to fire up my laptop to give them a high level reaction to a question or deal, with the caveat that I’ll call or email with a more complete response later.

    Perhaps the author does not have the same pressures and is not a client-facing professional with a more realistic perspective.

    Also, the assertion that the “Sent from my BlackBerry” taglines are somehow convey bragging rights is ludicrous. Mobile phones with email capability are ubiquitous.

  • 17 Cassie Wallender   July 1, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    They are kept there as excuses and bragging rights, but remember they are put there as free advertising. Whether you agree with the message of “please excuse my brevity” or not, sharing your phone brand is a bit too much information and does smack of brand whoredom. My first impulse is to change the message to: (sent from my mobile device).

    Secondly, it’s so refreshing to send and receive quick, to-the-point emails that I have to admit I’m tempted to add (send from my mobile device) to my regular email interface on my laptop! Getting down to business really needs no excuse. :-)

  • 18 Jasmine   July 4, 2010 at 4:02 am

    I think this really depends on the context of the email, and who it is being sent to. I intern at a fairly small company filled with techies, almost all of whom own a smartphone (and many are juggling multiple phones). We’ve gotten past the idea that owning an iPhone is somehow bragworthy. The “Sent from my [whatever device]” signature helps convey that someone is unable to get online to help with a site issue or join the Campfire chat to discuss it, but at least that person responded in a timely manner. Sometimes a brief response is all that’s needed for us to bounce ideas off one another.

    With personal email, I use the signature “Sent from my mobile device” since that doesn’t specify what phone I’m using. I can edit the signature on a message-by-message basis, and delete it when it’s not needed, such as when I’m emailing family or certain friends. But it has been helpful for me to indicate to others that I am unable to reach my computer and will give a more thorough response when I can. Examples of this are when someone emails me a link to a video or a long article, when someone asks me a question I can’t answer at that moment in time, or someone requesting a particular photo or document for me to attach/share. It does come off sometimes as “please excuse my brevity,” but it is more often a statement of “I’m not ignoring your email, and I will take care of the task when I have the means/resources to do so.”

  • 19 John   July 6, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Are people really so insecure that if they see a signature that says “Sent from my Blackberry”, it means that the sender is bragging? Everyone and their brother has a smartphone nowadays, so is it even possible to brag about carrying one? And a stodgy corporate blackberry seems like it would be near the bottom of the bragging scale. It’s not like I said “I’m typing this my brand new Blackberry Enterprise Prius #2 A plus extended edition!”

    I this signature on my Blackberry for the very reason the writer assumed: It means that I’m on a small mobile device so am not going to type a wordy reply, and yes there may even be typos so please excuse them.

    If I’m sitting in a long meeting, I assume that people would appreciate a one sentence answer to their question that lets them get back to work immediately rather than waiting a few hours for a more wordy response.

    Here’s an example, I was waiting for a meeting to start and a vendor sent an email asking when to schedule a visit, I replied “how about 930am tuesday?” My reply was terse and both grammatically and syntactically in complete, but it told them everything they needed to know. They replied back, confirming that they could be there at 10am and I wrote back “sounds good, will send diagrams later.” Which again was terse, but let them book the visit. I’m not a good enough blackberry typist to send a more complete email without riddling it with typos.

    Tell me again why this is rude or showing off?

  • 20 Bob   July 6, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Using iPhone. Don’t have time to comment.

    Sent from the john!

  • 21 Gihan Perera   July 7, 2010 at 1:27 am

    You raise some good issues here, but of course you’re missing the most important point.

    ————————–
    Sent from my iPhone

  • 22 Jon   July 7, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I think what some people may not realize is that (on a Blackberry anyway) that signature line comes from the server, not the actual phone. Because my BlackBerry is a business device, with the server securely in IT, I don’t have access to change the messaging – so whether you like it or not, you will see it at the end of my mobile messages.

    J

  • 23 sent   July 8, 2010 at 7:20 am

    I am simply glad that i don’t have clients among you,guys ; the tag means ” i am not in front of my pc,i cannot solve your problem now but i receive the message, we will solve this asap” and guess what, everything is ok.
    I feel like you need more crisis to start thinking….