LinkedOut

An email I got yesterday:

Dear Michael,

We currently send you 1 junk mail per week. Now we're going to send you about 20 junk mails per week.

You can stop this from happening. But you have to log-in and hit a bunch of buttons. Which - we know from previous research - you probably don't want to do, because you have a squirmy 3-year-old in your lap reading Spiderman.

Why are we doing this? Our IPO was a few months ago. We need to generate more traffic now. This was a recent conversation.

Executive: We need to send more SPAM. Dilbert Type: Why? Can't we just offer our customers to get more SPAM if they want it? Executive: No. Nobody wants it. Make up some story, and just do it. Dilbert Type: Roger.

Sincerely,

The LinkedIn Team

What did the actual email say? Here it is:

Dear Michael,

We want to let you know about a change we will be making to some of our email notifications to make sure you get important messages as soon as possible.

Previously, due to an error on our part, your default setting was to receive a weekly summary email listing any InMails or Introductions sent to you by other LinkedIn members.

We received a lot of feedback from people saying they'd rather receive these messages right away. With that feedback in mind, we will be changing your setting on December 14, 2011 so you'll receive InMails and Introductions immediately rather than in a weekly digest format.

If you'd like to receive these messages as soon as they are sent, no action is needed. However, if you'd like to change how you receive these messages in the future, you can change your email preferences by selecting the weekly digest format.

To learn more about changing your email notifications, please visit our help center.

Sincerely,

The LinkedIn Team

What does business writer/thinker Seth Godin have to say about this sort of institutional behavior?

If someone stood in front of your office and lit $100 bills from your petty cash kitty on fire, you'd call the cops. But people at work waste the attention of their peers and your customers/prospects at the drop of a hat.

Every interaction comes with a cost. Not in cash money, but in something worth even more: the attention of the person you're interacting with. Waste it--with spam, with a worthless offer, with a lack of preparation, and yes, with nervous dissembling, then you are unlikely to get another chance.

How does this relate to our world?

Teachers gets tons of emails. From peers. From school leaders. From social workers.

Mostly well-intentioned. Sometimes just funny shiz, like this thing from The Onion, which I emailed to Randall and Orin yesterday, thereby wasting their time. But most of the email feels - to the writer - to be important.

Yet readers feel differently. A fair chunk of these work emails get deleted without being read.

A teacher 10 years ago would have a few things in her actual mailbox mailbox. You know, the thing where maybe a single flyer from the principal on a half sheet of paper would show up.

By contrast, in the little ecosystem which I study, No Excuses charter schools which tend to have wi-fi and laptops everywhere -- a teacher might get 20, 30, 40 emails.

What would happen if each email writer were charged or "fined" 10 cents for every email they sent which the reader marked as "not particularly helpful/interesting/necessary/useful"?

I would guess:

a. Teachers would have less to read

b. The emails they read would be more valuable to them

c. The senders would find that people actually reacted more to the emails, and were more likely to do what was asked of them

How much would I personally be paying in 10 cents per person fines for wasteful emails that seem SPAM-ish?

Probably $35/day. Not counting the blog.