Open Source

I somehow seem to receive more and more emails. Would be great if they were part of interesting conversations, but that’s, unfortunately, not the case. Most emails are about my Open Source work and, in particular, about my GNU Radio IEEE 802.15.4 and IEEE 802.11 modules. As you might have guessed, most emails are not from users who are so super happy with my software that they just have to tell me.

That itself wouldn’t be a problem. But people spam me with very low-quality help requests. Most email would need a lot of back and forth until we arrive at a question that could actually be answered.

When I talk about this with friends, they think that I might just be too critic. But if I show them my inbox, they usually change their mind. The problem is that this is not only annoying, but I find it very stressful to deal with such non-sense on a daily basis.

Since it’s unlikely that people will change, I had to adapt my work flow.

Stupid People

For the regular stupid user, I now have an email macro. I copied it from a colleague. It says (in way too kind words) that I’m, unfortunately, very busy and that they might consider having a look at

  • the installation instruction on my website
  • GNU Radio on Stack Exchange
  • GNU Radio Wiki
  • GNU Radio mailing list archives

It also mentions that I’m subscribed to the mailing list and that they should direct potential questions to the list.

It always annoyed me when I knew that I spent more time in formulating a nice reply than they spent writing me. With the macro, this is no longer a problem and I already feel way better.

Stupid !@&*!

The last thing that bugged me were people who use email like a chat. When I join a conversation they switch off their brain and just write everything that comes to their mind. No reflection whatsoever. Worse, the whole back and forth non-sense is accelerated the faster I reply.

This brought me in a bad situation. I use my email inbox as a todo list and, therefore, check it quite regularly.

So either I replied fast to get this email from my todo list (and immediately received another brain-dead reply). Or I kept the email on hold and was reminded multiple times a day that I still have to deal with it. It might sound strange, but I find it really stressful to get reminded about this multiple times a day.

To deal with this my colleague and I made trickle mail, a simple Python script that allows to post-pone emails. Now, I have some new IMAP folders (later/1-day, later/2-day, …) and a cron job on the server that executes the Python script some when around midnight. To decelerate such discussions, I can now put the email in the later/n-days folder and it will show up in my inbox only after n days. No reminders whatsoever. Awesome.

If you want such mechanism, you might have a look at Google Inbox. It seems to provides similar functionality.