Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Academics meet HTML - it's not difficult

I pretty regularly get emails from academics. They're easy to spot - they are the ones that look terrible. Here's a simple email from a normal person:


Hi Fred,
Could you let me have the latest figures on Losing Your Head, please. Also:
  • Do this
  • Do that
  • And do the other
    Best regards,
    Brian Clegg




    Follow Brian at http://www.twitter.com/brianclegg
      
    And here's the same email from an academic:


    Hi Fred,
    Could you let me have the latest figures on Losing Your Head, please. Also:
    * Do this
    * Do that
    * And do the other
    Best regards,
    Brian Clegg
    Follow Brian at http://www.twitter.com/brianclegg

    Can you spot the difference? The academic version looks terrible because it's plain text. There's no formatting, no fonts, no layout - it's rubbish.

    Once upon a time there was an excuse for this. Academics were using very early email systems that didn't have the bells and whistles. It's a bit like the way that many years ago I used to produce printed reports in upper case, because the line printer I was using didn't have lower case. But I've moved on. And it's time those academics did too. Now it seems to be almost a badge, rather similar to the way some people with an arts background seem proud of knowing nothing about science. 'Look!' it seems to say, 'I'm much too intellectual to have formatted emails.' Grow up, please.


    2 comments:

    1. They could, of course, be being courteous by not assuming that your email reader is capable of reading formatted HTML (although most do these days). Or the formatting might have been removed by their own email server.

      Lotus Notes is pretty bad at making formatted email readable for other email clients.

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    2. Many years ago I got in trouble with my employer by telling them how bad Lotus Notes (V1) was. They were worried about upsetting Lotus. I'm so glad to see that nearly 20 years later not much has changed!

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