Friday, April 25, 2008

Annoying Mail Signatures

I’m fed up with annoying mail signatures. Here is my interpretation of a particularly annoying one.

This email (including any attachment) is confidential and may contain privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient or receive it in error,

I’m an idiot who occasionally sends confidential mail to the wrong person!

You may not use, distribute, disclose or copy any of the information contained within it and it may be unlawful to do so. If you are not the intended recipient please notify us immediately by returning this e-mail to us and destroy all copies.

Besides being an idiot I also like to tell you what you can and cannot do and I’m not above lying to bully you into correcting my mistakes!

Any views expressed by individuals within this e-mail do not necessarily reflect the views of X or any of its subsidiaries’ or affiliates’.

My company does not trust me.

This email does not constitute a binding offer, acceptance, amendment, waiver or other agreement, unless such intention is clearly stated in the body of the email.

What I say is not trustworthy!

Whilst we have taken reasonable steps to ensure that this e-mail and attachments are free from viruses, recipients are advised to subject this mail to their own virus checking, in keeping with good computing practice.

I have no clue if this email contains viruses or not!

Please, do not include anything apart from contact information in your signature, the exception is a short quote to enlighten my day :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Paradox of Choice

The Paradox of Choice is a Google tech talk by Barry Schwartz. He is also the author of the book with the same name (which I haven’t read).

The paradox in the title is that: the more choices we have the worse we feel even though many options gives us the opportunity to make a better choice.

We do better but feel worse!

With more choices we have higher expectations and become more frustrated and less happy when we choose. The frustration and unhappiness continues after the choice is made since we are not sure we made the best choice.

The unhappiness comes from self-blame. If we have no options it is the worlds fault, but if we have many it is our fault since we have to be idiots not to make a good choice with 200 options.

Sometimes we even create the frustrating options ourselves. An example is:

  • A todo list with things we have to.
  • A like-todo list with things we would like to do.

The like-todo-list produces more frustration than the todo-list.

Too many options may also paralyze us into not doing anything! Even though making no choice is obviously the worst decision we can make.


A solution in life is to become a satisficers instead of a maximizers. To make a good choices instead of best choices. It can also be wise to rely on agents to make the choices for us since they are not personally involved.

Solutions for software developers trying to make less frustrating software are:

  • Create smart defaults so that even if the user does not make a choice it is a good one.
  • Create hierarchical options, limiting the number of choices available at a given time. It is important to make smart hierarchies so that the user don’t have to move back up the hierarchy.