Dropping the Signature

Many people have hobbies that are enjoyed by millions around the world. I have hobbies that tend to be so obscure that I tend to be considered a little eccentric at the best of times. This is proven time and again whenever people discover that I have a reportedly unhealthy fixation with studying how people use email. Since 2007 there has been a steady shift towards how email is structured and what elements from the days of hand-written letters are cast aside or adapted. Of all the components that have been steadily modified over the years, the signature has undergone the greatest amount of change.

For as long as I can remember, I've used an email signature consisting of my name followed by a URL that brings people to my personal site when sending personal emails. Occasionally the website address would be removed but, more often than not, it would be in place to direct people to a little corner of the Internet where a million of my words sat waiting to be read. I don’t remember exactly when I started doing this, but it was undoubtedly back when Canada.com offered email services1.

Email has changed, though. People haven’t looked at signatures seriously for more than a decade. To this day I still see signatures that tell me what brand of cell phone somebody wrote a message on, as if any ordinary human really cares about such details. Corporate emails are ignored at best and openly mocked at worst2, but tend to be a necessary element of the corporate template. There’s not much to be done there. That said, the personal side is wide open for tweaking … and that’s just what I’ve done.

From this moment forward, I have ditched the email signature. Completely.

Messages will still carry my name at the bottom, but nothing else. Heck, truth be told, my name doesn’t even need to be at the bottom of the email because it’s part of the header. People know they’re reading a message that I wrote long before they reach the bottom of the missive. Why waste the bytes?

This will not change anything in the grand scheme of things. I will still send several megabytes of email per week. The storage savings will not be noticeable until I have a century’s worth of text to compare. What this will do, however, is signify the start of my goal to simplify how I use email. Far too many of the memos I write to people are as long as this blog post, and I guarantee that the vast majority of people do not read past the first paragraph. Rather than be verbose and complete I hope to change my emails to be concise. Nothing more. Nothing less. If people really want to read a 600-word soliloquy they know where they can find me.

We all have better things to do, after all.

  1. I miss my old canada.com email address. It was short, sweet, and to the point. Sadly, the company that owns the domain didn’t want to continue dealing with all the problems that arise when hosting millions of email accounts. The service was shut down about a decade ago, which prompted me to switch to using my own domains.
  2. Putting a legal disclaimer in a signature does not bind me to those words. It just makes the sender look … uninformed — even if it’s company policy.
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