This appeared at the end of someone’s post on a discussion group in LinkedIn:
CONFIDENTIAL AND ATTORNEY/CLIENT PRIVILEGED:
This e-mail and any attachments are confidential, intended for the addressee only and may be attorney/client privileged. If you are not the addressee, then please DO NOT read, copy or distribute the message or any attachment. Please reply to the sender that you received the message in error and delete it.
Now, I know that it’s not always obvious that your email system is attaching these boilerplate texts to every email you send. So I can forgive the user’s carelessness in using email to reply to a discussion group.
But isn’t there something the software developers could do to make this less obviously wrong?
I had earlier posted about “Software for Idiots“, asking software makers to allow smart users to jump quickly past the step-by-step installation. I said that “How we envision our users defines how we build our software.”
So could we understand how our helpful shortcut — to automatically attach a signature message to every email we send — can make our user seem ridiculous? And, if we understood that, could we find a way to make this more respectful of how the user presents him/herself?
Some of our software have the specific purpose of presenting our user to others. We don’t always know who the other will be, or whether they will be business-like or friend-and-family.
Yes, it would be smart of the user to pay attention to how they use the software, to take the extra care to make sure only appropriate messages are added to our emails. It’s not hard to do. But the truth is many users won’t take that extra step. More to the point — that extra step is actually several steps and easy to forget.
A thoughtful software designer might burn a few brain cycles in search of some face-saving, embarrassment-avoiding help for the users.