Do you realize that the default option for Microsoft Outlook is to automatically send an email immediately after composing? This has to rank as one of the most short-sighted decisions ever made by a software design team. I’m shocked that they still haven’t changed the default. I know they’re trying to make it easy for everyone and their grandparents to send email in as few clicks as possible. But did they ever stop to think of the damage this has caused over the years? I picture those sitcoms where someone is trying to reach into the corner mailbox to retrieve a letter they didn’t intend on sending. And forget about the “recall” option. That only serves to raise a red flag to the recipient that the email is controversial. I don’t know if other email clients do the same, since I’ve been using Outlook forever, but before I go on, let me tell you how to turn this setting off immediately:
Select the Tools / Options menu item, then the Mail Setup tab, and uncheck the Send immediately when connected check box in the Send/Receive section. This is where you find this option in both Outlook 2003 and 2007 (I don’t have an earlier version lying around to see if it was always in the same place).
You should never “publish” anything without taking the time to review and germinate over what you just wrote, for the same reasons you don’t want that email to go out immediately. As been discussed everywhere since blogging became ubiquitous, putting your words into print online IS FOREVER. It doesn’t matter if you place special files on your web pages to block those archival site bots from caching your pages (admit it — you’ve tried pulling back some embarrassing posts) — it is NOT foolproof. As soon as you click “publish”, IT IS TOO LATE. A blip in time on the Internet is a century for traditional media.
Even if you aren’t writing in the heat of the moment, and you’re just writing an informational blog post, it’s always a good idea to write, rewrite, edit, and then let it sit overnight. What may seem innocuous at the moment you typed it may seem incomplete, completely wrong, or even worse — unintentionally offensive or controversial the next day. I rarely, if ever, post the same day I write an article. The feeling of discovering a major gaffe before you publish is liberating once you make this a habit.
Sure it’s tempting to post right away to maintain consistent output on your blog, but you can do this even if you post every day — you’d just be writing your posts a day before they become public, and no one would ever know, even for timely topics. I’m writing this on Tuesday, but until I told you that, I may as well have written this on Wednesday — you couldn’t care less. But if you saw what it looked like on Tuesday, you’d thank me .
I wouldn’t wait a day before sending simple emails (which should still be proofed), but for any significant email or post, I’d recommend following the “write, rewrite, edit, walk away, publish” pattern.
Your words (and videos, and photos — you know who you are) live on the Web forever. You don’t want it haunting you years from now.