I got this idea after a few people tried to reach me by email. People think it’s 100% reliable, but nothing could be further from the truth. This got me thinking of the old trope of the prisoner about to be executed awaiting clemency from the governor.

14 thoughts on “E-Clemency

  1. I don't want to be a jerk, but what "problems" are you talking about? I think it's as reliable as anything can get!

    If people say they emailed something when they actually twittered it, then that's a problem. If they tried to send an email over phone and the connection is poor, that's a problem. If the address was typed incorrectly, that's a problem. What I'm trying to say is that a lot of computer issues are user generated!

    I like the comic and understand your overall point of over reliance on technology. But come on… very cliche.

  2. there are alot of issues here. One, something you think is reliable that is not is worse than something that is known to be unreliable.

    Another issue here is that penalties for spamming are not nearly high enough, thus helping render neutral a major part of the redistributive potential of web based communications.

    The mention of twitter and facebook highlights the fact that the numerous alternatives to email just hamper communication further by creating multiple inboxes, all of which have unknown unknowns associated with them in terms of the extent to which they are synchronized.

    In the final panel, they go to open the file attachment, and the very, very common problem of crossplatform document reading and/or compression formats resulted from the inexplicably persistent problem of mac/pc compatibility.

    Do macs still come with apple works? I remember saving a document as ".doc" and emailing it to myself for later nic-of-time printing before a class. ~636627~&~&&~&*#612962642386891`2637*(&*~6`178236
    is macintosh for "fuck you".

  3. I think the comic is very clever and funny as a statement about over-reliance on technology and how complicated is the modern life. Frankly I think Anomymous' objections are part of what Ted is satirizing here. Sure a lot of problems are user generated, but in the long run what difference does that make to the user? He still has to endure the problems regardless of their origin, as the death row inmate shows.

    The comic, to me, seemed right away to be less about the computers' behavior than the users' unwarranted assumptions of smooth reliability.

    On the one hand, those of us who are not I.T. professionals, (as I bet Anonymous is one), we have a lot of trouble navigating the rapids of the various complicated features and safeguards, sometimes. It might be unreasonable to expect all of us to handle this stuff like experts. On the other hand, well, the comic. The technology raises expectations which its own users cannot fulfill properly.

    {Hat-tip Philip Slater, who once wrote something like, "The automobile raises dreams of speed and power which it cannot fulfill" — because when a lot of people try to do so at the same time, you get a traffic jam, which is the opposite of speed and power.}

  4. This reminds me of the excellent short story, "Computers Don't Argue" by Keith Laumer, in which a series of computer errors results in a man getting executed…as a result of a mistaken bill…

  5. Ted is just letting his hip, curmudgeonly, internet-sceptical side get the best of him. If he were an engineer he'd never assume anything is 100% reliable. Nevertheless, mankind has suffered through beacons and carrier-pigeons, so what's the big deal?

  6. Anonymous of 5/29/09 9:25 AM said:

    "What problem? A lot of computer issues are user generated"

    But that is the problem???!!!

  7. Anonymous, as an IT professional, I know that no technology can be completely idiot-proofed. But when you're seeing a really large number of "user-generated" errors, it's time to address the clearly underlying problem: bad user interface design.

  8. " Email is pretty reliable relative to other technologies.
    Email is no more reliable than the internet connection. I would say non-cell phones are still the most reliable.

    Also, have you noticed email has become less reliable since 1995, though?

    The marketers have created a real problem for email. Similarly, compatibility for documents might be diverging.

    In the absence of heavy regulation of these factors, won't it just get worse and worse?

  9. email itself is not to blame. people just suck:

    TED: hey, where's that very important email you were supposed to send me?

    TED'S LYING, PROCRASTINATING CORRESPONDENT: (oh shit! i forgot all about that!) umm.. what? you didn't get it? i uhh… i totally sent it this morning!

    TED: well, it's not here…

    TLPC: (oh man, he sounds pissed! i better act pissed too!) psshhh… goddam unreliable email! well here, lemme send it again.

    [click click, type type, click]

    TLCP: there, i sent it AGAIN… refresh your inbox– is it there yet?

    TED: yeah, it just showed up.

    TLPC: (whew! close call! ted almost found out i'm a lying, procrastinating asshole!) well i guess it FINALLY decided to work, eh? damn email! you just can't depend on it!

    TED: you know, you're right… (hey, i just got an idea for this week's cartoon!)

  10. Me: Sounds great, should I send you an email with what I find?
    Person: You can, but the spam blocker is awful. A facebook message is probably more reliable.
    Me: I don't use facebook, it's a clusterfuck to navigate. Myspace?
    Person: Afraid not.
    Me: Twitter then?
    Person: No, but I have a xanga.
    Me: No dice.
    Person: Well, I have AIM and Yahoo messenger.
    Me: I don't use IM at all. How about I call you?
    Person: My reception is spotty out there, and the home phone is for DSL. No long distance. Do you have Vent?
    Me: No, I use Skype.

    Yeah, no problems at all.

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