A theory on why users keep mailing specific people

June 29, 2009

Like many places, we have several generic aliases that users mail about various issues. And, just like I expect happens everywhere, every so often users don't use those aliases and instead email some specific person here with their issue.

I recently came up with a theory for why this happens: it's easier to remember people (and then their email address) than it is to remember something impersonal. So people remember 'oh, I dealt with <X> last time to fix this', and they don't necessarily remember 'oh, I'm supposed to mail this random address'. And <X> gets more email.

(I am theorizing about this, but we know that humans have a fair amount of brainpower that's devoted to paying attention to other people (and we anthropomorphize like crazy), so it seems at least reasonable.)

Sysadmins may not see this as reasonable, but then I've got to point out that as successful sysadmins we are basically required to be good at memorizing computer-related trivia. Of course we can easily remember various abstract email addresses and keep them straight; we spend all day doing similar things, and we see the email addresses a lot more than the typical person does to boot so they're more familiar to us.

Unfortunately, I can't think of anything useful to do with this theory. It does make me wonder if anyone has experimented with deliberately anthropomorphizing their generic aliases and support systems, and if so if it did any good.

Written on 29 June 2009.
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Last modified: Mon Jun 29 02:19:43 2009
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