A pointless waste of time

By | 19th April 2011

One of the wonders of the Internet is that almost anything you care to look for is there, somewhere! Not just historical facts, political articles, scientific treatises and the like but almost anything you care to think about.

Has anyone noticed how many people were away from the office in the past few days? The prospect of the last few days of the skiing season, the start of spring, consecutive four day weekends looming and the start of school holidays must mean that Britain’s productivity will fall by a measureable amount in April.

I have resisted the temptation to look and see if there are statistics about this on the internet but if they are not there now I bet they will be before too long. But while engaged in these ruminations, I have come across the most pointless waste of time, namely a website dedicated to pointless websites.  If you are stuck for things to do you can pass the time by playing with the website which swaps dads’ and babies’ heads around, or forget that time exists at all by spending time on the site which allows you to think about beards – yours and those adorning the faces of other people!

The sites featured are so pointless, in fact, that I won’t even provide a link here for fear that I might easily be distracted from reaching the point of this piece, which concerns pointless email footers.

Now not everyone will be thrilled to think they are going to be confronted by something as exciting as the content of email footers. However, I have always regarded the pompous and overbearing legalese of most email footers as something of a joke and now I see, from a recent article in The Economist (link below), that I am not alone. As I remember the time when PCs were first introduced into my office as a time of wonder and a certain nervousness, I accepted without question that senders of emails, particularly law firms, needed to protect themselves against any and all liability which might be incurred by sending our clients and other parties and their lawyers these new fangled electronic communications.

We accepted what the IT department in collusion with commercial lawyers (and doubtless a few litigators too) told us and solemnly agreed to add to each outgoing email an attempt to exclude liability for anything said in the email. After so long, it has become to be accepted as the norm.

Does anyone ever read them? And are the words of any practical effect? I doubt it on both counts. Like many things which become part of the furniture I suspect they are routinely ignored. That is, until it comes to searching a corpus of data (as we did on behalf of a client recently) only to find that one of the carefully chosen search terms contains a word or words commonly used in email footers, with the result that there are many more hits on the documents being searched than anticipated. False positives yes, which can be dealt with once discovered but then you need to consider the trees which have been cut down in order to provide the paper on which people print these meaningless words time and time again.

Is there anyone out there brave enough to take the plunge, accept that email footers serve no practical purpose and abandon them?  It is presumably a matter of “Watch this space”, or not, as the case may be.

Spare us the email yada-yada – Automatic e-mail footers are not just annoying. They are legally useless, The Economist, 7th April 2011.
And, if you must – http://www.pointlesssites.com/