What Do Email Users And Birds Have In Common?
September 21, 2012

Email Characteristics Likened To Bird Behaviors In Study

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Researchers at the University of Glasgow and the University of the West of Scotland have categorized email patterns and habits to bird-like behavior.

The team decided to study the way people check, read and respond to emails, and then place people into 15 bird-like categories.

"Email has rapidly become a vital business communication tool and a lot of people we spoke to say they would not be able to do their jobs without it," Karen Renaud, senior lecturer in the School of Computing Science, said in a statement.

"However, many people have gripes about email. Some people find themselves checking email all the time, even during evenings, weekends and holidays, others complain about how other people behave when using email."

The bird-like characteristics identified by the researchers include:

  • Compulsive Woodpecker: Can´t resist reading email at all hours of the day and night.
  • Hibernating Poorwill: Reads email only occasionally so that senders can never rely on them.
  • Caterwauling Peacock: Broadcasts emails to all and sundry, claiming that people “need to know” when actually is just grandstanding.
  • Back-Covering Emu: Sends emails in order to be able to prove, at a later date, that the information was passed on.
  • Echoing Mynah: Acknowledges all emails. For example engages in exchange with something like: “thanks”, then “my pleasure”, then “thanks again”.
  • Boorish Parrot: Sends abusive or inappropriate emails and fails to understand why others get upset by them.
  • Night Owl: The midnight emailer, who fails to understand that others do wish to have “time out”.

The team said that there was one type of bird that had perfect email manners, which they called the robin. These types of people not only do not allow email to dictate their lives, but they also make time to speak to people in person when they can.

“It is likely most people will be able to identify some of their email correspondents with these behaviors and perhaps even recognize their own email style," Renaud said in the statement. “What the research really highlights is that email is a great source of stress for many people. Too often, email is used instead of a more suitable means of communication like actually talking to someone.”

She said that people send emails without thinking of the cost to the recipient; but if everyone does this, we become less efficient and nobody wins.

"People need to think before they send an email: is this the best way of communicating? Even if it is, still think before you click," Renaud said.

The researchers published their findings in the quarterly British Computer Society magazine Interfaces.