RE: Semantic mail

> -----Original Message-----
> From: pat hayes []
> Sent: Friday, November 10, 2000 12:43 PM
> To: Craig Pugsley
> Cc:
> Subject: RE: Semantic mail
> >Hey, Pat, we get your point. I concur that email <content> 
> really should not
> >be consider a candidate for semantic tagging. This is for exactly the
> >reasons you (so strongly point out) below relating to privacy. It is,
> >however, acceptable to semantically tag the metadata 
> associated with emails.
> >To a certain degree, emails carry metadata tagging already 
> relating to date,
> >creator, destination, route, etc. If this were converted to 
> an RDF-esque
> >format, we could use these tags to search information about 
> a person, the
> >route the email took, etc. Here the distinction between 
> semantically tagging
> >email <content> and email <headers> should be noted.
> But wait a second: why do you assume that people would want 
> information about them and the routes taken by their email (etc.) to 
> be made public and tagged for easy access? I certainly do not, and I 
> am immediately suspicious of the motives of anyone who wants to find 
> such things out. Why should this kind of information be thought of as 
> automatically public domain? (I know it is, in fact, but this is a 
> *problem* with email, not a feature.)

OK, I see your point. But the information tagged onto an email as metadata
would be no more than is already there. If this is the information you refer
to as a "problem" with the conventional email system, then I would have to
disagree. If someone did dig around in the metadata of an email (if such a
thing existed), then all they would find is links to descriptions of the
author, date, general subject, etc. All this information would be published
on the web anyway, so the parties concerned could monitor what they want to
go public, etc. No problem? 

> >A side thought: authors of semantically tagged emails should 
> be given the
> >ability to easily reference parts of the <content> of their 
> mails, if they
> >feel it would help the recipient or bolster a point they are 
> making (much
> >the same way as including references to webpages, etc.).
> Of course one should be free to include arbitrary content in ones 
> email and to make it as publicly accessible as one wishes. But one 
> should also be free to not do this. What I find startling (and 
> alarming) is the apparently widespread assumption that sending an 
> email is just like posting a web page, an assumption which completely 
> ignores the rather fundamental distinction between private and public 
> communication, treating the internet as a kind of world-wide Hyde 
> Park Corner.

Well, of course. IMHO I don't think people see email as a medium of
communication anything other than one-to-one. If want to convey the content
in your mail to multiple people, you use a mailing list. Or publish it on
the web. Tagging metadata onto emails would be for the use of the author and
recipient(s). To anyone else it would have no other use. 

> For example, I sometimes send things like referee 
> reports and recommendations for promotion decisions by email. I 
> recently send an email offering personal condolences to a friend on 
> the death of his wife. Some of us live real lives, independently of 
> the bloody Web, and we need to be able to live them in a normal and 
> dignified fashion.

I fully understand. Please don't fall into the trap of thinking the people
on these lists are not human. Most of us do have a human core in there
somewhere with human feelings and emotions. I empathise with your point
about wanting to keep email private. But surely encryption is the key (as
you mention), not deliberate with holding semantic information.

However, if you live in England, and you intend to send personal emails at
work, don't. There was recently a law passed allowing employers to monitor
any emails (or phone calls) sent by an employee on work time. Anyone second
the vote for fundamental encryption?

> End of flame by me on this topic. I will reply offline in future.

I don't consider that mail a flame! You had valid points. If put slightly

> Pat
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Received on Friday, 10 November 2000 08:50:23 UTC