You don't know me, but...

When starting a school, it helps if you can find some teachers. Over the last few weeks, Claire and I have been contacting people who are already advertising their teaching online, to invite them to join School of Everything. The response has been encouraging - a big increase in the number of new teachers joining the site and some lovely emails from people who really get what we're trying to do.

So we're clearly doing something right - yet there's still a part of me which feels guilty at adding to the volume in people's inboxes with unsolicited mail. My heart went out to the yoga teacher whose autoreply reads:

I am being swamped by email at the moment and it is eroding my meditation practice and family time. I have decided to try and look at email once a week and only for an hour so please bear with me if you have not heard from me.

We already have certain standards for our marketing emails:

  • every email has to be sent personally by one of us, addressed to an individual and manually checked before it goes out
  • we only contact teachers who are currently advertising for students online
  • we do everything we can to avoid contacting the same teacher more than once
  • we include a phone number where people can get through to one of us
  • and all replies to emails get a swift and individual response.

But maybe there's a deeper issue here. On Anthony's recommendation, I've been reading Michael Bugeja's 'Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age'. It's an odd book, insightful and frustrating by turns, but he does put his finger on some of the troubling effects of our technology habits. One passage particularly struck me:

"Communication suffers," says Bugeja, "when contact is untimely rather than opportune. We cause interruptions at work or disruptions at home, forgetting that the 'occasion' of a conversation - the hour, date, and place - usually is as important as content itself. A message worth sharing should be conveyed at a propitious moment in the appropriate setting."

The suggestion that we increasingly suffer from an overload of untimely contact rings true for me. (I sympathize with the mobile phone refuseniks interviewed by the Independent this week.)

So I wonder whether we could find more timely ways to contact people about School of Everything? Are there other means by which you'd prefer to find out about a site like this? Can you help us get the message to people in more appropriate ways? Or am I worrying unnecessarily?

It would be really interesting to hear your views - especially if the reason you're reading this is that you got an email from one of us out of the blue.

Don't be shy, say hello. We'd love to hear from you.

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