MP wants to ban email disclaimers


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It’s downright adorable, how he presents ‘printing’ an email as the sort of universally shared experience to which we can all relate.


I used to work for a guy (at a large high tech company) who printed all his email, “so he could read it anywhere”. Admittedly, that was before the age of tablets and smart phones.

I still see forms on web sites with instructions like “print form, fill it out, sign it and fax it to …”

That and when I do occasionally print a web page and it is designed so that it takes up exactly one page, plus one stinking line on another piece of paper. Aargh!


Printing websites can be a nasty business thanks to CSS’ support for media-dependent style sheets. In an ideal world, the benevolent web designer would use these powers specifically to avoid such headaches. In practice, they often go unused, interact badly with some browser quirk, or are actively used to mess with users trying to print things.


Obligatory Oatmeal:


Well there’s no way around the fact you still have to sign a contract to make it really enforceable. Those sites where you type your name, and that counts as your sigature? Yea, try proving in court I’m the one who typed my name.

Personally I think even fax is cheating. I think we need to give bicycle couriers more work.


Those bicycle couriers are taking jobs that Pony Express riders should rightfully have.


A job tailor-made for drones, I’d say.


I regular print receipts for stuff that I buy online, and I always wish they were more condensed.


If you think typing is less proof than handwriting, then you haven’t seen my terrible, and more importantly inconsistent handwriting. Besides I’ve signed legal/accounting documents digitally with Adobe Echosign etc.


Why? I do the opposite, any printed receipts I receive I scan and shred. I’ve never come across a situation yet where that’s impeded me.

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So the scribes can transcribe them to the clay tablets.


I work with some people who print most of their email. They’re definitely in the minority, but it still makes me cringe when I see half a dozen sheets of mostly empty space, and the only relevant information on page 1.

Maybe we need an updated version of this that says, “Is printing this really necessary?”:


Don’t need to ban them. Just need to introduce a law that makes any email disclaimer that’s in reply to an email that itself has a disclaimer, legally enforceable.

As soon as you see an email with a disclaimer, reply to it with:



By reading this email, you agree to let me crash on your couch whenever I want, and to give me breakfast and lend me your bike the next day.



By reading and any or all of my comments you are hearby assenting to agree with everything I say. Furthermore, you are now legally obligated to wear a gorilla suit every second Monday and a Banana suit every first Monday. With regards to the latter, you are furthermore required to just look at it. In the event you are unable or unwilling to comply with these terms, you must light a bag of canine excrement in front of your current residence, and send me a sum of money not to be less than twelve million dollars ($12,000,000).

In the event of a dispute arising from these terms, you are required to submit to binding arbitration adjudicated by my cat (heretofore known as Miffyscrumbles). You are also not permitted to bring any of your own Cat-Human translators and must accept the official translation of Miffyscrumbles’s rulings from my office. Furthermore, you are not permitted to assail, impune, degrade, or otherwise shit all over the reputation of myself, or Miffyscrumbles.


But what do I do on every sixth Monday? Do I dress as a gorilla dressed as a banana, or a banana dressed as a gorilla?


It’s still awfully inefficient without ways for a drone to organize its cargo. On one trip down a street I could pick up ten different items - all of different sizes and shapes - say, six 9"x12" envelopes, two parcels of 18"x24" X-ray films, and two 36"x4" tubes of carpet samples. It would take a rather large drone to be able to sort these inside itself and deliver them in sequence - all while accepting more packages. Without this organizational capability, drones would be limited to either only very uniform cargo, and/or picking up and delivering one item at a time, which wastes a lot of time and energy.

Of course it is arguable, as it has been, that other forms of modernization would effectively remove the need for messengers. Digital signatures, improved imaging for medicine, and 3d printing / programmable matter. It’s been a few years since my bike messenger days so I can only hope that the world has caught up a bit.

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NOOOO! I work with a lot of people who print their e-mail, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen printouts laying around the office where an entire page consists of nothing but the final line of someone’s e-mail signature: “Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.” Sigh.

And don’t get me started on embedded images in e-mail signatures that make it impossible for me to tell which e-mails in my inbox have substantive attachments and which just have somebody’s company logo.


Or you can have the cargo limited in size and weight (which is not a problem e.g. for documents). The payload can be carried in a basket under the drone, which lowers the limits on the goods (but requires the recipients to not take what is not theirs; this can be handled with a video camera recording each stop for auditing of delivery).

And even limited routing and cargo types can cover way over half of the market; there will always be some oddities that will not be transportable by drones but they aren’t the bulk of the jobs. Pizza, for example, has a fairly standardized form factor. Document binders as well.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some sort of form-factor standard, a shrunk-down version of a cargo aircraft container or that iconic multimodal-freight 40-ft container or the cargo pallet, is developed for drone transportation.

Auditing not only what people take, but whether or not the package falls out in transit. Also it puts the onus upon the sender to weatherproof the package.

The oddities are precisely what messengers have been used for, odd packages, as well as odd situations. I have never knowingly delivered food nor flowers, those companies typically have their own delivery schemes. But yes, legal documents, medical imaging, body parts, as well as various envelopes and boxes I could only guess at.

Perhaps you misunderstand what the actual job of a bike messenger usually involves - but my experience is that it is mostly high-stakes desk-to-desk delivery with a paid guarantee of signed delivery to the recipient within a limited span of time. Sending a basket of envelopes under a little helicopter still makes no provisions for taking instructions from the sender, taking the item from them, and presenting it to the recipient at their desk on the 28th floor of a building ten minutes later to get their signature. The “flying between buildings” part is the easy bit, easier even for a drone. But the organization and infiltration/exfiltration are quite a large part of the job that current drones are not suitable for.

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