Death to CC & BCC

Some of my friends hate email. I’m contrarian here – for me the benefits of email still outweigh other alternatives, especially as communication channels are turning into app-specific silos. But the frontend of email could really evolve into more dynamic and collaborative spaces. While we wait for that to happen there are small changes which would make the medium more effective. If I ran a company, I’d get rid of cc & bcc on our internal email systems.

But but but…. NO BUTS.

1) CC & BCC lead to recipient explosion. They’re supposed to mean “FYI” but actually cost the same to each recipient on the thread who has to open the message and decide to consume the information or not. So sender is likely to staple more people on to the message (“it’s just a cc”) but everyone wastes time.

2) To = Do. Create a culture of sending a message to someone when there’s an action required. “To” should equal “Do” (Do pay attention to this information. Do approve this request. Do follow through on this item). There are really very few people (or even worse, mailing lists of people) who need to be cc:ed on a message thread. They need to be told of a decision or summary. So finish the thread and then send it to the right recipients with a tldr or other summary.

3) CC & BCC are political nightmares. I belong to the school of thought which believes BCC should never be used if you weren’t otherwise comfortable putting the person on the thread (hold aside the “moving you to bcc” need – I’ll get to that in a sec). cc:ing one’s manager, etc = so many different passive aggressive behaviors within companies.

With regards to the “move to bcc” when responding to a third party introduction, etc. What you’re really trying to signal to the sender is that you’ve responded to the initial note. There are other ways email frontends could indicate this other than allowing another email to pop up in your inbox. I’d be happy with a Boomerang-like experience that let’s me know if no action has been taken on the email within X days. Notify me not by default but only when it’s something I need to react to.