The Send To All Mistake

I believe I’ve written about this before but I see it made so often that I feel compelled to write about it again.

Entrepreneurs, VCs, and others in the startup ecosystem often send an email introducing a company to all of the partners (or most) at our firm. And that email is addressed to all of us, not one of us.

The result is that none of us feel ownership in the introduction and though we generally figure out who should reply, it can result in the email going unanswered for a while or longer.

On the other hand, if an email is sent to one partner, with possibly a copy to others, then the recipient feels a responsibility to reply and the email is generally answered.

I send emails to busy people a lot. And what I have learned is that I need to address them directly, write the note personally so that it is obvious that I have written it myself, and then copy someone (usually their assistant, but often a colleague as well) to make sure they see it.

Email is such a challenging medium to operate in that when using it, you must be very careful to optimize the chances of a reply.

Sending an email to all is generally not a form of optimization that works.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. falicon

    To whom it may concern, I agree.

  2. Adam Sher

    It’s a failure to communicate effectively. It’s the same as someone who requests to connect on LinkedIn with a generic or no note attached to it; sending a resume without a cover letter; reaching out to a prospect without explaining their problem/solution.Without context with specificity, it’s noise, and as @fredwilson:disqus points out, easy to ignore.

  3. Simon Heap

    Couldn’t agree more – we get resumés all the time and mostly they are addressed to ‘to whom this may concern’.Hopeless.Find out who you want to engage with (via LinkedIn, Facebook, etc etc) and address it directly – it really makes a difference.

    1. Adam Sher

      Do you use candidate management software? Most solutions I’ve seen and used nudge candidates to submit generally addressed letters. Do you do something as part of your job listings that suggest to candidates that they should target someone specifically?

      1. Simon Heap

        These are unsolicited, people who just like what we do and want to apply speculatively.

        1. Adam Sher

          Yah, not a good way to blindly introduce oneself.

    2. PhilipSugar

      Totally hopeless. If you can’t write or email a decent cover letter, I won’t even read.

      1. LE

        Does that really matter in all or even most cases? Tight labor market?You know the best contractors are the ones in the broken trucks with cheap prices and to much business. I have a guy right now who has the worst business practices ever. I have a few that won’t even invoice me. The guys with marketing shit together are the ones that are generally over priced. (I know we are not talking about that topic but my point is it’s like my ex wife choosing the doctor who talks to her nicest not the one with the kick ass skill set that has aspergers (the person I picked for my daughter..).So for example if it’s a tight labor market and someone who is a programmer and has no clue just sends his resume over the transom with qualifications then maybe that is actually good, not bad. Because they will be equally likely to screw up when trying to get another job.You know as they said on I think it was ‘Weeds’ ‘go for the defectives’. Gold in the hills so to speak.

        1. PhilipSugar

          Programmer goes to headhunter, headhunter does that work.

          1. LE

            If they weren’t pin heads they would simply bypass the high costing headhunter and go directly to the jobs. Jobs that aren’t advertised. [1]You know in medicine headhunters are prevalent. But I’ve told people to go directly to the hospitals with their resume. In one case 10 resumes resulted in 7 interviews and 3 solid job offers for a medical job.I recently tried (again) to bang this into my daughter. Stop applying for jobs and competing with everyone else in a beauty contest.[1] How I got 2 jobs in Silicon Valley that honestly I was not qualified for at all. I reached out when there were no openings got several interviews ‘sure we might need a…’ got 1 offer/job then parlayed that job into a better one (then decided I hated working for someone else). To close the first deal? Got into a plane (at my expense) and flew out to a tradeshow (MacWorld, early 90’s).

          2. PhilipSugar

            Headhunters like LinkedIn let you look with no effort, which is appealing if you currently are in a job not miserable, but want to see what else is out there. Not debating, my “jobs” were gotten that way with Delaware Valley Financial Systems and Otis.

          3. sigmaalgebra

            IMHO, it’s heavily about demand: Early in my career I was working applied math and computing for mostly national security problems within 100 miles of the Washington Monument, for GE, The GE unit shrank, and from ads in WaPo I mailed some resume copies. In the next two weeks I went on seven interviews and got five offers.

        2. JLM

          .Getting the best price and best performance is easy.Write out the scope of work.Make the contractor price each item of the scope of work by item. Negotiate by line item, not the total price.Make a spreadsheet for the payments.Hold back 10% for the punchlist.Buy all the materials yourself. I bought $60/SF stone for less than $20/SF by shopping around.Have everything ready to go before the subs show up. Make them clean up every night.I have finished up renovating four bathrooms, a powder room, a utility room, and a kitchen.All new everything from demo, backer board, stone, countertops, cabinets, appliances, fixtures, glass, mirrors, lights, exhaust, hardware, vanities, paint, paper, window coverings.Easy to get disorganized.Bid everything. Finished the job for less than half of what a very good GC bid for the entire job.Just stay organized. The subs all depended on my scope of work, my chart of prices, my payment spreadsheet. I would pay them on Fridays and give them copies of everything.I had all the materials on hand before anybody arrived and I bought top of the line everything using sites like You can buy high end hardware, as an example, and they will match any price you can find. I used Newport Brass for everything. My first car cost less than one item of kitchen plumbing hardware.It is a good way to save money.[Pro tip: Costco has three lines of pre-fab cabinets that are better built and better dimensional control than custom built cabinets with better hardware (Blum).]JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. Adam Sher

            School’s in session.

          2. LE

            1) Costco? JLM buying Costco? Say it ain’t so.2) I don’t have the time to do it this way. [1] My time is better spent on things that I make money with not in saving money (in this way at least). I think your circumstance (work wise) is quite different, right? I could easily get sucked into the process doing it this way I know that. I would enjoy it also. That’s why I have to not go down that road.I want to spend my time (and this is a mantra of mine I guess) in making money in what I am good at. Not in something that isn’t my regular line of business or that I do infrequently. Not that I hired a GC for things I did with offices I didn’t. But they are located where I have my office. Not at a vacation property far away. So sure I can manage it with no effort from my office because I know all the vendors and sources and not many things to think about. So that works.One other thing. In a tight contractor labor market (which is what is going on where I am ) you can’t make some of the demands that you are making. That is a YMMV item that apparently works where you are. Where I am they are so busy and for example window guy has not even billed me for work that he has done. Ditto for electrical guy I am still waiting for an invoice (and have asked for it). So you sort of have to cut corners and take chances or you won’t get things done at all. They have plenty of work they don’t need my work. With the GC doing the vacation property? Started I think w/o a deposit. Then asked for some money. Did work and then finally we said ‘how much should we send you??’. That’s right we asked felt weird not giving him money. You know I am mr. negotiation and all (or maybe you don’t). With this guy? Didn’t even get another bid. Told us the price we saw his work in the building (another unit) he came recommended by really tough people that we knew ‘pains in assess approved’ so we just went with what he did and didn’t even think of ‘jewing’ him down (I am jewish so I can say that). Time sensitive project don’t mind paying a slight premium to get a good guy that actually completes work. And he is just about complete now all worked out. Can’t even imagine where I’d be at if I busted his balls (sorry ladies that is the expression).What you are saying is right. Just pointing out that nuance is important…[1] In fact I don’t even have the time to check what my wife is doing and I am sure she has made plenty of mistakes. Not that she has the time (she has a full time job) but she has supervised the renovations pretty much did everything. Kind of the deal because I put in more money (2nd marriage thing you know) to buy the place which I will only use a few times per year.

          3. JLM

            .”Costco custom cabinets are the best I have ever seen,” said the guy who has bought tens of millions of dollars of custom cabinets.Best selection, best woods, best finish, best finishes, best dimensional control, best shipping, arrive all made up, slip them into place with a much less skilled carpenter, cabinet setter.I doubt there is a hotter market in the US than Austin By God Texas for remodeling. I live in a neighborhood where they add a decimal point when they arrive to bid the job.I know how to buy this stuff because I know how the contractors think and I pay them on Fridays and I don’t force them to buy the materials.This opens me up to a bunch of “labor only” contractors.I enjoy doing this as it keeps my hand in, plus it is my house, so I take a lot more pride in it.I can do this in my sleep. But, I get exactly what you are saying.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          4. PhilipSugar

            You know I have found many contractors don’t like you buying the materials, and then there are some that really like it. When I point out we are just talking money. I.e. you are bidding the job, the only excuse I have received is well we haven’t worked with that brand before (which you know is BS if you are not talking repair for something like a vehicle where there is a learning curve).But I totally agree with your premise is put in each line item, be there to pay on Friday (that’s no secret), and hold some money back.The temptation to skimp on materials is just too great for seemingly every contractor. Quick example for shutoffs. Quarter turn ball valves are trivially more than compression globe valves. Installation cost difference is zero. Life expectancy and maintenance infinitely favor ball valves.

          5. Pointsandfigures

            IKEA makes a damn good cabinet….

          6. JLM

            .They used to only sell “knock down” cabinets, but I see where they are selling fully assembled cabinets these days.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          7. JLM

            .The whole world should be using quarter turn ceramic valves for everything. Nothing to corrode and easier on the fingers. I think we are talking about the same thing. Also Pex for anything.If you let the contractor buy the stuff, you have a problem with the systems. They will go for the least expensive system.Beneath all stone, I use Hardie backer (long, long screws into solid wood) with roll on waterproofing and Schluter (Kerdi and Ditra) beneath.Kerdi is waterproofing while Ditra is an independent membrane that keeps floors from transmitting cracks from the substrate to the stone joints.You could argue this is overkill, but it costs a couple of hundred bucks more, but the prevention of any cracking and the waterproofing is beyond reproach. It also gives you one more chance to ensure level.When I talk to stone setters, they say it is way too much, but when they finish, they all agree it is a perfect installation.I put in a heated floor and I bought the materials that were twice as expensive as what the contractor recommended.I can cook an egg on the floor which is nice in winter.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          8. PhilipSugar

            We are off topic but the day is over and we are at the bottom. Only issue for fixtures is not much mixture and no heat shock controlCutoffs no brainerI did two 2x12s sistered for beams 6×6 for all posts including ledger board for deck along with 12 ft 5/6 home run ipe decking

          9. sigmaalgebra

            Another keeper in the series, three for three! Kept as an addendum to the other two.For building a house, I’ve wondered about the floors, especially about water in the kitchen, baths, and laundry.When I build, I’ve wanted a floor with a drain could hose off, likely common in a lot of commercial construction.

          10. LE

            Quarter turn ball valves are trivially more than compression globe valves.Exactly correct. That is why it’s called ‘contractor grade’.

          11. sigmaalgebra

            Good to know; that’s what I did use in my little exercise with copper tubing and a propane torch for a way to use a bucket, a drill pump, some garden hose lengths, HCl, and H2O to remove the CaCO3 from the hot water coils in my furnace with a final rise of Na2CO3 without having a water softener put in a lot of Na2CO3 that can corrode the solder joints.

          12. sigmaalgebra

            Addendum added to the above! Thx!

          13. sigmaalgebra

            Nice! Kept. Indexed. Thx.It happens that my house needs some work. No doubt you just saved me 50+%.But for now, my startup is the focus.

          14. Matt Zagaja

            Bookmarked for after I buy a home in a year or two. Maybe I should just get a fixer upper…

          15. Vasudev Ram

            One thing I’ve heard about the US is that in the past, it had a huge amount of variety of manufactured products, for every kind of person’s preference and budget (almost), in many ranges of products. Looking at old magazines with product ads gives an idea of this, also I had relatives one generation older, some of whom lived in the US and they used to tell me about this. I wonder how much this has changed with a lot of manufacturing having moved to China. I heard some is coming back or has already. Don’t know full details, or what the pros and cons are.

  4. Dan T

    I’ve had to explain this to people in the past.My name is NOT “All”, my name is Dan.If you want a response from me, address it to me.

    1. JLM

      .OK, true story. A pal of mine, English gent, is named Allenby.He goes by ………….. wait for it …………….. “All.”I call him Al, sometimes. He hates “Al.”Dear All –JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. sigmaalgebra

        That’s a little like “Who is on first.”?

      2. Girish Mehta

        And…what does he call you ?”..The names in the song came from an incident at a party that Simon went to with his then-wife Peggy Harper. French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez, who was attending the same party, mistakenly referred to Paul as “Al” and to Peggy as “Betty”, inspiring Simon to write a song…”…”…

  5. William Mougayar

    Worst opening: Dear All, ….

  6. jim mchugh

    “That which is owned by all is cared for by no one.”

  7. LE

    write the note personally so that it is obvious that I have written it myselfI guess I need to roll out the tale (again) of how I got Tim Drapers attention somewhere around 1996 or 1997 [1] by writing an email to him and including that my wife [2] thought he was good looking. It was true. He was on some 90’s tech tv show. [3] I made some comment (was disparaging) and my wife replied ‘yeah but wow he is good looking’. Right then and there I knew I had my angle to approach him.[1] And good things did follow from that.[2] At that time, now ex wife.[3] I think it was Silicon Spin with John Dvorak iirc.

  8. PhilipSugar

    I go by this rule:The person responding owes you at minimum one down the priority list and maybe two.Priority List:1. Personal well thought out edited five times, gets to the point quickly but has a ton of backup info, and you spent time getting references internal/external. Took a ton of time to write.2. Personal well thought out gets to the point quickly maybe a reference. Took time to write3. Personal but not that well thought out, written quickly4. Flipping an targeted personal email.5. Mass email that is personally targeted.Everything else is spam.

    1. LE

      1. Personal well thought out edited five times, gets to the point quickly but has a ton of backup info, and you spent time getting references internal/external. Took a ton of time to write.This applies to both business and personal life. Obviously I subscribe to this in business goes w/o saying. The correct words, in the right order, make all of the difference in the world. [1]But even in personal life. With my wife, when I was in the email phase of the dating relationship what did I do? I spent untold time analyzing every single word that I wrote to her (or replies) for the right impact, emotion and effect. I was obsessed. It was like I was writing a play or a movie script. It was the most important thing in the world to me. And I wanted to convey it as perfectly as it could possibly be. Nothing was left to chance. And I was real and was definitely me by the way. No point in being someone else. No sense in wasting time and having it come back later, right?It worked out exactly as I wanted it do. And I don’t have to do that now all the effort payed off in the end.[1] This is one of the things they should teach and practice in schools as opposed to some of the nonsense that they give students to do as assignments.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        > I spent untold time analyzing every single word that I wrote to her (or replies) for the right impact, emotion and effect.Good for you to believe and have at least one example to believe that such communications work.For me, I assumed that such communications were, of course, the titanium, gold, platinum, diamond standard, and long did my best in that direction.Eventually mostly I gave up and concluded that any such communications would fail from seriously overloading the brain cells of nearly everyone. Instead, should use something short and emotional with targeted emotions and everything else reduced to only a few words.

        1. LE

          Well as I have said this is the fallacy of the importance of taking any advice that you read as if it’s a magic bullet. So what works for me with my way of thinking may not work with someone else. Because it’s all nuance. It’s like anything a creative process. And you can’t teach creativity to all people. Not everyone thinks the same with the same ‘lessons’.Example. I was reading something on a non photography website about how to frame a picture. It gave something called the ‘rule of thirds’ I think. (Just checked yep that was it). Well anyway I have been doing photography since I was in high school. And I have made money doing photography (in high school and college). Easy. With no formal training. Self taught. Back before the internet. I could have been a photographer for a living I am thinking. It’s natural to me. But it seemed ‘to easy’ not enough of a challenge. Anyway I never heard of until yesterday this ‘rule of thirds’. Because I have the ability to do that on the fly and do it intuitively. Never knew there was some ‘rule’. All of the things that I do (that I talk about here) fall into that category as well. Not something I read somewhere. (For example JLM talks about ‘call to action’. I think that is some concept in books that people ‘learn’ about closing sales, right? I never learned that because I never read about sales. But I can do sales w/o even reading the concept. It’s just a natural thing for me. Observation and learning on the fly and being sensitive to inputs. How do you teach that?

          1. sigmaalgebra

            Reading advice as if it is a magic bullet?People would like to have super powers, e.g., a magic bullet, and people trying to get paid for giving advice are motivated to say that their advice is a magic bullet. People who want to be leaders and have people follow them are similarly motivated.An old goal of education is “A healthy skepticism.”. OrYou can always tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him much. OrIt isn’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you do know for sure that just ain’t so. Nuance: Yup, but nuance is tough to teach, learn, have, or be sure it is being effective, and those issues are likely some of the reasons for the rise of The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, math, science, and carefully done engineering.E.g., in engineering too many of the first European cathedrals fell down. While eventually the builders saw from trial and error, some ideas — flying buttresses and the shape of arches — and maybe some scale models what stone to use and how to use it for stronger columns, arches, walls, etc., now we’d like to be able to design just on paper or computer and be quite sure the result will stand so want some engineering in part based on physics and math. Some of the math is finite element modeling, avoiding harmonic motion, strength of materials, columns, beams, arches, etc. For residential construction, sure, mostly just follow the building codes broadly appreciating that water is a big enemy.Teaching creativity: K-college is not so good on teaching creativity and prefers lessons that are easier to teach and results easier to grade.In the STEM fields in high end US academics the approach to evaluating creativity is mostly just to submit the work to a peer reviewed journal of original research where the broadly accepted standards are “new, correct, and significant” — in the STEM fields experts in topics are supposed to be able to judge papers in their topics.But, then, how is a young prof to learn to be creative? This challenge was mentioned in D. Knuth’s The TeXBook withThe traditional way is to put off all creative aspects until the last part of graduate school. For seventeen or more years, a student is taught examsmanship, then suddenly after passing enough exams in graduate school he’s told to do something original. But the students in grad school have been especially good students for those 17 years where they have been terrified, maybe awash in anxiety and even an OCD case, about having everything just right, with no mistakes or criticism ever.So, here are some ways to teach creativity:(i) Give some examples of creativity. E.g., Newton’s esteemed Law of Gravity and Second Law of Motion were essentially guesses, somewhat insightful, and not “laws” at all. We regard them as “laws” now, but our current Law of Gravity comes from 104 years ago with Einstein’s general relativity, and the Second Law of Motion comes from only a few decades ago from — apparently — the quantum field of the Higgs boson.Lesson: The start of creativity is guessing based, say, on background, experience, intuition, e.g., simple mental models, and insight. In science we don’t have good ways to prove a guess correct but only some ways, maybe good, of rejecting guesses that are not correct. So, we test the guesses and start to accept a guess as true based on the tests it has passed.Even now we are missing lower level explanations of just what the heck energy and momentum are, but after all the testing and adjustments in the theories we believe strongly the conservation of energy and momentum.Correctness in math is easier — we get to prove theorems. But the theorems are true only given the assumptions. In some cases, e.g., for basic plane geometry used in the usual contexts, the assumptions appear to be meager and very reasonable.(ii) So, with (i) covered, assure a student that creativity is important, and at least in the STEM fields the core of the start of it is good guessing.Since art is “the communication, interpretation of human experience, emotion”, explain that an artist can communicate or interpret the emotions they understand, e.g., from their own experience and/or emotions or insight into other people.E.g., that’s just what poor, suffering Modest Mussorgski did in his Pictures at an Exhibition as explained by Vladimir Ashkenazy in…The original music by Mussorgski is a solo piano piece, e.g., as by Ashkenazy in…but is “colorful” apparently because Mussorgski was “unschooled”. So, to translate unschooled, he didn’t know or just threw away a lot that was traditional about music, from my ears and understanding, a lot about keys and chords, and picked notes based on what he felt from his experience (death of his friend Victor Hartman and an exhibition of his paintings).So, as Ashkenazy explains, the resulting “colors” — wild violations of the traditions of keys and chords — got several composers good with orchestration (writing for orchestra and exploiting the different sounds of the different instruments and how to combine them) arranged the piece for orchestra.The most famous arrangement is by Maurice Ravel.The music starts with a “Promenade” of some guy, with an irregular gait, walking to an exhibition of paintings by Hartman. Then there are sections for each painting, picture, with a variation of the Promenade between each.E.g., for the first case of the Promenade and the first picture,…Often the pictures and the Promenade are, in a word, wild. Then the Ravel orchestration emphasizes how wild, well beyond what can be done with a piano.YouTube is awash in information about Pictures and provides a good introduction to creativity in music.In physics, what Newton guessed was, at least over time turned out to be, terrific stuff; same for Einstein’s modifications; same for Maxwell’s equations and fields; same for the Higgs field.So each of these is progress on explaining the universe, some of how God’s creation works with some powerful applications so is regarded as good creativity.Supposedly Samuel Eilenberg, a.k.a, SSPP, Speedy Sammy, Polish prodigy, once saidElegance in mathematics is directly proportional to what you can see in it and inversely proportional to the effort required to see it. So, elegance can be a criterion, mostly just minor, for creativity in math.E.g., in calculus, a curve, function, is regarded, at least intuitively, as smooth if everywhere it has a unique tangent, the derivative of the function In physics, if the curve is distance as a function of time, then at some point in time the tangent is speed.Well, then, the slope of the tangent is another function and in the physics the derivative of speed is acceleration.We can continue to take derivatives of derivatives as long as such tangents exist. If for any positive integer n we can take n derivatives, then the original function is infinitely differentiable. So, intuitively an infinitely differentiable function is the most smooth possible.We can do the same for functions that define surfaces.Well, Benoit Mandelbrot found a lot of highly irregular surfaces, fractals, that remain similarly irregular no matter how much they are magnified, e.g.,https://upload.wikimedia.or…and for some on magnification…Mandelbrot argued that if go to the Catskill mountains and look at the lakes, then they are fractals, at least approximately, or can be so modeled.What about the surface of the Catskills?Or, given such a fractal in the plane, is there a surface that is 0 on the fractal and strictly positive otherwise? Can such a surface be differentiable? How many times can it be differentiated? Can it be infinitely differentiable?Well, the surface can be infinitely differentiable.Graph the DJIA — the common, first cut model of that is Brownian motion, and it is continuous (no sudden jumps) everywhere but differentiable nowhere. Still there is a surface that is 0 on a sample path of Brownian motion, strictly positive otherwise, and infinitely differentiable.For each fractal, there is a surface 0 on its boundary, strictly negative in its interior, and strictly positive otherwise and infinitely differentiable — that’s for the Catskills, above the water, at the water line, and below the water.As a little project in grad school, I proved that stuff as a tool for more on the Kuhn-Tucker conditions, that I later published.The elegant part was the incongruous juxtaposition of a highly irregular fractal and the very smooth surface. So, every fractal can be the level set of an infinitely differentiable surface. So, intuitively the surface is as smooth as possible but its level set can be as irregular as possible.Actually fractals are closed sets (the interval [0,1] is closed because it contains its endpoints 0 and 1, and this idea generalizes, enormously), and I proved that each closed set can be the level set of an infinitely differentiable surface. So, from my theorem, the applications to fractals are just a special case.When my favorite prof heard about my result, he saw the connection with sample paths of Brownian motion (which are closed sets) and walked up to me in the hall to praise my work and point out the connection with Brownian motion.The Kuhn-Tucker conditions are of interest in parts of far out, theoretical mathematical economics, e.g., in a famous paper by Arrow, Hurwicz, and Uzawa. There they state but do not answer a question about the Kuhn-Tucker conditions, and my work answers the question.Also closed on the real line is the Cantor set, e.g., as at…a subset of the closed interval [0,1]. Since the Cantor set is closed, there is a function that is zero on the Cantor set, strictly positive otherwise, and infinitely differentiable.The Cantor set is surprising because it has uncountably infinitely many points but zero length. So that function has to touch down at specific uncountably infinitely many points and only those points and still be very smooth — incongruous juxtaposition.There are also Cantor sets that do have length (in the sense of Lebesgue measure) but contain no intervals. They are also closed so that my result applies again.So, that is an example of some elegant creativity in math.Well, suppose we are looking for anomalies in computer systems. Suppose we collect data jointly on two variables, e.g., CPU percent busy and paging rate, and the anomalies are the lakes, maybe fractals, in the Catskills. How to design a detector for the anomalies? How to get desired false alarm rate? What about detection rate? Okay, right, I have the answers in another paper. Yup, my techniques also work for fractals. Yup, the work applies in any finite dimensions, e.g., CPU percent busy for each core in an 8 core processor along with data rate on each of the disk drives and each of the network interfaces. Then, …, hmm, the cores are in nearly all respects equivalent. So, …, hmm, get to save on some data, etc. (should be able to get some nice theorems here – not from me now due to my startup) that should sort the data from the 8 cores. I did some data experiments, and the idea worked great!My original motivation was to detect a sick cluster by, something like comparing each member of the cluster to all the others. One motivation was a transaction processing cluster with one sick member that was throwing all its work into the bit bucket, looked to the load balancer as not very busy, got nearly all the transactions, and in effect made the cluster, supposedly more reliable, much less reliable. I got the data from an insurance company, but IIRC Google had this problem for a cluster of e-mail servers.(iii) To teach such creativity, IMHO the first step is to work intuitively and make guesses. Then for math or science, have enough knowledge to be able to test out the guesses. In math, end up with theorems and proofs. In science, end up with some testable hypotheses that hopefully pass severe tests.I tried photography as a teenager. I started with an Argus C3.I got to where I understood film speed, focus, depth of field, f-stops, shutter speeds, exposures, a light meter, and the calculations for flash.At her job, Mom, secretary at a church, knew a member of the church who was a sports photographer for a local newspaper and talked him into taking me to a basketball game at my school. I had a roll of Tri X-film, set the focus, f-stop, and shutter speed at something reasonable in general, and took some available light pictures of the game.Back at the photo lab of the newspaper, we “pushed” the speed of the Tri-X and cropped and printed at 8 1/2 x 11″ on glossy paper.The pictures were pretty good; my composition was okay after the photographer did the cropping! The next day at school the pictures were popular.I got the basic equipment to develop 35 mm black and white film, and that worked out okay.Then Dad installed some doors on the outside of the window of a bathroom, and I had the start of a darkroom, dark enough for printing on paper.Dad found me an enlarger. But the enlarger was for 5 x 7″ Speed Graphic film and next to useless for 35 mm.I was short of money, for a working enlarger, photographic paper, developing chemicals, film, and flash bulbs.I couldn’t do more available light because the drug store photo processing wouldn’t push the film speed. I could push the film speed, but I couldn’t print the results.I did get some good photos outdoors and with flash. I took some nice shots outdoors of the pretty girl I knew.With so little money for equipment and supplies, I gave up.In particular, no way could I have gotten paid.Dad saw that I could get paid for mowing grass and cutting hedges. For the grass mowing, I didn’t take the risk of buying a mower and just used one of the customer. For hedges, all I needed were some shearers and a rake, and Dad had good versions of those.Neither I nor Dad ever guessed at my getting paid for photography. And I’d wanted a lot of experience doing well for free before taking on the responsibility for photographing a wedding. Besides, a wedding is such a tricky, intense, emotional social event that I was nowhere near qualified for that environment.How to handle the lighting, focus, and composition for indoor pictures? Sure, with some experience and a little advice, okay, but, again, all I had was an Argus C3, its flash and light meter, ability to develop black and white film, the start on a darkroom for printing film, and nothing on an enlarger, print dryer for glossy prints (I tried some chrome plated sheets but never saw how to get good results), or chemicals or paper.From all I saw, it would take quite a lot of up front capex and opex, experience, and in some cases, social skills, before getting paid for photography.So, I don’t know how you did it!

    2. Adam Sher

      What is an example of 5? Is that a templated email where you input fields like person name, company name, business type, relevant product? I get those and I treat them as spam.

      1. PhilipSugar

        I broke my own rule when I got to 5 :-). What I mean by that is you are sending an email that most of the body went to other people. But you took the time to actually look me up and know what I do and have some unique aspect which I can tell.Knowing something about you. So if I had your email address I obviously would make a comment about tennis.If I send it without that? That’s not targeted.

        1. Adam Sher

          Now the real question is, what do I have to do to get YOU to respond to an email? I struck out!

          1. PhilipSugar

            I did respond I thought? You name the time and place (easy parking please) other than Thursday for a cup of coffee during a time I can miss rush hour both ways how is that?

          2. Adam Sher

            Hah, sounds good. Wednesday, Jan 30, Pilgrim Roasters (Manayunk) 11 AM.

          3. PhilipSugar


  9. LE

    On the other hand, if an email is sent to one partner, with possibly a copy to others,Important to remember what I will call the ‘rule of Yoko Ono’. David Geffen has said that he got Lennon as a client because everybody else was hitting up John and he was smart enough to go after Yoko because she pulled the strings.This is similar to what I found out about sales early on in business. I’d rather be in with the admin assistant [1] than the boss. Common misconception in many firms that the ‘big guy’ will tell his people what to buy or what to do. It’s in many cases it’s the opposite. They rely on those people and while they might suggest something generally they are not going to dictate something that will give someone an excuse to why something didn’t work ‘you told me to use xyz ..’. I first observed this when I was a ‘gofer’ in a law office in high school. This is the type of experience that kids don’t have now because they are off doing (insert something that I think is a waste of time that I won’t mention here).[1] Where we can use that as simply a proxy for a lower level person could be the guy running the loading dock or even the janitor.

  10. Mike Zamansky

    Reminds me of the old emergency first aid advice.Never tell the crowd to call 911 – point to someone and tell them specifically to call 911.

    1. JLM

      .Haha, no truer words were ever spoken.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  11. awaldstein

    Laziness begets little.

  12. Gustavo Melo

    As someone dealing with hundreds of emails coming in daily and no assistant to parse through them, the ownership piece is spot on. You have my attention in an email for maybe 2 seconds before I either dive into it to read carefully or move on.You want me to feel like I personally own the response to this email even if I do take the time to read it carefully, otherwise I’m likely going to shrug and think “maybe I can come to it and respond later” (read: will probably never look at it again until someone nudges me about it).You’re much more likely to get my attention and my reply if the email is 1) clearly addressed to me by name, and; 2) has a clearly requested next step.

  13. JLM

    .Without disagreeing in any manner with Freddie’s post, I find the greatest failing of emails is the absence of a CALL TO ACTION.I read emails and wonder, “WTF is this person asking me to do?”The best thing to do is to put the CTA at the beginning, justify it with the body of the email, repeat it at the end. Then tell the recipient how you intend to follow up.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Susan Rubinsky


    2. sigmaalgebra

      Nice. Kept. Thx.

    3. JamesHRH

      There are only 3 types of email:- information- action request- action responseYou will find people will try to add all kinds of new categories, but a little parsing will bring you back to these 3.CTA should be on your tombstone, as in ‘Called to Action’.;-)

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Really, you were thinking of AOC, Hiledbeest, Mueller, Nasty Nancy?

    4. Vasudev Ram

      Love it. Like the advice for talks or presentations:- Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em- Tell ’em what you said you would tell ’em- Tell ’em that you told ’em what you would tell ’em.- Dusts hands, walks off.

  14. Susan Rubinsky

    Agree, in general.It depends on the circumstances and goal of what is being communicated.There are times when addressing each person individually would be a huge waste of time. For example, I work on a lot of government projects in which there are multiple stakeholders. In some cases, there can be 50-100 stakeholders on a project, including multiple vendors, key government decision makers, elected officials, etc. Because I’m a vendor, I am often required to update the group with key information at certain milestones. I spend a lot of time crafting a succinct message that hits the key points, then include all references, supporting documentation, etc. at the end. I do begin these emails with, “Hello Everyone,…” It’s the most efficient way to handle the disbursement to such a large group.Another example would be during emergency/risk situations where you also have to reach out to a large group of people to let them know something critical as soon as possible. (I am on retainer for emergency communications for several government agencies so I have done this in the past.) In these cases, I might say something along the lines of:Everyone:X emergency is happening.I am handling X and I need person 1 & person 2 to do Y.I’ve already reached out to: X, Y, Z to handle ABC.I’ve been in touch with Homeland security and their report is attached.Stay tuned for updates. Here is the link to the emergency portal to asses activities in real time – [link here]Text or call if you need to talk with me directly – phone # here

    1. PhilipSugar

      Fred specifically says introduction emails, i.e. you don’t know the person. Sure if you are saying hey the insurance deadline is X to employees or there is some big distribution list for emergencies, you are not trying to get them to read and respond. Frankly that is their problem not yours. He is talking about the opposite case where no response is the problem of the person sending.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        You’re right. That’s what happens when I log in here while waiting for a large download while in the middle of a project. I did not pay close enough attention. Me bad.

        1. LE

          Me bad.No ‘me good!’.You know I am going to hassle you about apologizing for that. There is no requirement that someone study a blog post prior to making a comment and to me ‘it’s the opposite’.Besides I don’t get the point of Fred writing a blog post which relates to his small sliver of the world ‘people pitching VC’s’ instead of the more important broader points (such as what you mentioned) that convey information that more people can relate and learn from.If I was worried about keeping on topic I’d probably write much less. So that is why I don’t think about staying on topic.

          1. Susan Rubinsky

            Hahahaha. I get your point. But, the fact is that I didn’t read Fred’s post closely and did miss the “introduction” point. I don’t mind being called out on it. We all have moments where we fail to perceive a key point (for whatever reason). We are human and we are imperfect.

  15. jason wright

    When the old becomes the new. Airmail.