why I cannot stand committees’ email debates…

I generally dislike committee work for the amount of useless [or low signal-to-noise] email it induces. In a conference committee I am was part of, a debate started on whether or not we should accept sponsorship from a corporate sponsor and nominate a speaker for the associated lecture (named after a prestigious scientist, not after the sponsor). Some members of the committee went viral about this and inundated us with requests for action and for taking position, to such a level that I eventually reacted with the following email to the initiator of the virus:

Dear Zeno of Elea,

While I stayed away from a debate I was not in the least interested in, the latest emails were so aggressive and borderline insulting that I felt compelled to rise to the bait and to add to an already high level of static noise. When I was asked to join this committee, it was to nominate plenary speakers for a conference, not to debate about the sorry state of the World, nor to hear about your quibble on whether or not accepting sponsor money from one corporate source or another is evil.

On a general basis, I am not interested in being forced into debates in this low-content high-noise format and I cannot stand the invasion of my mailbox by a flow of emails that has turned viral. I hope this point contributes to enlighten you as to why some members of the committee did not reply to earlier emails or to the call for a doodle vote. I am simply not interested. And I do not think any of this gesticulation will have any impact on the sorry state of the World. So please leave me out of this debate.

My incensed reaction is not about the sponsorship issue (which I think is terribly trivial) but (a) about the holier-than-thou attitude that considers that everyone should take a stand, chose one side (with an obvious choice), and be ashamed of one’s lack of involvment, and (b) about using collective emails to enforce this strategy. I am a strong believer in Arrow’s theorem and email debates are adding another magnitude of impossibility to committee decisions.

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