Concept for improving email: StampMail.com

Often, email feels like an impossible torrent of mostly-unwanted information.

For a while, I have felt like one way to improve it would be to require refundable stamps for messages. In order to send you an email, a person might pay $0.50 or $1.00 for a virtual ‘stamp’. When you receive the message, you get to choose whether to refund the sender (perhaps minus a set fee for the email provider), or keep the value of the stamp yourself (again, minus a $0.05 or $0.10 cut).

If emails cost $1 each to send, there would be a lot fewer trivial ones. I doubt many people would totally replace their normal email with StampMail, but a lot might set up a parallel account for higher-priority messages.

Some spam will be profitable enough to make sending emails with stamps worthwhile. There are two responses to this. First, StampMail could be a lot more aggressive than existing email providers about banning accounts that are sending spam. Second, any spam you receive is more tolerable when it comes with a $0.90 to $0.95 payment.

Fry on language

The brilliant Stephen Fry on the balance between rule-following and tiresome pedantry in language use:

I admit that if you want to communicate well for the sake of passing an exam or job interview, then it is obvious that wildly original and excessively heterodox language could land you in the soup. I think what offends examiners and employers when confronted with extremely informal, unpunctuated and haywire language is the implication of not caring that underlies it. You slip into a suit for an interview and you dress your language up too. You can wear what you like linguistically or sartorially when you’re at home or with friends, but most people accept the need to smarten up under some circumstances – it’s only considerate. But that is an issue of fitness, of suitability, it has nothing to do with correctness. There no right language or wrong language any more than are right or wrong clothes. Context, convention and circumstance are all.