Solving the Email Problem
14 July, 2015
In preparation for the new website, there needs to be a new way of handling email. I'm using this blog post as a temporary way of letting people know, as I answer the outstanding emails, that things are going to change, in shā' Allāh.
The problem is quite simple: emails are taking way too much of my time. So much so that my most important projects, such as the Humble Foundation, are suffering. Despite my best efforts to the contrary, these emails are not decreasing, they're increasing considerably.
Emails are Inefficient
Emails are terribly inefficient - I estimate that I spend an average of 30 minutes answering a question that is specific to one person, and only one person benefits from. I've implemented a whole host of solutions, including canned responses, a four-week response time, and custom software. They've all helped, but they've only helped to slow down the effects of the problem, rather than to fix it.
So, Get Rid of Emails?
I don't think that the answer is to stop people emailing. I enjoy helping and advising people, and there is a great need for this kind of support in the English language. However, the answer is to become more effective and efficient, and - as hard as it is - stricter. Being more effective means limiting the number of emails that come in and filtering the emails which are genuinely important. Being more efficient means dealing with those emails in batches, quickly, and with minimum disruption to important projects. Being stricter covers both of these and means that emails that don't follow the rules will be rejected, repeat offenders will be blocked, and responses will be short and to the point.
There's no doubt that a lot of people who email ask the same questions. One way of making this more efficient is the use of a question and answer database. This has a number of benefits, including allowing people to read and search the answers to other questions, grouping similar questions into one answer, and providing a more comprehensive answer than would be possible by email. This is a high priority for the new website, in shā' Allāh.
In order to make this work, I have to have some pretty strict rules. I've tried to simplify them as much as possible. To begin with, I'll deal with each email manually, before moving to automated acceptance/rejection. I hate having to do this, but you need to understand that every time someone abuses the system, there is someone or something else that suffers, and often the need for that other thing is greater.
- Do your research. My #1 problem is that most people do not read the website, or even attempt to find the answer. "Do you have a lecture on du'aa on YouTube?" is going to get an automatic rejection, as is "I need ruqyah. Can you help me?" and "I've watched all of your videos and I have a quick question: How do I perform ruqyah?"
- Keep it short. The email should not exceed a few lines of text or a short paragraph, and one question. Anything more will be rejected. If I need more background information, I'll ask. As a quick rule, if it takes more than 30 seconds to read, I'm not going to read it. If it helps, pretend that you're sitting in a conference and you have one of those small question slips - those are the kind of questions that I want to encourage.
- There is no exception to point #2, including "I'm really sorry, and I know that you said not to send you a long email, but..."
- Do not send a follow up email or a second question before you receive the answer to the first. Multiple questions from the same person will be rejected.
- Do not use the word "urgent", "priority", "emergency", or any of their synonyms. I'm not a 999/911 service, and it's disrespectful to other patients who may well have cases more urgent than yours.
- Do not send quick-fire questions, such that every time that I answer, you reply with another question. I'm not a machine, we have Google for that. I don't mind you doing so occasionally, but if it becomes the norm, your emails will be rejected.
- Don't ask for ruqyah, dream interpretation, or for someone's contact details. Any clinics that I'm holding will be announced here, and I have enough of my own emails to deal with without being a secretary for Abu Ibraheem. There are many groups who can find you a raaqi in your area, including Ruqya Support, The Ruqyah Room, Ruqya Directory, and others. I can't vouch for the people they recommend, I can only encourage you to watch my videos which include discussions about what to be wary of.
- I've also stopped explaining ta'weez - too many people ask and I've already got more than one video on the topic. However, I will consider making some blog posts on common ta'weez and their meaning. You can still send the ta'weez pictures to me, but I won't usually reply to individual requests for an explanation.
So How Do I Ask You a Question?
It's really easy (as long as you stick to the conditions above).
- If you have a question that is unrelated to ruqyah, send me an email with the word "question" in the subject (or click here).
- If your question is related to ruqyah, send me an email with the word "question" and the word "ruqyah" in the subject (or click here).
- If your question is related to inviting me to speak at an event, send me an email with the word "invite" in the subject (or click here).
- If you have found a mistake in one of my lectures, or on this website, or you have a suggestion to make, send me an email with "correction" or "suggestion" in the subject (or click here).
My email is muhammadtim 'at' gmail 'dot' com.
What Happens After That?
I now review emails once per week, for about three hours. That means that I no longer try to answer all questions within a certain time. Instead, the focus is on answering the most important questions, and those which are of the greatest benefit.
If your question is beneficial to others, it may be selected for the FAQ. In this case, the question will be given a general wording (any personal information will be removed), and added to the queue.
If your question doesn't fit the requirements for the FAQ, I'll do my best to give you a personal answer.
In both cases, you'll receive an email when your question has been answered.
If your question doesn't comply with the rules, you'll get a (polite) email asking you to revise it. If you keep on breaking the rules, your email will be blocked for a certain length of time. If you keep on breaking the rules after that, your email will be blocked permanently.
I just want to finish up by saying a personal jazākallāhu khayran - I know that this new system is not the same as getting a quick personal answer to every question, but I hope and pray that when you see the fruit of this efficiency in the projects that I'm working on, you'll expect your share of the reward for making that possible, after the help of Allāh.