I get upwards of 100+ emails a day with fewer than 10 junk messages getting caught in my spam filters, and I don’t even classify myself as a power email user! Some people I know get at least double that volume and spend half their workday reading and responding to email. What it does sound like is that email is broken or better yet our email habits are broken.
Email in most corporate environments has degenerated into a CYA system that sucks volumes of time and offers less and less value in the face of competition like Twitter, IM or Facebook. In the golden age of handwritten notes writers tended to craft very thoughtful correspondence and then it was only sent to one person. Now in the age of Email Overload, correspondence is less personalized and well thought out and is driven primarily by the need to “just reply”.
In addition to the “craft” of written correspondence dying, the other problem is the “Reply All” button. Reply All seems to have taken over corporate email systems so that, not only has the list of recipients increased in order to cover someone’s butt, but now everyone is replying to everyone else in a vicious cycle of unproductively. Many people I know have even abandoned reviewing email they are CC’d on due to the volume of email they receive. Their logic seems to be “if it’s not To: me then its not that important”. And guess what? They’re probably right.
As the information available to us continues to increase our filters need to be improved. Not only should our filters help us eliminate Junk but hopefully sometime soon they will help us find the “Gold”. I posit that if you want to save email (and messaging in general) from this vicious cycle of unproductively we need to start by designing filters that help us sift through our information and find the most relevant information that can help us perform the task at hand.by