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Is Email 'Bankrupt'? 387

Gary W. Longsine writes "The Washington Post writes about a Venture Capitalist and blogger, Fred Wilson, who recently declared 'e-mail bankruptcy', wiping out his inbox and starting over because he couldn't keep up. Spam is cited as one reason. There have been several public incidents, some cited in the article, where the flow of email is just too much to keep up. 'If there is a downside to completely turning a back on e-mail, it's not one many former users notice. Stanford computer science professor Donald E. Knuth started using e-mail in 1975 and stopped using it 15 years later. Knuth said he prefers to concentrate on writing books rather than be distracted by the steady stream of communication.' Is email just too hectic a communication form for some people? Is email dead?"
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Is Email 'Bankrupt'?

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  • by Chris Chiasson ( 908287 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:03AM (#19270139) Homepage
    but when I figure it out, I'll shoot you an email.
    • GTD (Score:2, Insightful)

      People need to read the book Getthing Things Done by David Allen.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        Why am I suddenly reminded of an episode of DLM?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I have a few email accounts that I use when registering myself with online businesses. Some of them get a lot of spam, but it doesn't matter because I only look at them maybe once a year and am only interested in very recent emails anyway.

      I have another email address for personal communication. I only give it out to people directly, and I instruct them to not type it in to web forms that say "send this to a friend!" Once in a while they do anyway, and I nag them about it. It usually lasts a good three o
  • Of course! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AutopsyReport ( 856852 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:06AM (#19270189)
    Judging by the millions of people who use email every second, I think it's safe to place bets on email being dead.
    • by ender- ( 42944 ) <> on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:17AM (#19270379) Homepage Journal

      Judging by the millions of people who use email every second, I think it's safe to place bets on email being dead.
      Yup. Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded. :)
    • Re:Of course! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by porkThreeWays ( 895269 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:32AM (#19270623)
      Dead? No. Annoying as shit and wastes a lot of my time? Hell yes.

      But then again, so are computers in general, and cell phones, and almost any other modern communication technique that allows you to exchange information instantly. You as a person are expected to instantly reply to that information. That's like declaring the telephone dead 30 years after invention. It's really annoying sometimes, but no where near dead.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by BrokenHalo ( 565198 )
        Indeed. A friend of mine was just recently hauled over the carpet for failing to answer a call from her boss on her mobile phone when she was in the loo. To her credit, she told him to get fucked.

        Well, I think she said it a bit more professionally than that:

        Like "Go get professionally fucked." ;->

      • Re:Of course! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tacocat ( 527354 ) <tallison1&twmi,rr,com> on Friday May 25, 2007 @12:29PM (#19271541)

        I particularly like the guy at work who walks over to my desk and says, "Hey there, did you get my email?" when he sent it about 30 seconds ago. What the fuck is he doing? Sending me an email so he can come over and talk to me about whatever it is that's in the email and then wasting my time even more?

        I've started taking the approach of answering "No, but when I do I'll let you know if there are any questions. Right now I'm kind of busy..." What I really want to do is bitch whip him with my mouse.

        When properly used, I like email in that it provides an asynchronous means of communication which does not become time dependent. I can send someone an email at 2:30AM when I happen to awake and just check for an answer later that day or the next. If I really need an instant reply, there's always the phone.

        But I do think there are a lot of people in the world who's email is effectively broken because they cannot keep up with the spam that comes in.

        Could it get better if there were not so many owned machines?

        • Re:Of course! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Friday May 25, 2007 @01:11PM (#19272227) Homepage Journal
          When properly used, I like email in that it provides an asynchronous means of communication which does not become time dependent. I can send someone an email at 2:30AM when I happen to awake and just check for an answer later that day or the next. If I really need an instant reply, there's always the phone.

          Yes, exactly. That's the beauty of properly used e-mail. This is particularly true on large, collaborative projects (especially if some of the collaborators are in drastically different time zones) and it's nice for personal communication as well, since it gives you time to sit down and really think about what you're going to say.

          The problem (besides spam, of course) is that a lot of people seem to regard e-mail as a kind of clunky-but-convenient chat program. They fire back uninformative five-word responses immediately and expect everyone else to do the same. Now, there are times when this kind of back-and-forth may be useful (e.g. exchanging code snippets) but honestly, mostly it's a useless PITA.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by eric76 ( 679787 )
            I've been tempted to filter out all my incoming e-mail that is not PGP or GPG encrypted. Or, at least, signed by the sender's PGP or GPG key.

            That would cut it down enough to be easily manageable.

            I'm afraid that the few people I do want to hear from would think that I'm not worth the effort.
  • by MoneyT ( 548795 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:08AM (#19270229) Journal
    The joy of email is you don't have to answer it right away. If the email you are getting is keeping you from doing real work, then it's because you being to OC over checking and replying and researching every email that comes your way every 15 minutes. Stop checking it so often and learn to prioritize and it's no longer a distraction.
    • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:15AM (#19270331)
      and you don't have to answer a phone every time it rings. if you are talking with someone and they answer their cell phone, immediately walk away
      • Exactly! And that's also why I prefer to send and receive texts now instead of actually calling someone. A text is much less intrusive to someone than a call.
    • by oni ( 41625 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:16AM (#19270343) Homepage
      Stop checking it so often

      indeed. I have turned off the "you've got mail" icons and popups and such. I have a rule that will pop up a message if my boss emails me, but otherwise it's silent. When I get bored, I check my email.

      That really is the key.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by huckda ( 398277 )
      and don't know how to MANAGE e-mail...
      perhaps they need a class in their middle-management coursework...
      This is how you create a sub folder:
      This is how you create a rule for filtering your incoming e-mails into a sub folder:
      This is how you select a plethora of mail you have no interest in reading and how to delete it:
      This is how to click on the little 'x' in the top right-hand corner of the e-mail application to close it and receive no more e-mail for the day(call it your DnD*do not disturb* button) ;)
    • by robably ( 1044462 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:19AM (#19270423) Journal

      Stop checking it so often and learn to prioritize
      A nice side-effect of this is that people stop expecting a reply from you immediately, and so tend to stop sending you so much pointless shit. It's win-win.
    • In the future, email shall become a sixth sense, much as we adapted visual (or auditory) senses as channels for communication, email shall inversely become adapted from a communication into a sense. Managed by complex multichannel filtering AI, we will begin to think "Ad for product; company is stupid" and "Incoming work; avoid, avoid."
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Well, I check Slashdot like every 2 minutes to check and read stories. I think that kills my concentration more than email.
  • Dead (Score:4, Informative)

    by letxa2000 ( 215841 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:08AM (#19270231)

    "Is email dead?"


  • Yes (Score:2, Funny)

    by Himring ( 646324 )
    Yes. Email, computers and cell phones are all dead....

    Yet again, I will shake my head that the editors turned down my ww2 tank find story (you know, where these guys in russia go out with metal detectors and find submerged german and russian tanks around kursk -- I think it was -- and restore them)....


  • by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) * on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:09AM (#19270239)
    I've seen a related phenomenon at least a half-dozen times over the last couple of years. I work in a large organization where lots of people live and die by their email. Lots of computers also means a steady stream of drive failures. Despite all the warnings and training, some people will have no backups. Their entire careers, it seems, are in the contents of the Personal Folders they've created in Outlook and when I tell them it's all irrecoverably gone, they have a panic attack or something close to it.

    Then, two days later, I run into them and they invariably tell me the same thing. They say that the loss of all that stored email was liberating. They feel free to work in the current moment instead of following up on old items that nobody *really* cared about anyway.

    They were able to concentrate on what was important to their peers and bosses. Why? Because they told those people "All my email is gone; please re-send to me anything important" and found that what they got back was far less than they had been trying to keep track of previously.

    I thought this was all very odd until I remembered how I lost my old ccMail files when we transitioned to Exchange so many years ago. I remember the feeling of having dropped the dead weight I'd been carrying for so long.

    My point is that, no, email isn't dead. It is, however, an oppressive presence in the life of many people. Throwing it off and starting over, maybe greatly de-emphasizing its role, is not necessarily a bad thing.
    • amen to this fact, its almost a new trend these days. I have lately been telling colleagues to just reformat their hard drives (minus a few key files, of course) and start fresh with xp/ubuntu/fedora/etc. They look at me like I am crazy but EVERY SINGLE ONE of them that took my advice has come back and thanked me for the advice...they feel a huge sense of relief that there computers are no longer loaded with worthless junk that SEEMED important.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cayenne8 ( 626475 )
        "...they feel a huge sense of relief that there computers are no longer loaded with worthless junk that SEEMED important."

        Interesting...I'm just the opposite. I'm a pretty fast reader, and typist...I generally read pretty much all my email and reply when necessary. I've always been pretty adament about deleting things after I read/reply to them. Until last year or two, I thought pretty much everyone did that. I got into a conversation with friends and was amazed how many of them said things like "I've got

        • by RzUpAnmsCwrds ( 262647 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @09:45PM (#19278827)

          Why do people keep all that old stuff? Email to me is pretty much throw away conversations 99% of the time. I guess some people are packrats with physical stuff, others with electronic stuff.

          Because you'll never know when you'll need it. Perhaps I'll need that CD key from 2 years ago. Or the phone number of the client who I forgot to add to my contacts. Or perhaps I want to know when I started a project, got an account, or switched jobs. Perhaps I'll wnat that paper I wrote two years ago.

          There are hundreds of reasons that I can think of why I might need some email from two years ago. But, mostly, it's the reasons I can't think of.

          It costs me nothing to keep my email permanently. It's on the server, it's someone else's problem.

    • Seems you've identified another undocumented feature of a key microsoft product.

      Well done!

    • by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @12:07PM (#19271203)
      Ah, give that man a banana. This is something I've started to recognise myself in recent years. Since forever I've hoarded stuff 'just in case'. Everytime I move house I drag along hundreds of VHS tapes, piles of CDs, mementos and other junk. My PC has old programs, emails, data files etc. often dating back 20+ years and most I never, ever look at. I kept telling myself it would be good to keep, maybe I'm the only person who kept a copy of that obscure documentary from 1985? That email would be fun from 1990 and so on.
      Then my wife got medieval on me and made me throw out 99% of the tapes and started a rule that any CD that didn't get listened to for say a year got ebay'd or sent to the charity shop. And the data and emails? I pulled out the hard drives on the shelf, checked for anything *really* important (the resulting zip file from 7 hard drives was less than 100k), wiped them (properly, before anyone starts to warn me about that) and sold them. At each stage it felt like having a huge weight lifted from my soul.
      The long and the short is, I now periodically just blitz my emails and if anything is that important, they'll come back to me. Now I have considerably less stress worrying about all the oustanding jobs I'm supposed to be doing.
  • It's your problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cyberianpan ( 975767 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:09AM (#19270241)
    Like many things in life some individuals can't cope. Being deluged by spam is a lame excuse - I use GMail - I sign up to all sorts of dubious services with it& have receievd 1 piece of spam so far.
    At any time I've over 3 other email addresses, the key rule with them is to check them daily else I'll... get a backlog.
    People whinging about email tell more about themselves than email.
    • by Viol8 ( 599362 )
      "People whinging about email tell more about themselves than email"

      No, it says that you've never worked in a big organisation where people firing off an email for every trivial point to entire groups is virtually company policy.
      • No, it says that you've never worked in a big organisation where people firing off an email for every trivial point to entire groups is virtually company policy.

        Actually I do work in big organisations & yes I get quite a lot of "cc" mail. I reckon on bad days I get over 50 mails addressed to me as cc. First off: if I am cc I lightly skim mail, mostly I don't respond. Secondly: if someone cc's me on a very detailed mail (> 200 words), that wasn't discussed in advance with me: then they are making a mistake.
        Same as everything else: I don't go to all meetings I'm invited to ( I pick the ones I need/want to go to). It's a simple matter of managing your pro

  • Say 'no' (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:09AM (#19270243) Homepage Journal
    Seems some people have trouble saying 'no'. I have e-mail coming in, requesting me to do things, to think something through, to agree on something, god knows what.

    So I say "no." No, I don't have time to think about it. No, I don't have to read this. No, I am not the one to agree with you on this.

    I always reply, though, but sometimes just a polite "no". If you don't reply, that's when people start calling. What's next, declaring that the telephone is bankrupt?
  • and like any tool one needs to know how to use it properly.

    Spam has never wasted a second of my time. Anything that makes it through my filter is ignored. I don't even bother to delete it.

    If somebody starts sending me bloated useless emails, I just start innoring them.

    I just think the problem is that some people who use email do not understand that you just have to ignore junk mail that comes. Just like with snail mail, it goes directly in the recycle bin. Do not bother reading it to make sure it is j
  • At my place of business, it seems the biggest hurdle people have with keeping up with email is organization. This is really noticeable with the older Civil Engineers in my office that didn't start out using email. I know one that just lets his inbox fill up until it gets near 1000 then has our IT manager archive it (the IT manager has tried explaining how to create new personal folders in Outlook, but it is a lost cause).

    I know you need to save email for CYA situations, but what good does it do if you
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mini me ( 132455 )

      but what good does it do if you can't find the email you need?

      That's what the search feature is for. I have over 4000 messages in my Inbox and I intend to let that grow indefinitely because it makes it ridiculously easy to find exactly what I'm looking for. There's no benefit to moving the messages elsewhere or deleting them, it just makes things harder when you want to find an old message.
  • by chipotlehero ( 982154 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:11AM (#19270259)
    Advanced filtering and tagging makes it easy to prioritize your email. If you don't have time to read your low priority email, then simply don't read it. There's no law saying you have to read every email you receive. It's stupid to turn your back on all your email just because you can't read some of it.
    • Advanced filtering and tagging makes it easy to prioritize your email. If you don't have time to read your low priority email, then simply don't read it.

      Filtering doesn't even have to be very "advanced" to work. I automatically filter out the low priority stuff in the inbox by finding the terms: "important" "improtant" "message" "letter" "email" and "note" in the subject + anything marked "high priority". It's amazing how unimportant an email is when the subject is "A message from John Smith". I know i

  • I find it hard to believe that if you filter out spam, news digests, etc. and are down to personal communications, that you are honestly getting too many unless you're the president. If you are getting that many and you're not being paid enough to hire help, you should seriously reconsider why it is you're getting that many emails. Those add up to a sizeable population and should probably equate to some kind of increase in responsibility, and ergo an increase in pay significant enough to employ an assistant.
  • by Cr0w T. Trollbot ( 848674 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:11AM (#19270267)
    ...just as soon as I get that $7 million I have coming to me from a Nigerian Prince.

    Crow T. Trollbot

  • I use e-mails at work as a way to post bulletins to co-workers, to send files and to contact customers when a phone call isn't necessary. My personal e-mail account is used for website registration/verification, newsletters and bills. Social Networking sites have eased the burden of sending your friends "e-mails."

    Honestly, if i call someone a real friend i usually just phone or text them. So is e-mail dead? I say no. It's handy, but hardly the thing it might have been years ago.

  • by patio11 ( 857072 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:13AM (#19270297)
    I know having 2,500 emails unread would cause me stress. It used to. Here is how I learned to cope:

    * POPFile to weed out the overwhelming majority of the spam. If you've got 4 spams to 1 legit email life seems pretty freaking unimaginably difficult, and nowadays my server inboxes are closer to 100 to 1. My actual client inbox is about 1 to 100 thanks to POPFile.

    * Automatically filter automated emails (trade confirmations, bank statements, EBay whatever, anything without a human on the line) to a "I will probably never need this but just in case" folder. This generally requires setting up one rule in your client per business you do business with, or if you're like me you double up on the POPFile goodness and tag them all "auto" then just move based on that tag.

    * Check email twice per day, moving every email out of the inbox after it is dealt with. Anything left in your inbox should be a pressing work matter -- if not, move it out, its done. In between my scheduled email checks I only fire it up if I'm looking to make some work for myself. If someone thinks they need a response immediately and I care that they think they need a response immediately, then they have my phone number.

    * Get on with life.
  • by MontyApollo ( 849862 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:14AM (#19270317)
    I could see a blogger getting a lot of e-mail, doesn't that go with the territory. Especially a venture capitalst blogger, won't you get a lot of emails asking for money?

    My spam filter works at removing the vast majority of my spam, but I only get 150-200 spam per day.

    Email works for me because it doesn't force me to stop what I'm doing and pick up a phone. And you can send photos, documents, etc...

    Email is far from dead for the average person.
  • One solution to spam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by uradu ( 10768 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:14AM (#19270321)
    Since I've started using Gmail spam has been mostly a non-issue. Their spam filter is INCREDIBLY good, I maybe receive unfiltered spam a couple of times a month or so. I've pretty much given up on "heavy client" email apps, such as Thunderbird which I used before then. Now if they provided IMAP access to Gmail and mobile push access like Windows Live it would be perfect.
    • by AutopsyReport ( 856852 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:38AM (#19270709)
      Actually I find Thunderbird quite good. Up to last year I used Outlook until I found a need to organize emails belonging to multiple addresses, so I was recommended Thunderbird. In addition to doing what I wanted it to, Thunderbird also eliminated the spam I was receiving. Now spam is immediately sent to the Junk folder. Anything that snakes its way through is tagged as junk and I never see it again.
  • by Critical Facilities ( 850111 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:14AM (#19270323)
    If you're getting hundreds or thousands of spam emails every day in your inbox, then you clearly should find some other means of communication as it would seem that email is too tricky and complicated for you.

    However, the rest of us who know enough to keep decent spam filters turned on and updated and have mastered the "secret art" of having several dummy email accounts to enter into various online forms (which will in turn get loaded with spam) will keep using this "bankrupt" communication tool. I get MAYBE 2 - 3 spam emails that get by my filters in a day. I get NONE at my work email (and yes, I send a fair amount of email). I just think it's a cop out for laziness when people claim to be drowning in spam. They've obviously made errors in judgement in the past and have "compromised" their email address. It may be time for a new address which should be protected and provided only to those who need it, but to forsake the entire medium is ridiculous.
  • by Cpt_Kirks ( 37296 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:16AM (#19270341)
    Email beats the shit out of IM. At least you can ignore email for a little while.

    Not so with IM. When that frakking window pops up and starts flashing, it is almost impossible to ignore. I don't even have ANY IM software installed at home, but at work it is mandatory.

    I HATE IM!!!

  • bah (Score:4, Funny)

    by pytheron ( 443963 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:16AM (#19270353) Homepage
    Same thing happens with mobile numbers... too many stalker girls get a hold of it, and before you know it, you don't want to read your texts/listen to your answerphone. So you change your number and let people who you want to contact you have the new one. Simple. Works fine with mobiles. If someone really urgently needs to get hold of you, they will be able to. The same works for email addresses. Stop getting so attached to numbers/email addresses. They are only tools to facilitate contact.
  • Uh no. If anything, the way some people handle email may be outdated, but that's about the most that can be said about it. Personally, I tell everyone to email me if they have something for me. Then, when I'm between projects or otherwise not occupied ( ie: slacking off ), I'll go through my inbox and pop things to do on the ol' corkboard. Low tech, sure, but it works. Then, I'll simply go through the cork board by priority and be done with it.

    Some people want to spaz out over every bit of communicatio
  • Email isn't dead. Spam did kill my first email address after I had it for seven years. When I got my own domain, I created a general purpose email address and a email address for all the email lists I subscribe to. That and my ISP's anti-spam efforts has cut down on the amount of spam I get. Email is manageable if you get it organized first. Having 2,000+ emails sitting in your inbox is plain nuts.
    • by Falkkin ( 97268 )
      "Having 2,000+ emails sitting in your inbox is plain nuts."

      Lock me up, then :)

      ---Mutt: =ok [Msgs:15816 Flag:16]---

      Almost 16K non-spam messages in my mailbox and it doesn't drive me crazy. Of these, 16 are flagged as important, which basically means "I should look at these every day as a reminder for stuff I need to do." And a lot of it is stuff like "Barbecue Friday, 7pm". I rewrite the subjects of important mail so that it's clear at a glance why I chose to flag the message. With a couple hand-crafted
  • of course email is still useful, and it always will be

    people like Fred Wilson and Donald E. Knuth i think are really just covering for a desire to be less social. which is not a bad instinct if you want to write a book or get some real work done, and to have a good cover story like "my email inbox is chock full, i can't deal with it" is a nice way to brush certain people off who otherwise might get offended

    i have 2 email addresses. 1 everyone knows about, and it is usually barely looked at, full of crap that got in my inbox because i needed an email address to sign up for some site, sort-of friends and their useless and retarded forwarded email jokes, recruiters pumping job offers, etc. i'd say i read 1 out of every 25 emails for that address, and barely scan the headlines for the rest

    the other address is piped to my blackberry and is paid attention too, as the only people who get it are family, close friends, work, etc

    i think that's a good bifurcation to live with: a public email address and a private one. and it's an easy and obvious management idea. anyone could have figured it out

    so to play this lame game of skewering email itself is just a cover story for a deeper desire to get away from the constant chatter of life. again, not a bad instinct, but it reveals that "oh noes! email is dead!" is not the real story here, never was, and never will be, even though you will always hear the refrain, time and time again, whenever someone wants to unplug and tell a white lie in order to do that without offending
    • by Niten ( 201835 )

      Oh, come on. Everybody knows that Knuth's abandonment of his email account was just a clever ploy to increase TeX market share, by forcing everyone to use it to write physical mail to him.

    • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:37AM (#19270695) Homepage Journal
      According to the article, Knuth gave up on email in 1990. I know that as a Stanford processor he's on the cutting edge, but 1990 was way before email became something that everybody and his brother had. I suppose the term "spam" had been coined, but Canter and Siegel were still four years off. How much email could the man have gotten?

      So I concur with you that he just didn't want to talk to people. And that's funny, because email is a wonderfully standoffish way to communicate. I'm not on the hook to respond immediately. You and I don't have to be ready to talk at the same instant, the way you do on the phone.

      I just played phone tag for two weeks with one bastard who didn't return most of my calls. If he'd give me a freaking email address he could have dashed off a note with the binary answer I needed in 30 seconds any time he wanted. (Literally, all I wanted was a yes-or-no answer. Dipstick finally called me this morning.)

      Of course, this is the same Don Knuth who proposed that programming classes should be taught without computers, and you expel any student who writes a compiler for the language you're teaching in. He wanted to get students to be good at paper debugging. So maybe the inventor of TeX is just a luddite.
      • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @02:02PM (#19273141) Homepage

        I've communicated with Knuth, and I found him to be anything but a standoffish, asocial curmudgeon. I thought I might have found a typo in his book, and thought I might have a chance at getting one of his famous checks that he sends to people who find errata. (If I'd gotten one, then, like most recipients, I would have framed it instead of cashing it. It turned out that the "typo" was just an unusual-looking diacritical mark on a Hungarian name.) He wrote back a very friendly, gracious email, with an explanation. Knuth doesn't have anything against social contact or communication AFAICT -- he simply wants to have some control over how it takes place and how much of his time it's going to take up.

        I feel the same way, really. The college where I work gave me an email an email address when I started teaching there, in 1996. I haven't read any mail sent to that address since 1997. (I believe my box is actually over its quota, and therefore messages sent to it are bouncing.) One of the reasons I don't read mail sent to that account is that there's an easy to use broadcast address, of the form, that causes mail to go to that address. Therefore any address on that broadcast list gets a ton of what's come to be known as "occupational spam."

        For the e-mail address I actually do use, I use it on my own terms. For example, I have a filter that automatically bounces mail sent in html-only format, or mail that comes with images as attachments. With my students, I require them to use a web-based form to send me mail, because otherwise I get, e.g., mail from students with aol addresses, whose names I can't infer from the mail, and mail with attachments in Word format which could have been sent as text.

    • people like Fred Wilson and Donald E. Knuth i think are really just covering for a desire to be less social.
      Or maybe more social. I know that I use email less and less, preferring to use the phone or face-to-face communication. I actively encourage people to call me or meet up rather than email me.
  • Yeah, right, it's dead. What is this crap? So a handful of people have decided not to use e-mail. Allow me to point out that the other 99.9% of people who have it, are using it.

    I use snail mail sparingly. In my mind, it's certainly deader than e-mail, but neither is "dead." What a stupid statement to make or question to ask. E-mail isn't going to disappear. God, we can only hope that it improves and, granted, it hasn't improved much. Some sort of certification system to put an end to spam and other unwanted
  • Spam is one thing, piles of legitimate e-mail is another. Some people have hundreds of issues a day, and if e-mail is abandoned, some other form of communication will take its place. The busiest people with large amounts of work-related e-mail have a secretary to filter and re-direct messages.
  • I agree (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Crazy Taco ( 1083423 )

    I actually have to agree with this talk about bancruptcy. Honestly, email has gotten to the point where I can't keep up with it either. I'm a software developer, and I get so many emails at work that it can take me at least a couple hours in the morning just to read them all. When you only have an 8 hour workday, and two hours of it is spent emailing, that's clearly bad for the company. I delete 50% of them at least without even looking at more than the subject and senders name, because if it appears to be

    • by tweek ( 18111 )
      A few points:

      Also, I know that email is not used for really critical communication. I know I can just delete the email, because if it is something really urgent, someone will call me about it.

      You MIGHT want to clarify that with everyone in the world who will send you email. I agree that email is not an appropriate medium for critical communication but that doesn't mean it doesn't get treated that way. I've made it a policy where I work that if anyone has anything critical for me, they need to speak with me in real-time about it. Otherwise they will need to assume it won't get read in the time they expect it to.

      Automated emails by machines should be banned, or at least restricted. As a developer, I am constantly getting emails from servers telling me that some job has run successfully, or that some automated procedure is done, and I couldn't care less.

      Then modify the jobs. What I find happening many times is that when som

  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:19AM (#19270425) Homepage Journal
    "Nobody goes there any more. It's too crowded."
  • are digital slave collars. Like cell phones and pagers.

    A couple of weeks ago, I was at dinner with a co-worker and a couple of his friends. One of his friends is a first-year attorney at a big law firm. He got demanding messages from work about every 10 minutes during dinner. I could see the stress on his face when he got the messages. That Blackberry surely did not improve the quality of his life.

    And most of the global e-mail is pushing Viagra or pumping penny stocks. The 3rd large category is someon
  • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:23AM (#19270503)
    Email is the largest and most critical app for businesses today. It requires administration, and it requires diligence on the part of email services provides-- who uniformly don't care if their systems are abused. It costs money, and no one wants to spend money. Yet no other app has done a better job of propelling the Internet, and business-to-business communications, as well as people-people communications. Yes, IM is great; so is texting, but email is the best because it's rich media.

    It's kind of like spending money for a car, then find out you have to change the oil, the timing belt, rotate tires, and so on. Those whose inboxes are constantly full are idiots not to use intelligent spam filters, keep their email addresses from being harvested by bots, and other common-sense use policies.

    Every once in a while, it's just fine to get away from your email app and breathe. Voicemail was invented to allow people to control their phone time, and there are numerous ways to prevent email overload. As a friend of mine once said, we're the humans-- they're the computers-- we're in control.
  • My "sent items" has 26,272 emails in it. My inbox only has 9,876 emails (7 unread, 59 flagged for follow up.) I'm not sure how many other folders of filed emails I have, or how many emails are in them, but I do know that I automatically back up the entire thing every night while I sleep, and the back up file is 6.1 GB. This system is great. So many things I am not forced to remember, My email is like a supplemental digital memory for my brain, that is searchable by keyword, sent to, received from, and date
  • Email Bankruptcy.... Does this mean that if I can't keep up with my spam, I can file for Chapter 11?
  • by the.Ceph ( 863988 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:29AM (#19270575)
    Email might be dead, but I'm going to keep using it until Netcraft confirms it.
  • <sarcasm>Yes, of course email is dead.</sarcasm>

    Some people have a hard time dealing with distractions, some people have a hard time prioritizing, so let's blame it on the medium. These are probably the same people who had huge piles of paper and couldn't keep up with the deluge of paper mail and memos twenty years ago.

    Other people, myself included, love email. I telecommute full time (from across the country) and could not do my job without email. I have almost all of my email about back

  • he's "bandwidth bankrupt" too. At least for his blog site.
  • Filter your inbox (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:42AM (#19270767) Homepage

    I run everything inbound through a spam filter first. Anything flagged as spam gets ignored until the end of the day, then I make a quick pass through to see if anything jumps out at me as valid and delete everything else. The stuff that makes it into my inbox I ask three questions about:

    1. Do I need to remember this for the future?
    2. Do I need to respond to this?
    3. Do I need to respond to this now?
    If the answer to #3 is yes, I respond and file the message. If the answer to #2 is yes, I flag it for follow-up. At the end of the day I recheck all the flagged messages and if I still need to respond I do. If the answer to #1 is yes, I file the message in the appropriate folder and flag it based on how long I figure I need to remember it. If the answer to all three is no, I delete the message. Once a month I make a pass through my folders and delete messages I don't need or want to keep any longer.

    80% or more of my mail gets deleted within 48 hours of arriving (or, at work, filed in the "preserve the evidence for the upcoming court-martial" folder).

  • Poor me! I have too much email that I have to read! Boo hoo hoo, I can't figure out how to subscribe to a service that provides respectable spam filtering! I'm incapable of not responding to every single email that comes in within 10 minutes! Waaaaa! It's not my fault I have no time management skills, it's because of EMAIL! Won't someone please protect me?!?!

  • Is email just too hectic a communication form for some people?
    If anything, I find phone calls and personnal conversations (while working) more disruptive. I mean, here you are, working on something, and you HAVE to stop in order to talk to the other person. Email, on the other hand, can wait until I'm done with whatever I'm in the middle of doing.
  • it's information overload in general

    too many emails to process in too many email addresses (god- I have 5 or 6?)
    too many posts on too many message boards to read and process (active on 7 to 10 forums)
    too many television shows to keep up with (with resulting societal fragmentation-- no "water cooler" shows to bond with)
  • There's a fix for email, which is scrapping the current infrastructure completely and setting up an incompatible system with whatever security/authentication is required to keep the signal to noise higher.

    It has to be backwards incompatible so it doesn't just bring along all the spam problems, and to do that enough people have to say "I'm done with email and will no longer have an email address, I'm using this instead if you want to "email" me you'll have to too".

    Just like all such things a critical number
  • by blhack ( 921171 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:55AM (#19270979)
    Keep in mind that people use email for quite a bit more than just exchanging messages with each other. For instance: I work with a company that has an inbox set up that grabs any properly formatted Excel sheets that come in, pushes them through a database, then replies a result (I work in an auto auction, the customer will put all of his purchases into the excel spreadsheet, send it off, and the bot replies to him where to send all of the cars). Some people might argue that this is something better suited for FTP, or maybe some CGI on a webserver...but email works PERFECTLY for this application. EVERYONE has email, and it works almost 100% of the time. In fact, just about every non computer-literate person i know uses their email like an FTP. If they want to share a file with somebody, they email it. If they want to have something available to them where ever they go (as long as they have a net connection) they email it to themselves. Google even has the ability to play MP3s directly from your inbox. This makes sense though, what is easier? FInding an FTP server for your windows box, creating a rule on your firewall, and then remembering your IP address, or setting up some DNS action (even more fun when you have a dynamic address, don't know what a NAT/FIREWALL is, have no idea what an IP address is, and have never heard of FTP), or just sending a simple email?

    So...maybe to the old school UNIX admin who uses MUTT as their mail might be dead, but in the big time business world, it is very very much alive.
  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @12:00PM (#19271059) Journal
    The vast majority of people I encounter who complain about "email overload" are the ones still receiving everything into one huge "Inbox" folder initially. Then in most cases, they're manually sorting things out as they read them, placing them in manually created sub-folders.

    If they'd take a couple hours out of their busy day, just once, to create some sensible automatic filtering rules in their email client, I suspect it would pay off for most of them pretty quickly.

    The truth is, most people receive regular emails from specific addresses, so these could be sorted just by a basic "if mail is from, then ..." rule. If you regularly do online purchasing with certain vendors, you can automatically dump their emails into a "Web order related" folder, for example.
  • by VWJedi ( 972839 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @12:49PM (#19271883)

    Am I the only one who noticed that the headline doesn't match the summary?

    "Is Email 'Bankrupt'?" implies that there is a major problem with e-mail itself, while the summary talks about "blogger, Fred Wilson, who recently declared 'e-mail bankruptcy', wiping out his inbox and starting over because he couldn't keep up." It sounds like Mr. Wilson's e-mail got out of hand. This is like posting the headline "Is money 'bankrupt'?" with an article about someone's poor financial planning causing them to file (financial) bankruptcy.

    There are really two separate issues that are getting "smooshed" together into one:

    1. What are the problems (and solutions) to an individual's e-mail reaching an unmanageable state?
    2. Is there a major problem with e-mail that is leading people to look elsewhere for their communications needs?

    The two questions are certainly related, but they are not the same thing!

  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @01:19PM (#19272387)
    I receive somewhere around 500 e-mails a day, mostly on various technical mailing lists. Currently my spam rate is about 2-3 messages per day. I don't don't take any particular care to hide my e-mail address on the web. The reason my spam rate is so low is largely a technical one. Greylisting currently kills 90% of any spam heading for my e-mail address, right at the server before any spam message is even transmitted.

    However, this cannot last forever. Spam has slowly increased after greylisting from none to 2-3 a day, as the spammers zombie hosts start acting more like normal RFC-compliant hosts. Spam stocks make it through after dutifully waiting out the 20 minute delay.

    In short it is an arms race. E-mail is getting less and less useful, even with the technological solutions like greylisting, filtering on expressions, etc.
  • If you asked Greta Garbo or Howard Hughes instead of Knuth, they'd have said "public places are dead", and while most celebrities are less celebrated... they are an edge case. Most people don't have that enough *legitimate* mail in their inbox to make dumping email a rational response.

    Spam, now, that's a real problem... and it's a pity that the Direct Mail Association has consistently fought against any legislation that would have any real effect on spam, one assumes they share the common but misguided notion that it's impossible to create good anti-spam legislation that would allow the legitimate use of email in marketing (no, that's NOT an oxymoron).

    But absent effective legislation what one might call "excessive promotional speech" is a problem for anything that makes communication more efficient. Were people to abandon email for some other medium, they'd find that clogging up just as quickly.

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!