Avalanche of e-mail: Electronic correspondence is so one-way

Editor’s Note: Dana Greenlee’s weekly technology column, which normally runs on Friday, is appearing a day early to make room for a story in tomorrow’s paper on the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber’s business Expo 2002. Today’s column is by Rob Greenlee, founder/host of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show. He is the “spousal unit” of Dana Greenlee (as she puts it).

By Rob Greenlee, Technology Columnist
My recent inbox contents:
– NEW!! BuyDomains.com is now offering 15% OFF Domain Renewals!;
– Friend, Learn to Play the Piano;
– Save 66% on HP Photo Printers, Plus Manager’s Chairs Only $49.99;
– Your Life Insurance CO does NOT WANT you to know this.; and
– Your Commissions of $5000 per WEEK!

E-mail, E-mail, E-mail is coming to my inbox everyday by the hundreds. My inbox is like my street mailbox.

If only the contents of e-mail could be recycled. It seems as though fewer e-mails are personal and create a true conversation. Most e-mail is junk mail or Spam. This is nothing new.

My expectation of e-mail is exceeding the actual experience and that is a danger sign.

Even when I send a personal e-mail it seems most often that it goes unanswered for many days, weeks or never.

My prediction is that e-mail is now and will become more of a true electronic delivery box than a personal two-way communication tool.

We are getting deluged with e-mail and most cannot keep up. When you cannot keep up, human nature is to procrastinate – or worse, just get frustrated.

I can easily see how this happens as my inbox grows to over 1,000 e-mails and archived past e-mails totals 10,000. I am exceeding my capacity to deal with e-mail. I am getting tired and that is possibly a bad sign for the fabled Internet Killer application.

The reason I am getting tired of e-mail is because of e-mail newsletters and commercial spam. It is not that the content of these e-mails is all that bad; it is just the overwhelming numbers of it.

People must spend so much time sifting through junk e-mail that they don’t have any time to actually find and reply to personal e-mails.

This seems to be an unhealthy evolution online, but could be why we are seeing Instant Messaging grow and do so well. IM does a better job of e-mail than e-mail; it is truly instant and very personal. IM services know when you are online and notify everyone on your buddy or friends list.

The only way we can save e-mail from its one-way delivery box fate is to inspire e-mail client software to have much better filtering and automatic sorting.

If the Internet Killer Application wants to hold back IM and keep its Killer Application title it must deal with e-mail excesses and give me time to get personal with my e-mail again.

The WebTalkGuys is a Tacoma-based talk show featuring technology news and interviews. WebTalkGuys was just named the top “Hidden Gem” in PCWorld Magazine’s August 2002 issue. It is broadcast locally on KLAY 1180 AM Saturdays at 11 a.m. The show is also on CNET Radio in San Francisco and Boston, on the Web at www.CNETRadio.com, www.WebTalkGuys.com and via the XM Satellite Network, on the IM Networks’ Sonic Box and on the Mobil Broadcasting Network. Past shows and interviews are also Webcast via the Internet at: