Email isn’t broken

I came across this article asking: Is email broken? Apparently many people and orgs think it is.

My answer is a resounding “No!”. Email is much less of a problem for me than it used to be say ten years ago. From the analysis the writer of that article,the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones, carried out on his inbox, it’s pretty clear that a lot of his problems are ultimately of his own making. I don’t experience most of the things he talks about, because I use email differently than he does.

  • As the article says, a lot fewer people are using email now. So how come there is still a problem of being overwhelmed with email? I get a lot fewer emails than I used to because a lot of communications have moved to other channels. Ten years ago I might have got family pics or other social chatter in email, now that’s more likely to come via Whatsapp.

  • I have several different email addresses for different purposes. That makes it easy to keep apart important emails from general bumpf. It also means I can set up the email software on my devices in such a way that msgs from critical people will ding me, but I’m not bothered by other stuff.

  • I rarely subscribe to email newsletters. In as much as I even want to keep up with news from some company or org, I’ll add them to a Twitter list. And before doing even that I’m conscious of the fact that I can only keep up with so much, and it’s a waste of time to add things of minor interest to my feeds.

  • Mention of Twitter brings me to this thought: moving to other platforms won’t help much if you carry on with the same behavior. All you’d succeed in achieving is replacing your email overwhelm with Twitter overwhelm, Yammer overwhelm or whatever.

  • Incidentally, remember when email spam used to be a huge thing? Nowadays the filters and other anti-spam measures have gotten so good I barely see any.

  • Another worthwhile habit is letting people know (when it happens) that I’d rather they didn’t send me viral videos, jokes, wild rumors etc. As per the last point, that goes for things sent on Whatsapp as much as by email.

Overall, if anything I find email is much more useful and much less problematic than it was ten years ago. Compared to other forms of communication, it’s more permanent, more easily searchable, more flexible, and better for back-and-forth conversations of substance.