photo © 2009 Chad Swaney | more info (via: Wylio)
If you’ve spent much time working in a heavy tech related job, you’ll quickly learn how annoying email can be. No matter who you are, it’s rare that you don’t at some point feel overwhelmed by the number of emails staring at you in your inbox.
Numerous tech luminaries have written about email overload, including going as far as declaring email bankruptcy. The concept of “inbox zero” is often tweeted about as a fantasy land where you actually have replied to, deleted, or processed every email in your inbox.
There are even multiple investor-backed startups such as Unsubcribe.com or ccLoop who are working at solving the “email problem”.
This was brought up again recently in an article on Techcrunch by MG Siegler about Tumblr’s new messaging system. While it looks like a pretty standard application messaging system, MG is excited about it as another place he can get messages that isn’t his email inbox. MG writes:
Yes, all of this stuff is rudimentary for a messaging system. But again, it does offer a small email relief in that it’s a new system with a slightly higher barrier to entry (you need to have a Tumblr account, unless you choose to allow anonymous messages). Mixed with Facebook Messages, Twitter, Twitter DMs, group messaging apps (Beluga, GroupMe, etc), and soon iMessage, I have a bunch of small work-arounds to avoid the nightmare that is my email inbox.
MG’s solution actually seems like the opposite of a solution to me. I have a personal Tumblr site like MG does, a Twitter account, Facebook account, the blog you’re reading, a LinkedIn account, a Quora account, and other various applications where I can get messages. I actually feel more overwhelmed by all the different places I have to go to gather the messages meant for me, then I do from the number of emails in my inbox.
When all the messages meant for me are coming to my inbox, I can handle them without switching to different systems, I can use filters, I can use labels/folders, and can do it all on one device without switching from mobile to PC. How does breaking up my messages across all these different applications actually lessen the burden? Does it lower the quantity or increase the quantity?
If anything maybe there is mental value of getting some variety by getting out of email, but I actually think the fragmentation of messaging takes up more time and makes me more likely to miss something.
Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe I just don’t get as much email as some of those who have complained publicly about it. I’ve led numerous teams of 30 people or less, and while I was at Yahoo! there were definitely some times in which a lot of email was coming my way.
I’ve tended to be able to handle the email load through effective filtering, keeping my subscriptions to lists and commercial newsletters to a minimum, and realizing the more email I send the more likely I am to get email in return.
But, I’m also not a tech journalist or notable venture capitalist so it’s quite possible I just haven’t felt the pain as badly where breaking up messages across multiple applications seems like a welcome thing. Someday…