It’s *information* overload, not email overload

I am so tired of reading blog posts that point the finger at email and imply that the problem is that we have too much email and that the solution are other technology streams, 1:many communication, etc.

Guess what folks, email has 1:many too, call them groups or mailing lists or distribution lists or whatever you want, but they are a contributor to the information overload, not a solution.

What we have is a human problem, not anything inherent to email. The lower the barrier to entry for a communications channel (+ the ease of reaching others - i.e. is the audience out there listening) the more it will be used. It doesn't matter if it goes over SMTP or SIP or HTTPs or whatever the Next Big Thing will be.

This is the first rational post I've seen about this issue. We need 'goldpan' solutions - and not just for email but for all these newer communication streams.

And to be clear, I don't think Microsoft (or anyone else) has goldpan solutions yet. We have pieces of sieves, but we still ask users to put them together and come up with their own goldpan. I do believe we'll get there eventually, but progress seems like molasses at times.

Comments (9)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Following on to my short rant yesterday , I wanted to share some information from a survey we did about

  2. Anonymous says:

    KC had a post recently about " E-mail overload " – so called, and arguing we shouldn’t point

  3. karen says:

    Couldn’t help it – had to comment.

    The lower barrier to entry caused me to snicker. Remember when various family members (who shall remain nameless) first got "online" six or eight years ago? Oh, the spate of "Jimmy is dying and wants emails from as many people as possible to help give him hope for world peace in his final days." and "Tampons contain Anthrax" and all that crap.

    Should we create a social filter akin to an IQ test for email? Simple Turing test. When you first turn on email, you get 10 seemingly random emails. If you forward all to your entire address book, you’re given a tidy little sandbox to play in where very little of your email actually leaves the sandbox, unless it goes to others who have mutually agreed to read your sh!t.

    But meanwhile, this brings me to the other point I was coming here to make – people still are absolutely STUNNED and AMAZED when I inform them that I read things like yahoo groups emails ON THE WEB ONLY.

    "You mean, you don’t get those in your inbox?" Heck no! I can’t take the mental clutter. Instead, when I have time, I go to the website. On my time. When I’m in my Quadrant II (Important, not Urgent – Thanks to Covey.) Instead of that crap all getting blasted to me in drips and drabs, where it universally falls into Quadrant III (Not Important, but Urgent because it *just got here* and my stupid brain translates that to urgent even though it’s a made-up urgency.)

    Yes, it means sometimes I miss things. It means sometimes I’m not up on the latest gossip or chatter about some made-up problem. But it also means when I do check in, I can quickly scan and find the nuggets I want to pay attention to. Flat out, this is where the human value-add is. I’m better at scanning for what’s important to me than ANYONE or ANYTHING else. I can tell the computer about subjects that interest me, and maybe the AI guys will get their act together and make the computer learn from my trends, but today I am still the best filter for what is important to me.  

    Honestly, people have no idea you can do this sort of "read on web only" stuff with listserv-types of lists that offer config for email, online, or hybrid (ala facebook – email alerts to online activity.) I actually like Facebook’s model. Does that make me sound pathetic, liking the latest? But it does work for me and the way I do things.

    One of the problems? Novices haven’t yet figured out their true personal preferences. They don’t have the vocabulary to express them, much less understand the options and determine what works best for them and their style of working. But now I’m headed dangerously close to Internet Therapy, so I will stop it here.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post and the link, goldpan. That’s a good visual.

  4. karen says:

    Forgot to mention, I am sure there are people who configure their Outlook inboxes with rules and folders, and then are self-disciplined about not checking the folders that they have compartmentalized some content into. I don’t have that level of self-discipline. When that little pop-up shows up in the lower right corner, I’m compelled to look and see what message just came in. 99 times out of 100 I then go ahead and read the message anyway.

  5. jan says:

    well, xobni ( helps at least a little bit.



  6. Stefan says:

    The reason email is so frequently associated with information overload is largely a side effect of its pervasiveness and robustness resulting in overuse. Besides the personal burden, companies are footing the bill for wasted IT resources and lost productivity. Permessa just published a white paper titled: <a href=">"6 Best Practices That Reduce Email Overload and Costs"</a>. One largely unknown fact is that in most companies fewer than 1% of all employees are causing 80% of all email volume. There are also a number of related posts on my blog:

  7. Stefan says:

    Here is the correct link to the previous post:

  8. Josh Ledgard says:

    I totally agree. Even though I work on one of those perceived "other solutions"… e-mail is not the problem.

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