Reducing Internal Email Pollution

Posted by Andy Gavin on Sun, 2008-08-31 02:02

Email is so easy, but more often than not it is not the best way to communicate. As researchers writing the the IEEE Computer point out email volumes are set to grow. Email becomes less useful as traffic increases and inboxes are polluted: important emails get lost in mountains of dross. To limit pollution they recommend:

  • No more reply to all: They found this to be the largest source of pollution. Disabling the reply to all button causes thought of who to send the reply to.
  • Set a limit on CC lists. Often long CC lists come about out of laziness.
  • No more email fights: in difficult situations use a more immediate form of communication.

The authors a right in that education/conventions are needed. However in many places I've worked email is used for different roles. The most important thing I have found to tailor messages to their task. So I'd add:

  • Use a client that has a rules engine to filter mail automatically. If you are using a client that is not able to do this then consider something like Popfile
  • Use the Expires field for emails which have a lifespan
  • Subject lines should be prefixed with a something that can be filtered on if possible. For example SPAM: for non business emails. ANN: for departmental announcements.

Filtering out your inbox into folders allows you to respond to those messages which are most important first.

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