Catastrophic E-Mail Failure

If you are so connected to e-mail that you feel compelled to purchase a Blackberry and an EVDO card so you can access e-mail at all times, you really are addicted. We call Blackberries Crackberries because they are just that — as addictive as it gets. While crack is illegal and detrimental to your health, using a Blackberry excessively is at least legal. Of course the NTP case could change all that but I wonder if Blackberries and e-mail in general is waning on the health of the digitally connected world.

I don’t know the exact number but I get about 600-800 e-mails of importance each day. I need to check them on vacation, at night, and on weekends. I am not sure how to escape e-mail or for that matter if I want to. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I go through my e-mail box and organize it and forward important messages to others.

In fact I feel such a sense of accomplishment that I am delaying magazines by being printed at this very moment because I got so involved in e-mail for the last few weeks that I was not able to find time to write an article.

But then something miraculous happened yesterday… TMC’s corporate e-mail server failed. A single disk in a RAID array died and took another one with it and corrupted the e-mail store. Well this really affected the productivity of the entire company but it seemed that rather than focus on the articles I had to write I instead was focused on what e-mails I wasn’t getting and how many I would receive then the server is repaired.

I had secretly wished for e-mail to die for a day so I could catch up. When it died all I could think about was when it would come back online.

I am addicted. If I felt this way about cigarettes or drinking I would seek help but with e-mail what can I do? A different approach to e-mail means I am not doing my job as effectively. Right? After all who can manage my inbox better than me or at all?

There is a rough correlation between the number of people we meet and the number of e-mails we receive. As time goes on we meet more people, we sign up for more newsletters and we purchase more products online. All of these activities increase e-mail volume.

Where does it end? Will it end? Or will we be judged in the future based on how many e-mails we can handle at once. As I write this entry, the e-mail system just came back up and the first message I received is marked “Sexually Explicit.” Despite a combination of spam filters we all have to endure spam as well. Worse we have to fear that good e-mails are being deleted along with the spam.

With so much stress associated with new technology I is no wonder adoption cycles are longer than we all would like. I am not advocating going back to paper and pencil mind you (but not having e-mail makes one feel as if you are in the dark ages) but I am wondering if we need to come up with systems that ease the e-mail avalanche and allow us to communicate more effectively. For example the disease of CCing everyone on everything can cripple and organization yet there seems to be little we can do to stop it from happening. What do we really not want to be CCed on?

This post is a combination of venting and sharing my feelings. I don’t have solutions to many of these problems but I realize my readers are likely going through similar pains. If you have ideas and solutions that work for your organization please send me an e-mail. Just kidding 😉 Why not just post at the bottom of this blog entry?

  • Sam Aparicio
    February 8, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    There are solutions. All is not lost. Consider:
    * Wikis — collaborate without email. See
    * Private email — for people like you, you can start from scratch. Things like SenderID and private email networks will allow you to reduce email to people you mostly trust.
    * It is just a matter of time before somebody will apply the aspects of “social software” to the email conundrum. You will soon be able to use your connections as a filter for what gets to you.

  • Rich Tehrani
    February 8, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks, I will read the article. Appreciate the link.

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