Delete the Emails

The other night, I was at dinner with some friends, and some friends of friends. The conversation turned to OnlineGroups.Net. One of the guests I didn’t know so well said “Oh yeah, I use that. I really like it. I just delete the emails.”

I was happy of course to hear that she liked our system, but I was happier to hear why. OnlineGroups.Net was making it easier for her to deal with email.

Why does it make me happy that people are deleting emails that are sent using our system, especially when there’s an implication that she is deleting them without even reading them? Because this is exactly what we hope people will do.

We don’t want people deleting all their email unread. Email works just fine for ad hoc conversations in small groups, especially groups of two. In this case, the subject line is more or less irrelevant (in fact, I often have trouble choosing a subject line for social emails and have even been known to commit “no subject” sin).

In groups, however, the task of a group member is often simply to keep track of conversations. Often, detail is irrelevant, and it is sufficient to know that A and B are discussing X.

Email without OnlineGroups.Net defeats the task of keeping track of conversations in the following ways.

  • The recipient usually needs to open and read the emails to find out what is being discussed and who is participating in the discussion.
  • The recipient usually has some obligation to keep the email, in case they need to refer to it later.
  • If they do need to refer to the email conversation later, it is likely to be difficult to find, especially if the subject line has changed during the conversation.

Email with OnlineGroups.Net supports the task of keeping track of conversations in the following ways.

  • The email subject always shows the group name which provides instant cues as to the participants in, and the purpose of the conversation.
  • There is no need to keep or file the email, as it is kept on the server.
  • If there is a need to refer back to the conversation, it is easy to find the email, and the other emails in the same conversation.

Actually, these benefits don’t just apply to OnlineGroups.Net users. Yahoo! Groups, Google Groups and all list servers with a web interface provide the same benefits. If you’re using one of these systems, really, try this: just delete the emails.

3 Responses to “Delete the Emails”

  1. Walter Logeman

    Hmmm, I filter my groups into folders, so they don’t hassle me in the inbox & I can read them when I want to, of course I could do that online as well. But one reason I would not delete is Ctrl GG, my Google desktop search. It finds information better and faster than any search within my email client, with one click I see just the emails and can view them in the browser or open them in the email client. Decades of email on my disk take up little room, much less than photos!

  2. Dan Randow

    I keep decades of email, too, Walter but use IMAP so searches are a little slow. I’ve stopped filtering email into folders, however, as Thunderbird makes it really easy to filter dynamically. So in my case, I actually mark the emails as read to disappear them, but I think that like your filtering, my email management approach is not common, even if you include the many users of Gmail.

    Anyone who has a mailbox size limit (ie most people using email in large organisations) has to regularly delete or archive email. I imagine that for home users who are not accustomed to managing large amounts of email, deleting is quite common. And then there’s the “email bankruptcy” case.

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