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Summary:

E-mail sucks. How’s that for starters. If you’re like me, you spend hours of your valuable time separating the wheat from the chaff. Others like Fred Wilson are filing for “e-mail bankruptcy.” I think that is just an easy way out. What we need to do […]

E-mail sucks. How’s that for starters. If you’re like me, you spend hours of your valuable time separating the wheat from the chaff. Others like Fred Wilson are filing for “e-mail bankruptcy.” I think that is just an easy way out. What we need to do is rethink the whole email-communications paradigm, and I write about that in my latest column for Business 2.0.

E-mail became the Internet’s first killer app — and therein lies the problem. As software goes, e-mail is almost socialist: From each according to his ability, to each whether or not he needs it. ….It doesn’t matter if the message comes from a spammer hawking Viagra, your wife asking you to pick up some wine, your boss telling the company that Monday is a holiday, or a client asking for a meeting at his office at 11 a.m. In today’s inboxes, all e-mail messages are equal. (Business 2.0)

There is a short term fix, Anne Zelenka says. “Perhaps short emails without extra niceties are not just acceptable but preferable in our connected world on the web,” she writes on Web Worker Daily.

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  1. That’s why Facebook messages are becoming increasingly popular. They’ve supplanted e-mail at many college campuses. There is no spam and it’s easy to send and receive messaged. With the platform, it’s easy to send files or pictures and even send video messages, which I’ve done easily a few times now.

  2. “What we need to do is rethink the whole email-communications paradigm”

    Check out http://www.inbox2.com, it’s an open alternative to email that is pretty interesting.

  3. Jerry Gartner Wednesday, July 4, 2007

    Although garbage email is an issue, we deployed spamassassin and clamav (Open Source anti-spam and anti-virus software) on our mail server. We’ve had great results with this combonation. Live stats are available at http://www.gartnerwebdev.com/it-services/anti-spam-antivirus-stats/ It stops spam (over 11000 blocked since Sept of 2006), viruses, and phishing scams at the server. Our users never see them which improves productivity and reduces the amount of downtime due to email propagated malware. For those of you who don’t have the luxury of your own mail server, there is cloudmark.com it’s a subscription service but it works at least as well as the above mentioned Open Source combination. Spamassassin can be configured to use Vipul’s Razor. It’s a rather effective method to help determine what is and what is not spam. It’s creators are Vipul Ved Prakash and Jordan Ritter. Mr. Prackash is also the founder of cloudmark.

  4. Sam;

    Facebook messaging cannot scale because it is not open. Instead of moving messaging to proprietary social networks, why not move sociality towards e-mail?

    We’re at a point where I think we can safely define our networks based on who we communicate with, not who is or isn’t part of a service. Facebook doesn’t benefit me if 80% of my contacts aren’t there.

  5. Jerry;

    The problem isn’t spam. It’s the fact that 1) messages from each sender are treated equally, and 2) it’s hard to reach beyond your first degree.

    Spam is often caught dead in it’s tracks… but shouldn’t a message from your brother receive higher priority than a message from the salesman from the car lot?

  6. Jerry Gartner Wednesday, July 4, 2007

    Robert:

    The current infrastructure in no way allows for priority. The classes like bulk, normal, and priority really have no real effect on how messages are treated. There are ideas about keys or tokens being integrated in to email systems, but implementation of such things tends to be proprietary. It is, as Om states, a large opportunity for the person or company that figures out how to get this functionality built in to the pre-existing system of store and forward. At this point in the game, reinventing the entire system is not feasible. What ever solutions are proposed will only be successful if they fit in with the fundamental way that email works. Until we reach that point, there are effective methods for keeping most unwanted email out of our inbox. BTW, my family and clients have a different email address for me than do most spammers so they do get priority. It’s not automatic, but it works well. Any email address that I put out on the internet is a spam trap (i.e. yahoo or hotmail) address, except in rare circumstances.

  7. “At this point in the game, reinventing the entire system is not feasible.”

    Gonna have to disagree with you on that one Robert.

  8. I’m not sure we have to dump email, maybe just re-envision the way email works. I like what is being said about “priority”. Perhaps our email should learn whom we have communicated w/before and allow us to tag these users with a priority level. Thunderbird, Outlook, et al., all have some basic functionality beginning to lean this way but it needs to be much simpler than creating whitelists, etc.

  9. Hey Om,

    Thanks for mentioning Xobni in the Biz 2.0 article. I promise, we are working on the termites! We completely agree with Jerry Gartner; it is essential to fit in to the fundamental way that email works. That is why we integrate with existing email clients to surface the right information at the right time. Get in on our beta at http://www.xobni.com

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