I frequently rant on Twitter, about a great many things.
One of the most recent, prevalent irritations is how intensely frustrating I find email. As a child of the digital generation, I grew up with IRC and IM, realtime communication in short bursts.
Twitter and microblogging was a normal outgrowth for me, using short bursts at public scale.
Long-form emails have never quite felt as natural. Rather than feel like an asynchronous conversation they often feel more like they ought to be articles, with defenses and conclusions and more formal grammar. Edited and refined.
This internalised should makes it more difficult for me to respond rapidly and maintain communication.
Spam, spam, spam
So if I’m not a fan of writing email, I’m even less a fan of receiving it. Robotic communication dominates my email endpoint; most shoved aside by filtering.
Newsletters, services trying to “boost engagement,” mailing lists. The endless hell that is LinkedIn.
A fraction of it valuable, all of it irritating and wasteful.
I tolerate it because there’s little choice; that fraction is useful information about services I do care for, even if I don’t immediately read it.
Monitoring mailing lists keeps me up to date on my industry; newsletters occasionally have interesting data.
Kickstarter’s app rarely works properly with notification contents, leaving the email an invaluable status update.
It’s a cost of time, constantly triaging my inbox. Trying to decide whether or not something needs to stay in the inbox; actionable or delayed or neither.
Things I need to respond to, or not.
If I archive it, will I forget about it? Is there a place I ought to be putting those things?
Having to apply these filters without technology lets corporate marketing agendas drive my intensely personal space.
An interesting idea that came out of this rant was Transactional Email.
In a nutshell, a company or other email-generator is permitted to respond once to a set of actions. Once they have, that’s it, until a new set of actions.
There’s obvious abuses in this model (You clicked a link, here’s some more garbage!) that existing actors could leap on, but as it is a serious information leakage of useful analytics on browsing habits, unlikely to happen.
Continuing the transactional idea; one email per set of actions. No more harassing “engagement-driving” spam, as you would not have had a set of actions to trigger more communications.
Married with a browser plugin, and I could let my usage actively dictate mail acceptance. Plugin notes when I visit a service, and when I stopped using it.
My mailserver recalls when I last received an email from a given service.
All emails are refused for a few hours after, and then refused again until after my next session. One short, sweet window in which to communicate with me, and then that right is revoked.
I’d get far less spam - no notification emails, unless I want them. No engagement boosting emails, trying to get my clicks on links.
For random newsletters, I wouldn’t even see them; my browser plugin would never register having visited the service.
Service providers would hate it. As an email consumer, I’d love it; my personal control over my own space starts taking precedence over external robotic agendas.
That’s me; what would improve email for you?