Friday, April 25, 2008

Email Sucks

It's official, e-mail as a communication tool has now become more trouble than it is worth. I believe that it now has negative value, which is worse than the zero value that I thought it had until recently.

Much of the e-mail that I send out gets marked as SPAM, and many of those messages are never discovered and released from the SPAM catcher by the supposed recipient. This first started to become apparent to me about a year ago when some members of the ITC Board were not receiving the messages that I sent to the board e-mail group. Then, the fact that my e-mail messages were not being received almost led to the loss of two speaking engagements at other colleges. They thought I was ignoring their e-mail messages when in fact they just weren't receiving my replies.

It's amazing to me that e-mails coming from my official college address ( continually get marked as SPAM by other .edu e-mail systems. The most recent (and saddest) example came earlier this week when I sent a message to the MnSCU CIO list asking for donations for a cash gift that we were giving to a colleague at the ITS conference earlier this week. It appears that many of the messages were never received, except for those who diligently checked their SPAM filters and released the message. Isn't there a certain irony there - that many of my messages sent to fellow CIOs in the same state system of colleges and universities are never actually delivered to the addressees? How valuable is that? How sad is that?

This particular message turned out to be the coup de grĂ¢ce for me. There are about 40 people on the CIO list who receive these messages (in theory, at least) and that of course includes me. So, when I am sending a message to this list, I am also sending a message to myself. Yep, you guessed it. The message sent from my address was marked as SPAM when sent to the same address. Apparently I have been blacklisted by myself.

Part of the problem has to do with the inadequacy of SPAM filters that are being used. However, another part of the problem is something that I don't have much control over. My e-mail address has definitely been used by spoofers, and apparently more than just once. E-mail spoofing is a growing problem which can easily cause a legitimate e-mail address (like mine) to get blacklisted by people who are victimized by the spoofer.

The bottom line for me is that I now have to spend an inordinate amount of time following up behind my e-mails to see if they have been received. If I don't hear back from someone I need to call them on the phone, or send an IM, or send another e-mail to their personal e-mail address if I know it. This constant game of "did you receive my email?" is a huge productivity drain and is really all you need to know about why I believe that e-mail now has negative value.

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