Managing Mail

TheOneKnownToManyAsMike (
Wed, 21 May 1997 13:24:29 +0100 (BST)

This email discusses Managing mail and the Godsend of ADD and short
attention spans. It features at least one shameless plug for the
authors works but includes free tips on mail managing techniques.

DO NOT DELETE ....IT _may_ BE IMPORTANT (or a waste of your time) :)
(the _REAL_ info comes in the last paragraph!!!)

On Sat, 17 May 1997, Eugene Leitl wrote:

[a lot of stuff about managing mail]

MikeRose writes:

This problem reminds me of a CNN report on 'information overload', it
detailed how we are all going to suffer stress in the future because of
excess info from phone, videophone, fax, pagers, email, the internet, tv,
radio and whatever the tech geeks decide to invent next.

At the time I laughed. I had just finished "Playing the Future", an
excellent work by Douglas Rushkoff (of "Cyberia" fame) and I had just met
him in Toronto and discussed the same 'problem'.

Basically there is no problem. There is a lot of data and info, sure, but
you can still only use what you are capable of using.

Don't moan about having too much - we are so lucky to be living in an age
(nee country, cf. China) where such info is freely available - instead of
whinging why not take a course in speed reading or look into 'intelligent
agent' based email programs that will filter out the crap that you do not
want, "Make Money Fast", "Have You Heard This One", "UnSubscribe ME!"

Speed reading and scanning techniques are excellent and you will find that
the younger generation, our kids, already seem to have these
'chaos-surviving' strategies 'built-in'.

What looks like a short attention span to a parent, or attention
deficiency disorder (ADD) to a child psychologist, is usually a child with
a broader attention 'range'.

My grandfather was subject to (and therefore could only cope with) maybe 5
new realities/ideas a day (newspapers and books). My parents maybe 10-20
(early television and radio). Me, I cannot comprehend the number I get
thrown at me from mass advertising, cable television, radio, computer
games, the internet etc. etc. etc.

The average child can cope with 100 times more information than my
grandfather ever could. My grandpop needed information in a linear
single medium form, a book perhaps. Whereas when the Heaven's Gate cult
news broke I was simultaneously watching CNN, reading the papers, flicking
to NBC, then ABC, then to the internet, newsgroups and email.

Sure, I lost some of the finer points and some of the minute details but I
got a far greater range of opinion, news and comment. Most of the
info I missed was the crap that I was intended to swallow hole,
mainly adverts, agendas and the comment from the 'objective' news

Boredom and anxiety are the two signs to look out for.... anxiety sells
products and agendas... bordom signals that you are not really learning
anything and that you are slowly slipping into a more programable
agenda-susceptable couch-potato-trance mode.

Such techniques are also more propaganda proof as no one dominant spin can
dominate my knowledge - I make my own spin to suit my own needs.

This all may be irrelevant to the original post and boring to you
personally, if it is then I hope you deleted it a long time ago.

If you are still reading then you are either interested in this topic and
would be interested in my article on 'Screenagers - surving in the age of
info-overload' or you are very bad at disregarding the info that you do
not need.

Take up speed reading or at least learn to 'cut the crap' quicker. Channel
surfing isn't bad - it shows your childrens brains are still alive and
active and not being mashed into a pulp by inane shows and mind-melting

> (At least) 95% of everything is trash.

You were refering specificaly to email, as if you were expecting the
medium to be so much cleaner than TV or the papers. You are right 95% of
_*EVERYTHING*_ is crap. 95% of what your read/see/hear/believe is crap.

Why should your email box be any better than the 80 channels you may, or
may not, have piped into your home? I'm sure your regular mailbox gets
more bills and junk mail than REAL "quality" mail.

MY POLICY: If you care

My policy is to scan my mailbox, which is sorted according to subject, and
_immediatly_ tag for deletion anything which isn't _immediatly_
recognisable as interesting, or anything not _instantly_ recognisable as
coming from a trusted and reliable 'contact'.

It is obviously that you will lose some vital and interesting information
this way. But you cannot watch two good TV programmes at once (even a VCR
means you will miss 1 out of three programmes) and the time saved
outweighs the potential loses. You just have to trust you instincts.

This method also provides a long time bonus. It will force writers who
wish to be noticed to write clearly/concisely etc. etc. The subject lines
will eventually become more pertinant and descriptive and the first
paragraph, like a news story, will start to be written in a way which will
grab the readers attention. Luckily I am studying communications theory
and journalism and know many techniques of hypnotising my readers. This
email is a bad example but I do urge you to read the aformentioned

After rapid deletion on immediatly crap looking crap I go back to
what is left and read/reply etc, leaving my best friends (longest mails)
till last. If I still have time (which is rare) I then go back to the
mails I wanted to delete.

At the end of each session (approx. 1 hour) I usually delete around 200
mails. Often I get hooked on one or two new threads and usually get bored
of one-two. Once a thread is deemed to be 'going nowhere' it is easy to
delete them ALL because they are clumped together (sorted by subject).

I think email filters are good... but better is to develop a personal
strategy, that way you stretch your limits and learn to cope with the
expanding horizons before you. After a while you'll be surprised at how
much more information you can digest.

just a few thoughts..... I hope I didn't waste anyone's time. I was going
to delete Eugene's mail but I had some time on my hands and found the bait
far too tempting.

~Trust Your Instincts~