Email Frustration


By Samuel Greengard

I'm beginning to seriously question whether email is a useful way to exchange messages. Lately, about 25 percent of the emails I send out wind up in spam folders. I'm guessing that enterprise spam blockers intercept another 10 percent. So these messages never get to the intended recipient's inbox.

Let's face it, email communication has completely broken down. Automation is great, but it requires human oversight. The problem with oversight is that it requires people to pay attention. The problem with paying attention is that people increasingly don't pay attention.

The upshot? Important and time-sensitive messages frequently rot in enterprise nether-zones or a person's spam filter for days, weeks, months or forever. Meanwhile, the person sending the message must resend it--sometimes two or three times--or call the recipient (if they have the individual's phone number) to find out why he or she is not responding.

Here's a novel idea: If you're going to use a spam filter, check it once or twice a day--not a month later when you delete the messages!

Also, if you're using a challenge-response system, dump it. It's a great concept gone wrong. Ultimately, you wind up wasting time for 95 percent of legitimate senders so you can filter out a relatively small amount of spam.

Even worse, many of these auto-generated messages land back in the sender's spam folder and, you guessed it, sit for hours or days. Meanwhile, important automated messages (order and shipping information, for example) drop into purgatory because a machine can't respond to the challenge.

Finally, here's some advice for IT departments that prefer to run on autopilot: Dial down your enterprise spam filters so that legitimate senders don't get blocked.

This morning, I spent 20 minutes on the phone speaking with a person who couldn't receive a message I sent ... and resent ... and resent. I eventually suggested that he check with his IT department, and he found out that my email contained links, and his company blocks links. Imagine that: an email message with links!

The smarter the software and the more automated the system, the dumber things seem to get.