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Magazines > Information Today > March 2003
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Information Today
Vol. 20 No. 3 — March 2003
The E-Mail Rebellion
By Dick Kaser

Ever had one of those days, when at the end of it, you said, "Man, all I got done today was my e-mail"?

Last fall, I heard David Snowden speak at the ASIST meeting in Philadelphia. As you may know, Snowden is one of those knowledge-management gurus. I'm afraid I lost my notes, so I may not have his words exactly right, but what I heard him say that day, and what has stuck with me ever since, is this sentiment: "E-mail is the biggest drain on productivity that companies have ever enacted upon themselves."

There are some days when I certainly would agree with this. Other days, I don't.

The barrage of spam, of course, is one thing. Daily—and even at the office—I receive countless offers for products to restore, enhance, or extend my body parts. There are the messages from the Far East, sent to me in characters my computer doesn't recognize, so they display as gibberish. And of course there are those urgent pleas for assistance from the Nigerian money-scammers. All of these are easily identified as items for deletion. They eat up some processing time, but trashing them doesn't take a whole day.

No, it's not the spam that gets to me. It's not the spam that makes me feel some days as if my brain is hot-wired to a streaming data flow and my only purpose for being is to act as a remote peripheral device for handling random requests on a 24/7 benchmark.

On the one hand, I lament, how did we, as a workforce, ever get into the trap of equating e-mail messaging with instant gratification for the sender?

On the other hand, I have to admit, how did I ever become convinced that it was my primary mission to process all my e-mails instantaneously upon receipt?

If I feel like an automaton some days, well, maybe it's at least partly my own fault.

The best days are certainly those that at the end of which I say, well, I may have been sitting in my e-mail box all day, but the stuff coming to me actually helped me achieve my top priority. Without e-mail, I don't know how I would have ever gotten this job done.

So, what do you say? E-mail: blessing or curse? You tell me.


Dick Kaser is Information Today, Inc.'s vice president of content. His e-mail address is
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