Thursday, August 05, 2004

Another slow day for email 

If you sent anything to my Yahoo ID and didn't get a response when you expected one, maybe this will explain a little. I logged out of Yahoo at 2 AM this morning, with a clean inbox and spambox. At 10.45 this morning, I logged back in -- to find 683 messages in my 'Bulk' folder. This is not particularly unusual these days.

Email is bad and getting worse. Designed back in the halcyon days of yore when everybody quite reasonably trusted each other - sometime around the early 1980s - it has greatly outlived its native environment, the non-commercial Internet. On any given day, the six accounts I monitor daily receive 2,000 to 2,500 messages, with frequent spikes above 5,000 at certain predictable times (like the end of the month). Of these 2,000 messages, 1,500 or so are obvious spams and can be eliminated in minutes (ads offering to refinance "Your Home At (the address of the apartment I lived in 5 years ago)" or "NEW! Amazing Ancient Secrets!" are obvious candiddates for the trash). This gets us down to a few hundred messages. A few dozen are obviously legitimate - from people I know or mailing lists I'm on, for instance - but the rest have to be viewed, at least briefly. This isn't a real problem for messages sent to my "real" email address; Opera is a great browser and a very useful email package; half an hour and I'm done filtering out the remaining junk. This only leaves the Web-based email, primarily Hotmail, Eudoramail and Yahoo.

Up to this point, on a typical morning, I've spent about half an hour to 40 minutes just getting rid of the easy spams. But now is when things start to really bog down. None of the three has anything remotely resembling a decent filtering system, let alone a quick-browse feature (throw up a page with just the headers from each message, so I can quickly check for patterns of forged messages). Yahoo is the most aggressive at catching spam, Eudoramail the most hapless. Microsoft, as usual, does things differently: when your inbox is filling up with spam, they send you a spam of their own hawking their "Extra Storage" offering - bringing George Carlin to email management. (Carlin on houses, as best I can remember: "People buy houses so they can fill them up with stuff. When their house gets too full, they buy a bigger house, so they can buy more stuff!")

An hour or so of hitting 'Delete' and waiting for the next full Web page to display, I'm done with killing spam for the morning. Now I can finally read my (legitimate) email, and then, maybe, get started on my 'real' work.

So go ahead and email me; I'll try to respond. But if you want to be sure, send me an SMS or an instant message on Yahoo or ICQ.

Any better ideas?

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