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E N Q U I R E R   B U S I N E S S   C O V E R A G E
Wednesday, July 19, 2000

The In Basket


Who's sending us all this e-mail anyway?

By Martha Irvine
The Associated Press

        CHICAGO — Anyone who has e-mail probably experiences it. You go away for a few days — in some cases, even a few hours — and boom! Your e-mailbox is crammed full.

[photo] SREENATH SREENIVASAN SENDS OUT SO MUCH E-MAIL THAT HIS MESSAGES ARE CALLED “SREE-MAIL.”
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        John Parker's heart sank last week when he returned from a two-week vacation to find well over 250 e-mails awaiting him.

        So he did what many increasingly overwhelmed e-mail users are doing.

        “I'm afraid I just basically moved them all into the trash basket,” said the Washington bureau chief for the British magazine The Economist.

        As far as Mr. Parker is concerned, you can choose to spend all day doing e-mail or you can do your work: “But you can't do both.”

        Technology may make it easier for others to reach us. And it may increase our penchant to communicate. But e-mail inundation is becoming so common that some people are drawing the line.

        “The speed of technology is driving me insane!” said Maria Salomao, a public relations executive from San Francisco and one of dozens of people to reply to an online query about the ever-in creasing volume of e-mail and voice mail.

        “If you're not conscious about it or if your goal is to accomplish your "to do' list, then you are in for a rude awakening,” she said. “The list never ends.”

        Ms. Salomao and several others said that in recent months they've begun replying to fewer e-mails and are getting fewer responses to messages they've sent.

ETIQUETTE
  A few tactics experts suggest for endearing yourself to those to whom you send e-mail:

  • Don't forward too many jokes or junk mail.

  • Make what you want obvious by using short sentences and bullet points; if using text from an e-mail that you're responding to, only include the relevant text.

  • Mark urgent e-mails with words like “help!” or “crisis” but use the tag sparingly.

  • Put “DRIB” (Don't Read If Busy) in the subject line, so the recipient knows it can wait.

  • If you attach files, make sure the person getting them has the capability to download them quickly and easily.

  • “Blind carbon” those you send to instead of using a lengthy list of addresses; that way your recipients won't end up on mailing lists they don't want to be on.

  • If you want a reply, ask for one.

  Sources: The Geek Factory, Jericho Communications, Sreenath Sreenivasan.

        In Australia — a country that has made big efforts to get its citizens connected to the Web — tax officials have been so swamped by e-mail questions they've had to send auto-responses telling e-mailers they'll have to wait at least two weeks.

        Even experts — including Eric Yaverbaum, author of I'll Get Back To You — are proving hard to reach.

        “I've become the guy I used to curse at, and I feel bad,” said Mr. Yaverbaum, who gets about 100 voice mails and e-mails daily. “But what can you do?”

        So who's sending all this stuff anyway?

        Some of the e-mail jamming our boxes is, of course, unsolicited junk mail.

        Jupiter Communications, which tracks this sort of thing, projects that marketing-related e-mail messages will increase 40-fold between 1999 and 2006. It says the average online user received 1,746 e-mails in 1999 and will receive 2,052 this year.

        Then there are people like Sreenath Sreenivasan, a professor of new media at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, who sends so much e-mail — 250 a day — that his friends have come up with a name for it: “sree-mail.”

        Some of it is school-related; some goes to people on group lists he has created, including one dedicated to news from Asia.

        “Pity the fools,” Mr. Sreenivasan joked of those who actually sign up for his lists.

        Much of the mail he sends requires no reply. But even when he expects a response, he says it's a good idea to be patient.

        “When you deal with people who only have dial-up (modem) service and have real lives and don't hang out in front of a computer like I do, you can't expect an immediate reply,” Mr. Sreenivasan said.

        The Associated Press/Robert Mecea ” He can visit four Web sties at once by splitting the screen.

       



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