Why do we treat email differently than a phone call? 10 Aug 2005
80 comments Latest by cbf
However, we were tossing this idea around the table: Why not read an email and then instantly delete it? Why do we save emails? Why do we archive them in folders for safe keeping? We don’t save phone calls. We have a conversation on the phone and then we hang up. If we need to take notes for whatever reason we do, but 99% of phone calls are completely ephemeral. And if we forget something, or we need it again, we just make another call.
If you could have every call you’ve ever made transcribed, would you? I doubt it. Or better yet, if you did have them transcribed how often do you think you’d really go back to review? Let’s ignore business calls for a minute and think about email-like personal calls.
Is email really any different? Are we all keeping emails around just because we can? Do we really need to have this stuff on hand so we can go back 14 months from now and dig something up? If we need to dig something up why don’t we just ask the people who we were talking to originally? Surely a couple brains will remember it if it was important.
And I’d venture to say most emails are far shorter and less important than most phone calls. Yet we keep them around. We have a folder for him, a folder for her, a folder for them. Sub folders and sub-sub folders. We’re filing our way out of our way. Filing for filing’s sake.
A few months ago when I upgraded to Tiger I decided to start fresh with the Mail app. I wouldn’t bring any mail over from OS X 10.3 to 10.4. And I haven’t missed a single saved email. Not one. Did I lose a few things? Probably. But, if they were critically important than 1. I could have found them some other way, 2. I shouldn’t keep them buried in an email folder — there are surely better ways to store, remember, and retrieve critical information.
So, how about it… Who’s in? Who’s going to read their mail and then delete their mail? All of it.
A good related read: Managing Incoming Email (PDF) by Mark Hurst.