Back in October 2005 I gave a talk entitled “Email Must Die!” at the Internet Librarian International 2005 (ILI) Conference. The following summary of the talk was published in Elucidate (Vol. 3 Issue 1, January/February 2006 ISSN: 1742-5921 – PDF format):

One particularly provocative paper was from Brian Kelly, Email Must Die!, in which he suggests a whole plethora of alternative methods of communicating information that enable collaboration or that provide information to the gadgets or programs that people use in real life, such as RSS feeds from blogs, instant messaging, wikis, podcasts, and so on. He feels it won’t be too long before our users will expect libraries to be able to communicate using these channels, so we’d be well advised to explore them now!

Fast forward four years to the Online Information 2009 conference we find that there was a session entitled “Email is dead! The rise of Twitter, chat and communities” which began with a track keynote entitled “No More E-Mail: Pandora’s Box or Universal Panacea? An IBM Experience” in which Ian McNairn spoke about “how social networking in general and microblogging in particular has caught the imagination of users at all levels in IBM“.

Now it is true to say that despite the titles, neither myself nor Ian actually felt that email will die. This was clearly an attention-grabbing headline (similar to”The VLE IS Dead” title for a very popular session at ALT C 2009 and an accompanying series of blog posts and video clips).  Based on the Elucidate summary a more apt title for my talk may have been “A whole plethora of alternative methods of communicating information can enable collaboration or provide information to the gadgets or programs that people use in real life, such as RSS feeds from blogs, instant messaging, wikis, podcasts, and so on and may provide an alternative to use of email“. However as titles for talks need to be brief I am happy with the one I used.

But how has my email usage changed since I gave the talk? Well I was an early user of the Mailbase service, which was the predecessor of the JISCMail service. And although there are no records of my usage of Mailbase lists it is possible (although slightly cumbersome) to gather personal usage statistics of my use of individual JISCMail lists.

So visiting the JISCMail pages for the web-support list (a list I have been a member of since it was established on Mailbase in, I think, 1993 or 1994) I can search for posts from my email address.

It seems that the JISCMail service was set up in 2000, so there were only two posts in that year.

The following year was my busiest year, with 53 posts in the year.  The following three years saw a similar level of my postings.

Since 2005 (with the exception of 2007 when I joined in a couple of discussions on Will The UK Government Shut Down The Queen’s Web Site? (Friday post) and HTML mails) my usage of the list has dropped drastically – reaching a low of only 2 posts last year.

So whilst an overall picture of my usage of mailing lists cannot necessarily we extrapolated from this example (for example I will have joined new lists over the years and my areas of interest will have changed) I think this example does demonstrate how, for me, mailing lists have diminished in importance  to a significant extent.

It would be useful to be able to gain a more complete personal picture, but as there do not appear to be APIs to the JISCMail service it would be time-consuming to do this.

My new year resolution has been to manage my use of emails more effectively and part of this will be to unsubscribe from the various lists which are no longer of interest to me. I have found that I have been subscribed to a number of lists which have little traffic or are now only being used for job adverts, announcement of events, etc. Even though the traffic may be low, I find that a steady stream of repeated announcements of events can be irritating, so I’ll be unsubscribing from such lists.

I have also been subscribing to many lists via the Digest option, which groups all messages send during the day (typically) as a single message. This was useful a few years ago as it meant I only had to process (often delete) a single message. However as I now read my email on a variety of devices including my iPod Touch and Android phone as well as my desktop PC and a recently acquired Apple Macintosh G3 , the poor support for MIME attachments, failures to render HTML mail or support a cid: protocol (illustrated) means that processing digests is now an irritation.  So I have started to unsubscribe from several such lists.

Anyone else finding themselves doing likewise?