Too much "colleague spams" in today's corporate America

By January 18, 2008

The time we spend sorting through e-mails we receive each day becomes insane, and hardly leaves us some time to run our business. Because too many people are aimlessly hitting on the “reply to all” button, or copying too many peop

le on trivial messages, like inviting 100 colleagues to partake of pizzas in the conference room, our inboxes are now blown up partially because of what it’s called “colleague spam”. According to the Radicati Group, a Palo Alto, Calif. market research firm, the average business e-mail user received 126 messages a day in 2006, up 55% from 2003. By 2009, they are expecting to spend an alarming 41% of their time just managing e-mails! New companies are flourishing with a software solution, helping sort the overflow. Silicon Valley start-ups like ClearContext and Seriosity Inc. are particularly focusing on the problem of internal e-mail overload. ClearContext of San Francisco, Calif., came up a few months ago with a new line of software products for $89.95 that uses algorithms to rapidly analyze a user’s e-mail. How does it work? The software determines which contacts and messages are the most important to you, and forward those that are not so important into folders. Thus you don’t have to read your e-mails on the fly when they pop-up in your mailbox. You are also offered the possibility to forward other e-mails to subordinates and be notified later if they don’t reply. You can also have e-mails of your choice routinely redirected away from your inbox. The color-coding function helps you instantaneously see which messages you should respond to first. You can pick your own colors for incoming messages from senders you categorized in big group of recipients, and to whom you don’t respond often. You might mark them in green, purple, or whatever else color. If you have an email from your spouse or your nanny, go ahead and mark it in red. There’s other way to customize the software. Other functions allow you to quickly archive important messages and create audit trails. The software lets you hit one button on a message to move it to a folder holding documents related to a specific case, rather than having to manually drag and drop the message with a computer mouse. Of course, I assume that you would use ClearContext if you are already reasonably organized and prone to filing your messages away, instead of just letting them pile up. Are you more of an “e-mail filers” or more an “e-mail pilers”? Microsoft Corp. categorizes e-mail users by calling us either “filers” or “pilers”. Filers do their very best to end up their day with an empty inbox. Meanwhile, pilers “are super-messy desk people. They’ve got 5,000 items in their inbox, most of them unread,” says Microsoft’s Mr. Kennedy. For pilers, Microsoft improved Outlook a few months ago with a new search feature. These messy e-mail users can now search through bulky folders or inboxes to find a specific message. “These people are in pain”, says Mr. Brezina, co-founder of Xobni Corp. Xobni is a San Francisco based company which has received $4.2 million in funding from venture capitalists. The company aims to assist people in the most efficient way for them to organize and search the e-mail and personal-contact load they already have. Xobni’s solution is to place a set of features on top of pilers’ e-mail inbox, such as quick links to set up appointments, “profiles” of online contacts complete with photos. A thousand people are globally testing the Xobni’s product – including salespeople, recruiters and marketing managers who use e-mail frequently- and expects to release it broadly early this year. Nowadays, e-mail deluge is considered a real workplace issue, more than traditional e-mail spam. Mathieu Ramage Media and Editorial Manager, Atelier North America FEEDBACK For comments on this article, email us at

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