Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

Email Overload


Published on

Email is broken and it's time to fix it. Or is it that we've broken email, and it's time we fix ourselves?

This presentation examines the problem of information and email overload from a research perspective, and presents a synthesis of different approaches we could take to start to resolve the issue.

Prepared for my final masters capstone presentation. Not meant to be entirely read or understood without accompanying narration. See my website at for more on the topic of information and email overload.

Published in: Business, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

Email Overload

  1. 1. Email is broken andit’s time to fix itResearch and Responses to Information and Email Overload
  2. 2. The Costs ofInformation Overload
  3. 3. “In fact, research conducted…shows that theproblem cost the U.S. economy around $997billion in 2010.”- Jonathan Spira, 2011. Information Overload: None Are Immune. InformationManagement, 21(5), 32.
  4. 4. “But one calculation by Nathan Zeldes and two otherresearchers put Intel’s annual cost of reduced efficiency, in theform of time lost to handling unnecessary e-mail andrecovering from information interruptions, at nearly $1 billion.”- Paul Hemp. (2009). Death by information overload. Harvard BusinessReview, 87(9), 83–89. Harvard Business School Publication Corp.
  5. 5. Comparing the Costs of Two Evils $1,000.00 $900.00 $800.00Costs in Billions of $ $700.00 $600.00 $500.00 $400.00 $300.00 $200.00 $100.00 $- Information Overload Spam Control
  6. 6. “A study by Microsoft researchers tracking the e-mail habits ofcoworkers found that once their work had been interrupted byan e-mail notification, people took, on average, 24 minutes toreturn to the suspended task.”- Paul Hemp. (2009). Death by information overload. Harvard BusinessReview, 87(9), 83–89. Harvard Business School Publication Corp.
  7. 7. “Stressed IT professionals are linked to issues of organizationalcommitment, turnover intentions, and work exhaustion.”“Two recent studies have emphasized the importance of technostress by studyingthe impacts of technostress. These studies have found that individuals experiencingtechnostress have lower productivity and job satisfaction, and decreasedcommitment to the organization.”- Ayyagari, R., Grover, V., & Purvis, R. (2011). Technostress: TechnologicalAntecedents and Implications. MIS Quarterly, 35(4), 831-858.
  8. 8. What are the causes?
  9. 9. What do wealready know?
  10. 10. It’s a big issue to a lot of people! Wrote a quick post (rebuttal) and put it on Hacker News: ―Email is not broken, we are.‖ Got up to #3 position within an hour, generated 30 comments and 53 points (as of now)  50/50 on the positive/negative tone of the comment Traffic bump?
  11. 11. It’s a big issue to a lot of people!
  12. 12. It’s a big issue to a lot of people! 7,415+ views on that post 80 Twitter shares 11 Google+ shares MY SERVER SURVIVED! 
  13. 13. Existing Research Information overload proposed as idea in 1970’s, research began in earnest in the late 80’s, early 90’s. Email overload research began in mid-90’s. Split across psychological and HCI barriers, little treatment in the management sciences.
  14. 14. Existing Research Influential researchers with an email overload focus:  Nicolas Duchenaut (Xerox PARC)  Victoria Bellotti (Xerox PARC) Heavily  Steve Whittaker (University of Sheffield)  Danyel Fisher (Microsoft Research) practitioner  Eric Horvitz (Microsoft Research) driven  Bernard Kerr (IBM Research)
  15. 15. Email = Tasks ≠ Communication Email is now about tasks  Multiple researchers have found that email has morphed beyond long-form communication into a task center. The more involved the task the higher the overload  “However, neither rapid-response nor extended-response tasks are, we believe, the source of the biggest headache in managing “e-mail overload” (as defined in Whittaker and Sidner, 1996). We believe that a significant source of overloading is an overlooked factor that we call interdependent task management” (Bellotti et al., 2005).
  16. 16. The Overall Cause of Email Overload “Bellotti et al., examining email as a center for tasks, found that users’ perceptions of overload corresponds to the number of unresolved tasks in the users’ inbox (and not the volume of messages incoming).” - Hogan and Fisher, 2006
  17. 17. Common Coping Techniques Filing for organization  “Action” folders for specific items  Massive folder structures for recall Attention Manipulation  Marking read messages as unread  Resending messages to oneself to remember them  Forwarding to others
  18. 18. Bad Behaviors Not communicating interaction expectations (social contract) Multicasting (CC spam, for every 100 people CC’ed, the org loses 8 hours of working time) Over-delegation resulting from the ―cheapness‖ of email Constant email checking means you never achieve full productivity Most of the common coping methods mentioned on the previous slide
  19. 19. Overload 2012 - San FranciscoInformation OverloadResource Group (IORG)
  20. 20. Productivity vs. Acceleration In a nutshell, current thinking and practice has confused productivity with doing more faster, or acceleration. ―Time out is a punishment because of our focus on productivity as a society.‖ – David Levy ―In this post-industrialist society, we don’t have a very good definition of productivity.‖ – Jonathan Spira Only 5% of a knowledge worker’s day is available for reflection and deep thinking
  21. 21. Technostress A real physical problem causing increased stress, decreased health, poor productivity and job satisfaction, family life conflicts, and increased turnover likelihood. Most likely caused by fragmentation of work ―In an information economy, attention is a scarce resource‖ (Ayyagari et al., 2011). Scattering attention squanders both our competitive advantage as well as our wellbeing. Executives deal with ~300 messages a day, with 40 requiring quality, complex decisions— too many (Zeldes, 2010).
  22. 22. Technical Solutions
  23. 23. Research-Driven Solutions Appraisers (weighted rules) – Terry, 1993 Priorities System – Horvitz et al., 1999 TaskMaster – Bellotti et al., 2003 Auto-filing using intelligent agents – Whittaker, 2005 Classifying messages by type - Coussement et al., 2008
  24. 24. Industry-Driven Solutions
  25. 25. Industry-Driven Solutions
  26. 26. Industry-Driven Solutions
  27. 27. Industry-Driven Solutions
  28. 28. Tech solutions have been tried, but fewhave stuck or been implemented. WHY? SOLUTIONS Incomplete  Only build small tools that implementations (ie, you can integrate with existing can’t replace Outlook) clients and solutions Lack of actionable data  We need an email anonymizer for research
  29. 29. Solutions:Technical Ideas
  30. 30. T-Idea: Present messages based oncontext (time available, place)
  31. 31. T-Idea: Present messages based oncontext (time available, place)
  32. 32. T-Idea: Present messages based oncontext (time available, place)
  33. 33. T-Idea: Autosuggest relatedresources
  34. 34. T-Idea: Visual indicator of availabilityand current overload measure
  35. 35. Solution:Behavioral Education
  36. 36. What type of email manager areyou?
  37. 37. Re-establish the Social Contract! Decide on your email checking and response habits, both personally and as a team. Write down these expectations as a charter or as a contract, publish for the team. Define what will happen when people need faster responses, be aware of the habits of others.
  38. 38. Tips: Do these NOW!1. Turn off desktop alerts in your email client2. Put your receiving on a schedule, block out email times during your day
  39. 39. Turn off desktop alerts
  40. 40. Schedule send/receive times
  41. 41. Schedule send/receive times
  42. 42. Schedule send/receive times
  43. 43. Future Research We need more usable/minable data. Create an email collection system that sits at the server level and collects anonymized data to create a corpus for researchers. Knowledge management science to replace our existing and unfitting industrialist management science Productivity vs. Acceleration Attention self-manipulation: what and why do people repurpose tools to deal with perceived overload? Do they realize the harmful effects? UI’s to break the message inbox and line item metaphors.