.: Above The Aether :.

12 Jun, 2007

Drinking from the firehose

Posted by: Dave In: Business |Communication |Productivity |Technology

Screaming DaveI’m not sure this will be interesting to anyone, but I felt compelled to describe my love-hate relationship with email as a form of communication in the workplace.

I hate email.

You see, I get around 300-500 emails every day at work.

About a third of these are generated by automated server processes and are filtered into folders so I can keep an eye whether or not those processes were successful or not. Another third are sent from various applications that my teammates and employees use to initiate and confirm yet more processes. These, too, can be filtered into folders to keep track of them.

This means that I actually have to read (and potentially respond to) around 100-160 emails a day.

Yes, I think this is pretty insane, considering that I don’t work in customer service or deal directly with the public in a significant way. 90% of these emails are internal communications. Half of these internal communications could be completed by walking 50 yards or less and actually speaking to a person.

So, 100-160 emails a day. That means I need to process one email every 4 or 5 minutes (assuming I average 9 or 10 hours at work each day, which is about right).

That seems crazy to me, so I don’t actually operate like that.

I skim emails in batches of 30-40 several times a day, focusing on the subject line and the first few sentences of the message. I usually determine whether or not I need to read the whole email in about 3-4 seconds based upon the subject line, who is CC’ed, and the first few sentences. Sometimes I need to respond, sometimes I don’t.

I love email (yeah, I know I said I hate email earlier).

You see, I can respond to many more people in email than I could possibly call in a day. I can also eliminate the need for frivolous meetings with a simple email. I’m not sure my job would be possible without email. It would certainly be much more difficult.

Something else I love and hate at the same time is instant messenger.  Our whole department uses a popular instant messenger client at work to enable us to contact each other in the blink of an eye.  This is mostly used to ask short concise questions and get fast responses.  It’s faster than email and much more informal.  I like that part.

When 6 people are trying to message you at once it’s a bit chaotic with all the flashing document windows in your toolbar.  I hate that.  Here’s an easy solution for that.  Only login to your instant messenger when you want to use it.  Then log off when you are done.  That way you don’t have 20 people virtually tapping you on the shoulder all day long.

Amidst all this communication, you will need to get some actual work done, right?

What are they paying you to do anyhow?  Get back to work!


4 Responses to "Drinking from the firehose"

1 | TDH

June 14th, 2007 at 9:44 am


I had a colleague whose spouse programmed his computer to delete any email in which he was not in the main address line and if there were more than a certain number of participants. I get the idea behind it, but it seems you could still miss some important stuff that way. It does encourage us to over-communicate, though, precisely because it is too easy.

2 | Scott

June 14th, 2007 at 8:15 pm


Wow! And I thought *I* was buried in communications all day (though most of mine are by phone)!

I love e-mail, primarily for the time-shifting component of communications. One way communication isn’t good for *everything*, but it’s perfect for quick and concise communication, especially when schedules don’t match.

3 | Dave

June 14th, 2007 at 8:42 pm


Yeah, I loved email for several years until the fire hose started spraying messages at me every day like a digital uzi.

4 | Blackberry Curve 8300 : .: Above The Aether :.

October 3rd, 2007 at 10:57 pm


[…] P.S. – I figured out quickly how to turn off the annoying chime and vibrate function when each email arrives.  Otherwise I would lose my mind. […]


  • Dave: Not sure, Bryan, but I'd love to know where Craig lives.
  • Bryan Hanks: What city were those in?
  • Kevin David Anderson: check out our other wreaths at: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150452725264516.391111.360128594515&type=3
  • epiphenita: Like Tom Waits without the music.
  • epiphenita: Reminds me of my good friend's artwork: http://victoriacarlson.blogspot.com/2009/06/untitled.html
  • Dave: I think someone should make some dance music from those "WHOAHs."
  • epiphenita: Oh, Dave. That was tonic to my soul. Perfect. I vote for an exorcism.
  • Dave: Hmm, looks sober to me.
  • Scott: I'm thinking that the guy with the hat might have had a drink or two before this picture was taken. Just a hunch...
  • Scott: There's a roleplaying scenario just waiting to be written based on these pictures. :-)


Stepping over the steaming pile of reality. This is one man's journey into the absurd.

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