The Almighty E-mail Client

A colleague pointed me to this article about knowledge management (KM) and blogging. The section that I found particularly interesting talks about how e-mail programs have become the key tool of the knowledge worker, even though people use them for many things they weren’t necessarily designed for, like storing knowledge and documents. This has me thinking about my own e-mail situation. I receive about 100 messages (spam included) a day to my direct work account. (I respond to the mail in several e-mail accounts.) That inbox holds more than 6,000 messages. I have 84 other mailboxes. I refuse to count the number of filters I use. On an average day, messages might pour into 20-30 mailboxes.

Because much of the communication related to my job happens via e-mail, I end up with a lot of e-mail with valuable information I want to save or others want me to save for them. It isn’t unusual for me to have to dig back through years of e-mails to find some tidbit of information I need for something. I’ve built databases to store some of the information that comes to be via e-mail, but there isn’t a good way to store a lot of what I have besides just dumping everything into a database that can handle multiple formats. And there isn’t a way to make group dumps in this e-mail program. I think one of the reasons why I keep so much in my e-mail program is that there isnt’ an easy way to export the information elsewhere–at least not in bulk–and it’s difficult to know what I’m going to need where and when.

I joked with someone today after reading the section on e-mail apps about how neat it would be if e-mail programs were more like some of the blogs or database software I use. It would be great to be able to search the content of messages, not just the subject lines. (This limitation seems to be related to the e-mail client I use.) To be able to categorize messages in ways other than what mailbox it’s in and to be able to tie related messages together in a means other than threading could be very powerful. Handling attachments in a better way, too, like having a more robust document management system, could be a big improvement.

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4 Responses to “The Almighty E-mail Client”

  1. peter caputa Says:

    assuming you use outlook, try lookout for searching your email.

  2. j Baumgart Says:

    I do not use Outlook, but thanks for the advice. Maybe someone who reads this blog will find it useful.

  3. Christina Says:

    Outlook has a lot of options but I suspect you’re using something Linux or Unix like…. I wonder if the Lycos toolbar would do it? (http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040322-1.shtml)

  4. j Baumgart Says:

    Yeah, I wish. I’m not actually a geek, just a geek-wannabe. = )

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