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Delete or read?

This week I attended a Data Visualization workshop presented by the Advanced Media Center at UC Berkeley. Every year I set at least one professional development goal; this year it’s learning how to better communicate visually.

Part of the class included other resources, which led me to Nathan Yau’s website. One of the articles on the front page of his site is titled “Email Deletion Flow Chart.” Well, of course I had to read the post.

We all get a lot of emails, and there’s a large subset of them that almost instantly end up in the archive or the trash bin. In the past year, this subset seems to have really grown for me. They tend to follow a similar pattern to “submit infographic” probably 90 percent of the time. At this point, the patterns seem so regular that I can archive without ever opening the email. Here’s my deletion process.

Over the last week or so I’ve written a number of blog posts talking about B2B spam and how annoying I find it. Sometimes I think I’m too sensitive about the amount of junk I get. But then I have two days at a class unrelated to email and discover a couple things.

Many people hate spam

The messages that Nathan talks about in his deletion flow chart are the same sorts of messages I complain about. Nominally, they’re targeted and cantina information ‘relevant’ to him. Someone is scraping his website, and mine, for key words and they sending us mail related to those key words.

The problem is these messages aren’t relevant. Just because I mention an airline on my website, doesn’t mean I’m interested in your sponsored travel posts. That mail is spam.

I’m not the only small business person that hates this kind of mail.

Spam is still a problem

My primary spam filters are in my mail client. We don’t run many on the server. I discovered the last two days just how effective the desktop filters are. Over 1000 messages per day in my inbox. Without the laptop filters my mailbox was totally unusable on my phone. There was no way to easily view mail on my phone – there was just too much spam.

I know my situation is special, even unique. Even then, I was actively surprised at the sheer volume of spam in my mailbox. This morning I spent a good 20 minutes manually going through over 700 messages before I could start on any work.

Opt-in mail works

The key to delivery is permission. We all know that. The more people who simply look at a subject line and delete the mail, the worse a sender’s reputation gets. Processes like Nathan’s directly affect his mailbox and they affect other people’s mailboxes. These processes are more likely to happen when we don’t recognize the sender.

We talk about IP reputation, domain reputation, content reputation as if they’re separate from permission. They’re not. Permission makes it easier to create and maintain a good reputation.

Having problems with delivery? The first step is always evaluating permission.

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