A Harsh Reality: E-mail is a Necessary Evil

If you are like me, then you probably think that e-mail is broken.

I know people who spend their entire days living out of their e-mail inbox – they barely can respond to the onslaught of messages coming at them. Keeping up with e-mail has become a large part of our jobs – for many of us, e-mail management is a job.

E-mail has been described as the killer app of the Internet but most people want to kill e-mail. But imagine, how would you do your job without e-mail (no, I won’t accept the answer ‘better’)?

I’m probably a bit younger than most of my readers, graduating from college in 2002. I’ve never known the workplace without e-mail. I must admit, even with all its flaws, trying to do what I do day-to-day would be nearly impossible without e-mail.

This past Monday, I discovered I was experiencing e-mail issues. While I was receiving e-mail fine, none of my outgoing messages were being delivered (even though there were no error messages and they were saved in my ‘Sent’ folder). I was made aware of this fact when one of my clients instant messaged me, asking me a question that I had answered that morning via e-mail.

The problem was not specific to that client though. Others also had not received replies I sent late last week – in some instances these messages contained relatively time sensitive material. Fortunately, I was able to quickly rectify those particular cases.

I spent the better part of yesterday trying to get to the bottom of this problem. I troubleshooted a number of potential issues (including SMTP related) but came to no conclusion. I am suspicious about Thunderbird because I was automatically upgraded to 1.5.0.2 over the weekend but I did uninstall and tried a different version to no avail. Even though I didn’t resolve the problem, I’ve come up with what I think is a better e-mail solution to what I’ve been doing (I’ll share that in a subsequent post).

These last several days have been quite eye opening. With all the complaining I’ve done about e-mail lately, I really need it. My clients are located throughout the U.S., in different times zones and with different schedules. The asynchronous nature of e-mail helps us communicate on our own terms. It empowers us to think through problems, gives us a way to exchange meeting notes, or to touch base in-between phone calls.

No, e-mail is not perfect but it is a necessary evil. At the very least, I’ll be happy to get back to business as usual.

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