LeWeb'08: The Revenge of E-mail (Panel) [en]

[fr] Quelques notes et réflexions autour de l'e-mail.

I arrived partway through this panel, and thought it was interesting. Here are a few notes followed my some of my rambling thoughts on the topic. (I’ll jump on the occasion to point you out to my friend Suw Charman’s work on “the e-mail problem“.)

The challenge for e-mail marketing is not getting through spam, but getting into the inbox (Nick Heys, Emailvision). I (Steph) had an interesting conversation a few months ago with Hervé Bloch, country manager Switzerland for Emailvision. I’m convinced there is a space for commercial e-mail communication which is respectful, not spammy, and actually adds value. My conversation with Hervé clearly contributed to me thinking that.

Nick Heys says the bottom line is trust: don’t send irrelevant stuff, respect the person’s decision, make sure it’s opt-in&

Olivier Mathiot says the opening rate has plummeted (15% opened today). People open e-mails when they know the sender and trust the content.

Catherine Barba notes that e-mail subjects are often very bad — Robert Scoble adds that there is the same problem with post titles: few bloggers know to write good titles (for viewing in FriendFeed or Technorati).

Strategy from the public: separate accounts (I do that — one for signing up, one for human beings. I have to admit that over the last year I’ve been using my “good” address more and more to sign up for stuff& need to think about that).

Robert mentions that he gets more and more “business” stuff through DMs, which is disastrous because he can’t sort them, forward them, copy other people on the response.

Somebody in the audience mentioning that teenagers have on average 7 e-mail addresses (I find that surprising, to be honest). He says that e-mail is being used to define personas, and separate things out, and that’s where we’re going. I think he misses the point that teenagers do not behave like adults (you can’t draw conclusions about adult behavior by studying teenagers), that putting up barriers between different parts of your life is characteristic to that phase in life, and that ultimately, it is not necessarily a healthy thing when done in an extreme way.

My experience is that we are caught in between two movements: one that tends to separate out parts of our lives, and one that tends to bring our whole life together (integration). We are somewhere in the middle of that tension between two extremes, and neither of those extremes are viable: complete openness and transparency doesn’t work (we do need some privacy) and complete separation between aspects of our lives, taken to the extreme, is split personality disorder.

I do use two (or more) e-mail addresses, but it’s quite clear that over time, their usage tends to seep one into the other. I know from people who use separate addresses for work and personal exchanges that it breaks down for them too.

One completely underused “tool” (or rather, feature) of e-mail is filters. Particularly amongst non-techy people (and possibly techies too), I find that those who are most overwhelmed with their e-mail also do not use filters at all. Filters help you prioritise, keep “for possible future reference but not that interesting now” e-mails out of your inbox, and are pretty easy to set up.

5 thoughts on “LeWeb'08: The Revenge of E-mail (Panel) [en]

  1. I’d be interested in reading any information about sign-up rates, interest and so on for your personal newsletter. I’ve always felt that no-one would be interested on a friends/family level: in fact, that they’d be offended by being asked to subscribe to a newsletter. I’m doing a lot of email newsletters for work projects at the moment and am half thinking of starting one up for Permanent Tourist, with the incentive of free high-res photos for newsletter subscribers…

  2. I think the separation of our different life aspects into lifes is a result of a basic human behaviour: categorization. Just as there is a myriad of genres for music, different subcultures (with susbsubcultures and so on) and so forth, we try to categorize everything we come across: people, things and communication. As such, it’s a powerful beast, it helped us survive in the era of sticks and stones and it often is a good advisor today. Those of us who have a hang for procrastination know the pleasure of being able to put something “ad acta”.

    Of course, there is a limit to its benefits, neurotic sorting can have a devastating effect on a person’s life. On the other hand, I know very few people that are overly organized but not yet in need of professional help. Maybe the gap isn’t there and I’m just too blind to see the borderline cases.

    As for commercial info via mail: I am signed up to several newsletters, some of them by choice, some because they come with some sort of other free service. Those others are immediately discarded by my email setup, the others land in my inbox just like normal, personal mail. Those are the ones with useful subjects, a nonidiotic format (plain text, correct encoding, useful From: and Reply-To: addresses etc etc). In essence, those are the mails that have a “considerate” feel about it. The links in them are easily copied and pasted, the text is well written and enjoyable to read.

    Bottom line: make a mail enjoyable and interesting to read and it will not feel like spam. Oh, and only send mail to people who have expressly asked for it, but that goes without saying. The hard part is convincing eople like me that there is added benefit in getting those mails. And do it once a month, normally.

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