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Auto-Delete Emails Received While On Vacation? Not Without Knowing Their Lifespan

by Craig Roth  |  September 2, 2014  |  Comments Off on Auto-Delete Emails Received While On Vacation? Not Without Knowing Their Lifespan

I’m back from summer vacation with the kids and getting back into the swing of work. I didn’t check email at all during the vacation, so there’s quite a pile of it I’m working through.

Ironically, one of those emails was a pointer to a New York Times editorial called “Giving Email a Holiday“. It seems the nice folks at Daimler have provided workers an option to auto-delete any emails received during vacation with a nice response that it was deleted and who else to contact for immediate response. They say it relates to a trend called “data detox”, although some quick searching found that term used more for data cleansing.

First, let’s state the obvious. I find that interesting, and if I had that feature in place I’d never have seen this article (although, in that alternate universe, I wouldn’t need to…).

Next, this gets to the issue of email lifespan. Clearly, there are some emails with short lifespans that would best be deleted. For example “I changed the conference room for the meeting tomorrow” or “Cinnamon rolls in the break room!”. There are others that have a longer lifespan, such as “Forms for Healthcare Plan Renewal” or “New CEO” or “your system is throwing out errors right and left and I’d look at if if I were you”.

I’ve seen many attempts to determine importance, from Outlooks “sort by importance” to Gmail’s Priority Inbox. But I don’t recall one that attempts to determine lifespan. I think it’s an idea worth considering. Not only could it help tweak the auto-delete during vacation feature, but it could be useful anytime to move messages to a “read later” folder or archive based on the message’s lifespan. “Aged messages” is like another type of spam folder.

How would you do that? It requires some rules and AI, just like importance rating does. If it’s a calendar invite or change to a meeting in the past, it’s probably beyond its lifespan. Senders and subjects give clues as well. Manual hinting could be allowed, like the “!” or chili pepper on emails (and wind up ignored due to abuse just like those are).

The combination of lifespan and importance would be especially useful. High importance, short lifespan may pop up first. Low importance, long lifespan could go to a “read at leisure” folder.

Well, I’d better get back to that email pile. I’ve already deleted the short lifespan and spam ones. Now the real work begins, and no automated agent can help me with that.

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Category: attention-management  communication  

Craig Roth
Research VP, Tech and Service Providers
7 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Craig Roth is a Research Vice President focused on cloud office suites, collaboration tools, content management, and how they are being impacted by digital workplace and digital business trends...Read Full Bio

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