I get a lot of email. On a typical day I will get close to 2000 messages across my various work and personal accounts. About 60 – 70% of that mail is spam and caught by spamassassin or my mta filters and moved into mailboxes that I check once a day for false positives. About 15 – 10% of the remaining mail is from various discussion lists, and those are all sorted into their own mailboxes so I can keep conversations straight. The rest of the email is divided between mail directly to me and various commercial lists I have opted in to.
Up until recently, the commercial mail was all just dumped into my inbox. Nothing special happened to it it just sat there until I could read it. Recently, however, the volume of commercial mail has exploded, swamping my inbox. After losing track of some critical issues, I sat down and fixed my mail filters. Now, all my commercial and marketing mail (ie, mail I signed up for with tagged addresses) is now being filtered into its own mailbox.
There are two takeaways here.
One: the volume of commercial mail has increased significantly. Companies who were previously mailing me once a month are now mailing me twice a week. This contributed to the clutter and resulted in me pushing all commercial mail out of my inbox. I don’t think this increase is limited to just my mailbox, I believe many recipients are seeing an increase in commercial and marketing email, to the point where they’re finding it difficult to keep up with it all.
Two: Recipients have a threshold over which too much email makes their mailbox less usable. Once this threshold is reached they will take steps to change that. In my case, I can just filter all the commercial email as I use tagged addresses for all my signups. In other cases, they may start unsubscribing from all the mail cluttering their mailbox or blocking senders.
It is the tragedy of the commons demonstrated on a small scale.