diamond geezer

 Thursday, August 23, 2012

I am a terrible hoarder of emails.

Or rather, I'm much too good at it.

I keep emails far longer than I should. I pile them up. I file them away. Spam emails, obviously, I delete. But the rest sit around, accumulate, fill folders. Because I am in fact a bloody marvellous hoarder of emails, far beyond the point of normality.

It's not my inbox that's the problem. When emails arrive requiring action, I'm usually pretty good at dealing with them. A reply dashed off, an attachment saved, a conversation continued... and then I file the email away. I've got my work inbox down to 76 emails, mostly live issues requiring further action, or important emails containing project information I daren't hide away elsewhere. [You know how awful it is when you urgently need some crucial fact three months after you were sent it but can't remember where you filed it. So I leave this important stuff in my inbox so it's always there, until eventually I decide its time has come and add it to the archive.] You may not be very impressed by an inbox containing 76 emails, but believe me, that's the good bit.

When you stay in the same job for a decade, it's very easy to accumulate electronic mail. I still have a copy of the first email our team manager sent me, on my first day, explaining how some important work-based process worked. That email's now as redundant as the system it referenced, but I've kept it all the same because I'm a completist like that. Likewise I've still got the nine-year-old client complaint email, the four-year-old office relocation email, and thousands of replies to a reply to a reply about nothing much. They all get stashed away, in the appropriate folder for whatever project, because you never know when an old email is going to be useful.

I have 60 archive folders in total, because I believe in having everything in its place. And you may laugh, but I'm usually the one people come to at work if they need some long-forgotten scrap of information or important attachment. While others delete emails on a whim, not only do I keep them all but I can find them again too. You need evidence of a key decision from 2007, I'll locate it in under a minute. Want embarrassing photos from the 2002 office party, I'll forward them forthwith. Seeking legal action, I've got the email from 2004 with the crucial admission of guilt. OK, so 99.9% of ancient emails are worthless apart from the nostalgic glow gained from reading them again. But if you never know quite which email will turn out to be utterly crucial, why not keep them all?

I counted them yesterday, and I have 42862 emails in storage. I realise that's quite a lot, and considerably greater than the tiny number in my inbox. It's probably excessive, indeed a psychologist might say it's indicative of someone who can't bring himself to let go of his past, or some such babble. And that's just emails I've received. Look inside my "sent items" folders and there's 13612 additional emails there too. I'd argue it's important to have proof of what you've said, and also dead useful to be able to go back and see what you wrote the next time an issue comes around. Yes, it's madness to have fifty thousand emails stashed away. But I'd rather that then have to completely cull them back.

I don't know about your place of work, but we have a limit on the size that our email folders are permitted to contain. Some workplaces have a ridiculously tiny limit to encourage staff to be concise, but thankfully we're not quite that bad. I think our cap is 450MB, or something, which is fairly generous by comparison. Except a decade of email takes up rather more space than that, and my archive totals a massive 2.3GB. I've not got it all in one place, else the email police would shut me down, I've siphoned the majority off into a separate mailbox file on a separate drive, in a way I don't fully understand. I'm not quite sure how I've got away with it, even through three different email migration programmes, but my complete stash remains.

If you work in IT I am your worst nightmare. I hoard gigabytes. I store unnecessary 7MB attachments. I don't play ball with your requests to auto-archive. I'm the reason you have to splash out on additional server space. Or at least I used to be your problem, but now I'm not. Now you're promising to store all my emails in The Cloud, somewhere offsite, because there's no longer the premium on memory space there used to be. Soon I'll be able to store as many work emails as I like, be that sixty thousand or more, as remote-hosting technology finally allows my obsession to thrive.

Now we can all be terrible hoarders of emails. I look forward to the rest of you catching up.

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