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E-Mail Mania

June 11, 2012

2012-06 _SimplifyingEmailV4cHaving multiple email accounts is confusing for your contacts because they may fear you are no longer checking your account – or even worse, that it’s no longer your email to which they are sending their most intimate confidences.

Following Thoreau’s Dictum

Simplify, simplify, said Henry David Thoreau. I don’t think he was referring to email accounts at the time, but that’s what’s on my mind today.

I recently got a new mobile phone, which meant importing all my contacts and email settings from my PC for the first time in a long time. Yowza! It turns out that I have been actively using 9 different email accounts! This wasn’t clear to me on my own computer, where all email accounts were automatically grouped together. So how did I get in this mess? Long story short, I picked all these addresses up along the way. I’d like to list them for you here (15 in total) but publicly posting your email address is an invitation for abuse. However, that won’t stop me from telling you the long story of where they all came from!

My oldest active email account is from Hotmail. I had CompuServe and AOL (and corporate) emails accounts which predate that Hotmail account, but they have long since gone unused, unpaid and forgotten. I was a scrappy young marketer at Microsoft when I acquired my first Hotmail email account in 1999, a couple of years after the scrappy “HoTMaiL” startup was itself acquired by the MSN division. This explains why my Hotmail address is a mirror of my original, official Microsoft email alias, the fashion amongst many of my Microsoft colleagues at the time. This also explains why I’ve hesitated over the years to give up this part of my personal tech history, although the account has certainly caused me enough grief to justify dumping it long ago. This is my only account that has been hijacked (emails sent out in my name), not once but three times. And although it has improved over the years, I still get a crazy amount of spam coming to this email. For this reason I’ve emptied out my Hotmail contacts list and change my password every couple of months with a new pair of expletives (there are endless combinations). You might say that I have a love/hate relationship with Hotmail. This is why I have designated this as my “graymail” account.

I am now primarily using a Gmail account for my personal correspondence. I had a lot of choices here, and I won’t deny that I was swayed by the fact that some people will judge you based on the email service you choose – whether it’s one of the top dozen web-based accounts like AOL, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo or one provided by your cable or telephone company. They each come with their own baggage. AOL, the original “walled garden” for internet novices, is now so outmoded that it’s beginning to look hip again (retro cool). But basically Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail are seen as “old” and Gmail, for the time being, is still seen as “new”. I wasn’t swayed from Gmail by the fact that Google mines mails for serving up personalized ads. There’s enough anonymity in the process and I kind of enjoy watching what their algorithms decide I might want to purchase.

That’s just two accounts: Hotmail for junk and Gmail for personal mail. And then there are variations on the theme. I have a second Hotmail account I used as my original graymail account back in the day, and three different Live accounts (which also run on the Hotmail service) from my days working on the Windows Live team. I used one Live address as my personal email for a couple of years before I switched over to Gmail. I have a three additional Gmail accounts which I’ve used for Craigslist and other online shopping sites. It evolved as a means for me to keep these the buying and selling sites separate. In particular, the pervasiveness of PayPal fishing scams prompted me to open a separate Gmail account in an attempt to isolate myself from that corruption. And in addition, there’s a Yahoo account which I originally used to open a Flickr account. All of these (I count 8 in this paragraph) are going away now.

But wait, there’s more. I have an email account from UCLA, where I received my Bachelor’s in English Lit and Master of Education. A few years ago they tracked me down and signed me up. No doubt to facilitate hitting me up for more donations. I also have an email address from the University of Washington where I received my MBA. And I have a North Seattle College account where I am an adjunct instructor in their business department. These I will keep for practical and nostalgic reasons, but redirect to my personal Gmail account. Professionally, I use my domain as my primary address.

I’m sure I‘ve missed a few others and I’ve deliberately omitted any of my former corporate addresses, some of which are actually (or could be) active in alumnus status. And I haven’t counted my ISP (currently Comcast) e-mail accounts which I’ve never used. I also haven’t listed my Facebook, LinkedIn and About.Me accounts which offer email addresses or services of their own. Clearly I have a bushel full of email accounts. Having multiple emails accounts is confusing for your contacts because they may fear you are no longer checking your account – or even worse, that it’s not even your email to which they are sending their most intimate confidences but rather some other (my apologies to Tom Terrific at – it was never my email address, though I have to admit it has crossed my mind). It’s not confusing for me to have all these email addresses because I know more-or-less why and what I use them for and I have the tools to organize them on my end. Nevertheless, I do like the idea of keeping things simple and I worry about all those digital loose ends (my internet legacy). It’s time for some house cleaning.

For those keeping score: the final tally is 1 professional email, 1 personal, 1 graymail, 2 almae matres redirected to my personal account, and 1 teaching email redirected to my professional account. That leaves 8 addresses heading for retirement. The resulting new order means that I will only be checking three accounts each day and friends and family need only keep track of one (and business associates another).

I’d say, “Email me!” but it’s best just to leave a comment (it will be forwarded to my email!) How are you handling your email? Have you managed to stay with just one? Are you juggling a handful or more? Have you embraced them all, conglomerating the masses with the aid of a third party application? Or, are you blithely going along without even realizing that you may have a complexity problem? I say take Thoreau’s advice and simplify, simplify.

One Comment
  1. Hey, Sir, I blithely go along without even realizing I have a complexity problem. Well, at least I did, until now. Oy!

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