The man who processed 10+ emails per minute – a spam urban myth?

Posted on January 16, 2013


I still see and hear people complain about spam. Mainly spam email, though sometimes things like spam texts or spammy social media posts. I wanted to touch on spam email here because I can’t believe there is still much angst about it.

I also can’t believe what some people consider a ‘full’ inbox.

Aw, a cute cat in an in-tray symbolising the opposite of this post

Aw, a cute cat in an in-tray symbolising the opposite of this post

Back in the mid-noughties spam email was a huge subject. When I was editing a tech publication we would write about it from legal and tech perspectives (mainly) and – sure enough – technology seems to have won the day. Most of us receive nothing like the spam we used to get and have far less time wasted.

The other day I caught a comment online from a reporter I know saying something like “Returning to a deluge of email – 200+ new in my inbox.”

Pah. Kids today.

I know people who regularly deal with that much email overnight.

At the height of the spam problem that I used to experience, my daily email count at work – including both spam and ‘proper’ emails – was around 500.

Remember, this was before effective spam filtering, when I was on a lot of lists (as all journos are) and when I had a justifiably high number of emails to see, whether internal or from readers, subjects of stories or PRs.

Processing 500 emails each day isn’t fun. There are also worse things in life and it’s doable, with a few obvious tactics. (Coming back from a two-week holiday, sans logging in from afar or mobile email, to around 5,000 emails is another post.)

I mentioned my work situation once at the time and heard about an exceptional case. A reader with a technical background at a top-tier software vendor found himself in a quasi-customer support role. He wasn’t junior but clearly not very senior either. He claimed he had to deal with – ie file, delete, forward and occasionally reply to – 7,000 emails per day.

In his defence, that was all he did and he didn’t have to do it for more than a few months. But think about that.

Even on a 10-hour day, that’s 700 emails per hour or scanning over 10 every 60 seconds. Including those to which he has to give any thought or a reply and it clearly works out at more than 10 per minute.

Doable? Possibly but you’d have a breakdown after a while.

Given his role and the software he was working with – interacting with a global community of developers – it might have been true.

If you’ve heard of anything more nuts than the 7,000-per-day man then I’m curious.

And no more complaining about that inbox with 200 messages. That was just this other guy’s coffee break.

*photo credit: hatwoman via photopin cc

Follow Tony on Twitter – @tphallett

Posted in: Technology, Work