2018-11-05 Email Archives Are Not Archives

People have been linking my old essay on Record Keeping. That reminded me of email. I got into a conversation with @zladuric, @jamie, and @ckeen. Thank you all.

I am trying a new thing: deleting mail that I won’t answer or that I answered. No archiving. By now mail has become so unimportant, this seems feasible again. I will archive receipts and bills and stuff. But perhaps things that aren’t as important as letters from friends and family should be treated as such. Ephemeral messages.

What I am starting to hate is that the default mail app on my iOS devices makes it hard to delete and simple to archive mail, leading me to the Google trough where the mail donkey gets fed its mail every single day. It grows fat and I get no benefit from it. So now I’m starting to get stubborn and questioning the tools and services I use. Hah! Much too late, of course. In 2016 I downloaded all my mail and deleted the archived mail from the server. Time to do it again?

I have gigabytes of mail archives from days gone by and I’m never ever looking anything up in it. I hardly look at pictures in my photo albums, either. Nor do I read my old journals. So who is it for? Nobody, as far as I can tell. It just sits there, growing.

I think the email archive lacks physicality, so no random browsing, walking past interesting email spines, leafing through old paper, looking at cool email covers and reminiscing. No serendipity. No sitting on the loo, looking for a thing to read and finding those old love letters of yore. Nope. Email archives are just there. Somewhere. Somewhere we cannot go. Unseen and forgotten, like stories from before the war.

Now you can be a digital messy, too! Hoarding all the mails, copying all the PDFs, keeping all the documents. One day you will read it. After the apocalypse, when everybody stops creating more and more of the stuff, you will have the treasure trove of troves, the digital arch of archives. You will restart civilization! 🤩

Seriously, now. Your partner could find the good parts of your email archive and read it when you’re gone? That’d be an interesting use, at least. If you curate your email, then it’s a true archive, not a black hole of gaping memories.

XKCD says it best:

Old Files

The image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

Tags:

Comments

DeletedPage


Please make sure you contribute only your own work, or work licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Note: in order to facilitate peer review and fight vandalism, we will store your IP number for a number of days. See Privacy Policy for more information. See Info for text formatting rules. You can edit the comment page if you need to fix typos. You can subscribe to new comments by email without leaving a comment.

To save this page you must answer this question:

Please say HELLO.

Referrers: ZENOPUS ARCHIVES: Article in a New Cthulhu Zine THOUGHT EATER Gothridge Manor Dreams of Mythic Fantasy