In 2011 and 2012 I wrote about the increasing problem of Business Spam – unsolicited, unconsented advertising that has grown in volume to the point that it constitutes more than half of my email . In 2016, I’ve done an experiment – I’ve not opted in to any newsletter, any website offering notifications or any vendor offering information. I’ve monitored my mailbox for violators of good email practices.
This month, we put a stop to it – cold turkey. Anyone sending business spam is now blocked from the 22,000 users of Beth Israel Deaconess and its affiliates.
Here’s how we did it – using a commercially available appliance we have black listed organizations which send bulk email and companies which violate unsolicited email policies.
I realize there are many categories of activity going on here
1. Those who have my contact information for a legitimate business reason but sell that information without my consent. Maybe there is something buried in a conference registration that suggests my information will be sold, but I’ve never found such a disclosure.
2. Those who create mailing lists by guessing at email addresses. John.halamka, halamkaj, john_halamka, halamka.john are all guesses since I’ve never used such addresses on any materials.
3. Those who facilitate bulk mailing. I’ve had conversations with the management of companies that provide bulk mailing services such as newsletters/product updates/special deals. Many of these bulk mailing companies have sound anti-spam policies. However, they have to trust that organizations which use their services adhere to the policies, accepting attestation that consent/subscription has been obtained from recipients on mailing lists. Many customers of bulk mailing outfits submit false attestations. Remember, I’ve not opted into a single thing in 2016 and I’m receiving hundreds of bulk emails every day.
May of 2016 marks “email liberation” month at BIDMC, since we put a stop to the electronic equivalent of garbage passing through our email gateways. This Zero tolerance for bulk email approach may very well transform email into a once again useful medium for communication. Sure, we’ll implement secure texting and groupware over the next year as alternatives to email, but there is a chance email could be salvaged.
My email box has gone from 1500 emails a day to 150. If everyone does this, maybe the business spammers will stop their flood of unwanted communications.
Viva the email liberation!
I think this is an interesting idea and a worthy experiment.
Take it a step further.
Why not think out what organizational e-mail policies should look like?
Let’s ask some questions:
What are employees asked to do on email? How reasonable is the email load? What is the impact on their overall health, psychological wellbeing and stress levels? Are some managers and some departments guilty of email abuse (for want of another term for it). Are others not taking advantage of the potential benefits of well-timed, well-thought out emails?
(Paging Al and Jim: is this even a reasonable place for an employer to be involved? Should we be worried about E-mail Brother)
Meanwhile, let’s take our queue from the transparency movement and measure some of this stuff. How much time are doctors and other healthcare workers spending on email? What volume of email are they getting? What impact are we seeing in terms of workload / effectiveness?
Follow John Halamka’s lead. Put the barriers up….E-mail Liberacion!
I dont think John needs all that hard work. Google’s gmail has 1) a fabulous spam filter (bought via a company called Postini in 2007-8) that cuts out all the pnis enlargement and more importantly 2) the wonderful “Priority inbox” — that means that all my important emails get to me, and all the newsletters go into a separate inbox i review from time to time in the day–the one to 5 I want to read I read, the rest I delete en masse.
Of course this still doesn’t solve my problem of having to reply to the email I do have to reply to….where is that robot! But I guess that’s called my job