Declaring e-mail bankruptcy

NICK DOUGLAS — "If you've sent me an email (and you aren't my wife, partner, or colleague), you might want to send it again." So says Fred Wilson, venture capitalist, declaring e-mail bankruptcy today on his blog. He's not the first high-profile person to take this measure. Here are three other notables who've given up on their e-mail (the most famous of whom reportedly white-lied) and three who found a better way.

  • Lawrence Lessig: The highest-profile email bankruptcy to date. The copyright attorney (who fought a Supreme Court case against a 20-year extension of all U.S. copyrights) sent a mass e-mail in 2004 asking anyone with important unanswered e-mail to reply, which would flag their mail as important. He carried off the task with aplomb, apologizing for failing to maintain "cyber decency." But rumor has it that Lessig still went through much of his "bankrupt" e-mail.
  • Andrew Baron: The producer of the Rocketboom show reportedly declared an e-mail reboot in 2006.
  • Michael Arrington: In October 2006, the publisher of the TechCrunch blog came back from vacation and deleted months of e-mails. He also turned off instant messaging.
  • The better fix: Sean Bonner: Instead of dropping all his current e-mails, Sean Bonner put a throttle on future mail. The founder of the Metroblogging city-blog network started autoresponding to e-mail this month, saying he only checks e-mail once a day.
  • Tim Ferriss: Sean's following what Ferriss recommends in his book The 4-Hour Workweek. Ferriss follows his own plan (and apparently truly works four hours a week).
  • Andy Baio: Upcoming's founder says he built a 10,000-e-mail backlog in 2006. He spent six weeks fixing it.

Before you try this at home, remember that the people above can get hundreds of e-mails a day. Try autoresponders before you try bankruptcy; everyone appreciates some sort of response. Consider hiring an assistant, even part-time, for less than you could make by saving your e-mail time. If these measures seem like too much, you're not that bad off. You just need to get quicker at managing your e-mail.

(Photo: Midnight Beep)