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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Schadenfreude and Bacn

Schadenfreude is one of my favorite words, precisely because of the almost universal reaction received upon defining it. "There is a word for that?!", is the incredulous refrain.

Now there's a new term making the rounds of the noosphere, and it is bacn.

Bacn is the term for mail that isn't spam, isn't personal email, and isn't business email, either. Think about the newsletters you get from companies you purchase from, automated notices from internal systems, etc.

The reason I find this term interesting is that it is something I've been talking about for some time, but just never had a good word (words are power!) to properly describe it quickly. Even though it has "hip", "Web 2.0", "look I dropped a vowel, how creative I am!"-ness to it, I suspect it is going to make it into the common lexicon.

Here's why:

  • It talks about a productivity problem with email.
    The modern information professional has 10-30% of their email composed of these types of email (newsletters, automated notices, your order has shipped), and every interruption to check email takes 15 minutes to properly resume from.

  • It talks about an infrastructure problem.
    These emails are going in the archive. 10-20% of the emails in an email archive are bacn. They are especially likely to be saved by users, because, "I want to read them, just not right now."

  • There are tools to help deal with it.
    Here at MessageGate, we use our software to automatically tag email as bacn, and the end user can set up rules to file these emails appropriately. A more intensive approach could auto-file these mails for the user (without them setting up rules).

  • The volume of email involved has a very negative impact on e-discovery efforts, especially since the current (broken) methodology of searching by address and date has basically no false-positive filtering.

Companies are starting to look at the productivity and infrastructure burden of bacn; I'm just glad to have a word to describe a topic I've been working on and thinking about.

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