Browse Definitions :
Definition

email bankruptcy

Email bankruptcy is an acknowledgement that your email has become unmanageable and the decision to either purge your inbox and start afresh or, more radically, to renounce email altogether.

The origins of email bankruptcy as a term are not clear. One of the earliest examples of the practice, whether identified as such or not, was by Stanford computer science professor Donald E. Knuth. Knuth was an early adopter of email, in 1975. However, he gave it up 15 years later. Quoted in an article in The Washington Post, Knuth explained "I'd get to work and start answering e-mail -- three hours later, I'd say, 'Oh, what was I supposed to do today?'" He took the extreme route and simply stopped using email and has never regretted his decision, proclaiming that "I have been a happy man since Jan. 1 , 1990."

Creative Commons founder, law professor and Wired columnist Larry Lessig popularized the term and concept when he officially declared email bankruptcy in a mass email. In 2004, after spending 80 hours trying to take control of his inbox (which contained unanswered messages dating back two years), Lessig gave up and notified his correspondents that he was abnegating responsibility for all messages currently in his inbox.

Here are the steps Lessig took to declare email bankruptcy:

  1. He collected email addresses of people who had sent messages that he hadn't responded to.
  2. He copied all the email addresses into the Bcc field of a self-addressed email message.
  3. He wrote a polite note explaining that he was not going to respond to messages currently in his inbox (and, presumably, deleted them).
  4. He asked people to resend messages that really needed his attention.

According to Lessig, his declaration was well-received: A few of the recipients simply resent their messages but the vast majority were "kind enough to simply remain silent."

Declaring email bankruptcy absolves you of email indebtedness and allows you to start over with, one hopes, more efficient email management practices. However, as with its financial counterpart, there may be repercussions. Important messages may be lost, for one thing. Furthermore, you may be seen as less responsible. On the whole, email bankruptcy should not be undertaken unless email management is deemed impossible.

This was last updated in March 2008

Continue Reading About email bankruptcy

SearchCompliance
  • smart contract

    A smart contract is a decentralized application that executes business logic in response to events.

  • compliance risk

    Compliance risk is an organization's potential exposure to legal penalties, financial forfeiture and material loss, resulting ...

  • information governance

    Information governance is a holistic approach to managing corporate information by implementing processes, roles, controls and ...

SearchSecurity
  • threat modeling

    Threat modeling is a procedure for optimizing application, system or business process security by identifying objectives and ...

  • social engineering

    Social engineering is an attack vector that relies heavily on human interaction and often involves manipulating people into ...

  • distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack

    A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is one in which multiple compromised computer systems attack a target, such as a ...

SearchHealthIT
SearchDisasterRecovery
  • change control

    Change control is a systematic approach to managing all changes made to a product or system.

  • disaster recovery (DR)

    Disaster recovery (DR) is an organization's ability to respond to and recover from an event that affects business operations.

  • risk mitigation

    Risk mitigation is a strategy to prepare for and lessen the effects of threats faced by a business.

SearchStorage
  • storage security

    Storage security is the group of parameters and settings that make storage resources available to authorized users and trusted ...

  • cloud storage

    Cloud storage is a service model in which data is transmitted and stored on remote storage systems, where it is maintained, ...

  • cloud data management

    Cloud data management is a way to manage data across cloud platforms, either with or instead of on-premises storage.

Close