How much e-mail to save?

I used to be able to say I had a copy of every e-mail I’d ever sent or received. I just kept whatever it was I’d written and archived my old messages. But in the process of transferring from computer to computer, somehow I lost everything from before 1998. In my case, of course, it’s no big loss, but for someone really important, such a loss could be tragic. So I was intrigued when I saw the slashdot article about the British Library’s efforts to start a public e-mail archive.

Going through my old messages, there’s not much there: mostly questions like “Are we on for poker this friday?” or “Did you get the fax I sent?” However, I did find an intriguing message that must have described one of my earliest pieces of spam:

I don’t usually read “spam”, but this one caught my eye. Why save for years for your kids’ tuition when you can buy them a college degree for less than a days’ pay?

And who ever heard of a college that’s open every day–even Sundays and Holidays!



>Obtain a prosperous future and secure the
>admiration of all for as little as $125.
>Diplomas from prestigious non-accredited
>universities based on your life experience.
>No tests, no classes, no interviews.
>All diplomas available including bachelors,
>masters, and doctorates (PhD’s).
>No one is turned down.
>Open Every Day Including Sundays
>and Holidays

I was literally so excited about this piece of spam that I forwarded it to my friends. For entertainment purposes, only, of course! Back then, spam was almost an amusement; the quantities hadn’t become great enough for it to become a festering boil on the Internet. Now the British Library, in its efforts to preserve the great words of great people, will also be preserving their spam! V1Ag3a for Stephen Hawking! H0t Asian Babes for J.K. Rowling!

Interestingly, trying to find anything of real relevance in those old e-mails may also be somewhat like sifting through spam. Inbetween the “can we meet for lunch” messages and the “will you stop by the grocery store tonight” snippets, I did find the beginnings of a disastrous business partnership: my future short-lived business partner loaned me a fan to use when my office’s AC went down. Maybe if I had never taken that fan, things would have been different. If only…. But in fact, I only started Word Munger (the first time) when I sold my half of the business. So maybe taking the fan was a good thing.

Maybe we’ll find a similar snippet in Rowling’s messages. Perhaps she lost out on a job interview one day, and the next day decided to start work on that little novel she had been thinking about. Maybe Hawking’s theory on black holes was inspired by a cancelled lunch date. Save those e-mails, people. Perhaps one day they’ll be part of history!

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3 Responses to How much e-mail to save?

  1. Anonymous says:

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  2. Pingback: Word Munger » My respect for librarians continues to grow

  3. Pingback: Word Munger » My life, my e-mails

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