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IBM Cambridge Research Center

  Project: Email Studies: How people manage their in-boxes

Researchers: Candy Sidner, Steve Whittaker
Project contact: research@lotus.com

A Collaborative User Experience Project:

Email is one of the most successful computer applications created. Our empirical data show, however, that although email was originally designed as a communications application, it is now being used for other functions, including task management and personal archiving. This study demonstrates that these other functions are not well supported in the current system: users often have cluttered in-boxes containing thousands of messages, including partially read documents and conversational threads. Furthermore, user attempts to rationalize the inbox by filing are often unsuccessful, with the consequence that important messages get overlooked. We explain how overloading arises and offer technical solutions to the problem.