Reporter Taylor Dobbs Thinks Email Is the New Snail Mail


Photo credit: Maggie Kinzel

Photo credit: Maggie Kinzel

Word on the street these days is that among younger millennials, Twitter is the freshman dating a senior at another school, Facebook Messenger is the homecoming queen, and email is the kid eating his sandwich in the bathroom. Eager to see if these stereotypes held water, I called Taylor Dobbs to the stand. Taylor is a journalism student at Northeastern and a former intern and reporter for VT Digger and the Boston Globe. He writes about national security, international politics, and Husky goings-on for SitRep, See the News, and The Huntington News and tweets (prolifically) at @taylordobbs. Read on to find out how email figures into all this digital activity.

On the great Email vs Facebook vs Twitter vs Texting debate: Taylor uses Twitter as a professional communication tool, Facebook Messenger and iMessage for people he knows--“iMessage really changed the game, because you can do it on a Mac.” Email is reserved for people who don’t have Facebook, like his mother. (My own mother would happily sacrifice limbs before giving up Facebook-- Ed.) Among his peers, email is seen as being “really impersonal, even though in terms of action, it’s the same.” All the automated systems send to email, so there’s so much noise in his inbox, so many robots. Even at work, Taylor prefers calling to emailing, in part because, as a reporter, “you want to get something off the cuff and genuine.” Another reason: calling is much faster. “Email is the new snail mail,” he says. That being said, he does still use it. Tools:

  • Email services: All of his accounts are gmail or Google Apps except his spam account which is Yahoo! (natch).
  • Number of email accounts: 5 active--one for school, one primary personal gmail, one secondary personal gmail for second accounts, one business account, and one spam account.
  • Email interface--desktop: Apple Mail
  • Email interface--mobile phone: native Mail app
  • Phone: iPhone.
  • Third party apps/tools: none.

Habits:

  • Mobile vs desktop usage: Taylor almost always checks email on his phone--even if he’s sitting at his computer and an Apple Mail notification goes off. Checking email on his desktop requires switching activities, so it’s more of an interruption than checking on his phone. However, if it’s an important email, and he’s at his desktop, he will reply from his desktop, in which case the process goes like: desktop notification-->check on phone--> answer on desktop.
  • Managing incoming email: Taylor deletes almost everything, sometimes before reading it if he can tell it’s not important/doesn’t want to read it. He doesn’t use a filtering service because he still likes to see the headlines so he can mentally file them. When he’s working, he almost always has his desktop notifications muted, unless he’s waiting to hear back from a source, in which case he has them on really loud.

Activity:

  • Current unread count (not including spam account): 336
  • Emails received yesterday (10/2/2012): 60
  • Emails replied to yesterday: 1
  • First checks email: Immediately upon waking (9:15am), after he swipes off his alarm. If there’s a useful email it’s one of the top, because the bacn comes in around 4:00am.
  • Last checks email: Right before he goes to bed.
  • Email overload level: Green.

Want to see how Taylor's email habits compare with a tech writer's, a venture capitalist’s, and a technology consultant’s? Dive into the following:

Want your inbox profiled? Email me: clairew at ripariandata dot com.

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