Digital Litter - how to remove 99% of your emails in an evening

2020 05 01

I love Gerry McGovern. Not only does he make a lot of sense, but he gets you fired up about it!

His latest chat on ShopTalkShow Gerry points out that we have lots and lots of files, often on the cloud, that we dont use. These files actually need to sit on a physical server somewhere, even if it is "on the cloud", that cloud is make up of many real boxes.

The issue here is that these boxes have a cost on the environment. They take up space, and they require energy. All our unused files on there are essentially just Digital Litter. Think about it, do you still need all those Bebo emails from 2008 telling you that someone wrote on your wall?

This idea blew my mind. Taking a look at my Gmail account alone though, I could see this was true, I had 5.94GB of emails built up since 2005. Just emails!

To see what effect I could have on this number, I took the following steps:

  1. Delete all emails with a sender address starting with noreply@, do-not-reply@, info@
  2. Delete all emails with attachments that are not currently starred
  3. Delete all emails over 500kb
  4. Delete all emails recieved before this year
  5. Go to the Trash and empty all the above delted emails

This took my Gmail size from 5.94GB to 0.01GB, a 99% reduction! And that's with almost no effort, in one day! Sure it's small, but imagine we all did this, on every "cloud" service?!

The bigger point Gerry was making too, for web developers, was how can we design platforms that dont even lead to users doing this?

If you want to try it yourself I would do my steps above, but in the order 4, 3, 2, 1, 5.