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Communications Science

Emailaholics Reveal Their Habits 95

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the wonder-which-group-i'm-in dept.
KentuckyFC writes "People can be accurately classified according to their email habits, say scientists from Yahoo Research in NYC, who have been studying the way 125,000 people use email on university campuses in the US and Europe. The team found that people fall into two clearly distinct types of emailer. The first group, 'day labororers,' tend to send emails throughout the normal working day between 0900 and 1800 but not at other times. On the other hand, 'emailaholics' tend to send emails throughout the waking hours from 0900 to 0100. These groups are pretty stable: roughly 75% of users stay in the same group over a two-year period. That gives a pretty good way of classifying individuals that could be used by demographers. Interestingly, the technique can also be used to spot spambots which do not fit into either group."
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Emailaholics Reveal Their Habits

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  • by pleappleappleap (1182301) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:18AM (#27906143) Homepage

    My email habits change very frequently. Where do I fit in?

    • by click2005 (921437) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:21AM (#27906205)

      You should start by admitting you have a problem.

      "I'm an emailaholic. I drink 4 bottles of emailahol every day."

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:27AM (#27906297)

        If you were an emailaholic you'd be drinking a fifth of emailahol a day - not showing up for work, getting fired, ruining your relationships, having an email in the morning to get going, just one big fucking nightmare of a life.

        • by baubo (1310237)
          I'm not an emailaholic. I can quit any time I want. Also I email to make myself more interesting, and have recently noticed that the more I email, the better looking members of the opposite sex get.
        • If you were an emailaholic you'd be drinking a fifth of emailahol a day - not showing up for work, getting fired, ruining your relationships, having an email in the morning to get going, just one big fucking nightmare of a life.

          Zomg, this description fits my mother to a T!- wait... she does still have a job... but she stays up about four hours past her bedtime to do email...

    • by SlashDotDotDot (1356809) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:25AM (#27906265) Journal

      These groups are pretty stable: roughly 75% of users stay in the same group over a 2 year period.

      My email habits change very frequently. Where do I fit in?

      You fit into the other 25%.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @10:11AM (#27907187)
      You are obviously a spambot.
    • ...except with booze instead of email.

      (apologies to The Onion)

    • Mine don't... I email at 6am to 7am all the time. If I don't get it done then (the wasted time while yelling at my daughter to get ready for school... aka, if I do much for myself, she won't get ready in time) then I don't do it. I figure too much emailing is frivolous but that could be because I have a mother who emails so freaking much that I end up getting each thing she sends about five times- one from each email addy she has. I'd like to put her on my spam mail list but she'd know...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    That's really intersting.

    I'm not sure how it would be used to prevent spam though, unless it is used on the system sending the spam.

    After all, how do you know a) which group a person fits in, and b) what time it is where they are?

    Also, what do you do about people who work night shifts, and thus don't fit into one of the patterns?

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:18AM (#27906161) Homepage

    So basically anybody that uses e-mail outside of working hours is an "emailholic"? Doesn't that include pretty much every person who has a computer at home?

    • by wjh31 (1372867) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:24AM (#27906257) Homepage
      if you look at the graph in TFA, there appears to be a third small cluster in the region of the 'A' marker, which is people who start emailing early evening, and finish late at night, which i guess is those who use their e-mail accounts at home after work

      there is not much info about the email accounts montiored. Im guessing the day labourors are those who use their account just for work, with a sperate for personal stuff, and the emailaholics are those with one universal address. The subgroup i pointed out could then represent the personal accounts for the day labourors
    • So basically anybody that uses e-mail outside of working hours is an "emailholic"? Doesn't that include pretty much every person who has a computer at home?

      Well, from the PDF linked on arxiv [arxiv.org]:

      The cascading non-homogeneous Poisson process we present is motivated by two key observations: first, individuals send e-mail during "sessions" of relatively high activity that are separated by periods of inactivity during which no emails are sent; and second, the likelihood of commencing an active session is modulated by daily and weekly cycles. For convenience, we define the start and end of a session by the first and last e-mails sent in that session respectively. We define an individual as "active" if they are in an e-mail session, where the time between consecutive e-mails within each session is modeled as a homogeneous Poisson process with intra-session rate p_a. Correspondingly, we define an individual as "passive" if they are between e-mail sessions, where the time between sessions is modeled as a non-homogeneous Poisson process with inter-session rate p(t), which explicitly accounts for daily and weekly cycles of activity.

      The paper seems to identify when you're in a session and when you're not and also extrapolates these cycles not only to days but also to times of the week.

      While it's not very useful, it my be interesting to behaviorists or some field I know nothing about. It's always dangerous to grab a graph from a paper with no explanation at all of what it is showing.

      • by ktappe (747125)

        So basically anybody that uses e-mail outside of working hours is an "emailholic"? Doesn't that include pretty much every person who has a computer at home?

        The paper seems to identify when you're in a session and when you're not and also extrapolates these cycles not only to days but also to times of the week.

        So anyone who has an e-mail capable smartphone and therefore doesn't engage in "sessions" is an "emailholic"?

    • by Alinabi (464689)
      No. I have a computer at home and I almost never send emails when I am at home (except in emergency situations).
    • Nope. I tend to use my phone when I'm at home.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Good god no. Why would I want to email during my free time?

    • by treeves (963993)
      Maybe 1800-0100 is NOT *outside* working hours for some people - i.e. they're not emailaholics, they're WORKaholics.
  • Xaholics (Score:4, Funny)

    by PhilHibbs (4537) <snarks@gmail.com> on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:19AM (#27906175) Homepage Journal

    Is the "aholic" suffix really any worse than "-gate" for any scandal?

    • Re:Xaholics (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:22AM (#27906233)

      Thank you for bringing our attention to this Aholicgate scandal, you Gateaholic.

      • Thank you for bringing our attention to this Aholicgate scandal, you Gateaholic.

        Dude, you do have problems - using aholic as a prefix and a suffix.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Is the "aholic" suffix really any worse than "-gate" for any scandal?

      You sound like another email abuser who is in denial about your habit. You are in stage 3 of your addiction (Ref. Addictions Anonymous, 12: The Stages of Addiction and Recovery [thecheers.org]).

      • by compro01 (777531)

        My habit is not checking my email often enough. I tend to miss important messages like "today's class moved to room 3207".

      • What stage are you in when you wake up at say 3AM for a bathroom break (I am an old man.) and check your email before going back to bed?
        • by Gilmoure (18428)

          I need to find a 9" wireless touch screen that will link to my computer. Just mount the touch screen in the can and life will be golden.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TinBromide (921574)
      I guess that being an alcoholic is a step down from being a drug addict. I posit that an Addict is a term applied to someone who abuses something in a fashion that could get them sent to jail. I.E Sex Addicts and prostitutes, Drug addicts and controlled substances. While some college towns will have you believe that being drunk is a crime, getting sloshed is not provided you don't then do anything stupid (beat people, get into fights, drive, etc).

      Since you can't get sent to jail for sending normal email,
      • Drunk in charge?
      • There are some people who are addicted to sobriety. They can't seem to be able to live a normal life without being sobre, and can't imagine another way of living. Adolf Hitler was one of those people who suffered from compulsive sobriety. Sobriety is one of the hidden mental illnesses, and AFAIK is not even recognized as a mental illness by the World Health Organization et al.

        • by p!ngu (854287)

          Is this actually a thing? It's a very interesting idea -- I'm someone who I guess is "addicted to sobreity", except for coffee. I'd like to read about it is all.

          Thanks if you reply,

          Sam.

          • Is this actually a thing? It's a very interesting idea -- I'm someone who I guess is "addicted to sobreity", except for coffee. I'd like to read about it is all.

            Addiction

            It is, AFAIK a mental illness, based on the logic and experiences that I've read about addictions in general. I'm no expert on addiction or psychology, but I do have a social science background and I'm pretty keen at analyzing logic, so yep, I would say so. Of course you, or anybody else shouldn't take my word for it. Come to your own conclusions and keep an open mind. Be intelligent and skeptical at anything you observe.

            Of course anything can be addictive, whether it be alcohol, chocolate, heroine, caffei

            • by p!ngu (854287)

              Hmm, it seems that (from your point of view) this sobretism is inexplicably linked with evangelism. However, it doesn't appear to me at least that this is a necessary criterion for other addictions. Is this the defining characteristic?

              Sorry for such short responses -- I study mathematics, not social science, so I'm not so great with writing long texts.

              (a lot of friends I formerly had were "straight edge", and some were pretty fanatical. Most were mellow, cool guys but, but others...hmm)

              Thanks,

              Sam.

              • First off, I will make this very explicit; "sobrietism" is a word I pretty much invented. It's just an elaboration on the concept of "addiction". The main idea being that people can be psychologically addicted to anything. At the very least you can think of this idea as a concept. Logically (to me at least) it makes sense and explains the psychological mindset of prohibitionists and people in general who want to control other people (in this case the control variable who be alcohol or any mind/mood altering

    • Is the "aholic" suffix really any worse

      It's a grammargate!

      But then again, I'm a lexivorous linguaholic...

    • by DrEasy (559739)

      Yeah, let's not get aholicaholic now.

    • Is the "aholic" suffix really any worse than "-gate" for any scandal?

      So... is that why Bill's last name starts with gate? Hmm... certainly explains what he's doing with Microsoft, I suppose...

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:19AM (#27906183)

    When I was a student we still corresponded with one another using paper and ink. There was none of this fancy computerized email. It was all email by hand back then, and if you were lucky, maybe your parents would foot the bill for a quill.

    But the key here is not the manner in which we wrote each other. Rather, it is simply that living in the isolated world of "university life", we had totally different writing habits than those who lived in the "real world".

    Take, for instance, the frequency of our letters. While I could average a good 4 or 5 letters per evening, it was because my workload was such that it permitted much more free time than the work-a-day man could ever hope to enjoy. Between classes and quaffing pints of ale, we still had plenty of time to enjoy each others' companionship, even if only through the quill.

    Now, with real work and real timelines to meet, I find that I have very little extra time to sit down to write a letter out by hand.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by BountyX (1227176)
      I don't know if its just a bad description but you are correct. "People" does not describe the control group. It is ambiguous at best, so we have no idea if our habits fall into this study.
      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        I was a full time college student for 14 years (and no degree. Darn my medium term attention deficit disorder!) but find that my worditoudinous output has increased, now that I have a boring job but decent computer setups. Not doing so much email, though I do manage 20 or so messages a day. Most of my output is on forum and blog sites. Would be interesting to record how many words/day I'm spewing upon a helpless world.

    • When I was a student we still corresponded with one another using paper and ink. There was none of this fancy computerized email.

      Trouble is, I often think we haven't actually gained that much. I have to shamefacedly admit I can count the number of handwritten letters I've written in the last 10 years on one hand.

      I sometimes find it a bit sad that there are now generations of people who have never sent or received a letter, who will never enjoy the anticipation or sensation of sending or opening a physic
      • I have terrible handwriting. Whenever i forget what someone gets me, I hand write a thank you note and nobody has ever called me out for thanking them for the beautiful hippopotamus they sent me.
  • by unlametheweak (1102159) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:19AM (#27906185)

    The first group, "day labororers", tend to send emails throughout the normal working day between 0900 and 1800... "emailaholics" tend to send emails throughout the waking hours from 0900 to 0100....the technique can also be used to spot spambots which do not fit into either group

    That means that I am a spam bot. I've always hated being labeled.

  • My 'habit' (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:31AM (#27906387)

    I sometimes find myself logging into my email purely as a reflex action. Typing 'ma' in the url bar then down arrow once to highlight mail.yahoo.com, and typing my username and password in before I even realize that I'm doing it.

    I wish there was a yahoo email monitor that worked through the system tray. There's a widget, but it sits on the desktop and I hate having things permanently sitting in front of my other windows.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by socrplayr813 (1372733)

      I don't know about Yahoo, but with Gmail and others, you can set up pop or imap in Thunderbird, Outlook, etc. I'm sure you could find widgets to work with this setup.

      • I don't know about Yahoo, but with Gmail and others, you can set up pop or imap in Thunderbird, Outlook, etc.

        Yahoo works fine. They used to charge for POP service, but they don't now. Thunderbird is great, but I've recently started using the Apple Mail.app (now that it no longer crashes/burns) to consolidate all of my email accounts without farting around with any of that webmail nonsense, and I prefer it to Tbird on my non-Linux machines.
    • by egamma (572162)
      You can use yahoo messenger to accomplish this.
      • Hmm.. I completely forgot about YM. Back when I used the yahoo chat rooms I only used yahelite. I forget what turned me off of YM in the first place, but I think it was limited to the chat rooms. I think it might have been the huge frickin ads taking up half the window.

    • by pnuema (523776)
      I use the gmail one, works great. Every time I have a browser open, it automatically checks for me. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1264 [mozilla.org]
  • by Jaro (4361)

    Well, what does ist really reveal? People over 40 are more likely to still use snail mail instead of email for private communication and only use e-mail during work? Not that interesting... please move along....

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I can't help sending millions of people email about the virtues of \/1a6ra.

    I'm a emailaholic and need protection by the Americans With Disabilities Act.

  • I recognize those two clusters, but there is a another big cluster in my own social network: People who only check their e-mail once a day (or less).

    I myself cannot comprehend such behavior.

  • If you don't restrict your e-mailing to regular work hours, you're an "emailaholic"? What a steaming pile of crap!

    I answer e-mail when I get around to it, and that's often outside of regular work hours (unless it's from the boss and requires an immediate response, of course). If I was somehow addicted to e-mail, the 353 unread, non-spam messages currently awaiting my attention would be getting dealt with right now. Yet here I am, futzing around on Slashdot when I should have my nose firmly against the

    • by dn15 (735502)

      If you don't restrict your e-mailing to regular work hours, you're an "emailaholic"?

      Indeed, and having a smartphone changes one's habits too. I may not look at it for hours if I have something interesting going on, but if I am just lounging around I may respond the moment I hear my iPhone ding. I'm not constantly looking it, but my mail is always within reach. Some might classify that as addiction, but I just see it as a matter of convenience and extending people the courtesy of responding quickly if I am free when their message comes in.

  • Snail mail is much easier to track. All of my mail spam arrives in the middle of the day, so every evening, I just throw away what's in the mailbox.
  • Next up... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Wolfger (96957) <[wolfger] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday May 11, 2009 @10:13AM (#27907241) Homepage
    Cellphoneholics! People who use their cellphone when they're awake, and NOT JUST DURING BUSINESS HOURS! My gods, they're obviously addicted to cell phones.
  • What about other stats regarding email use. Here within my office I respond to numerous email issues and observe the different ways people treat email, some users have over 1000 unread emails in their Inbox, blatantly ignoring spam and daily announcements. They ignore them and allow them to be archived creating digital waste on the file server. I myself check emails as they come in, deleting those I know do not pertain to business functions (which are required to be retained). I also know users that will
    • This survey really needs to categorize mobile (blackberry et al) and non-mobile email users. Because crackberry people seem to develop email-'twitch' that makes them break out in a rash when others don't respond to their missives within 30 seconds.
  • Another case of "if you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail".
  • ...disappointing content. Am I missing a link somewhere? Is there something of substance in that story anywhere?
  • I hate it when science stories - in any media or site, not just /. - don't like to the original paper. There's really no excuse when the paper is freely available [arxiv.org], either.

  • I know that many people can get addicted to Chocolahol, but I wasn't aware of there being a substance called Emailahol.

    Aside from that, there a many harder substances, such as Twitterhol, and Textahol. Perhaps, Emailahol is a gateway addiction to worse habbits?

    On that note, stop adding "aholic" as a suffix to things to describe addiction. We don't call nicotine addicts, Nicoholics! Nor, do we call heroin addicts, heroinaholics.
  • They excluded people that use email almost entirely for receiving automated notifications. Replies to a Slashdot post (cue the dozen posts intended to just trigger the notification...), forum thread, calendar events, Word of the Day...

    Pretty much the only emails I send are FailBlog pictures to a sibling every few weeks.

  • Since I rarely use email 9-5 (internal IM and other tech has mostly replaced it for work) I usually only look at my personal email a couple times each evening, usually when I'm home from work, and shortly before I go to bed.

    Since I don't fall into either of their groups, I'd be considered a spam-bot. Which I guess wouldn't be a target market for other spam, so maybe that isn't such a bad thing.

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