By 11:00a this morning there were already over a dozen examples of what email professionals call bacn (pronounced like bacon) in my inbox. Bacn is the euphemistic term for subscribed email, automated mailings that a user has opted into, as opposed to the more commonly known spam, which is generally, but not always, unsolicited email. It’s not as valued as personal email written by real humans, but it’s better than junk mail.
Bacn includes newsletters, alerts, daily deals and assorted marketing messages from companies that I’ve transacted with in some form before. Most of these messages I ignore and some I will peruse occasionally, but the bacn that I pay the most attention to is the kind that updates me on activity from my social networks; notifications automatically generated when someone has liked or favorited one of my posts, when someone has tagged me in a photo or mentioned me in a tweet, when someone has added me to a group or list, etc.
Basically, the stuff that’s about me specifically is what interests me. But even then, the volume of these emails is too much to handle. I’ve already turned off bacn-generating settings in Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare and others — and those are the networks that I actually use.
Bringing Home the Bacn
There’s got to be a better way to do this. What I’d like to have is some kind of third-party service that can aggregate all of these updates into one place and send me a single email digest. But I need more than aggregation; what I want is to be able to indicate to this service which update sources and which kinds of activities on those sources matter most to me, and have those preferences reflected in the digest so that the most relevant and interesting stuff shows up at the top and the less imperative stuff floats to the bottom.
Back in May I wrote about a similar problem when I blogged about the proliferation of bookmarklets that many sites depend on to draw content into their networks. As we get deeper and deeper into social software, it strikes me that more and more of this stuff is going to start looking highly duplicative, and it will make less and less sense that each network should have to reinvent the wheel. To me, it seems illogical that I should be regularly bombarded with an email update from each one of the social networks I participate in when the technology that would be required to consolidate them into something much more digestible, much more user-friendly and much more effective is readily available. We can fix this.