The research was a joint effort by Cornell University and Yahoo, and evaluated some 16 billion e-mail messages sent by more than 2 million people over a three-month period.
What the analysis found is that people have pretty set habits in how they work with their e-mail.
In a sense, we’re not so different today from back in the days of postal mail, when people had a predetermined time they looked at the daily mail based on when the letter carrier typically showed up at their house or place of business.
So, what are today’s behavior patterns when it comes to e-mail? Here are some of the salient findings from the Yahoo/Cornell study:
O As people receive more e-mails, they increase their response activity, but not enough to compensate for the higher load.
O Half of all replies are done fewer than 50 minutes following receipt of an e-mail. (The most common response time is two minutes following receipt of an e-mail.)
O Responsiveness to e-mail is higher during the working day (9 to 5 Monday through Friday), and lower during the evenings and on weekends.
O Half of all replies are around 40 words or shorter. (The most frequent reply length is just five words.) In addition, e-mail replies tend to be shorter later in the day and on weekends.
O Predictably, replies from mobile devices are typically shorter – as well as sent faster.
There’s a generational phenomenon at work as well. Younger people are quicker to respond to e-mail messages than their older counterparts – and they use fewer words when doing so.
For those wishing to do a deeper dive into the evaluation and the findings — along with viewing copious accompanying charts and graphs — there is a paper available free of charge, published by the World Wide Web Conference Committee. Titled Evolution of Conversations in the Age of Email Overload, its authors include Farshad Kooti, Luca Maria Aiello, Mihajlo Grbovic, Kristina Lerman and Amin Mantrach.
You can download the paper here. Plan to spend a good hour going through the findings. Happy reading!