Although we all like to moan about the amount of spam hitting our mailboxes, the truth is that spam filtering is pretty good these days and only a tiny amount of it actually need bother us at all. Unlike all that stuff we have actually signed up for but cannot be defined as personal mail. Stuff like electronic bank statements, Facebook posting notifications, news roundups or Twitter alerts. The list goes on, and on, and on. Now this stuff has a name other than, well, stuff: bacn.

Pronounced as bacon, bacn can be described as email that you want, or at least that you have asked for, but that you don’t want to read right now thanks very much. The term appears to have been coined only a week or so ago, at a new media monetization event known as Podcamp Pittsburgh. Yet within just a few days it has spread as quickly as any meme when that particular buzzword was fancy of the week, it is almost viral in its infectiousness. Just like bacn itself, as it appears that even those of us who are already drowning in notifications, alerts and sundry opt-in email just cannot help signing up for more. After all, what is the point of online interactivity, social networking inclusion and news alert services if you don’t take advantage of the immediacy of the medium?

But that really is the problem, we are increasingly becoming addicted to information and simply cannot say no to a new fix. We don’t need most of the information we consume, more often than not we don’t even consume it but rather stockpile the bacn in some auto-filtered archive buried deep within the tree structure of our mail client folders. I mean, do you really want or need to know that a contact on Twitter has just had a bath or a Facebook friend has written something on your wall?

There are even discussions in some of the more geeky backwaters of the online world about creating a bacn filter, that can differentiate between spam and bacn and ‘real’ email. What next, a filter to move every message which is comprised primarily of links to a sausage folder?

Perhaps it is time to get real, admit that we have both a problem and a solution. The problem is that we have become information greedy, we want it all and we want it now. However, immediacy comes at a price and the true cost is time wasted. There are simply not enough hours in the day to read the email that matters and the stuff that doesn’t. Anti-spam products can keep the really tedious junk at bay, most of the time, so why add to it with more that borders on being spam anyway?

Let’s go on an email diet, cutting out the messages and alerts that just add fat to our mailboxes. Let’s reclaim our email for what it should be, a truly useful communications medium rather than the chore it has become.

About the Author

Freelance technology journalist, mainly covering the cybersecurity beat, and contributing to:, The Times/Sunday Times (via Raconteur Special Reports), PC Pro, SC Magazine, Infosecurity Magazine and Digital Health Intelligence.

Three times winner IT Security Journalist of the Year (2006, 2008, 2010), Technology Journalist of the Year award (1996)