...may be silly, but I can't reply to all of your great responses.
I have a naturally innate possessiveness about my expressions, no matter what the medium. I've had some incredible conversations over the years, and I wish they had been taped. I'm also been a bit of a packrat, saving postcards, letters, movie/theatre tickets, and other types of things.
When I started using the internet around 1994-5 or so, just looking around, I didn't save anything, because I didn't send or receive anything. When I started emailing from my own computer around 1997, I decided to save everything but spam and irrelevant material. I've mostly used Outlook Express, and I kept things in a bunch of separate folders.
Most of the posts from my Usenet period were recycled into one of my books, and I'm keeping track of my K5/Slash-type stuff for that reason as well. However, last year, I did a multi-step reformat of the Win98 machine (Uggh, I know) all this mail was on, and through this process I had to re-upgrade from OE4 to the OE5 I was using. Somehow, I lost everything sent or received from a year and-a-half before, at which time I had upgraded to OE5 to begin with, to the time of the reformat. Yes, I had several backups, but after much digging, I really don't know what happened - perhaps it was my goof and not Bill's.
I decided after that to just put the whole damned set of archives out of sight and pretend like it had all been deleted, and to also confine myself to a plain-n-simple inbox to be purged periodically to keep it down to "what I still need to respond to" and "my dangling responses in 'sent items'".
This has worked much better for me, as I've tried to get off the idea of there being any important posterity in the messages themselves. If I can extract from them anything useful, then so be it, but the rest must be junk, right?
Yet, I haven't deleted the multiple backups of those previous archives either, have I? So, I thought, "I'll comb through them all, including the K5/Slash-type stuff, and make a single file of any texts which could be used for an essay or book", and that is what lead to my post above.
Reading all of your responses is great, but I realize a problem: I agree with all of you! On the one hand, I think of emails as memoirs and want to save every one of them, but on the other hand, I think of them as telephone chatter and think they should all be let go. I suppose I'll defer the decision for a while longer...
"What can I say, I believe in total, honest democracy. I also believe this American system can work."
- Woody Allen, Stardust Memories