Email Is Dead According To People Who Have A Financial Interest In Email’s Death

Getting an email address was once a nerdy right of passage for Gen-Xers arriving on college campuses. Now, the kids are waging a war of indifference on poor old email, culling the weak and infirm old-people technology. One American professor maintained that, to his students, “e-mail was as antiquated as the spellings ‘chuse’ and ‘musick’ in the works by Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards.” The vice-chancellor of Exeter University claimed, “There is no point in emailing students any more.” The youth appear to think there are better, faster, more exciting ways to communicate than stupid email.

Yet, despite all the prognosticators predicting it will—choose the violence level of your metaphor—go out of style, be put out to pasture, or taken out back and shot, email grinds on.

Email Habits

Kyle Baxter:

What would an application look like that’s for storing tasks and related files from email? How would it integrate with mail clients?

I put tasks/projects in Omnifocus and related files in Finder folders depending on what project they’re for. In my world this problem has already been solved.

But that’s my world. That’s what us nerds and others who read that GTD book do. But for normals it’s still a problem. Normals use their email clients like this and they’ve been doing it this way for years.

My father is seriously thinking of switching to a Mac. This inevitable email conversation is one I dread, because the idea of INBOX TO ARCHIVE will challenge a behavior he developed over years and years to make up for Outlook’s inability to search without having a wizard or some other confusing dialogue box involved. He’ll resist what we think of as a common sense way of processing this information because the messed up method he learned by using Microsoft Outlook is all he knows.

It will be a tough habit to break.

“Is Email Broken?” by Chris Bowler

I’ve been thinking the same thing lately. Email isn’t broken. People just use email in STRANGE WAYS.1


  1. And I think it’s all Microsoft’s fault.

     

Matt Gemmell on the Sparrow Acquisition

Cue predictable squawking on the internet. The same thing happens every time there’s an acquisition of a smaller, indie dev company or product by a larger company.

I’m not upset about this acquisition like some of these people are, but I also gave up using Sparrow a couple of months ago. I was a big fan of it before. I bought both Mac and iPhone versions and stopped using them months ago. I began to get the feeling that using anything other than Apple’s stock email application was like fighting the tide.

Mail.app also caught up. On the Mac, almost everything I liked about Sparrow can be replicated in Mail.app. The big thing for me was being able to archive emails, and with some rejiggering it isn’t really a big deal to do that with Gmail and Mail.app.1 Lion’s Mail.app Favorites Bar made a big leap towards quickly navigating and mining to folders with keyboard shortcuts. The only other nice thing was Sparrow’s Facebook integration to show you pictures of your contacts, which is coming to Mountain Lion this fall.

My bet is that Sparrow will be released as a free, branded Gmail app anyway (maybe without IMAP support…and with advertising).


  1. I have been trying for days to find a link I found to be really helpful to set up things with Gmail IMAP and Mail.app. It helped me do the functions I already liked in Gmail: namely archiving. Mail.app has a good archive keyboard shortcut that doesn’t work out of the box with Gmail. If I ever find that link I will post it. 

Well, that’s one way to build an email list

This author claims one of the newspapers in my area is trying to set a dangerous precedent.

At a public hearing on the budget, LGSD1 asked for people who wanted to receive budget information from the district to sign up to an email newsletter. Those interested provided their email addresses (to the district).

But a critic of the school board inexplicably felt he was somehow entitled to those email addresses, so he could give these people his version of things. The Post-Star, even more inexplicably, backed his Freedom of Information request, under some demented notion of “transparency.”

Crazy. And if you don’t think this is a big deal, go to whitehouse.gov right now and you’ll see this.

stayinformed

Imagine if they had to hand over your email address to some party because of Freedom of Information.


  1. LGSD = A public school district in my area. 

ZIp It Up and Zip It Out

Alex King:

It seems that many Exchange administrators decide to block emails with .zip file attachments. This it the digital equivalent of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I’ve wondered if this is an Exchange admin thing.

It’s the easiest thing to do since a lot of viruses come in through zip files. But zip is the most common compression format, so sending files to people gets complicated when a whole organization blocks the most common file format.

Admins can say to their users that they can use something like Mail Big File, or rename the extension, but I think it hurts your professionalism a bit when you have to explain “Oh, by the way, rename the file from file.notazip to file.zip and you’ll see the presentation I’ve prepared.” Not to mention the other person’s email server that could go “WAIT a second! .NOTAZIP is NOT a common extension!”

Email Woes

My dad loves the Wizard of Oz, so I sent him an email with this pic inline:

http://mlkshk.com/r/BUM2

He responded with this:

All I get is a pile of shit from adobe reader…

How Adobe Reader is even involved in displaying a jpeg I don’t know, but that sort of thing is the reality for many computer users today. That’s what we’re dealing with.

Don’t Organize Email / It Isn’t Their Fault

Over the Christmas season my father told me he wanted to take some time to organize his email. I replied, “Don’t. I think you’re wasting your time.”

I know we all went through the INBOX ZEROOOOEEEEE phase and we’re past folder-itis, so it’s no surprise that an IBM study has found that organizing email into endless folders isn’t the best use of your time. Just learn to search better.

My father and brother both organize email in this archaic way. So does nearly everyone in my office.

While those of us who learned to use email search might just have an Archive folder we search through, my father and brother create folders by company, by project…I’m not quite sure the method, but bottom line they both have a lot of folders and subfolders and probably even sub-subfolders and sub-sub-subfolders.

I’m not so sure it’s strictly because they’re old school. Us Mac people have the built in Mail app, and even indie software, like Sparrow, let us search by subject, from, to, and other fields right from the upper-right search field.

But a lot of people don’t use Mail.app. My father and brother use Outlook. Outlook taught them that the best way to find email is to have a meticulous organizational system, because Outlook is a mess.

Use Outlook to manage Hotmail Live Windows Mail Express ME messages1

Take a close look at that screenshot. There are four text fields, three of them for search, one of those for searching email, and that one only searches the inbox. Outlook users don’t get the cool Spotlight-like search operators we do. They get this.

Don’t blame your co-workers for bad email practices. They work with what they’re given.


  1. Photo by osakasteve used under a Creative Commons License

Three Things I Like About Sparrow

I bought Sparrow and have come to prefer it over Mail.app. Here are three reasons why.

1. Quick Replies

I hit R on a message and I can instantly reply without opening a new window. It makes Sparrow feel really lightweight.

Sparrow quickreply

2. Better Gmail implementation

Mail.app, even in the Lion update, feels weird with Gmail. I don’t like archiving everything. I want to be able to delete useless emails. Using Gmail with Mail always gave me some archive anxiety. (Did I delete this message or archive it? I better go to Gmail.com and double check.) I thought that the new Archive button would fix that behavior, but instead it creates an Archive email folder and moves email into that. That’s great for IMAP and Exchange accounts, but doesn’t fit in with Gmail’s All Mail system.

Labeling (and, I assume, moving to folders) is also easier in Sparrow. Just hit the L key and a label selection box appears, just like in Gmail.

3. Attachments

Attachments in Mail.app are pretty horrible. Attachments in plain text emails appear inline. In Sparrow there’s a dedicated attachments area that segregates your message and your attachment.

Sparrow emailattachment