43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Particletree: Excellent email guide roundup

Particletree » A Guide to Email Roundup

Over on the lovely Particletree, Chris Campbell has posted a valuable collection of links for tips on dealing with email.

Email is fantastic. We use it to stay in touch with friends, contact clients, and handle support requests. It’s easy to use, low cost, and less intrusive than a phone call or meeting. But with email being such an integral part of our lives, are we using it as effectively as possible? To find out, have a look at the techniques these articles recommend on ensuring that your messages are read.

What I like about his choices (including, I suppose, the 43f link *blush*) is the focus on _results_. Instead of being about simply the blah-blah-blahs of netiquette and style, these are suggestions on how best to get something accomplished -- and, yeah, sometimes that means just knowing how to keep it standard, simple, and easy to grok. Very good, tactical, battlefield stuff.

I especially dug Kaitlin Duck Sherwoods exhaustive 'Beginner's Guide to Effective Email' (ca. 1995!), which was new to me, and which I do recommend checking out. Even for the veterans out there, it might be useful to read up on kicking it old-school -- from the days when a crap email would earn you a Clinton-era eBitchslap from all the beardy Pine users in your life.

Kaitlin Duck Sherwood's picture

Heh. Yep, I'm still...

Heh. Yep, I'm still around. :-)

Mashby, my original idea was to write a client-neutral book. However, I ran into two problems. 1) I gave drafts to a LOT of people while I was working on it, and the most common thing I heard was, "Yes, but how do I do it in my email program?" 2) Different clients had way different capabilities, which made the advice different for different clients. For example, Outlook has essentially unlimited categories, while Eudora for Mac only had 15. With Eudora, it was really easy to archive messages (by having separate filters that only ran in Manual mode); with Outlook it was a SERIOUS pain in sensitive places to set up a one-interaction action (e.g. a button press) to archive messages.

Also, I found that there wasn't a high demand for the book(s) by the time I finished them. Over and over, I heard comments along the lines of, "Oh, I tried the advice, it didn't work" or "Email sucks, it has always sucked, it will always suck, there's nothing you will ever be able to do about it."

Basically, people have learned helplessness about email. They can't imagine that there is different advice, and don't want to waste their time on (what they assume is) different packaging of the same old advice.

I spent a lot of effort trying to convince email providers to implement my UI suggestions, with only limited success. (There's one filter condition in Eudora that I think came from one of my suggestions; I suspect that the Archive button in email came at least partially from me but have no proof of that other than that I know people at Google had my book.)

Note that it is hard for me to think that they were foolish for not paying more attention to me me me! There are a whole lot of infrastructure-oriented things that are really hard to do -- block spam, make faster, localize/internationalize better, cryptography, etc -- that take a huge amount of resources. It's pretty easy to write a lame email client, but very VERY hard to write a really good one. (This is why I haven't tried to write my own!)

I have actually moved away from email. I realized that there are only about seven companies in the world where you can get hired to work on email, and that doesn't bode well for career advancement opportunities. :-(




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »