E-mail, readers & archives

[warning: esoteric nerdism follows. sorry about that.]

I’m a little confused about how to deal with e-mail these days. One complication is that I’m moving from my Reactivity account to a personal account. Another complication is that Eudora, my e-mail client, hasn’t changed for years, and is now getting to the point in its lifetime where it sucks a little bit. Now, how we each deal with e-mail is a bit of a personal thing, but some of you may know that I’m a little bit on the OCD side with respect to this. For my own e-mail, I’ve got virtually every e-mail that I’ve sent or received since I went back to Apple in 1997, and I’ve got most of my meaningful e-mail from my time at Trilogy and even Stanford archived off somewhere. And I’m a little particular about how I file things. In Eudora, for example, I have something like 1,000 different mail folders (not joking. serious.), and I pretty much know where everything is. If I want to go back and see something that I wrote to a customer, or a VC, or a friend, I can pretty much navigate directly to it. And I’m relentless about cleaning out my inbox — once I’m done with something, I file it in the appropriate folder and it’s gone. So my inbox at any given time is maybe 8 – 10 messages.

But here’s my problem: most people don’t use e-mail that way. If you walk through your office and look at people’s Microsoft Outlook inbox, I can almost guarantee that at least half of them never take anything out of their inbox — they just have everything there (or delete it) and do searches on their "big-ass in box (BAIB)" to find what they’re looking for. I believe that this BAIB effect is directly attributable to the fact that’s actually pretty cumbersome to file things in Outlook — lots of clicks.

Combine that with a 2nd major trend: Google-style searching. Search is getting pretty good lately — and the UI is pretty simple: a text box and a "Go!" button. The success of Google has pretty well convinced folks that their UI is right, too. Which is why you’re seeing Microsoft and Apple simplify search to a simple text field, too. Turns out this may not be bad — it’s getting to where search is very very fast. Fast enough, anyway.

So those two trends have meant that new, modern mail clients — I’ll count Mozilla’s Thunderbird, Apple’s mail.app, and Google’s GMail in that category — all basically assume a very small number of folders (1’s or 10’s at most) and a lot of searching.

I’ve decided to give in. I’ve switched to using Thunderbird with just 2 folders (InBox, Archive) for my main mail client, and GMail as my web client and backing POP store. I no longer have a "Kathy" folder, or "Reactivity -> Clients -> Fidelity" folder or anything like that. Now I search.

I’m not sure how I feel about it, though. Sometimes in Eudora I’ll go look back at things that I wrote years ago — conversations that I had with Kathy when she was in Jamaica, or with my dad when I was at Stanford and we were both learning to use e-mail come to mind. This makes it harder. But I have a sneaky feeling that it may be harder now in any case, just because of the sheer volume of e-mail we’re all dealing with now.

Who knows. Times change.

A couple of other random thoughts about applications I’ve been using:

1) Mozilla Firefox is terrific. Great job on the browser.

2) I was forced by USAA to upgrade to Quicken 2005, from Quicken 2004 (at least they gave me the upgrade for free). I used to like getting new versions of Quicken every year. Now I’m pretty sure they’re done. No more changes, no more releases needed. Enough.

3) I’d like iPhoto on Windows. Picasa (owned by Google) does some of it, but not as well. Not as nice.

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