Gmail archiving - was: straw poll: best messaging user experience

10 Oct 2007 - 4:46pm
6 years ago
16 replies
673 reads
Phillip Hunter
2006

Bianka,

You wrote: "I do miss the folders. I like archiving, getting rid of emails
in the inbox. I don't understand why the folder model is supposed to be
broken."

What is different between old-style folders and archiving labeled gmails
then clicking on the labels to see them? My inbox is as empty as I want it
to be, my older saved email is organized the way I want it, and I get
smarter "folders" that can "share" emails.

I also use Outlook (for work) and the folders often frustrate me. I would
like to organize many times across 2 or 3 overlapping but non-hierarchical
dimensions (e.g., client, product, idea). Outlook does not support that.
Windows doesn't either. And what I would give for labeling in Windows.

The real-life use of folders is just as broken for me and many other
paper-averse geeks. So it doesn't work as a metaphor for me either.

ph

Comments

10 Oct 2007 - 5:15pm
Leisa Reichelt
2006

it took me a few months (and making the exact same complaint about the
never empty inbox) to understand the Google model for archiving
though...

(here's a blog post from a while back where I was moaning about it
with some passion!
http://www.disambiguity.com/gmail-inbox-and-productivity-or-archive-my-a/)

my 'archiving' mental model was based on using Outlook, where if you
archived, your email went away somewhere and was quite difficult to
retrieve. Of course, with Gmail, it really just means 'take it out of
my inbox'

I've thought for quite a while that the term 'archive' was not quite
right, but have never come up with an alternative.

________________________
Leisa Reichelt
Disambiguity.com
Contextual Research, User Centred Design & Social Design

leisa.reichelt at gmail.com
+44 778 071 2129

10 Oct 2007 - 4:53pm
Chris Borokowski
2007

I would like to see a dual axis method of organization that enables
general category (folders) and descriptive notations (tagging,
labeling). Gmail is relatively good at this, since it's blog-inspired
webmail software.

--- Phillip Hunter <phillip at speechcycle.com> wrote:

> The real-life use of folders is just as broken for me and many other
> paper-averse geeks. So it doesn't work as a metaphor for me either.

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technical writing | consulting | development

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10 Oct 2007 - 6:54pm
susandoran
2010

It seems the best of all possible email worlds might be to:

(1) allow emails to carry either one or many labels (which, we know is
already a gmail function); but there's no reason in Outlook or
elsewhere, even using the paper/files/folders metaphor, not to allow
content to appear in more than one folder--in the paper-centric
paradigm people made multiple copies to store in various
files/folders, so it's not even a paper-driven problem)

(2) allow "labeled emails" to appear, or not appear, in your In Box.
The "inbox is as empty as I want it to be"...only as long as I am
looking at a labeled set of emails. And true at that point you're
looking at a smaller subset, and "emptier" inbox.

But sometimes it may be desirable to treat the in box as an
unfiltered, unlabeled zone. Meaning---I want the option not only to
sort by labels, but for labeled emails to effectively *disappear*
(into "folders" or wherever---the metaphor is immaterial) when I don't
want to see them. When I want to clear them away, out of sight. And
only see the uncategorized stuff.

My other gripe with gmail is around scalability/performance. I've had
gmail a long time, and not finding it scales very well. A couple of
thousand emails are archived and in my inbox, and frequently gmail
crashes after doing a search and trying to open old email, especially
with attachments.

On 10/10/07, Phillip Hunter <phillip at speechcycle.com> wrote:
> Bianka,
>
> You wrote: "I do miss the folders. I like archiving, getting rid of emails
> in the inbox. I don't understand why the folder model is supposed to be
> broken."
>
> What is different between old-style folders and archiving labeled gmails
> then clicking on the labels to see them? My inbox is as empty as I want it
> to be, my older saved email is organized the way I want it, and I get
> smarter "folders" that can "share" emails.
>
> I also use Outlook (for work) and the folders often frustrate me. I would
> like to organize many times across 2 or 3 overlapping but non-hierarchical
> dimensions (e.g., client, product, idea). Outlook does not support that.
> Windows doesn't either. And what I would give for labeling in Windows.
>
> The real-life use of folders is just as broken for me and many other
> paper-averse geeks. So it doesn't work as a metaphor for me either.
>
> ph
>
>
>
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
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10 Oct 2007 - 7:23pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> (1) allow emails to carry either one or many labels (which, we know is
> already a gmail function);

> (2) allow "labeled emails" to appear, or not appear, in your In Box.

Gmail accommodates both of these things. Again, you can set up filters
that keep all kinds of things out of your inbox by choosing "Skip the
inbox" when creating the filter. The only stuff that hits my inbox are
things I actually want there (aside from the things I didn't
anticipate, but that's true for *any* email client).

-r-

10 Oct 2007 - 8:57pm
Keith Nicholas
2007

This is one of the things that seems to work exceptionally well for me
given what things like Outlook do

I have used 5.3 GB of my gmail allowance

I have 84000 emails

30 labels

I also get an external pop3 based email into my gmail along with regular
gmail.

Its fast, it searches quickly

the external pop3 also used to go into outlook. Outlook struggles a
lot more with it. Now I use thunderbird for the pop3 email. and gmail
is still faster at searching email. Thunderbird is definitely snappier
than outlook (not as pretty and has some awkward usability).

I have a bunch of attachments in quite a lot of my email...

no idea why you have such a different experience with it!

Regards,

Keith
http://desginingcode.blogspot.com

Susan Doran wrote:
>
> My other gripe with gmail is around scalability/performance. I've had
> gmail a long time, and not finding it scales very well. A couple of
> thousand emails are archived and in my inbox, and frequently gmail
> crashes after doing a search and trying to open old email, especially
> with attachments.
>
>

10 Oct 2007 - 11:21pm
Steven Pautz
2006

Those of you who had bad experiences with gmail -- did you use labels and
such early on, or did messages tend to go unlabeled/unfiltered?

I'm a huge gmail fan, but I labeled/archived things religiously from day 1
and haven't have to deal with a massive inbox.... It certainly seems as
though the process of organizing a mountain of emails isn't as
well-supported as organizing messages one-by-one as they arrive and are
read.

One feature I use fairly frequently, but which I haven't seen discussion on
previously, is omitting certain labels from a search. I mark all messages
from IxDA/SigIA/CHI-*/other lists under a single label, then apply
additional labels to identify things like job, conference, and event
listings. To search all lists for a topic, without getting a zillion
job/conference/event listings mixed into the results, add one or more
negated label terms (eg, " -label:events.listings"). Stringing together a
bunch of negated label terms is also, to my knowledge, the only way to
search for unlabeled messages.

This adds an additional potential benefit not offered by folder-based
systems: 'carving up' a result set using the organization (ie, not just
keywords) to remove items which are sometimes signal, sometimes noise. For
my use, this makes the labeling systems by gmail and delicious many times
more effective than labels by themselves.

~Steven Pautz

11 Oct 2007 - 7:38am
Matt Nish-Lapidus
2007

Steven, you bring up an interesting point that nobody has mentioned yet.

Gmail's search is light years beyond any desktop email app search.
This is one of gmail's greatest assets. Search makes it so easy to
find old forgotten email based on label, sender, or just plain old
keywords.

Not to mention that if you use gtalk also you can search all your old
discussion logs..

And to chime in and agree with a number of comments, the only thing
labels don't do that folders do is hierarchy .. Label + Archive gives
you the same result as putting a message in a folder.

On 10/11/07, Steven Pautz <spautz at gmail.com> wrote:
> One feature I use fairly frequently, but which I haven't seen discussion on
> previously, is omitting certain labels from a search. I mark all messages
> from IxDA/SigIA/CHI-*/other lists under a single label, then apply
> additional labels to identify things like job, conference, and event
> listings. To search all lists for a topic, without getting a zillion
> job/conference/event listings mixed into the results, add one or more
> negated label terms (eg, " -label:events.listings"). Stringing together a
> bunch of negated label terms is also, to my knowledge, the only way to
> search for unlabeled messages.
>
> This adds an additional potential benefit not offered by folder-based
> systems: 'carving up' a result set using the organization (ie, not just
> keywords) to remove items which are sometimes signal, sometimes noise. For
> my use, this makes the labeling systems by gmail and delicious many times
> more effective than labels by themselves.
>
> ~Steven Pautz

--
Matt Nish-Lapidus
email/gtalk: mattnl at gmail.com
++
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/mattnl
Home: http://www.nishlapidus.com

11 Oct 2007 - 7:43am
David Mulder
2007

Gmail has started deleting my older gtalk logs. There may be a preference
setting to change this, but it was annoying to find that my old discussions
had gone missing

On 10/11/07, Matthew Nish-Lapidus <mattnl at gmail.com> wrote:

>
> Not to mention that if you use gtalk also you can search all your old
> discussion logs..
>
>

11 Oct 2007 - 9:28am
Phillip Hunter
2006

Susan,

You wrote:
> there's no reason in Outlook or elsewhere, even using the
> paper/files/folders metaphor, not to allow content to appear in more than
> one folder--in the paper-centric paradigm people made multiple copies to
> store in various files/folders, so it's not even a paper-driven problem)

The 'paper" problem (beyond when it's used unnecessarily) is the same as
Windows. Multiple "copies" really means multiple distinct items that happen
to have the same name. A change to one means the others are out of date or
must be remembered, found, and replaced. And the item, unless commented
internally, does not remind you. Also, deleting one does not delete all.

> (2) allow "labeled emails" to appear, or not appear, in your In Box.

Gmail allows this.

> My other gripe with gmail is around scalability/performance. I've had
> gmail a long time, and not finding it scales very well. A couple of
> thousand emails are archived and in my inbox, and frequently gmail
> crashes after doing a search and trying to open old email, especially
> with attachments.

I haven't had any issues like this.

ph

11 Oct 2007 - 10:10am
susandoran
2010

Hi (below)

On 10/11/07, Phillip Hunter <phillip at speechcycle.com> wrote:
>
> Susan,
>
> You wrote:
> > there's no reason in Outlook or elsewhere, even using the
> > paper/files/folders metaphor, not to allow content to appear in more
> than
> > one folder--in the paper-centric paradigm people made multiple copies to
>
> > store in various files/folders, so it's not even a paper-driven problem)
>
> The 'paper" problem (beyond when it's used unnecessarily) is the same as
> Windows. Multiple "copies" really means multiple distinct items that
> happen
> to have the same name. A change to one means the others are out of date
> or
> must be remembered, found, and replaced. And the item, unless commented
> internally, does not remind you. Also, deleting one does not delete all.

----> I didn't advocate literally making multiple copies of anything,
digital or paper....just benignly pointing out that arguments about the crux
of the "paper problem" being that paper dox are storeable only in one
file/folders were not wholly accurate....I understand if we truly want to
continue parsing out the metaphor even further, and literally breaking down
what a "copy" means, you're right. But I was simply saying content can
"appear" in multiple locations----and fortunately if it's an email it
certainly doesn't need to be "copied."

> (2) allow "labeled emails" to appear, or not appear, in your In Box.
>
> Gmail allows this.
>
> > My other gripe with gmail is around scalability/performance. I've had
> > gmail a long time, and not finding it scales very well. A couple of
> > thousand emails are archived and in my inbox, and frequently gmail
> > crashes after doing a search and trying to open old email, especially
> > with attachments.
>
> I haven't had any issues like this.

---> That's cool. Hope no one else does either. Last week I had to sift
through 1800 emails with multiple attachments. I searched on and pulled up
only those emails with attachments, and started opening one email after
another. Gmail hung and crashed several times. My computer and internet
connection are extremely fast and responsive, so that wasn't the problem. Oh
well. Moving on!

ph

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11 Oct 2007 - 10:44am
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> I'm a huge gmail fan, but I labeled/archived things religiously from day 1
> and haven't have to deal with a massive inbox....

That reminds me - my Inbox has only about, oh, 10 or so items in it at
the moment. Most incoming email is set to skip the inbox (and remains
marked as unread). The rest I deal with as usual. No massive inbox for
me. But I get the added advantage of being able to organize messages
the way I need them organized and not into a single folder.

-r-

11 Oct 2007 - 10:04am
Chris Borokowski
2007

This is why the Microsofties wanted to transition to a database-driven
OS with Vista. In such an operating system, all data is under version
control as you imply (and I agree) would be desirable.

--- Phillip Hunter <phillip at speechcycle.com> wrote:

> The 'paper" problem (beyond when it's used unnecessarily) is the same
> as
> Windows. Multiple "copies" really means multiple distinct items that
> happen
> to have the same name. A change to one means the others are out of
> date or
> must be remembered, found, and replaced. And the item, unless
> commented
> internally, does not remind you. Also, deleting one does not delete
> all.

http://technical-writing.dionysius.com/
technical writing | consulting | development

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11 Oct 2007 - 11:06am
biankamcgovern@...
2007

On 10/10/07, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <robert at rhjr.net> wrote:
> > (1) allow emails to carry either one or many labels (which, we know is
> > already a gmail function);
>
> > (2) allow "labeled emails" to appear, or not appear, in your In Box.
>
> Gmail accommodates both of these things. Again, you can set up filters
> that keep all kinds of things out of your inbox by choosing "Skip the
> inbox" when creating the filter. The only stuff that hits my inbox are
> things I actually want there (aside from the things I didn't
> anticipate, but that's true for *any* email client).

If you let emails skip the inbox you won't see new incoming emails.

>
> -r-
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://gamma.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://gamma.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://gamma.ixda.org/help
>

11 Oct 2007 - 11:18am
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> If you let emails skip the inbox you won't see new incoming emails.

The labels that have unread email in them display in bold and have a
number next to them that indicates how many unread messages there are.

Most desktop clients do the same thing. Unless, of course, you're
physcally dragging every email you get into a folder after you read
it. But if you do things that way, you can simply apply a filter in
Gmail and then click Archive.

-r-

11 Oct 2007 - 12:51pm
biankamcgovern@...
2007

On 10/11/07, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <robert at rhjr.net> wrote:
> > If you let emails skip the inbox you won't see new incoming emails.
>
> The labels that have unread email in them display in bold and have a
> number next to them that indicates how many unread messages there are.

For me that's not enough of an indication. I missed important emails
because of that. New emails should appear in the inbox. That's what
the inbox is for, right?
>
> Most desktop clients do the same thing. Unless, of course, you're
> physcally dragging every email you get into a folder after you read
> it. But if you do things that way, you can simply apply a filter in
> Gmail and then click Archive.

This is exactly the workflow I find cumbersome in Gmail. Susan Doran
offered a nice solution for turning labeling into a real archiving
tool. And don't get me wrong, I haven't seen better solutions, I would
actually be interested in learning about webmail services which make
archiving (not tagging) emails easy, intuitive and not so
desktop-like...

>
> -r-
>

11 Oct 2007 - 1:52pm
Steven Pautz
2006

On 10/11/07, Bianka McGovern <biankamcgovern at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > The labels that have unread email in them display in bold and have a
> > number next to them that indicates how many unread messages there are.
>
> For me that's not enough of an indication. I missed important emails
> because of that. New emails should appear in the inbox. That's what
> the inbox is for, right?

New emails always appear in the inbox unless the user explicitly sets up a
filter and specifies the incoming mail to "skip the inbox". I think such
user efforts ought to supersede any designer attempts to force metaphor or
consistency.

Your point about the extra work required to create filters is a good one,
but they offer much more flexibility than merely "skip inbox". Gmail does
not force you to accept filtering outcomes which you don't want -- it merely
allows such outcomes to users who do want them.

Whether their system supports creating -- and comprehending the implications
of -- labels and filters as effectively as it could is a separate issue, but
I think their potential to deliver value is difficult to deny. I for one
would have left this list long ago if not for the ability to section off
mailing lists from personal and school-related emails. (Not to mention the
handy side effect of hiding this list from professors who don't want their
students wasting time on nonacademic reading.) ;-)

~Steven Pautz

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