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VIII.5 Sept./Oct. 2001
Page: 4
Digital Citation


Steven Pemberton

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On a typical day I get more e-mail than I can read in a day. I have a tactic for dealing with this: start reading at the most recent message, and work backwards. That way at least some people think I answer promptly. Of course I also automatically filter my mail, and prioritize it. Mail that gets sent To: me gets priority, and after that mail that gets Cc:'d to me, and so on. But even then some important mail gets sent to "unspecified recipients," and so I have to regularly scan even my spam-mail mailbox for possible incorrectly filed mails.

You can probably imagine that I have tried many mailers to see if there are any that offer help. Unfortunately, the one I am currently using applies the mail-filters in an apparently random order, so that even though the rule to filter mail To: me is the first, if a mail is addressed to a mailing list I subscribe to, as well as directly to me, that mail is just as likely to end up in the mailbox for the list as in my priority mailbox. It looks like I'll be changing mailer again sometime soon.

My experience with all these mailers has led me to conclude that the designers of them have apparently not done any studies of how people use mailers. Too many tasks that should be trivially easy are just too hard. Lots of tasks are not supported at all. Here's one: archive all mail older than a year. Here's another: show me the mail I sent that this is a reply to.

This issue features an article describing just such a study: How do people use e-mail? E-mail application writers take note! (Please!)

One other thing I can tell you about e-mail programs: they almost never use standard interoperable file formats, so changing mailer is a major task in itself...

Steven Pemberton

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©2001 ACM  1072-5220/01/0900  $5.00

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