Inbox Zero (The Site with Random Email Thoughts)

I’m not sure who actually coined the term “Inbox Zero” or if it’s got an official methodology or anything. Generally I think it just means getting your email dealt with to the extreme of having the box empty. I’d say I only get there once a month or so. Sometimes having that as a goal is helpful to me, so I don’t hate on the concept. I do think edging that direction rather versus just letting yourself have hundreds or thousands of emails in there is better.

Anyway. The site https://inboxze.ro/ isn’t really about about Inbox Zero directly, it’s just a bunch of stylized tweets and quotes on a page, scattered with affiliate links. Simple idea. I like it. Here’s one from Andrew Lyon:

We need to view email as a framework, not an application. It is used for sending messages. That’s it. It does this reliably and predictably.

Indeed it does.

Unhelpful Amazon Order Confirmation E-mails


When you order something from Amazon, you get an email, but it doesn’t confirm what you ordered.

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When an order ships, you get an email, but it doesn’t tell you what has shipped.

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What the fuck?

Michael Tsai rounds some things up. Including Paul Rosania’s tweet:

The vibe is that it’s probably an effort to snuff out companies that snoop on your email, scraping data out of it for ??? reasons.

I find it entirely obnoxious. Slightly understandable that Amazon (perhaps?) wants to fight against privacy-be-damning email snoopers, but to not tell me why, and instead neuter my experience without any options feels worse.

Chris Pratt & Email Strategy

He “accidentally” deleted 51,000 emails:

“Okay, okay. I’m trying not to panic. I think I just tried something to delete anything unread and it just deleted them. And now, I’m like, ‘Oh no. I needed to read ‘em.’ I don’t know where they went. So, and now my battery’s dying. I think I got them all.” He also added, “If I owe you an email, you might want to follow up on that. Resubmit, perhaps, the email and then I’ll read it because it may have just gotten deleted. Yup, 51,000 messages are in the trash. Oh, f—k.”

Seemed genuine, but you never know with celebrities. And also meh, I can’t imagine email is a particularly important part of life and business for Chris Pratt (he’s got people for that, you’d think).

Apparently he’s going to un-trash them and try to get through 1,000 a day.

I admire the tenacity there. Almost like a goal to able to squat 20% more than your current max. You hit it hard every day and hope to get there.

There are two generic things I worry about here:

  1. Doing this purely out of guilt. I think people should do email because it’s awesome. Because it’s valuable. Because good things come from it. Because it helps you succeed. If you aren’t getting things like that out of email, screw it, delete those 51,000 emails.
  2. Actually getting through this work but not actually solving the core problems. The core problem here, by admission, is stuff like getting on too many email lists. If that’s the case, the solution is either the long hard work of unsubscribing from the billion things as you go (there are services for this, if you can trust them), or burning down this email address and starting a new one, salvaging the best messages as you go.

Dweebling

The trick, somehow, is to not do that. (The word is “dweebling” apparently.)

The trick is to know that email is vitally important and treat that response like it is one of most important things you’ll do that day. (Not that Paul doesn’t already know this, I’m just talkin’)

The trick might be to shoot them a one-liner back even though it is less than it deserves, if that’ll help your brain to more later. Or maybe you need to trick your brain into it with something simple like “mark as unread” or snoozing it.

The trick might be adjusting your brain. If you never replied… was it actually that important?

Shared Team Email

The easiest way to have a shared team email is to have one email address (“team@company.com”) and give even one credentials for it. Maybe everyone logs into the same GSuite account. Anyone who is around can deal with incoming email. Maybe you take shifts.

But that’s not particularly elegant. There is lots of room for innovation there. What about real team management with proper permissions? What about multiple inboxes? What about having conversations amongst a team outside of the actual email thread? What about notifying Team members about emails without having to forward it to them?

That’s why we use and love Front at CodePen. It’s a pretty good email client, but the point of it is that it embraces what teams need for email communication, which is a bunch of features that most email clients don’t offer.

I see Polymail is marketed toward team collaboration also. It’s got commenting/mentions that attach themselves to email threads, which is a great feature. The one that is unclear though is assigning emails (they may have it, I just haven’t used it). That’s the feature where an email might come into a main box, but then it’s assigned to a specific person (or persons) so it’s gone from the main incoming box. And that works for any email. For example, I could get an email to chris@codepen.io, which only I have access to, but I could pluck out an individual email to put into the main incoming box or assign to someone else if I wanted to. That’s really thinking through a shared team email experience.

The Rage Click Email Client Refresh Experience

“Rage clicking” is when a user really expects some software to do something when they click somewhere, and it doesn’t seem to, so they just keep clicking and clicking and clicking. Like pressing the close door button in an elevator 100 times because you’re in a hurry.

Sometimes the user really is raging, like they are upset that the software isn’t doing the thing, but sometimes it’s because they know there is some delay and they are just being impatient.

I witnessed both myself and a fellow developer doing this recent as we worked on an email-related feature of a website. We were sending test emails to ourselves, and the system took a little bit to send the email. When we needed to look at it (we were screen sharing) we’d clickclickclickclick the thing in our email client to refresh it until the email came.

In Gmail, that’s clicking the “Inbox” link, as that seems to fire off a “Loading…” message really quickly which makes me feel like it’s doing something and looking for new email. In his client, he had a pull-to-refresh feature he’d do over and over. Both were satisfying. I’m not sure I’d try to engineer a way out of this kind of rage-clicking, just a little bit of UI feedback that the client is trying during the rage clicking is enough.

Ocean

Hype reel:

Thought party:

  • Coupling of TODOs and email might be awesome for some folks but doesn’t typically work for me. Much like my web development work, I generally like it when big important things are decoupled.
  • Every email client wants you to think that they are the one that will help you get through your inbox faster. I don’t think it’s really a client that can help with that. It’s you, you need to get better at it.
  • I like they part where they just type a “Thanks for the feeback!” one-liner and then archive the email. Lolz. I’m gonna file this in my “super great ideas” folder next.

I guess I’m just more and more skeptical that an email client is what helps you be good at email. Getting good at email is on you.

Sidemail

One thing thats worth some deeper discussion at some point is what your email address actually is. Is your full name in it? Is it clever or straightforward? Is it on a major email provider or do you use your own domain?

I’ve always been slightly weird in that I trust people’s email address on a major email provider more than I trust their own domains. Like if I have two emails for you, one being hello@rangleknobs.com and the other being suzannepitts@gmail.com, I trust being able to reach you at the gmail.com address more, but there is less technologically that can go wrong there. It’s not like a huge problem, but I find if an email is going to bounce or fail to deliver, it will be at your custom setup.

But I say that I’m weird in that generally I think people have more trust for owned-domain emails. Like that establishes a “real business” more than using some free service does. Fair enough.

That leads me to Sidemail, which is just a random link I came across and figured I’d share. The point of the service (2 bucks a month for one project), is that you can have a “team@my-project.com” email address set up, but not have to deal with the technical debt (aside from trusting them). You still use your personal inbox, but you can receive and send from this custom-domain email.

Seems like a good middle ground. I’ve always done best with a single inbox. I have drifted away from that lately (having shared inboxes with unique shared groups of people) and email has gotten harder because of it. Maybe I’ll have to take some steps to unify again.