Save Those Tabs with Email Tabs

Email Tabs is a pretty nice idea from Ian Bicking and Dave Justice:

Ever needed to save or share a whole bunch of tabs as you research, shop, or just browse the web? Email Tabs lets you create beautiful emails from your open tabs to save them for later or share them. You can use Email Tabs to automatically send along links, screenshots, or even the text from articles.

Apparently, this idea used to be part of Firefox Test Labs, but that is defunct, and this lives on as a browser extension.

Everybody always has too many tabs open. I bet I have some 30 at all times. I’m not sure if it’s a problem or not, for me. I think of them all as little minor to-do’s, and I’m fairly prompt about addressing them and moving that to-do to a better location if it seems like the open tab deserves that. But I could see how it could be a cognitive overload problem for some people, and having tools to address that in a productive way is a good thing.

The trick is giving yourself a productive destination for those tabs. For me: it’s stuff like…

  1. Blogging the article from the tab
  2. Tossing it on my Things to-do list
  3. Saving it into Notion someplace
  4. Admitting I don’t care anymore and closing the tab

But it certainly could be “email myself a chosen list of these tabs” because you are an email yourself person and use your inbox as a to-do list.

Landing on Newton

The Google Inbox shut down date is looming large. “End of March 2019” is the quoted date. This is sad for me, as I find Google Inbox to be a very good email client, and I’ve yet to find anything that is as good or better. I think I’ve gotten close though, so let’s take that journey.

What I really loved about Inbox is:

  • Pinning
  • Reminders
  • Intelligent (and self-created) rollups
  • Snoozing
  • Really nice UI
I was blasé about Notion’s web clipper at first, but now, of course, use it for saving every link I want to take action on later.

Since forcing myself off Inbox, I’ve gotten over most of this. Pinning is just a way to get something back to the inbox, and most clients have a way to handle that. Reminders I’ve replaced with sending things to my Things inbox and using Notion’s web clipper. My inbox isn’t a great place for saving little todo’s and links anyway. Everybody has snoozing these days. So all I’ll really miss is the rollups stuff and the lovely UI.

Things Inbox

Knowing the shutdown was coming, I switched to using straight up Gmail instead. Inbox was always just an alternate interface for Gmail anyway. I like my very-often-used web apps in native app wrappers, so I was using Shift for that. I had moved to Shift from Mailplane, as at some point Inbox stopped working in Mailplane and that was a deal breaker for me. I think it’s fixed now, though.

Shift UI

Shift is largely fine, but there are some bugs I find fairly obnoxious:

  • It logs me out of my Google accounts a lot.
  • It doesn’t support 1Password natively so logging in is an awkward copy-paste workflow I’d rather do without.
  • It sends me new email alerts, sometimes, for emails that are filtered out of landing in the inbox.
  • It asks me demographic questions in a modal every time I open it.
  • It won’t let me rename my main account. Everytime I rename it, it reverts to an incorrect name.

Now that I write all that out, eeeesh, I’m glad I’ve found a new client I like for now. What Shift does have is Grammarly support, which is a pretty wonderful thing to support. Grammarly is an amazing browser plugin for spelling and grammar and getting close to a dealbreaker feature.

A lot of my Inbox-loving friends have found solace in Spark. One friend told me that the rather unusual strong UI separation between read and unread emails taught them to be much more ruthless about handling their email. Nice! I love hearing stuff like that. Spark didn’t do it for me though. It’s a nice UI, but it’s more than Inbox-y and I just couldn’t get into it. I think what people are loving the most is that it’s the closest winner to having smart rollups.

Spark UI

The email client Newton has been on my radar for quite a while, but I had given up on it as the news was it was shutting down last year. I have no idea what changed, but it’s back from the dead. I’m glad it is, because it’s hitting all the right notes for me. Newton has some newsletter rolly-uppy stuff, but even that I’m kinda over, as I’ve been updating my newsletters to send into Feedbin.

Feedbin UI

What I like about Newton is largely that is has an Inbox-y and very nice UI on both desktop and mobile. Dare I say nicer than Inbox. It’s just simple and clean, has all the features I like and very little I don’t like.

Like my friend who found productivity in Spark, I’m finding Newton is making me much faster and more ruthless about dealing with my email. That’s fascinating to me, as I assumed it was more practice and my personality that made me handle email the way I do, but Newton is proving to me that a good client can go a long way. I’d love to see Newton get Grammarly in there somehow though!

The Immovable Email and the Moment of Clarity

I’m sure most of us have had that experience of an email sitting in your inbox for ages. Not one that you just didn’t see or got buried under hundreds of others, but one that’s right there staring you in the face. It kinda needs your attention. Or at least you think it does. After all, you haven’t trashed it or archived it yet. But for some reason you just can’t deal with it right now.

I’d love to know what the reason is. Do you have an email like that right now? What is it?

I get these all the time. A common one for me is that someone has sent in an article draft, and the draft is right on the edge of bad and mediocre. If it’s bad, that’s an easy email. Some pleasant version of Sorry, this isn’t good enough. If it’s mediocre, those take work, but I can muscle through them usually. It’s those on the line between mediocre and bad that are hard, because my mood plays such a big role. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to deal with something with fairly low potential, but I know that sometimes I am in the mood to try to pull someone up as best I can. So they emails sit, until the scale falls more firmly one way or another.

Sometimes the immovable email is from a friend. A loving little nugget tucked away amidst business stuff. The same frame of mind that answers business emails doesn’t feel right for friends, so it sits and sits.

Whatever the immovable email is, there tends to be a moment of clarity that handles it. Something sparks, and the email isn’t hard anymore. For me, it’s not just getting started writing it. Sometimes I try to trick myself into that, but it doesn’t work. Then the draft just sits and sits.

The moment of clarity usually comes from somewhere else. A long weekend when I didn’t think about it at all. Perhaps I snoozed it for a week and the answer came easier then. Or something related and serendipitous happened and the answer became clear.

Is this a common experience or something in my weird head? Have you ever had an email moment of clarity that helped to clear the stragglers in the ol’ inbox?

The Hot New Channel for Reaching Real People: Email

That’s the headline on this Wall Street Journal piece by Christopher Mims. There was a call-to-action that said I could read the article if I signed in. So I created an account. But then the call-to-action told me I had to subscribe. I’m not anti-subscribing-to-newspapers, but I wasn’t feeling this little bait and switch so I didn’t pull the trigger.

Solid first two paragraphs though:

Kids think it’s fussy and archaic, but for brands, creators and businesses of every kind the emerging medium of choice to reach audiences is the only guaranteed-delivery option the internet has left: email.

Consumer email services have been around for almost three decades, but to hear email’s most ardent fans talk about it now, it’s an undiscovered country too long neglected by those who could benefit from it the most. In the #deletefacebook era, it’s become a way to fight back against the algorithms that try to dictate what…


Lot of work to do there.

It makes me wonder though. How much of that is just pure noise. Like 329 emails of notifications from some to-do app that a team shares where every single time someone clicks a little like button it generates an email.

I’m sure some people get literally thousands of personal emails a day, but I think most people under severe email load get buried from not managing notification settings, not unsubscribing from stuff, and generally avoiding even looking in there let alone engaging with that inbox.

Everlasting Email

Definitely. Email is almost like too-big-to-fail. Not that chat isn’t just as (possibly more) important for intimate team communication. But more importantly, email is good.

The Effectiveness of Email Obfuscation

Speaking of email address obfuscation (I mentioned I never do it and it causes me zero problems), I was pointed to some interesting research by Silvan Mühlemann. It’s only up on Web Archive here, as apparently the original site is gone. 

In 2006, Silvan put up a page on the internet, linked to it, and put nine different email addresses on it, all obfuscated in different ways. 

Here’s the code for posterity:

<p><a href=""></a></p>

<p><a href="">silvan2 AT tilllate DOT com</a></p>

<p><a href="">silvan3</a></p>

<p><a href="">silvan4</a></p>

silvan5<!-- -->@<!--- @ -->till<!-- -->late.<!--- . -->com</p>

<script language="JavaScript" type="text/javascript">
	var string1 = "silvan6";
	var string2 = "@";
	var string3 = "";
	var string4 = string1 + string2 + string3;
	document.write("<a href=" + "mail" + "to:" + string1 +
		string2 + string3 + ">" + string4 + "</a>");

<style type="text/css"> { content: ""; }
<p class="email">email me: </p>

<style type="text/css">
span.codedirection { unicode-bidi:bidi-override; direction: rtl; }

<p><span class="codedirection">moc.etalllit@7navlis</span></p>

<style type="text/css">
p span.displaynone { display:none; }

<p>silvan8@<span class="displaynone">null</span></p>

Only three of which actually worked. 

And all three of those seem pretty awful:

  1. Mailto link won’t work and quite awkward for accessibility
  2. Mailto link won’t work
  3. document.write is bad for performance. Relying upon JavaScript base content isn’t a great idea. Hard to maintain.

I absolutely love the actual research. It confirms to me it’s just not a game I wanna play. 

The Various Intensities of Saying No (and letting people know you can’t prioritize their thing)

Say someone emails you and your answer needs to be no. There are different intensities of that. 

Say it’s a good friend of yours.

Being honest with your friends is usually easy.

You’re going to hate me, because I have to say no on this one. I looooveeee the idea and I’m so glad you’re doing it and please keep me in the loop on it if you have time. It’s just with everything I have going on, I might go bananas taking on anything else. 💙s, Chris.

Yours will probably be much more personal, explaining how your mother-in-law is staying with you because she broke her hip or whatever.

Say it’s someone who’s done a pretty good job of writing that email…

… and you don’t dislike the idea, but the answer is still no. That’s the thing that got me thinking an inspired this:

Probably ends up like:

Hey! Thanks for reaching out about this. I think it’s a great idea and you should totally do it. As for my part, I’m afraid that I can’t prioritize it right now. Best of luck and feel free to let me know how it goes.

What I like about it is that it feels:

  1. Most honest
  2. Slightly stronger than my typical “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time” response

I’m literally telling you that I’m not willing to prioritize your thing. Theoretically I “have time”. I could make an extra cup of coffee at night and stay up an hour later and do it probably. But I don’t want to. I’m not willing to prioritize that over the sleep or other side project or whatever else. 

If you really do wish you could do the thing but can’t, feel free to say that. I’m sure you can say that honestly and not feel like your lying. For example:

Jason Fried has a story where he really liked a kid who wanted to intern form him, but it turns out he just didn’t have the attention:

I recently realized that if I’m too busy to take something on, I shouldn’t say “I don’t have the time”. In fact, I often do have the time. It’s not that hard to squeeze in some extra time for someone.

What I don’t have – and what I can’t squeeze in – is more attention. Attention is a far more limited resource than time. So what I should say is “I don’t have the attention”.

You don’t have to say yes to everything, even when you like them.

Say you just don’t like the idea

I’d probably go with a very similar, but shorter response:

Hey! I’m sorry but I can’t prioritize this right now. Best of luck!

It’s not your job or mine to give people a bunch of feedback on why you’re not into the idea. That’s work, and the goal here is shooing away this email, not having it take up time.

Turns out Dan Mall had the same exact idea a few years ago:

Recently, I’ve tried to stop saying, “I don’t have time.” It insinuates that I’m a helpless victim to the all-powerful stream of hours that mightily passes me by. It’s easy to adopt an “Oh well” attitude to what you’re giving up. It authorizes my apathy.

Instead, I’ve replaced it with the phrase, “That’s not a priority.” Suddenly, I’ve taken control of my own decisions. I’ve taken responsibility for what I do and don’t do. I’ve added clarity, condemnation, and encouragement, all in 4 short words.

“Watching another episode is not a priority.”
“Taking my wife on a date is not a priority.”
“Writing a blog post is not a priority.”
“Building that side project is not a priority.”

Say they are rude

By-eeeeee. You get nothing. If they are extraordinarily rude or even dangerous, I’d say use your best instincts there on what to do. I’ve had circumstances where I felt it was a good idea to forward it along to their employer being like “look at your boy here, not a good look.”

You don’t have to give a reason at all

It sure seems culturally necessary to say why you can’t do a thing. We just had a 1st birthday party for my daughter Ruby, and not a single e-decline for our invite didn’t include an elaborate reason why they couldn’t attend. I get it. It feels abrupt and a bit rude to just click a “no” radio button and close a tab. 

But with an unsolicited email… an elaborate reason seems unnecessary. You probably won’t get one from me. 

Here’s the best one in history:

Brad Frost tells me there is good advice in this book

I’ll have to pick it up.

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