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E-mail As the New Database 389

Posted by Zonk
from the saving-for-a-rainy-day dept.
jira writes "BBC has an article confirming the trend of using inbox as a sort of personal database. At my workplace I can personally attest to the growing sizes of those pst files and an unwillingness to erase any emails because of 'loss of information'." From the article: "The trend has become more pronounced as the services have dramatically increased their storage capacity in response to upstart Gmail offering a free service with 1,000 megabytes (Mb) of storage." Update: 04/22 23:03 GMT by Z : To reflect that the story is at respected news organization BBC, not a BBS.
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E-mail As the New Database

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  • Guilty (Score:2, Interesting)

    I must say, I'm very guilty of this.
    I only tend to delete spam. It DOES get handy when I need something though.
    3 gmail's search.
    • Re:Guilty (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) <`dylan' `at' `dylanbrams.com'> on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:40PM (#12318516) Homepage Journal
      Why feel guilty? It's a good database, with a pile of space. You're going to forget, your hard drive is going to die, your house is going to burn down with all your notes inside, you're going to get fired. What's left? Your Hotmail account, your Gmail account. I pay 20$ a year for virtually infinite data storage with incredible reliability. With Gmail, I get it for free. I pass e-mail between the two for redundancy and as a result the only thing that will kill all my data is an apocalypse or massive economic failure.
      • by billstewart (78916) on Friday April 22, 2005 @08:29PM (#12319755) Journal
        No guilt about it - she's paying them whatever their current price is, and she keeps all the stuff she's interested in on their servers. Of course, she's never really figured out Windows file systems, or why she should use them instead of creating mail folders inside AOL. (:-)

        It's been very useful for helping maintain her system - when Somethine Bad happens to her PC, whether it's spyware or bit rot or hard drive problems, whichever child is nearby can just format the disk, reinstall whatever generation of Windows is handy, get a new AOL coaster (I picked one up in the hotel lobby last trip :-), and she can log in and all her bookmarks, email, buddy lists, etc. are all there right away. We did have to buy an actual install-from-scratch version of XP once, because she'd lost the old Windows ME disk, but WinME was such a loss that scraping it off the disk and getting rid of Compaq's "helpful" system backup software were a pleasure anyway.

        Meanwhile, *my* mom's still happily using her decade-old Mac Performa 630 with System 7.x, Netscape and Eudora, keeps her data on disk as text files that she backs up to floppy, had to buy some more RAM a few years ago so a new printer driver would work reliably, and her only real problem is that her local Mac repair guy retired and no longer makes house calls. It's much more reliable, but she's never been afraid of technology.

    • Re:Guilty (Score:3, Informative)

      Sure, but try synching that inbox to your PDA. I will be first in line for the windows CE phones with 2 gig HDs.
      • "Sure, but try synching that inbox to your PDA. I will be first in line for the windows CE phones with 2 gig HDs."

        Err, you don't need to have your PDA sync with your WHOLE 2 gigs of data.

        But, on the odd odd odd chance you did, you've got a couple of things going for you:

        1.) You can set up Outlook to download from GMail via pop3, then sync.

        2.) You can hit GMail's site from the PDA's browser and get at what you need.

        From a "using multiple computers point of view", GMail is a life saver.
    • by Roadkills-R-Us (122219) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:50PM (#12318626) Homepage
      It must have been a *really* slow news day, or someone at the BBC is rather slow. Techies have been doing this since the 1st email message was received, and everyone else has been doing it since they discovered email.

      I know a small handful of people who tend to keep their email cleaned out and very small. For everyone else, it's a huge. mostly convenient database.

      This "story" is only about 1% less sill than reporting that "recent study shows people prefer to breathe than to stop".
      • by Total_Wimp (564548) on Friday April 22, 2005 @09:07PM (#12319935)
        Although I agree with you that this is not exactly news, as a recent email administrator I'd have to say your numbers are quite a bit off. In our organization, it's pretty close to roughly split between "cleaners", "savers" and "hybrids". I don't get this from anecdotal evidence of what I saw when helping out end-users either, but rather from looking at the mailbox sizes for everyone in the org.

        "Savers" are easy to spot. They delete almost nothing except spam. We have quite a few users who would need a couple of the two gig Gmail accounts to hold all of their data.

        "Cleaners" are also easy to spot. When someone has been with the company for 5+ years and their Exchange mailbox size is less than 20MB, you know they're not using their email as a database. These folks feel real stress when their email stretchs beyond the end of the page. My boss is one of these and he has very little understanding for why anyone would need a lot of email storage.

        The "hybrids" are more difficult to spot. Many are not true hybrids, but actually "savers" who archive email semi-regularly. True "hybrids" delete most stuff, but whatever they deam "important" gets put in a nice mailbox folder tree. Over time these can become quite large, but it's never as bad as with real "savers". My purely subjective and anecdotalo observation is that these folks make up the most "normal" email user group. If you have three friends and two of them are freeks, the normal one is probably a "hybrid" email user.

        I'm personally a "saver" who archives semi-regularly. Thanks to me, we basically don't have strict email limits anymore and people can store almost as much as they'd like. We never harrass VPs with multi-gig storage. But I have a lot of respect for "cleaners" too. For some reason, they never really have the problem of missing data that us "savers" are so worried about. The "cleaners" are like those folks you know that have absolutely no clutter in their houses, no junk drawer and no closet full of old hard drives. The truth is that we're afraid of losing things we "may need someday" but they know the truth is that we'll never find it in the clutter anyway, so why live with the clutter to begin with.

        TW
  • Correction (Score:5, Informative)

    by FuturePastNow (836765) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:37PM (#12318486)
    Gmail is up over two gigabytes now.
  • Actually... (Score:2, Informative)

    by eviltypeguy (521224)
    Actually, GMail is offering:

    "Don't throw anything away.
    2121.042690 megabytes (and counting) of free storage so you'll never need to delete another message."

    Their new Infinity + 1 storage technology or some Jazz like that (hey their marketing words not mine) ;) At the very least 2GB. I'm sure at the time these things were created in response it was because of the 1GB thing...
    • Wow, 2 gigs... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by John Seminal (698722) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:59PM (#12318712) Journal
      I remember when I could not afford a 2 gig hard drive. I remember how hard it was filling my hard drive with useless programs and games. Now I have 2 gigs for email!!

      I am suprised the RIAA has not gone after email companies yet, they have to be an attractive target. It is going to be an easy way of sharing MP3's. I might have a CD, rip the best songs to MP3's and email all my friends. Hell, maybe we'll even form an email group that does nothing but share MP3's. I wonder if the RIAA will come after them if that becomes the next trend.

      Why on earth would a person need 2 gigabytes for email? If it is a company, they must have their own storage, nobody would want to trust a free email account for buisness.

  • Mb vs MB (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rheagar (556811) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:38PM (#12318494) Homepage
    Mb = Megabits MB = Megabytes

    8Mb = 1MB

    I hope this clears things up!
    • Re:Mb vs MB (Score:2, Interesting)

      by zerblat (785)
      Actually, 1 MB is 1,000,000 Bel. There's no universally accepted abbreviation for byte. Some people use B, some use b. If you want to avoid confusion, spell out the whole word.
      • Re:Mb vs MB (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Queer Boy (451309) * <`dragon.76' `at' `mac.com'> on Friday April 22, 2005 @07:06PM (#12319242)
        There's no universally accepted abbreviation for byte. Some people use B, some use b.

        Yes exactly, and some people type "There going to the store to get groceries." some people type "Their going to the store to get groceries." and some people type "They're going to the store to get groceries."

        The only reason why it doesn't seem universal is because people don't always use the right one. That does NOT make it more or less correct.

  • 2120 MB (Score:5, Funny)

    by nacturation (646836) <nacturation AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:38PM (#12318496) Journal
    Thanks to Google's Infinite Improbability Storage Drive [google.com], storage space is now at 2.120 GB to 1 and rising.
    • Re:2120 MB (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DosBubba (766897)
      The article was written on February 8th, 2005 or about two months before gmail started their storage increases.
    • Re:2120 MB (Score:2, Funny)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      I think that was the telephone nukber at my old flat in islington.
    • Re:2120 MB (Score:4, Funny)

      by jgold03 (811521) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @02:14AM (#12321125)
      Some of my buddies and I played an interesting game: Who could get a fresh Gmail account filled the fastest, and only with external mail (no uploading files to yourself). I won, and did it in exactly 1 week. Some of my techniques:

      - Joining high volume Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups, and getting them to forward every message to me. There are a bunch of really weird groups in other countries that send p0rn around to each other.
      - Every single kernel, debian, fc, slackerware, apache, mysql, etc. mailing list we could find... and WHOA we got a lot of mail from that
      - P0rn sites ("Enter your email address for free p0rn in your email" really gets you on a lot of spam lists)
      - Google "email mailing lists"

      In a week, I had 29,000 emails in my inbox taking up 2.1 GB. I'm suprised Google hasn't terminated my account since I'm over my quota and get about 5000+ emails a day now.
  • by flicman (177070)
    Doesn't GMail offer more space than that now? When was this article submitted?

    Maybe it's submissions get rejected immediately but take weeks to be accepted? This one clearly sat in the queue for 3 weeks.
  • not that anyone's paying attention, but google offers 2+ gigs of storage now and it's going up up up.

    That, and who doesn't use the simplest way to store and retrieve information? For my roommate it was his pda and 1 gig SD cards. For me, it's email and google able to store 10mb attachments for 2gigs worth of data and my pda. it almost completely negates the need for a pc these days with online storage and pda's.

    cept for those cube monkeys (shudder) who actually sit in front of one for hours on end. what a
  • by ARRRLovin (807926) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:40PM (#12318513)
    It's not uncommon for users to have several GB of email on the server and multiple archive files. Disk is cheap, backup windows are MASSIVE. At what point does reliability outweigh convenience? According to users? NEVER.
  • 1,000 MB? (Score:2, Funny)

    by soloport (312487)
    Am I the only one with 2,000 MB?

    And, yes, e-mail as a pseudo-database is wonderful -- well, with the conveniences gmail offers, at least. But with .pst files?! Pulllllease. That's SO 1990's. ;)
  • by painandgreed (692585) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:40PM (#12318517)
    Yep. I do desktop support and nobody wants to delete anything. that's their paper trail and the one email they delete may mean their job down the line as people are looking for somebody to blame and heads to chop. Most communication is done through email with proper CCs (and sometimes BCCs) and they require it even between people sutting next to eachother just so there is that paper trail at a later date. When they've told somebody or reported an issue, they want to show proof they've done so later if somebody else drops the ball and there are people looking for blame.
    • by barzok (26681) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:50PM (#12318630)
      My employer's former CEO and COO kept less than 2MB in their mailboxes from what I understand. The reason? So there was no trail of anything, no record of any possible wrongdoing on their part, etc.
      • It seems that the higher you get up the chain, the more likely they are to delete all email. Shit rolls downhill and the people at the top have the least to lose if somebody is needed to take the fall and there is no firm record of blame.
      • by Anonymous Luddite (808273) on Friday April 22, 2005 @06:19PM (#12318879)
        >> no record of any possible wrongdoing on their part

        This is the same reason some people answer emails in person. They don't want it sitting in your mailbox either...
        • The weasels who don't want to leave any records of their decisions will later deny what they said. A good defensive tactic when dealing with those types of weasels is to send an email, copying others, on your understanding of what was discussed to ensure you got the correct message.

          Example Scenario:

          To: PointyHairBoss@corp.com
          From: PeeOn@corp.com
          Subject:Schedule Risk for Task A on project deadlines
          Date: Wednesday, 10:34 AM

          Hi PointyHairBoss,

          Because of task B which you just assigned to me

    • At the huge corporation I work for, our company policy is to delete everything by default ASAP. WE have to jump through hoops just to archive stuff for at most two years. The lawyers think this is a great thing because they hate it when executives get their email supoenaed, but us engineers think it's a terrible idea, given how much work and technical discussion is recorded in email.
      • At the huge corporation I work for, our company policy is to delete everything by default ASAP.

        Our company has the same policy, probably for the reason of destroying such a paper trail. The supervisors and other people of responsiblity who aren't in their own offices with secretaries aren't buying it and are asking for instructions on how to store emails locally and then make back up CDs of same.

    • I wasn't a manager and I never deleted anything, either. Sure, sometimes it was simply to protect myself, but there are a lot of other reasons to sace email.

      Frankly, there is no reason to expect people to not retain just about everything. People look at a techie worrying outloud about diskspace liked they'd look at a bartender complaining about all that beer guzzling: just buy some more.
    • Its one thing to keep everything for a paper trail ( i do the same ) but its another to keep it all *active*.

      Archiving is only responsible.
  • Actually... (Score:3, Funny)

    by civman2 (773494) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:40PM (#12318520) Homepage
    "Gmail offering a free service with 1,000 megabytes (Mb) of storage."

    I don't know about you, but my Gmail has 2121.046851 megabytes of storage space. I mean 2121.047702 megabytes. I mean 121.048913 megabytes. I mean...
    • I did some calculations and I think the space's increasing by about 3.5 MB each day. That's more space than I ever receive at maximum, let alone at average... So for all practical purposes, I consider my gmail account infinite now :)
  • Why not? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xtracto (837672) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:41PM (#12318526) Journal
    Personally, I think it is a good idea, I would really like to see Google Implementing some kind of "GDrive", where I can have all or most of my documents, I know there is an ap for doing it in Gmail but, I maybe a Google's service with web page and file browser interface (as cool as their Gmail interface) would be nice.

    Of course, I would like it to be free (as all other Google's services), and I would not mind having the ads at the side if for example I have a document (.DOC, .ppt etc) talking about Scotland vacations, I get some ads about vacations.

  • My personal database says that I'm a pervert with a small penis who uses lots of prescription drugs financed by taking a 2nd mortgage and my relative in Nigeria.

    Doesn't anyone else just think that email totally sucks? I can't remember the last time I checked my email other than to hit 'confirm' when I signed up for some stupid web service like nytimes.com.

    Every time I try to save an email, it ends up getting deleted anyway when I'm throwing out the spam 100's of emails at a time. Email is useless as it is
    • Mailinator (Score:5, Informative)

      by calebb (685461) <[ten.leifeneb] [ta] [todhsals]> on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:50PM (#12318621) Homepage Journal
      No, that's what Mailinator [mailinator.com] is for. (to hit confirm when you sign up for a service like nytimes).

      Welcome to Mailinator(tm) - Its no signup, instant anti-spam service. Here is how it works: You are on the web, at a party, or talking to your favorite insurance salesman. Wherever you are, someone (or some webpage) asks for your email. You know if you give it, you're gambling with your privacy. On the other hand, you do want at least one message from that person. The answer is to give them a mailinator address. You don't need to sign-up. You just make it up on the spot. Pick jonesy@mailinator.com or bipster@mailinator.com - pick anything you want (up to 15 characters before the @ sign).

      Later, come to this site and check that account. Its that easy. Mailinator accounts are created when mail arrives for them. No signup, no personal information, and when you're done - you can walk away - an instant solution to one way spammers get your address. Its an anti-spam solution for everyone. The messages are automatically deleted for you after a few hours.

      Let'em spam.
      • Re:Mailinator (Score:2, Informative)

        by alahan27 (878156)
        ..Or you could use bugmenot [bugmenot.com]. Users across the internet sign up for these "you must sign up in order to view this content" sites. They have a bookmarklet that makes things even simpler.
      • Re:Mailinator (Score:5, Informative)

        by psychofox (92356) on Friday April 22, 2005 @06:27PM (#12318943)
        This sound likes spamgourmet.com only not as good. What if someone has already chosen a particular mailinator.com combination you've already selected?

        I use spamgourmet all the time, and it is fantastic. You set up an account like psychofox123@spamgourmet.com and decide where emails will be forwarded to. You can then create email address on the fly like slashdot.5.psychofox123@spamgourmet.com which will direct the first 5 messages towards your normal email box. It also does clever things like masking the from address if you reply to an incoming email. You can reset the number of messages allowable to particular alias at any time, and you can create a 'watch word' which will only allow new aliases to be created when they contain the watchword (to stop people just creating nonsense aliases for your account, after they realise you are using spamgourmet).

        Check it out!

        • Re:Mailinator (Score:3, Interesting)

          I've used both and I prefer mailinator.

          In short, you don't have a mailinator account, you can check the e-mail for any account you can name.

          Tell the nytimes your email is nytimes@mailinator.com. THen go to mailinator, type nytimes into the account box and check the mail. Heck, there might even still be emails from someone elses nytimes account signup. (they purge them regularily though)
        • Re:Mailinator (Score:3, Informative)

          by metamatic (202216)
          What if someone has already chosen a particular mailinator.com combination you've already selected?


          Someone else might see my spam? Or I might look at the account and find there's spam there already? Oh, the humanity!
    • Every time I try to save an email, it ends up getting deleted anyway when I'm throwing out the spam 100's of emails at a time. Email is useless as it is and nothing important should ever be done with an email.

      It sucks and blows, but the only way to manage it is to first go through the pain of changing your email address and notifying everybody you've ever dealt with that your email address is different. Also, implement some spam filtering such as SpamAssassin. Kill it before it even reaches your eyeball
  • gmail works as a file cabinet.

    I send myself email sometimes with information I find useful and will want later. Then tag it with the gmail category.

    Instant file cabinet and fully searchable. (I used to use apple's notepad for this, but its not in osx).
  • by Hoch (603322) <hochhech @ y a h o o . com> on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:42PM (#12318545)
    PR [slashdot.org] As stated, trend reports are almost always PR. At least it isn't a dupe.
  • Like other people I have all this information (emails, ebooks, papers, photos, mp3s, whatever) but there really aren't any good applications out there for organising it. In fact, the best applications out there are probably file systems but they aren't exactly smart. It's incredible that the organization software we have is so bad that people are finding that their email clients are serving this purpose even though their ability to do this is basically a side effect. Only now have companies like MS and Apple finally realised that searching though data is something important. Why has it taken this long?
    • Only now have companies like MS and Apple finally realised that searching though data is something important. Why has it taken this long?

      I'd say metadata, and its acceptance.

      When people used to have a couple hundred mp3s or photos, it wasn't a big deal to just operate by file names or date imported. This is completely anecdotal, but I'd guess people are starting to be smarter about tagging their docs, pics, music, etc properly and thoroughly now that your average user is acumulating larger and larger a

  • I want a real RDBMS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by leandrod (17766) <l&dutras,org> on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:43PM (#12318553) Homepage Journal
    I really love my 600 MiB FastMail [fastmail.fm] account, specially because it's IMAP -- the main reason for my avoiding GMail up to now.

    But searching sucks, and I depend on Evolution to do virtual folders. I'd love it even more if my email server was actually a true RDBMS where I could have, besides the traditional IMAP interface, a D [dmoz.org.] (Tutorial D [dbappbuilder.sf.net] or D4 [alphora.com.] or something the like) language interface where I could query at will, and save my queries as views that would show up in IMAP as (virtual) folders.

    BTW, even non-relational ISO SQL would be so much better than what we have now.

  • It's kind of hard to do when the company's legal weasels insist on nuking all email older than 30 days. I understand the reason for the policy but I think it's short-sighted.
    • IANAL, but I would hazard a guess that your company might be in deep shit if they ever go to court and in the discovery phase are required to produce emails older than 30 days, unless you are maintaining some form of back up. These days, *everything* can seemingly be construed as discoverable evidence - meaning even Instant Messaging traffic should be recorded and backed up if it concerns business operations.

      Now, I am sure your legal dept knows what its doing, but I am very suprised to hear that you nuk

    • IANAL, but I would hazard a guess that your company might be in deep shit if they ever go to court and in the discovery phase are required to produce emails older than 30 days, unless you are maintaining some form of back up. These days, *everything* can seemingly be construed as discoverable evidence - meaning even Instant Messaging traffic should be recorded and backed up if it concerns business operations.

      Now, I am sure your legal dept knows what its doing, but I am very suprised to hear that you nuke

      • Sorry, managed a double post there accidentally.

        Why oh why is /. the only messageboard out there that doesn't allow you to edit or delete your post?

        Here we are in the bastion of OSS and cutting edge computer useage and the website interface is miles behind the competition. I often think that /. succeeds in spite of itself, not because of its design...
  • by michael path (94586) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:44PM (#12318575) Homepage Journal
    "BBS has an article confirming the trend of using inbox as a sort of personal database. At my workplace I can personally attest to the growing sizes of those pst files and an unwillingness to erase any emails because of 'loss of information'." From the article: "The trend has become more pronounced as the services have dramatically increased their storage capacity in response to upstart Gmail offering a free service with 1,000 megabytes (Mb) of storage."

    BBS = The BBC
    pst = Microsoft Outlook .PST
    Gmail is no upstart, they're run by Google [google.com]. Gmail currently offers 2121MB (that's Megabytes, not Mb - which is MegaBITS)

    This isn't news. This is what Google had in mind when they started the Gmail service.
    • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Friday April 22, 2005 @06:32PM (#12318975)
      Every respectable mail client from pine through gmail allows you to save mail to folders other than "Inbox". Anyone who does not take advantage of this feature, and allows their inbox to grow to hundreds or more megabytes is a damned moron.

      Inbox is for messages you have just received or otherwise still require your attention. If you got it four years back, it doesn't belong in your inbox.

      When you get a magazine subscription via snail mail, do you leave your back issues out at streetside, clogging up the mailbox, or do you bring them in and store them in a rack or closet? Why would electronic mail be any different?

      • by fm6 (162816)
        Anyone who does not take advantage of this feature, and allows their inbox to grow to hundreds or more megabytes is a damned moron.
        Or has a finite amount of time to devote to sorting email.
  • It's _really_ good to be able to pull an email up months later and say

    "No, this is what you agreed to" or "No, you were informed. Here's my email and your response".

    I keep a some emails for months. Some of it _never_ gets deleted. It's a b*llsh*t deflector that's saved me from career damage more than once.

  • by prototype (242023) <bsimser@shaw.ca> on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:48PM (#12318604) Homepage
    These are a few tips I've found on the net that I've picked up and try to follow.
    • Remember, your Inbox is your Inbox. It's not your To Do list. You don't use your paper inbox as a filing system, do you? (Okay, maybe you do. So how's that working for you, anyway?)
    • Block out time to "process" email. And when you do, "process" it. Don't spend more than a minute or two on an email--and don't start down the road of firing off two or three emails for everyone you get, or diving into a project after you get to email 13 ("oh, ya! I owe him a project plan!" or "I should blog about that..."). Put it on your To Do list, and keep processing your inbox. If you can't do that, there may be other kinds of help available.
    • Don't use your email as a filing system. And for heaven's sake, don't rescue a co-worker who is looking for something you happen to have tucked away in an email folder. Let them rescue YOU! If someone else owns a document/plan/conversation, let them store it for you. Chances are if you need it, someone else has it.
    • Ignore Incoming Email until you have time to process it. Can you imagine if snail mail was real-time? Would you wait by your house's mailbox, and open each piece of junk mail as it came in? Thank goodness it only comes in once a day! And even though you pick it up daily, I bet you process that "inbox" only a few times a week. Change your default view on Outlook to open to your Calendar and Task List, rather than your Inbox. Turn off the popup toast and reminder sound when email comes in. Don't respond immediately to each incoming email.
    • Pick up the phone once in a while. You'd be surprised at how much you can get done in a phone call rather than on email.
    • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday April 22, 2005 @07:05PM (#12319229) Homepage
      Okay, I'll bite. I do 3 of the 4 of the things you mentioned, and I find it highly productive. One thing I've learned over the years is that no one can tell you how to organize. Different systems work for different people. (And some people are hopeless) I have several friends who swear by Franklin Covey. Others who hate it. Let me show you what works for me, since it matches your "suggestions" very well.
      • My Inbox is my to do list. I see many people use their paper inbox (or equivalent) as their todo list. (Actually, I think it is the most common system I've seen people use.) I would use it too, except that I hate paper. Why would you have something in your in-box, if there wasn't some action to be associated with it? If I want me to do something, I send myself an email.
      • I do not allocate time to process my Inbox. I do that when I complete a task (an email), when I receive a new email, or at regular intervals. It's like an OS: process for a while, then task switch whenever you get an interrupt or after a fixed time slice.
        I do agree that stopping of the Nth message without having gone through them all will cause things to pile up. This is a function of scheduling. Read through all your tasks before embarking on any one.
      • I look at email as soon as I get it. I may get an email every 15 to 30 minutes at work, and every 4 hours at home. That isn't a problem. If you get more emails than that, then you aren't managing the people around you properly. I know many managers who get 100 emails a day. IMHO, they aren't managing properly. Status messages and FYI type things should be done at regular meetings. I treat snail mail the same way.
      • Agreed! Even better, try physically travelling to them! I hate people who send 15 emails back-and-forth when a 5 minute meeting or conversation would be better.
    • Screw the phone (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jefftp (35835) on Friday April 22, 2005 @09:06PM (#12319927)
      Don't pick up the phone. I don't want to waste time talking to you when I could be getting work done.

      I definately don't want to see you in person unless it's a social visit and I happen to have a moment of freetime.

      I want you to list out, in written detail, exactly what you need so I can reply, in written detail, with useful information. Be clear, consise, and detailed.

      I plan to pull up this email next week when you claim we never discussed the topic. I'll kindly remind you that we did discuss the topic and you agreed to take care of your business. If I asked to record the phone call, you'd probably have a panic attack.

      If you really have something important to discuss, you can write it down. Spoken words are meaningless and forgettable.

      Phone calls are interruptions that require my full attention. Emails can be replied to as my time becomes available.
    • No question that for many things in-person is better than email.

      However, this is not always true. I hate it when somebody leaves me a voice mail that just says to call them back so that they can ask me something.

      If they sent me an email, they could explain their problem with a few details, and when I do call them back to explain things to them, I'd actually have answers for them.

      Instead, when people leave detailess voicemails or show up in person, they interrupt you and you end up playing 20 questions j
  • One possibility is that Hotmail's market dominance could be affected by rival services better equipped to search through thousands of e-mails.
    You're telling me. I've had about 10-15 people fed up with hotmail ask me for Gmail invites and they're spreading them to friends and family as well afterwards. Lately I've been having trouble with hotmail and completely switched over to Gmail because of it. I think hotmail had its time to shine, but hasn't been able to keep up with the any of the new services.
  • I started out using the email client in Netscape 2 back in 1996. Then came Netscape 3, 4.04, 4.61, and then the Mozilla suite which I've upgraded a bunch. I'll probably move to Thunderbird eventually. Anyway, each upgrade has been compatible with, and preserved, my earlier emails so that I have nearly 10 years of emails sent and received online which has become a very useful tool, just by itself. I doubt that anyone has done that with Outlook...or if they had, they probably would have spammed all of the
  • by John Seminal (698722) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:50PM (#12318629) Journal
    Is there any technology that a sender can use to nuke their own email after a set amount of time? Any technology that can disallow for an email to be copied or saved? I would like to see a streaming DRM email system, where I can control how my content is used. For example, I don't want past girlfriends posting emails I sent them 5 years ago, especially to girls I am now interested in.

    Back in the days of paper, people had document shredders, if they did not want a record of a conversation it was easy to convey information without having a record.

    • There is technology like that -- we researched it at my last company, where one of the goals of the marketers was "we want to be able to send this PDF to people, but we don't want them sending it to other people, because it's got value."

      We got somewhat close with an email vendor that let you do that -- basically, you'd send it to something like @ourname.vendor.com, and it'd get sent to the user, but they'd strip out content and put it on their website, and all you'd get would be this HTMLized, JavaScripted
      • that works great untill someone uses "print" to run it through PDF creator and then sends the data to everyone anyways, and you end up paying for a lot of snake oil.
    • A few years back, Disappearing Inc. made a system to do that. They've since become Omniva and were recently acquired by Liquidmachines.com. Their tech guy gave a talk at a Cypherpunks meeting back when they announced their product, and I was fairly impressed. He started off by explaining what the product doesn't do, because there are lots of things people would like to do that are sufficiently impossible that anybody claiming to do them is selling snake oil. Their objective was limited to supporting pri
  • bdr@zaphod:~ $ du -hs Maildir/
    186M Maildir

    I should really clean up a bit.

  • Getting Things Done (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rikardon (116190) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:53PM (#12318663)
    I've just started using David Allen's system Getting Things Done (GTD) for organizing my work, mostly in response to a new position at work that has me involved in a lot more projects than before.

    It's the lowest-overhead way I've found of staying organized. One of his tenets is getting your Inbox (both physical and virtual) to empty. I've done it.

    Here I am on a Friday afternoon with exactly three items in my email Inbox, and none in my physical one -- although I've been working on three different projects today, and am currently involved (off and on) in a usability role in half a dozen others.

    The biggest benefit so far in implementing this system has been rapid context switches: the biggest benefit so far has been faster context switches: I'm moving from project to project, meeting to meeting, and nothing gets lost - email, papers, usability test results, are all quickly and accurately accessible.

    I guess my point is that even if email is being used as a personal database, it probably shouldn't be. Or at least, it should be structured in such a way that items are (1) only archived if they need to be for future reference, and there's no action to be taken on them, or (2) filed because you're waiting for someone else to do something, but you think you'll need to act once they're done.

    I've only been at this for two weeks, but the benefits thus far have been dramatic, with very little overhead. Look up the book in your library or favorite local bookstore; I've been very impressed.

    • by cpeterso (19082)

      I forgot to add that my favorite GTD-related blog is 43 Folders [43folders.com].

  • by AsOldAsFortran (565087) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:54PM (#12318668)
    Computer scientest David Gelernter proposed a organization for all the material we produce as a "lifestream", a date-stamped list of all electronic documents in our lives. When I first heard of I thought, naa, too ill-organized.

    But, I find my email working in exactly the way he proposed. My email package provides the best database I have of my work and communication. Searchable by date, correspondent, content, subject; control-click to organize by date, sender, header; automatic filters to sort by same; subfolders; attachments of all kinds accessable by the search; and I can add to it from anywhere by emailing myself. I use email to mainain to-do (email myself), I use email to maintain a calendar of past activities by searching for email on the topic (when did we do X?) , I use email to store minor documents and search for them as attachments. By using pop and downloading all email to my harddrive, I have no limitations of an account.

    So, while dubious about "lifestreams", I've backed into it as the core of my work habits.

  • I have done this for years at work. Of course my employers have (almost) all used Exchange/Outlook. With 2003, I don't keep anything locally in .pst file, everything on the server (I do local caching on my laptop, though) but I have Google Desktop Search. So I can instantly search through thousands of emails without having to worry about Outlook soaking up too much memory. I actually used the MSN desktop search on my work computer for awhile because of its tighter integration with Outlook. I was already usi
  • archives... all 3Gb of them. Google local search does a fine job on my 3.5Gb pst.
  • That is to say, using an existing, good database technology? Yes, I use my email as a database and store lots of data in there. I never want to delete anything because I don't want to get caught with my pants down when someone calls me out claiming "I never said that."

    So -- Is there a package out there that actually uses a FOSS database like MySQL or Postgres for us email hogs that makes searching records, cataloguing items, making backups, separating attachments from body content, etc. more convenient?

  • by EvilStein (414640) <spam@@@pbp...net> on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:56PM (#12318691) Homepage
    Ever have to deal with a bloated and corrupted .pst file?

    No fun.

    Users that like to keep everything on the planet should probably think twice about trusting it all to Microsoft Outlook (or any local POP email client, for that matter)

    IMAP rocks. :-)
    • I was loaned a laptop at Intel where the owner had a 1GByte .pst file... fragmented into no less than 30,000 fragments (No, I'm NOT exagerating). Needless to say, this hard drive was dog slow... and no, you can't defrag the drive, because the Windows defrag program hangs before it ever completes.
  • I did this for several years at a previous employer, with Lotus Notes. Hated it as an emailer, but it was just fine for retaining and finding stuff. I'd even mail Word or Excel files to myself.

    When I left, my inbox was several thousand files deep, and that was typical.

  • besides the incorrect figure of 1000 megabytes (it's currently more than 2GB), the writer marked the units in megabits (Mb) instead of the correct megabytes (MB)
  • by shanen (462549) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:58PM (#12318709) Homepage Journal
    Well, except maybe for the 1 GB versus 2 GB error everyone is commenting on. A new error is not very interesting. However, I do have two substantive comments to offer:

    In spite of Google's business principle against evil and in spite of the my frequent use of gmail, I think it is fundamentally bad and potentially evil. "Possession is nine points of the law", and there is no good reason for Google to be in possession of *MY* email. A few GBs of storage is *NOT* the issue, and I have plenty of free GBs right here in my possession, even including space for the indexes. Perhaps Google really is a good company and they will never abuse the power of possessing someone's email--but the historical evidence does not support that belief. Every power gets abused sooner or later.

    In simplest terms, here is the threat of online gmail: Would you want your worst enemy to have access to all of your email? If you have put it into gmail, then all it would take is a single password leak.

    The constructive alternative is obvious. Gmail should live primarily on your own disk, preferably integrated with the Google Desktop. The nine points of possession would remain on *YOUR* side, since you would still possess all of your email.

    Many extended services could then be built on that model...

    • by isolationism (782170) on Friday April 22, 2005 @06:09PM (#12318802) Homepage
      It was recently brought to my attention (by a more educated person than I am) that by using Gmail I am trusting Google with my personal information -- whatever that may be -- forever. Because deleting something from Gmail almost assuredly means nothing more than a "deleted" flag in a database somewhere, not an actual deleted file.

      Of course, after having this pointed out to me it I realised -- "too late" -- that this should have been obvious to me, only I had never bothered to give it any thought.

      My point is, thanks for reminding us all of this fact in an appropriate forum. Google fanboys may mod you down but, you raise a very important and relevant point that deserves consideration. I hope I'm not the only one who thinks so.

  • Interesting article ..
    I don't believe it is true ..
    But I'll forward it to my GMail account for later reference ..
  • First, I too am guilty of design-by-email, but I really try to avoid it. Countless hours are wasted looking back at a list of 23 emails, all with the SAME Subject: (Hint, they usually starts with Re: or FW:).

    Multi-party emails often have differing threads going on, so you can't always delete older iterations of the reply emails.

    Then, there are the lazy so-and-so's who just "Reply To All" on a totally different subject, probably because the last email happened to have all the right recipients. When I rep

    • by TopSpin (753) *
      You know what - changing jobs every couple of years is a nice way to clear out mental, virtual, and sometime physical clutter that is no longer needed.

      Truth is this is the only real reason I left my last job four years ago. After six years I had become the go-to guy for every damn thing that computed. My ability to accomplish anything was approaching zero. Now, another half decade later, the same thing is occurring.

      As far as email goes my policy is; delete nothing, period. Spam is the only exception.
  • This is the stupidest "story" I've seen on slashdot. E-mail is nothing more than a front-end for a database. Certainly Google Mail uses a database to archive all of our e-mails and retrieve/sort them quickly. It's certainly a new paradigm for *accessing* the database than what we've been used to. But at the end of the day it's still just a front-end.

  • I have emails dating back to 1994. 'nuff said. :P
  • It's like christmas cards. You don't exactly want to throw them out right after reading them so you hold on to them for a little while.

    Soon a little while becomes a while and a while becomes quite a while and soon you have a stack of cards that date back 4 or 5 years, Then the stack becomes so large, it takes longer to go sifting through them than to just chuck them on an ever growing pile.

    I've got email that's 5 year old and I doubt I really need to hold on to any of them, but for me, it's more a matter
  • I use 3 gmail accounts as backup solution for one critical project.
    Actually it's just one of the 5 places where I keep copy of the data, so if google decides to ban gmailfs, I still have 4 places to go if I need to retrieve the data from backup.
  • why I don't (Score:3, Interesting)

    by confused one (671304) on Friday April 22, 2005 @06:42PM (#12319058)
    I don't erase e-mail, because I'm tired of people telling me they "never said that." I've been burned in the past. I'll not be burned again. By saving years worth of e-mail I've been able to defend and protect myself as well as have the satisfaction of throwing it back in their face(s) from time to time.

    And, yes, I keep archived copies of my .pst files so they can't "accidentally" disappear from the server.

  • by CokeJunky (51666) on Friday April 22, 2005 @07:16PM (#12319292)
    I ended up writing an essay of sorts to respond to this item. It's long -- I decided not to waste the time of anyone not interested in what I had to say, so I am not posting it here. The short-short version is that:
    • This is a good thing
    • it is an emergent property of email technology and the role of email in everyday life
    • it happens because email forms a chain of events related to your life that maintains temporal and spatial relations of information
    • this is good for finding things you might want again
    • I think services like GMail need to expand on this idea and continue to add features that make email a better personal database -- searchable on more axies, and good at filtering out the noise
    If you are interested, read my http://www3.telus.net/cgapeart/2005/04/email-as-pe rsonal-database.html [telus.net] rant/essay.
  • All the time (Score:3, Informative)

    by KJE (640748) <ken@kje.ca> on Friday April 22, 2005 @07:17PM (#12319298) Homepage
    I do this all the time with GMail.

    I have a filter set up that checks for

    "From:kejaed@gmail.com" and "To:kejaed@gmail.com"

    basically checking if I sent the message to myself. If this is the case, it's filed under the "notes to self" label. Quite handy, although searching for what I want usually gets me there too.

  • by mnmn (145599) on Friday April 22, 2005 @08:49PM (#12319847) Homepage
    If you've been collecting emails from a long time, reading your oldest emails are really interesting, a bit like time travel. I checked mail from ~9 years ago, was surprised how immature some subjects were, but was impressed with the writing, I used to write better...

    I'd really be interested in my current emails 30 years from now. I wonder if the email companies can 'hide' older mail, and sell them to you years later at a high cost, or to your relatives when you die.

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