#email

Harry McCracken:

In the end, Gmail ended up running on three hundred old Pentium III computers nobody else at Google wanted. That was sufficient for the limited beta rollout the company planned, which involved giving accounts to a thousand outsiders, allowing them to invite a couple of friends apiece, and growing slowly from there.

As much as I rag on email, it’s hard to imagine a world without Gmail. Actually, it’s terrifying. We’d still be using email, but it would probably look like this.

Sarah Green, looking into “the daily routines of geniuses” from the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Curry. One finding:

A clear dividing line between important work and busywork. Before there was email, there were letters. It amazed (and humbled) me to see the amount of time each person allocated simply to answering letters. Many would divide the day into real work (such as composing or painting in the morning) and busywork (answering letters in the afternoon). Others would turn to the busywork when the real work wasn’t going well. But if the amount of correspondence was similar to today’s, these historical geniuses did have one advantage: the post would arrive at regular intervals, not constantly as email does.

It would be great to go back to such a world, where interruptions arrived but once a day. But I do wonder if there’s a way to simulate that through scheduling and discipline…

I love everything about this post.

Charles Cooper and Seth Rosenblatt:

Microsoft went through a blogger’s private Hotmail account in order to trace the identity of a source who allegedly leaked trade secrets.

Technically legal or not, this is absolutely insane. And awkward — here’s the copy from Microsoft’s "Scroogled" Gmail campaign:

Outlook.com is different—we don’t go through your email to sell ads.

Nope, we just go through it to get information we need to use in lawsuits. You literally cannot make this up.

And if users needed even more reasons to ditch Hotmail today — beyond the fact that it’s 2014 — Google has a nearly opposite announcement today:

Starting today, Gmail will always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when you check or send email. Gmail has supported HTTPS since the day it launched, and in 2010 we made HTTPS the default. Today’s change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail’s servers—no matter if you’re using public WiFi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet.

In addition, every single email message you send or receive—100 percent of them—is encrypted while moving internally. This ensures that your messages are safe not only when they move between you and Gmail’s servers, but also as they move between Google’s data centers—something we made a top priority after last summer’s revelations.

Where’s Mark Penn when you need him?

Alex Wilhelm:

Yet a startup called Rebump has found a way to make email even worse. How is that possible, you ask.? Well, Rebump is a service that automatically re-pings people — via email, of course — that haven’t answered your original message. It will keep doing so until you get a response.

Note that this implies that your initial email was both worth reading, and worth replying to. In reality most email fails both tests. So, Rebump is essentially a brilliantly passive aggressive way to force people into responding to you, or the flood of notes will not fucking stop.

Finally, someone has created my worst nightmare in startup form.

Yes, Another Email Rant

I bitch about email. A lot. Very loudly. And very publicly. As a result, I get a lot of people who reach out 1 with some tips on how they best contain the beast. 2

One of the tips that seems to come up most often is managing it as you go, on your mobile device. I of course already do this with Mailbox, but that’s really more about triage and less about taking care of business in real time. What these people usually mean is actually responding to emails as they come in, rather than organizing them to respond to later.

Admittedly, I’m awful at this. But that’s sort of by design.

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shortformblog
shortformblog:

Before email existed in your inbox, an Australian manufacturing giant better known for making refrigerators and other household appliances had a monopoly on the name. It was a simpler time, when checking your email meant leftovers were always within reach, rather than merely spam. Obviously, that now-defunct company’s name ranks high in the SEO ranks these days. (via the Voices of East Anglia Facebook page)

My parallel universe nightmare lives!

shortformblog:

Before email existed in your inbox, an Australian manufacturing giant better known for making refrigerators and other household appliances had a monopoly on the name. It was a simpler time, when checking your email meant leftovers were always within reach, rather than merely spam. Obviously, that now-defunct company’s name ranks high in the SEO ranks these days. (via the Voices of East Anglia Facebook page)

My parallel universe nightmare lives!

Merlin Mann:

For me, the real ‘zero’ in Inbox Zero is more about consciously managing the amount of our attention that we commit (or, far more often, cede) to thinking and worrying about what may or may not be piling up while we’re away doing the real work of our lives. Which is to say: the Real Work that’s not, in this instance, about fiddling with email or drearily suffering the daily fusillade of random requests and information bombs that get lobbed our way.

Put to best use, Inbox Zero is merely a philosophical practice of learning to be parsimonious about which and how many inputs we allow into into our lives—and, then, to responsibly but mindfully tend to those inputs in a way that is never allowed to hinder our personal commitment to doing the work that really matters to us.

Yes. A million times yes.

Unfortunately, it has taken me far longer than I care to admit to realize this as well. “Inbox Zero” isn’t about chasing down that mythical void of a number — it’s about realizing that you’ll never be able to, being okay with that, and adjusting your life accordingly so as to put yourself in the best possible position to actually get shit done.