Reaching for a better email tomorrow (my white inbox resolution six months in)

Happy new half-year!

Back in January I made a resolution to leave my inbox empty every night. I have partially succeeded. It’s forcing me to make those little decisions. It’s a lot more manageable. Hooray!

At times I’ve let it slip. But there’s no use feeling any guilt over it. Guilt won’t motivate me, it won’t fix anything and it’s never the right response to ANYTHING. It’s probably better to feel total, utter freedom. FREEDOM. Try it.

The overall point is I CARE about my work and the promises I make. The act of giving out an email address carries responsibilities. If the inbox were to flood to a river of unanswered messages, bacn and spam, it would be time to rethink my involvement. Merlin Mann wrote a good piece about the high cost of pretending. It’s well worth a read. For instance, if you’re going on holiday why make a weak promise about your email backlog if you just can’t keep it?

I also like Donald Knuth’s stance on email (total abstention so he can have the time to write huge books about algorithms).

I am continuing with email but those guys have taught me it should be a deliberate decision, not a default. Most of it is up to me because on a positive note, I am totally at one with my Thunderbird email software. I have customised every square millimetre to my little foibles. (We all have little foibles.) It runs locally so there is a minimum lag between my commands and its obedience. It will always be quicker than Gmail’s web interface, for instance. Thunderbird engenders super slick sensations of being highly-effective which I then transmute into reality.

By contrast, I dislike these pseudo-email systems that are creeping in. By that I mean direct messaging on any social site which is a bit like email but doesn’t let you DO STUFF to it. Facebook messages are pretty awful. The interface is clunky. I need to archive things out of sight and it’s not possible. I’m left with a river of everything. I think it probably reinforces bad habits for people. Don’t even mention auto-filtering, that’s nowhere. As for the volume of messages, if you don’t respond to an event you’ll get every single mass broadcast related to that event.

I can’t turn off Facebook direct messages but I do want people to be able to contact me. So next to my face I’ve written “If you are thinking of sending me a private message, I will respond far more quickly to proper email. Just saying.”. Let’s hope it doesn’t sound too arsey. I just want my every action to be gilded with quality feelings for all involved.

Twitter direct messages are OK I guess. You can’t DO STUFF with them. (Scoble listed the stuff.) But at least they’re 140 characters long or less – you can express anything with that! Well, nearly.

Anything more interactive deserves a wiki or a Google Doc. (Or a Wave but that isn’t available yet.)

Or a good old phone chat.

Maybe even a face-to-face meet-up.