November 26, 2013

Email - Separate and Unequal

There’s no shortage of complaints people have with email. Even with good filters, it’s an incredible time sink.

For me, that quicksand is made far worse. I’ve committed the cardinal sin of using my primary email address when adding services online. Thus the legacy cost of having an email that’s been around for years is that legitimate spam becomes near overwhelming. Some of it is still very valuable, but it’s mixed in with a lot of bullshit.

It’s one of the reasons I’m a fan of Mailbox, it allows you to process email and schedule it for later action.

Yet even with Mailbox, there are issues. Gmail’s priority inbox does a decent job highlighting mail from real people. Mailbox doesn’t support Gmail’s priority. So, since I like Mailbox, I’m stuck separating the wheat from the chaff by hand. There has to be a better way.

And there is: segregation. I did this with Twitter a few weeks ago. Remove anybody that’s a news source, a celebrity, a public figure, and put them in a Twitter list. Celebrities, news outlets, companies are no longer in my main feed. I went from nearly 2500+ tweets a day down to ~600. It’s beautiful.

Taking the same approach with email would normally be a bit difficult. Either I could a) clean up my existing account and create a new one for non-human emails, or b) give people a new address that I don’t put online.

Fortunately for option b already exists, I just wasn’t using it the way I should have been. My gmail for a long time was datapolitical, something I’d set up in college before the concept of a professional email address was really a concern. As time went on I realized I didn’t want that on my business cards, so I created an alias account.

I set up Gmail to use that alias as the primary account for sent email, so that even though I was logged in with datapolitical everything would look the same to the people I communicated with.

And the system worked. Scanning through the chris.f.nicholson account shows me only a few sporadic non-human emails.

Thus the solution is simple. Stop forwarding chris.f.nicholson to datapolitical. Check it separately. When chris.f.nicholson is dealt with, process datapolitical. It’s exactly how I process Twitter each day.

It’ll be a bit of an ordeal moving some real people over to the new address, but the benefit of being able to consume email in a responsible fashion, and use Mailbox as god intended it, is well worth the effort.

So what’s your solution to email? Multiple addresses, advanced filtering? Post it in the comments or hit me up on twitter @chrisfnicholson. I’ll Storify any replies I get.