Tuesday, October 24, 2006

eMail Trouble

I was reading a post from Allison Randal over on O'Reilly Radar about the fun and joy she has with email. I can sympathize. I have a couple of different email accounts, meaning several inboxes, things spread across those inboxes, more mail than I can keep up with some days, etc.

Interestingly I was also playing some catchup on some other feeds and was reading Tim O"Reilly on the abandoning the power user in Windows Vista.

Now I do not believe the typical user has several email accounts. Most will have 1 for home, one for work (maybe), and possibly a third web-based account.

The problem is email is just getting worse, and it is not just a power user issue. Spam issues aside, more and more of our lives funnel through email. If you read Allison's article, you will see many of the things that goes through her inbox. Not to mention "friend spam" as Merlin Mann put it in the article on the LazyWeb.

Even the "new fangled" RSS does not do enough. Nick Bradbury talks about how much more RSS could be doing for us. One tip for the FedEx & UPS type of businesses - when we get the email notifying us of the tracking number, could we get a link so we can subscribe to the tracking RSS feed? It would make my life simplier. Also it would be nice if we could find a way to let our aggregators know when a feed is completely done.

Tag clouds and beefed up search only go so far though. We need some more horse power in our mail programs. Most seem to allow you to move/delete emails, but not much more.

Contrast that with the Geocaching Swiss Army Knife. One of the primary goals of GSAK is to read in files you get from Geocaching.com and convert it so it can be loaded into your GPS unit, along with various other mapping and other geocaching software. However the scripting language allows for almost all (if not all) functions to be scripted. I have just really began to work with it, but already I have a small script that takes my 3 weekly downloads from GC.com, loads them into a temporary data base, exports them into separate files to load into my Palm, load all 3 into one big database, then export the big database to my GPS. Even further, I can run programs outside of GSAK. One thing I am looking to add is running a small program that picks up all the finds from my Palm and then updates that info back into my main database and initiates another macro (already provided) to help automate the logging of those finds back at GC.com. I can even add a message box to remind me to synch my Palm before doing that process.

Why can't my email be like that? Geocaching, whereas fun, does not have near the volume of activity as my email. Why can't I automatically download the attachments from the emails coming from GC.com to a specific directory? Sure, I can set GSAK to handle it, but it is recommended I setup a new email (!!) specifically for that. Why? I have to do this every week. Why can't Merlin's LazyWeb idea above be easily implimented in all email programs? Why can't we have some kind of microformat that would allow us to easily pick up the amounts from an emailed receipt to import into our financal software? We pick the account, but the underlying info is all there. Why can't right click on an email and say 'mark everything in green from this sender' to draw attention to electronic bill presentment? Why can't we then slowly turn those to red as the bill date approaches? Microformats could somehow handle that. Even the current iCal could. Or maybe play a sound when a bill comes in? Or, as Allison suggested, have a special window at the side of important things, turning them into ToDos?

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