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Brad Fitzpatrick

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Email queue or stack? [Jun. 5th, 2003|10:23 pm]
Brad Fitzpatrick
Do you treat your inbox as a queue or stack?

I tend to treat it as a stack, though what I think would be ideal is an interleaved sort, mixing oldest and newest, so I'm taking care of old issues, but also replying with good latency to most new items.


[User Picture]From: supersat
2003-06-05 10:27 pm (UTC)
Usually, a stack.
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[User Picture]From: supersat
2003-06-05 10:33 pm (UTC)
Actually, I read it as a queue, but respond to it like a stack.
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[User Picture]From: whitaker
2003-06-05 10:55 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: teferi
2003-06-05 10:28 pm (UTC)
definitely a stack.
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[User Picture]From: yizhe
2003-06-05 10:29 pm (UTC)

Why? Because outlook sort in this way and I'm lazy to scroll :D
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[User Picture]From: decklin
2003-06-05 10:33 pm (UTC)
Priority queue? :)
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[User Picture]From: brad
2003-06-05 10:36 pm (UTC)
Yes, but boring <=> boring == 0
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[User Picture]From: jproulx
2003-06-05 10:37 pm (UTC)
Stack. No email client has a "read my mind and sort arbitrarily by perceived priority" feature yet.
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[User Picture]From: jwz
2003-06-05 10:44 pm (UTC)
Back when it seemed like my job was going to be "make email better", one of the things on my list was to make an auto-updated histogram window attached to each folder, that would sit off to the side and give you the thousand foot view of the ages of the messages sitting in your inbox. So, if you're like me and leave in your Inbox only those messages needing replies, this graph would make things jump out at you -- "damn, look at that spike at minus three months. I should go deal with those."

Basically I wanted all kinds of presentations/views onto folders, and things like histograms and recipeint connectedness graphs would be just another view, along with "list of messages", "list of folders", etc.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2003-06-06 02:29 am (UTC)
Yeah, that'd be neat.

I've been thinking of taking a sampling of my inbox message-ids every night at 3am to generate stats on how long things live in my inbox, and how that distribution changes over time.
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From: sheehan
2003-06-05 10:59 pm (UTC)


depends on who the mail is from in reality :)

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[User Picture]From: taral
2003-06-05 11:00 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: taral
2003-06-05 11:01 pm (UTC)
Actually, not quite correct. I start at the oldest unread message and read up and down from there.
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[User Picture]From: algeh
2003-06-06 12:00 am (UTC)
I'm going to depart from popular opinion here. I treat mine as a queue, except that I filter out stuff that's clearly low-priority (like mailing lists, although now that I have my own domain I use separate accounts for most of those) and read it last. If I get too far behind on that stuff, I just pick a point that's about as many messages down as I feel like reading and start there, only going back to see the beginning of any particularly interesting threads. Treating it like a queue probably goes back to the mid-90s when groups of my friends would have large, rambling conversations via email, and you'd want to start at the oldest message or you'd be completely confused.
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[User Picture]From: mart
2003-06-06 12:28 am (UTC)

I guess I'm weird… I read mail as a queue. However, I do it in two passes usually to ensure I don't reply to something which has some kind of follow-up from later which I should be replying to instead.

My replying order is really arbitrary, since once I know what's there I can do magic prioritising…

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[User Picture]From: chris
2003-06-06 12:42 am (UTC)
i think i generally read new messages as a queue, but i'm trained from work to read everything before replying so i don't answer questions that were already answered on lists. aside from that, i tend to have a bunch of old lo-pri messages i haven't answered and only deal with if nothing new is going on.
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[User Picture]From: dingodonkey
2003-06-06 04:01 am (UTC)
I personally use a stack, but I think that's only because I've always used a stack. It has the advantage of showing off important new mail, and leaving those "you owe me money" eBay mailings out of sight.

Logically, a queue sounds superior, and I may give it a try, but I really hate being reminded that Keith Smith from Arizona is still waiting for his $11.50 plus shipping. Wow, I'm horrible.
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[User Picture]From: drmellow
2003-06-06 06:37 am (UTC)


Initially, as a queue. When reading new mail, I do so in a queue-like manner. Anything that can be responded to quickly gets a response.

Then I've got a huge pile in my inbox that gets treated like a stack.
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[User Picture]From: edm
2003-06-06 07:17 am (UTC)

Short term queue, longer term stack

I should probably say up front that I read mail with MH (and have for about the last 10 years; prior to that I used Elm for about 5 years; I've almost never used "graphical mail readers"), and also that I'm mostly a sysadmin by trade these days, so I get a fair chunk of "status report" email as well as some busy mailing lists and other stuff directed at me. Finally I should mention I've had a huge amount of experience with skim reading, so skim read most of my mail at least the first time.

That said I stick _all_ (non-spam) mail into a single inbox, and then read it in queue order. Anything I can deal with immediately (file as read, quick reply, fix the issue, whatever) I deal with then and there. Everything else stays for the next pass.

The second pass is also basically in queue order, of the "stuff that is pretty recent" but needs a more considered reply or some actual work done (eg, patch boxes, install something, whatever). Usually by the time that's done (a) an hour or more has gone by in the morning and a bunch of issues have been dealt with, and (b) there are relatively few outstanding emails. Occasionally (eg, if I've been away a while), a third pass is needed to reach the "few outstanding emails" stage.

Doing it in two-or-so passes like this also allows me to catch the (not uncommon) situation where people ask me to do something and they later email to say "don't worry, I've figured it out". Usually I'll have read all their messages before starting to reply to them.

Whatever is left then tends to get dealt with, over time, in a stack kind of way during the day or week (ie, the more recent stuff is more likely to get attention than stuff that's several days/weeks old). Anything that sticks around too much longer than that tends to get filed away somewhere else, and I just stick an item on my todo list for that client or project or whatever. (If it's for a paying client I'll let them know I've done that.)

I've found this basically doesn't work if there's more than a screenful or so of mail (ie, 60-odd items) in my inbox, so these days I try really really hard to keep it well under that. Currently there are 10 semi-long term items in my inbox, which "feels on the high side".

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From: jzawodn
2003-06-10 09:22 pm (UTC)


It just depends on my mood and who I feel like responding to. :-)
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[User Picture]From: brad
2003-06-10 09:24 pm (UTC)

Re: Both.

Whoa, I didn't know you had an LJ account.

I read jeremy_zawodny. :-)
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From: jzawodn
2003-06-10 09:30 pm (UTC)


Yeah, I signed up for it when someone else bugged me about it. Of course, now I don't remember who it was. Hmm.

But I had wanted to check out LJ for a while and never got around to it. Plus I can leave non-anonymous comments this way. :-)
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