Re: [Evolution] CHI'96 paper on mail usability and some thoughts

I think you had some good dieas there...

coloring might be kinda neat, if not done with colors perhaps in a
different way (it's the idea that I liked more than the colors)

I'm not sure if you realise this or not, but Evolution can search mails,
which is kinda neat and may satisfy some of those common problems


On Fri, 02 Jun 2000, jm jmason org (Justin Mason) wrote:
Date: Fri, 02 Jun 2000 12:11:56 +0100
To: evolution helixcode com
From: jm jmason org (Justin Mason)
Subject: [Evolution] CHI'96 paper on mail usability and some thoughts

Hi guys,

Dunno if you've seen this, it's a good paper on email usability and some
recommendations to improve same...

Basically it says:

1. heavy mail users use incoming mail as a to-do list and appointment
(I personally would add "as a reference bookshelf" as well in my case);

2. filing into folders doesn't work in a lot of cases; once it's out of
inbox it's off the radar and soon forgotten about; and folder names are
to pick and remember;

3. users quite often do not delete mails in case they become valuable
for an ongoing discussion, resulting in inbox bloat and an interleaved
stack of
messages from threads filling up the inbox;

4. inbox bloat means important mails from a day or two ago soon scroll
of the "main" window and are lost in the noise.

to fix these:

* it recommends threading (makes sense, and we know that). This reduces
the visual impact of inbox bloat and sorts 3. and 4.

* close links to PIM functions such as todo and datebook would be good to
with 1.  (that's the plan isn't it!)

* vfolders should deal with 2.

A few ideas I came up with myself during reading it:

* I previously added some code to ExMH to colorise messages, and used
the colours as a way of differentiating "todo low-priority", "todo
"support mails", "pals chatting", etc.  This worked very well as a way to
a lot of mails and immediately work out the rough categorisation without
to read and parse the from and subject.  (unfortunately the code stopped
working in the next ver of ExMH and my Tk knowledge wasn't good enough
to fix it!)  Helps with problem 4 and aids scanning.

* up to now there's been essentially 3 states for mail messages --
"read" and "deleted" (ie. not there anymore).  I would like to see
state, "saved_as_context", which would be similar to deleted; ie. the
would not be visible to the user at all. However, if another mail came in
referenced the "saved_as_context" mail, it would be possible (probably
hitting a "view context thread" button) to see all of that new msg's
mails.  This sorts out problem 3 in a nice way IMHO.  BTW it may even be
better to use "saved_as_context" instead of "deleted", ie. keep deleted
msgs around for possible context use, and purge them periodically.

* Retitling mails (ie. changing their subjects after they've been
would help deal with problem 1 as well -- e.g. changing a mail from "Re:
to "How to fix the latest Outlook worm" is obviously handy for future
message retrieval ;)

* It would be handy if an incoming mail can be converted into a To-Do
list item
in the PIM interface; ie. right-click on mail, select "add to to-do
list", and
that mail (and/or thread!) would be visible in the To-Do PIM interface in
way (even just as a "see this mail" link a la the "note" attached to Palm
list items).  It'd also be cool if this went both ways so the To-Do list
position/priority of a mail was visible in the inbox view.

Anyway, these are some ideas I thought I'd throw in.  I'm pretty excited
by the
possibilities of Evolution, and I'm looking forward to trying it out;
reading that paper, I just had to share ;)

BTW I haven't used MS Outlook, so forgive me if Outlook sorts out these
problems and I just didn't notice -- ditto for Evolution too, I haven't
had the
time to get it compiling yet! ;)


Dr. Kavorkian is DYING to use Spruce. Aren't you?

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