June 21, 2005

IMAP, GMAIL and Workflow..

I was reading Jeremy's post about IMAP and I thought about how happy I was over the last three weeks with email.

When we launched the Summer of Code, I got a lot of mail that fell into three rough categories:
  • Greg Stein set up the form processor to send me a copy of the applications as it was dropping it into the data store.
  • I got email from the Summer-discuss and mentors list.
  • I received emails to code at google.com and cdibona at google.com directly about the program
  • The first, I filtered into its own label quite easily and spot checked them as they came in. There were about 9,000 emails received this way.

    The second, I wanted to see every one of. There were about 4,000 of these. I refined the FAQ from this and the third set...

    The third I read all of as well, and replied to a great number. This amounted to another five hundred or so.

    The only way this worked was with our internal version of gmail, which is roughly the same as what you use. The threading made it so easy to track the course of the discussion that I really don't know what I would have done without it. After the first 7 days, I had handled over 12k emails about the program from the categories, this on top of my regular load of work and personal email. At one point we were getting 4 to 8 applications a minute, which was pretty remarkable.

    The last time I handled something like this was when I ran the VA friends and family program, and it was -way- more brute force. I used pine to process over some 30k emails over the 3 month period I worked on that, which was a lighter load, but was my previous bout with email deluge. The only really awful day was the day before, the day of and the two or three days following the IPO. Chaos was kept in touch by me and 20 or so people at the investment bank.

    There are a few tricks for dealing with so much email. The most important is learn your keyboard shortcuts. VI folks will be very comfortable with gmails navigation keys I had a number of boilerplate paragraphs that I drew from in a nearby vi window, and I got a little curt on the discuss mailing list, but I don't think to any ill effect. So, thanks again to the gmail team, you guys rock. My friends who are MUTT heads are likely chuckling, but I have to say I -love- not really running my own mailservers. Like Jeremy, I post a copy of the email to dibona.com into it's mbox file, archive it monthly and bounce a copy to gmail. I don't use spam assassin, I let gmail do it. My gmail spam filter is good enough for me, although some still get through, due to the fact that I get a lot of stranger mail and I want to see it. I honestly don't cull the spam filter for false positives anymore, I figure if someone really wants to find me, they can email my Google email address or IM me. It ain't rocket science to figure out how to find me.

    When I got my gmail account, I formailed into the account email going back to 1999. This was when the 1gb limit was in place. I need to still formail in the stuff going back to 96 that I have left to import. Then it'll be all done. One day, should gmail support domains, I'll just point the mx record at Google and be happy to do it.

    To think I only got the gmail address shortly before I went through the interview process at Google. I thought it would be smart to try to use the tools of the company I wanted to interview at.


    Pierre said...

    Labelling and filtering existing mails would be neat.
    Just imagine you hadn't prepared all the labels in time...
    You would have had to tick all the boxes one by one.And even worse if you wanted to forward them to a special Gmail account.
    That"s the problem i'm facing as i'm trying to forward some Harry Potter related mails to an gmail account members of a blog and i share

    lislemck said...

    Gmail has been such a godsend for me, though I'm not dealing with the volume you do. I particularly like it for my list subscriptions. I am a librarian and we still love lists. But I used to have a constant problem keeping up with the lists and cleaning my mailbox endlessly and setting to nomail every time I turned around. Now, they can just keep coming. AND THE THREADING! It is too wonderful. I figure you have a closer lock on the team's ear. Warn them that if they are at ALA in Chicago, a librarian may come up and start kissing them!