Re: It's my to-do list, is the thing.

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I beat you! I have three. One email from a friend that I need to return; one reminder to pay my electric bill; and one reminder that I need to replace my student ID.

(This could just mean that I have no friends.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:05 PM
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Boo hiss. I mean, uh, huzzah!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:09 PM
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If it helps, I now have four. And normally I have more like 15, but between it being summer and me having just gone through a spree of actually answering my emails/taking care of shit, I have less.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:13 PM
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fewer, I think I mean. (Or do I? I hate English.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:13 PM
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I got rid of all the mouse poop and I'm now working on reorganizing the basement so I can put my tools all in order and become officially middle aged. Apparently, having 40 wrenches isn't enough if you just have them in a plastic box. You have to get the bench.

At work, it is hopeless. I stopped trying to get everything done because it isn't possible.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:16 PM
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5.2 is the Secret To Life. Getting rid of mouse poop: Also Important.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:20 PM
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I hate you. I have 2,500 e-mails in my work in-box,* none of them unread but all of them in need of responses or proper filing,* and to top it all off, Outlook went crazy the other day and strarted re-downloading three years' worth of old e-mails. I still haven't figured out what triggered it and now I am using webmail exclusively (ugh ugh UGH**) while I wait for our very occasional IT consultant to be available for advice. Sometimes it stinks to be the accidental techie for your office.

*I feel as though I've confessed that before.

**If I need a spare career someday I'm going to seriously consider writing tech specifications for e-mail search function, or whatever technology we're using by then. I remain convinced that there are fundamental design errors that a librarian would not make. Take that, software engineers.

On the other hand: Yay free wireless! If I have to be stuck in 30th Street Station until midnight waiting for a train, at least I can kvetch to you guys.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:24 PM
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remain convinced that there are fundamental design errors that a librarian would not make.

Such as?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:26 PM
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Now that I'm signed up for a new fancy internet-having phone, I'm fully convinced that I'll soon be fully caught up on e-mail all the time writing and receiving even more e-mails and commenting on blogs even more frequently.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:29 PM
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I've contemplated making an Inbox rule that would auto-reply with "I would prefer not to."

"Although he has not me all of his deliverables, Mr. Stormcrow is always prompt and courteous in his replies to written communications."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:29 PM
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I used to work at OCLC. Your optimism is not that well founded, I think.

I think that there are document/correspondence management systems that work pretty well, but they do not just look like email. One issue is that powerful search needs to be supported at the time documents are written, so calls for authoring software or smart markup.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:30 PM
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I would go insane with 2,500 emails in the inbox. My OCD tendencies just don't allow for that. I just use gmail, but I love the labels and filters and search function. I can always find what I'm looking for, at least so far!


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:31 PM
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Hooray!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:31 PM
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Bartleby was written shortly after Melville's son's suicide.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:32 PM
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Allow me to be the first to say that M/tch was in China understands.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:33 PM
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deliverables

I hate that word. People say to me, "What's the deliverable?" And I say, "Numbers, written on paper or magnetic media. Same as last time."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:34 PM
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8: No, see, "career" was meant to imply "activities someone would pay me for."

In all seriousness, it's 11:45 p.m. and I'm sitting here eating donuts trying to keep myself awake. I do have intelligent things to say about search function (yea, even in Gmail), but I'm not coherent or awake enough to string them together.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:35 PM
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Your optimism is not that well founded, I think.

To be clear, I think librarians would make plenty of mistakes. They would just be *different* mistakes from the ones that software engineers are prone to making. That's why it's good to have people from different faith traditions industries on your team when you are designing something.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:38 PM
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I think that there are document/correspondence management systems that work pretty well, but they do not just look like email.

I once had an boss who kept her paper correspondence in some file that she called a 'day book' (I think). Anyway, everything she sent or received was filed by date, several file cabinets worth since she'd been running the show for 30 years. There may have been other indexing done, but I doubt it as the secretary probably would have killed my boss.

Of course, by the time I came to the office, she was also sending and receiving e-mail and carefully archiving that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:43 PM
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14: ? Did not realize any of his son's committed suicide, but apparently his second son did so in 1867. However, Bartleby was written over a decade earlier.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:44 PM
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17.2: I mean, I believe you do. But a shocking amount of the time and energy invested in creating computers and the internet has gone into trying to solve the kinds of problems that arise when sorting and filing e-mail, so the theory that there are simple unresolved issues no librarian would overlook is likely to inspire a surprised and skeptical nerd chorus when you bring it up, even before you're able to ask for money to reveal your solutions.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 9:53 PM
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For what it's worth, my dad used to work on that type of thing, and there is a market for it, if only because people need to demonstrate due diligence.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 10:05 PM
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Are there e-mail filing systems that use something like authority files?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 10:06 PM
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You people actually have, like, concrete to-do lists? And know what is on them? Huh. I have 4000 unsorted emails that I search when it occurs to me that someone asked me to do something weeks ago and I forgot about it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 10:08 PM
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Or I guess "authority control" is the phrase for the whole practice, including authority files.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 10:08 PM
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Authority control looks neat, on cursory googling, but seems to rely on well-formed and consistent metadata in a way that's not particularly possible with e-mail as it is currently spec'd (a spec that dates back to 1982, so, you know, you're dealing with some back-compatibility issues).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 10:13 PM
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I have many to-do lists. I love to-do lists. I like making them, and I like checking things off. For long-term things (like, remembering to get a new ID card in mid-September), I keep reminders in my email. Otherwise, I have two running lists (one work, one "life) in a small notebook, and many post it notes (for various different projects) as well. I mostly just like making lists.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 10:13 PM
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Just as interesting as the number of emails in your inbox is the age.

Although I only have 5 emails in my inbox, I have an email from 8/20/08, about a journal article that was submitted approximately 8/20/07, and accepted conditionally on certain revisions. The emails remains, because even though my life as a researcher is supposedly over, I still imagine finishing this project.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 10:21 PM
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I have 2,500 e-mails in my work in-box

I have 4000 unsorted emails

Pikers. I'm at 18269 unread in my personal inbox. And 27479 in my work inbox.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-10-10 11:03 PM
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seems to rely on well-formed and consistent metadata in a way that's not particularly possible with e-mail as it is currently spec'd

I don't know about the way e-mail is spec'd, but the impression I get is that the "well-formed and consistent metadata" is a big issue with applying library techniques.* A lot of those techniques rely on consistent cataloging and classifying, and in a lot of contexts - like people going hurriedly through their e-mail - it's not going to be done that way. There's a reason people specialize in cataloging.

I've heard of cases where people from the library and related worlds have given recommendations to organizations about e-mail management/archiving and the organizations have responded by saying "looks good, but it's too complicated for our business and we won't do it."

*I asked about authority control both because it's proven useful in a lot of areas and because it seems not to be as familiar to tech people as it perhaps should be. I worked in a place where people who probably count as members of the nerd chorus were having trouble disambiguating names, and I mentioned the problem to a librarian I know, and the immediate response was "don't they just take care of that in the authority control?" Authority control does date back at least to 1982, I think, but I'm no expert. I take cataloging next year, though.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 12:46 AM
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I do things like to do lists when I'm doing work that someone else is depending on. Unfortunately, I do them so infrequently that I usually discover I've left something out. It can be frustrating.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 12:47 AM
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You cannot give me too much work; to accumulate work has almost become a passion with me: my study is so full of it now, that there is hardly an inch of room for any more.


Posted by: Jerome K Jerome | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 1:01 AM
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I work with software developers working on library problems since I'm, erm, a developer* who works in a library. Metadata is indeed a big issue and a fair bit of work is done combining metadata standards, authority control, semantic web (RDF, OWL, and so on), etc.

* I'm a fairly half-arsed developer, tbh. I need, because of the nature of my own duties, to be much more a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none than some of my colleagues who are quicker and write much better code but are more narrowly focused on programming.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 1:14 AM
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I tend to use a combination of flagged emails in my work email client -- which serve to mark correspondence that's currently 'live' and may represent either a task to do, or just a piece of information currently relevant to a project I'm working on -- and paper to do lists that I update daily. It works reasonably well. It's rare that something slips through the cracks altogether, although scheduling the many tiny jobs I often have to do quickly while keeping progress going on longer term projects with more open deadlines can be a bugger. I also keep fairly extensive paper notes, which, I think, is an academic habit that most of my colleagues don't share.

For personal emails the combination of labelling/tagging in Gmail and free text searching is usually enough.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 1:17 AM
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SEND IT DOWN JEROME


Posted by: OPINIONATED SPORTSCASTER | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 1:22 AM
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I have tags in gmail for things I need to reply to. But I really have to set them as unread too or else I forget to check the reply label. I don't find the "star" feature useful, except as a temporary grouping device and even then I don't really know what to do with it. Maybe I'm missing some way to show priority in gmail.

I also have tags for things to attend because I'm too lazy to use google calendar or set it up to give me reminders. I probably should change that habit, since I missed all sorts of talks/workshops last year.

The one thing I'd really like in gmail is a way to do hierarchies with my labels. I have stuff that I think of in terms of subsets of other stuff and it would be a lot easier if they could be tags in the same single higher-level group.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 1:33 AM
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You know what doesn't help? An arbitrary fifty meg data limit on your work account (not just Outhouse, your entire work profile) when people regularly have to sent you multiple megabyte word, excel or visio documents. three round robins later and your account is locked. And that's when your quata has already been upped.

Last count my *.pst file was about 1.5 to 2 gig big and growing. Doesn't help that the network shares have proved unreliable enough that I need to keep files in the mail as well as backup...


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 2:00 AM
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Heh, my .pst file is about 3GB. Which is, in fact, shit as Outlook is broken with large profiles.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 3:02 AM
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||

No more etc to the late, and actually great, Jimmy Reid:

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/editors-choice/2010/08/11/obituary-jimmy-reid-86908-22479995/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-10919851
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCrCWINPd0k&feature=related

>


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 3:31 AM
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39. Fuck that. Great man indeed. I remember collecting for UCS.

And where's the next generation?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 3:47 AM
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Call that an inbox? I currently have 7,418 unread emails in my inbox, and that only includes the ones that haven't been archived, ie only stuff from the last year.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 4:06 AM
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I couldn't bear having 7000 unread emails in my work inbox. I currently have around 8 emails in there but a collection of 13 folders and 61 subfolders full of neatly filed emails. On reflection, there might be something wrong with me.


Posted by: Heloise | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 5:18 AM
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there might be something wrong with me.

No, you have described how an inbox should be maintained (that is, that's how I do mine). The only problem I have found with it is that colleagues who do not keep track of their e-mail simply adopt the best alternative, which is asking me for stuff when they want it. Very annoying. Notice to the legal community: junior partner does not equal secretary!


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 5:25 AM
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I find the filing system incredibly useful. Instead of arguing with colleagues about what they've previously agreed to do, I just forward them the relevant email. Surprisingly effective.


Posted by: Heloise | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 5:27 AM
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27: I'm getting into the swing of Getting Things Done, only possible since I got the KindaSmartPhone. Paper lists never lasted, coffee mugs or the need to get a bug off the windshield took care of them.

Yes, there is a certain kick in checking something off and seeing it disappear. So far I've managed to avoid the totally insane urge to add something to the list just to be able to check it off-- stuff I do all the time anyway, like making sure the cats have water available or setting up the coffee for the mornings I go to work.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 5:28 AM
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I'm basically like 43 and 43.

I more or less never have unread emails. I read everything as it comes in, if it needs action it gets flagged, if not, it's done and dusted. I don't think of myself as particularly well organized, either.

I can't imagine what would need to happen for me to have hundreds or thousands of unread emails.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 5:45 AM
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The deputy director of our division sends like a million forwards. Everyone I know, including my own supervisor, just ignores him.

He even sort of knows this, because he sent out an e-mail about how he would use "urgent," because people had missed important e-mails.

So, we got an e-mail that said, "Urgent: Papers due" which was about how there was a 2 week deadline for submissions (abstracts only maybe?) to a journal for an October conference.

My deskmate joked that it was like writing, "Urgent: I'm thinking about having toast."

He is a lovely man, although not really an administrator. It is very hard for me not to suggest to him that he pick out the e-mails he gets that he thinks are really important (5 or 6 a week), condense them into one e-mail and write a summary.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 6:03 AM
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46: That's my system too. The only unread items are the ones with attached data files I get regularly but NEVER need. I filter those out and never see them.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 6:04 AM
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16 and 10:This word "deliverables" is new to me. What is generally meant by it?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 6:06 AM
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This word "deliverables" is new to me. What is generally meant by it?

Deliverables are similar to outcomes, except that somebody is supposed to find them useful.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 6:08 AM
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My company is switching to google mail from the horrid first class. Unfortunately, it lacks a history function and an "unsend".

If there are any lurking google developers, please make it possible to create a task list for reoccurring things, like the date by which house encounter notes need to be summarized as a service note.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 6:12 AM
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49: Flowers, pizzas.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 6:23 AM
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47: He is a lovely man, although not really an administrator.

Oh, I didn't know you worked for me, Bostoniangirl!

I really try to keep the email forwarding/mass emails down to the bare minimum, but even that is often overwhelming for the crazy bohemians I work with. They tend to approach email as though it were some kind of really intense, political performance art anyway though, so I'm not sure anything I do is ever going to make a difference. Our exec. dir. just got a Blackberry, which was the tabula in naufragio* of giving a loaded pistol to a toddler.

*Or some Latin phrase. I don't actually know any Latin. Q.E.D.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 6:44 AM
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I can't imagine what would need to happen for me to have hundreds or thousands of unread emails.

I can. A really great job offer, with a start date about a month out.

I'm currently sitting on 8 unread work emails, and that's only because four of them are actually read but relate to tasks I (really really really) need to get done this week, one is a reminder I wrote to myself including the outline for an article, and two of them are daily news updates.

I definitely delete or file with extreme prejudice. Can't stand more than a few dozen emails in my inbox, so everything needs to get a response, get delegated, or get deleted swiftly. For medium-term nebulous tasks that I used to keep around in flagged or unread emails, I now have a weekly recurring calendar appointment that's actually a to-do list. If I need details, I can find the old email somewhere in the archives, but I'm too scatterbrained to remember anything two weeks old and sitting in a pile of hundreds of emails.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 6:52 AM
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In my job, deliverables are finished files/datasets/documents that are due to the sponsor at a specific date (eg, analysis plans, data tables/listings, statistical reports, etc.). Budgets are generally structured around hitting those milestones on target.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 6:59 AM
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Budgets are generally structured around hitting those milestones on target various delusions and alcohol-induced wishful thinking.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 7:20 AM
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I looked at my work email account and I've received a little over 30,000 emails in the past 3 years. There are currently about 90 sitting with little flags on them, but most of those are completed tasks where I'm pretty sure the person I did the work for will have forgotten I did it, or will have forgotten I asked them for some information. So when they email me I can pull the original from the flagged list and forward it back to them.

There's definitely an asymmetry of response times among my work colleagues. I get lots of "Urgent" requests which I deal with within a few minutes of receiving them. I can then wait weeks [and in some cases months and years] before I get the follow-up.

"ttaM, we need X in the image library, for important donor $foo NOW"
[30 minutes pass] "OK, I've pulled the images from our archive, and can load them up as soon as I get the following metadata from you ... [see attached template along with hugely detailed hand-holding instructions]"
[8 weeks later] "oh, sorry, I was busy, I've forwarded your request for metadata to Professor O'Muckety-Muck and he's promised to have it for you by [unfeasibly far away date]."


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 7:28 AM
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tabula in naufragio

Can someone explain this expression better than google and wikipedia? I'm not sure I understand how it's used, and apparently Jack Sparrow might have used it, so, you know, cultural capital.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 7:53 AM
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lurking google developers
hi!

create a task list for reoccurring things

Is this in the context of the task feature in gmail? It's a bit underwhelming, and not my project, but the usual workaround for this is to create a recurring calendar event that sends email notifications, and create the task from that email when it arrives (shift-T, which also links the task to the email).


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 7:55 AM
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Also, one organizational feature that I've seen used to good effect in some places (my current job, MIT) but not others (small startups with an insufficient ) is to use freaking archived mailing lists (or newsgroups, or a google group, or whatever). That it's in that archive is extra metadata, people who show up later can find it, and things don't get dropped on the floor by cc'ing the wrong exact subset of people on some project. Really, it's OK to have three times as many mailing lists as people.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 7:59 AM
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I am proud to confess that I'm not popular enough to have ever reached 10 unanswered e-mails. And my career strategy can be summarized as: change jobs whenever daily mail exceeds 25 items or drop below 10 items consistently (spam excluded, non-sensical 100-people distribution lsts included).


Posted by: Earnest O'Nest | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 8:13 AM
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I get about 50 press releases a day, and even if I know they're not relevant or newsworthy from the subject line I can't usually delete them, because they may become relevant in future. So they stay unread. There's also a bunch of stuff like newspaper round-up emails, journalism people move newsletters and so on that I sometimes read and sometimes don't.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 8:18 AM
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It makes me feel a bit uneasy to have a few thousand e-mails in my inbox, but now that you bring it up I wonder why. I'm nowhere near the storage limit and they aren't messages that I ignored, I just didn't get around to deleting them, and what's wrong with that? It's a weird reflex of unnecessary neatness.

I have 90ish unread e-mails in my Inbox at home and I think about 2500 or so read but undeleted e-mails there. However, at least half the unread e-mails are junk in all but name - ads that just happen to come from services I genuinely did sign up for, stuff like that - and they're all old enough that, junk or not, it's too late to worry about them. I think I've been pretty good overall about keeping new stuff from going unread, and those 90ish accumulated over the life of the account, which is now 5+ years I think.

I like how Microsoft Outlook forced organization on me, though. I know, Microsoft sucks, etc., and a more reasonable critique is that I could probably find the same features on something else, but this is the e-mail client that came with the company computer so it's not like I can shop around. For one thing, there is a size limit on my e-mail account and it's pretty low - less than 100MB, I think, which is annoying considering how many file attachments I get - but Outlook automatically archives older stuff every week or so. I've only had to manually go through my inbox to delete stuff once or twice. And I can flag stuff for later attention - on my personal account, I think the only way to do that is to mark it unread - and people can put appointments on my calendar for me.

50
Deliverables are similar to outcomes, except that somebody is supposed to find them useful.

Wasn't that once the cast for "outcomes" as well? I wonder what they'll call them next.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 8:43 AM
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63.last: Like "goals" and "objectives."


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 9:13 AM
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Me personally, I create "solutions"—and I'm not even a chemist!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 9:15 AM
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Stanley is Monsanto?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 9:35 AM
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Who wants to sex Monsanto?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 9:37 AM
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||

Speaking of inboxes, I just got the nicest email. Usually when I post a new preprint the only responses I get are from grumpy people saying "nice paper, but you should have cited my tangentially related work on..." But today, after posting a new paper yesterday, I got a very nice note from someone (quite senior, respected but not at all famous) who was delighted that I referred to three papers of his on different topics, all of which I found useful, even though I don't know him in person. Seems like I really made his day, and in turn I'm happy to get a pleased response rather than a grumpy one for once.

So I wrote a note to someone else who posted an interesting paper a few days ago, just to say that I enjoyed reading it. Maybe niceness can propagate through my research community for a while.

Eh, that's too much to hope for.

|>


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 10:41 AM
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68: Cite it forward.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-11-10 12:22 PM
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