Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tiffany's Soapbox: Inbox Zero

tiffanys soapboxBy now, the term "inbox zero" is a buzzword in tech and social media circles.  The first time I ever heard about it was from Merlin Mann, who was the first person talking about it, and he first started talking about it years ago.  The idea is that people need to reclaim their lives, and their email.  By having your inbox consistently having zero messages in it, you have nothing hanging over your head.  All things are in their proper places, and dealt with in a timely manner.  Merlin Mann's original ideas had a lot of depth, and wisdom.  I could never ever be mad at Merlin Mann, he is simply too awesome.

However, this idea has been morphed into several phone applications that promise to lead you to the land of the mythical inbox zero, and in the process a lot of Merlin's original wisdom has been glossed over.  For example, the Mailbox app has been raising a lot of eyebrows, and claims it will have you "winning at email" in no time.  First off, can we let the whole "winning" thing die already?  No?  Ok.  Moving on.  In order to download the Mailbox app, you had to wait in a virtual que with other potential users.  When I signed up, there were over 600,000 people ahead of me in the virtual que.  My place in line moved about 15,000 spots a day.  Finally after waiting over a month, probably close to six weeks, my turn to become a Mailbox user came this week.

Guess what?

I hate it.  First off, it only works with gmail, from what I can tell.  While this is primarily what I use, I do have other email addresses as well.  Second, all of the preset filters and folders I created in gmail do not show up. Instead, all my old emails are archived (without being organized).  And the solution to getting to inbox zero is basically to have messages delayed until you are willing to deal with them.  There is a "later" option that lets you determine how long you want to delay them.  You can also make lists to add emails to to sort them and get them out of your inbox.  But that is what I already did by having filters and folders set up in gmail.  I was so annoyed that I gave up on the app completely.  In fact these issues I state may be easily fixed, I was just too annoyed to bother.  It just seemed like it was not going to work for me.

Here is the rub: if I delete the app, I have to start all over in the virtual que.  So, instead, I kept the app, but do not use it.  How crazy is that?  It has actually made my email more complicated!

This app may be great for business people, who live and die by email.  However, for the everyday man on the street, I am not sure this is a real solution.  This version of inbox zero, taking emails and delaying them or shoving them, unanswered, into lists, just to have an empty inbox?  It sounds like a five year old pushing their toys under the bed and claiming to have cleaned their bedroom.

I will stick the system I already have.  Until the next big thing comes along of course.