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Putting Emails In Folders Is a Waste of Time, Says IBM Study

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the perhaps-the-sorting-process-is-useful-though dept.

Communications 434

An anonymous reader writes "There are two types of office workers in the world — those who file their emails in folders, and those who use search. Well, it looks like the searchers are smarter. A 354-user study by IBM research found that users who just searched their inbox found emails slightly faster than users who had filed them by folder. Add the time spent filing and the searchers easily come out on top. Apparently the filers are using their inbox as a to-do list rather than wanting to categorize information to find it more easily."

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Was the test done with Lotus Notes? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658650)

Because I'm sure that wouldn't skew the results from people gouging out their eyeballs.

Re:Was the test done with Lotus Notes? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658744)

Don't read this... it is a curse...

In 1995, a little boy named Tom was playing with his toys in his living room. After about 15 minutes of playing, a tiny little man walked up to him and said, "May I explore the mazes of your bootyass?" Tom, surprised by this sudden occurrence, remained speechless.

After thirty seconds passed, the little man asked the exact same question that he asked previously. This time, Tom asked the little man why he would want to do such a thing. The little man said, "Because I want to explore every maze inside your bootyass." Tom, sensing no bad intentions from the little man, nodded and said, "Well, all right. But no tickle! If there's any tickle, I'll smoosh ya!" The little man nodded his head and was sucked into Tom's bootyass as if his bootyass was a gigantic spaghetti noodle.

Tom was beginning to have second thoughts about letting the little man explore the mazes of his bootyass, but he just shrugged them off. He thought, "What harm could allowing that nice, charismatic little man explore the mazes of my bootyass bring? He was so nice, charismatic, and thoughtful. I made the right choice."

However, soon enough, he discovered that he was terribly wrong. Suddenly, he was looking into his own bootyass as if he was looking through a security camera. Inside, he spotted the little man and numerous round doorways made out of bootyass; it looked like an endless maze. To Tom's surprise, the little man suddenly transformed into a red toy carrying a gigantic sack over his shoulders and began walking towards the smallest doorway of them all! "That sack will never fit through that doorway!", Tom thought.

The toy continued onwards, and eventually the sack got stuck inside the small doorway in Tom's bootyass. The toy, visibly angry, began trying to force the sack through the doorway! This inflicted tremendous amounts of tickle upon Tom's bootyass! The toy then began kicking the sides of Tom's bootyass out of frustration while laughing the entire time. Even more tickle was inflicted upon Tom's bootyass. Just when Tom thought that nothing worse could possibly happen to him, the toy forced the sack right through the doorway and went flying deeper into the mazes of Tom's bootyass and crashed into the side of it! This inflicted more tickle upon Tom's bootyass than ever before!

Now that you have read this (even a single word of it), the very same toy, along with his giant sack which should fit through no doorway, will explore every single maze inside your bootyass (thereby inflicting major amounts of tickle upon it)! To prevent this from happening, copy and paste this entire comment and then repost it as a comment three times.

Re:Was the test done with Lotus Notes? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37659124)

Don't read this...

Ok! Can do.

it is a curse...

It's spam. Of course it's cursed.

Re:Was the test done with Lotus Notes? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658766)

They ought to at least give the damned souls that work on Notes access to this research.

I'm a filer, because search in notes is both painful and useless.

Re:Was the test done with Lotus Notes? (1)

geekprime (969454) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659140)

Ok, that actually made me laugh out loud, then I had to try to explain notes to my wife.

Except that... (4, Insightful)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658652)

Your inbox gets too unwieldy.

Re:Except that... (5, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658678)

Yep. Scrollbars become unusable when one scrollbar pixel equals several pages of what's being scrolled.

Plus...ummm, doesn't "search" work on folders too? Ooops!

Re:Except that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37659022)

Auto- and manual foldering, filters and the search combined must have slipped under the researcher's radars, unless IBM tries to patent something obvious as SOMing (or pick a random NN or clustering algorithm) the inbox to maps full of pretty colors. That would be something unique for the Thunderbird, though.

Re:Except that... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37659062)

Don't read this... it is a curse...

In 1990, a little boy named George was walking down the railroad tracks that were located behind his backyard. Eventually, he decided to go back home, so he crossed the ditch that separated his yard and the railroad tracks. However, George noticed that it suddenly got very foggy. He could hardly see five feet ahead of himself!

George had his blanket over his head; part of it was dragging on the ground as he walked. While walking back to his house, he noticed a teddy bear sitting against a tree behind his shed; it was waving at him. This frightened George, who was now speed walking. George, not wanting to turn back to see the teddy bear, instinctively knew that it was following him. He saw its shadow approaching him from behind.

When it got close enough, he used his blanket and knocked it down on the ground. George was then flung into the air for seemingly no reason, and when he landed on the ground, he bounced back into the air. This happened a few more times, and each time he bounced, he would bounce about twenty feet into the air. Finally, George's bootyass landed directly on top of the teddy bear's face, and he could no longer move a single cheek.

George, although frightened, knew that something bad was going to happen. The teddy bear said, "Like, tsk, owie!" in a little boy's voice that sounded as if it was echoing throughout a room. After a few moments of silence, George heard a "vvvvvvvvvvvvv" sound that sounded like something was getting sucked into something else. He quickly realized that the teddy bear was getting sucked right up his butt as if his bootyass was a spaghetti noodle! Soon afterwards, George's bootyass became something else entirely: a rumblehouse bootyass! Then, the teddy bear started bouncing around in George's bootyass and hitting its sides whilst emitting pure malice.

Now that you have read this (even a single word of it), the very same teddy bear will use your bootyass as a bouncehouse and inflict extreme amounts of tickle upon it! To prevent this from happening, copy and paste this entire comment and then repost it as a comment three times.

Re:Except that... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658698)

Inbox & inbox2:ElectricBoogaloo

Re:Except that... (2)

KhabaLox (1906148) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658718)

Archive 2010-?

Re:Except that... (1)

mdf356 (774923) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658808)

This is why I have one folder called "work stuff" where everything I save goes. If it's in the Inbox I probably still need to deal with it in some way; if it's in "work stuff" I may need the info again later, and everything else is in the trash and deleted weekly.

So... does this make me a filer or a searcher?

Re:Except that... (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658978)

This is why I have one folder called "work stuff" where everything I save goes.

Mine's called 'Trash'. Works really well.

Re:Except that... (1)

tantaliz3 (1074234) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659132)

mines called /dev/null. Works even faster.

Re:Except that... (1)

lakeland (218447) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658860)

The way I handle this is having 'inbox' = things I haven't dealt with yet and 'archive' = backup of all email received.

That way at the end of the day my inbox is ideally empty, or at least at the end of the week.

And I never open the archive folder, it just gets accessed using search.

Re:Except that... (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658878)

Yes, and besides that, what if you don't remember enough about the email to get a reasonably short result list from a search, but you had filed it in a reasonable fashion that made finding it much easier.

I use both, but the folders give me categories that make it easier to filter my searches. It could be even better if I were able to attack multiple tags to email, then it would be much easier to find what I wanted, but at least folder/label is better than nothing.

Re:Except that... (1)

stephathome (1862868) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659058)

Same here. Folders make my searches faster because I know which part of my inbox the email should be in. They also let me check the emails I'm interested in at the moment, so the stuff I don't need to pay attention to at the moment is out of my way.

Re:Except that... (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658988)

Search works across all folders too.
Plus, any competent mail package, will file things for you. Nobody i know manually files email.

Re:Except that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37659136)

Yep...and Outlook is unable to search through unwieldy inboxes in a timely fashion. When I had to use Outlook, I used a hybrid solution where I'd come into the office on Jan 2nd each year and move everything from the previous year into its own folder. Searching was just a matter of remembering what year I received an email. It mostly worked, but I was getting to the point where I was thinking about having separate folders for each quarter, since searches on email from previous years was still not fast.

Then I switched jobs and my new place of works uses Google Apps instead of exchange. Now I don't have to adjust my behavior to the limitation of the tools I'm forced to use.

No, wrong clonclusion. (4, Insightful)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658662)

The right conclusion, is that people suck at organizing emails into folders. Therefore, for most people putting emails in folders is a waste of time.

Re:No, wrong clonclusion. (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658710)

I find it to be a waste of time, I have a few things that are automatically labeled for me. Usually I'll have mailinglists and ads specially labeled, pretty much everything else goes into the main inbox uncategorized. A mail client with a proper search feature makes quick work of finding things when I need them, certainly a lot faster than thumbing through folders.

Also, folders don't really handle cases where a piece of mail belongs in two different categories very well. Labels OTOH handle that quite a bit more easily and don't necessarily require you to organize everything in order to be worthwhile.

Re:No, wrong clonclusion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658838)

The problem here is that the mental state at the point of organization is a completely different mental state at the point of retrieval. If we were able to put ourselves into the same contextual state at both points then the organization and retrieval matches up and the organization becomes meaningful. That's problem #1.

Problem #2 is that organization emails into folders is a largely physical organization activity and not a logical organization activity. Until the equivalence of tagging/labeling came along we don't get logical organization. Even with tagging, most people don't organize logically because it's too goddamn tedious.

Re:No, wrong clonclusion. (2)

soundguy (415780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659032)

Who files everything manually? I have about 300 folders and the majority of my mail is routed to folders by sender, recipient, or subject via rules. I also have hundreds of forwarders to a handful of primary POP accounts, which is much easier than managing hundreds of individual POP accounts. The only thing in my inbox are a few messages from people who email me directly instead of using my customer service mailto links that pre-populate the subject line with my routing keywords. FWIW I still use Forte Agent as my client.

Re:No, wrong clonclusion. (3, Interesting)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658840)

    Shouldn't that be, people in the small sample set, suck at organizing emails?

    I think some of us do pretty damned well. I have a dozen primary folders, and dated archives (year and month). Searching one huge box for say resumes that came in regarding a position we were hiring for in April. Despite how nice it may be to search by message content, applicants suck. You might think it's ok, because applicants who can't write a cover letter aren't worth finding. That's ok, except for when a superior wants to audit the hiring, and see all the applicant submissions. So the better option is to read all the mail that came in during that period? Great. That'll take a while.

Depends on your email volume (2)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658664)

If you have 100+ mails coming in on a daily basis, and have 6-7 years worth of mail to search through, folders can be useful for cutting down the search time atleast, esp. if you are able to setup rules to route the mails to folders automatically (Even with indexing, sometimes it takes a few seconds to complete the search)

Re:Depends on your email volume (3, Insightful)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658728)

When I was working for a Particularly Large Software Company, I received a large number of automated emails every day from automated build processes. These emails were automatically filed into a special folder, so that they didn't clutter my inbox, and ping my smart phone every single time I got one of them. This followed through later for "Out of Office" emails, and a few others.

Of course, as such, the only reason why I had folders was to keep a particular set of emails from pinging my smart phone, and bugging me all day, every day constantly with email build progress updates.

Re:Depends on your email volume (1)

Ocker3 (1232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659028)

I'm subscribed to a huge number of discussion lists, and there are a number of automated systems that e-mail me as well. I only want to read those e-mails at certain times, if they're auto-sorted into folders then I'm not wasting time doing it myself. An obvious failure in the study was not looking at people who use rules to auto-sort. I may not know what a relevant keyword is, I may only have a general idea, or a time. Much faster to find the right folder and start scrolling. A mega-inbox and search is Not efficient for my purposes.

Re:Depends on your email volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658778)

I have to ask, what do you do where 100 emails a day is routine? And why would you have to search through 7 years' worth of mail?

Re:Depends on your email volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658922)

This is necessary in consulting as you have many clients and need CYA.

Re:Depends on your email volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658942)

As a manager, it's a good day when I don't get 100+ emails. What does that comprise of?
* requests directly to me
* escalations from my directs.
* cc'd email from my directs on milestones, etc. -- information I need to know and may need to refer to later on, but doesn't need my direct attention.
* group/company wide emails/policy changes/etc.
* non-work related email -- which doesn't make for that much at all.

I think when you're a front line manager, you have it the worst of all, especially if you were promoted. I still have my usual workload + all the things I have to deal with now that I manage people. A few levels up and you deal with mostly escalations from below and mandates from above. More stressful perhaps, but generally less email volume. When I speak with my IT folks they say the ones with the largest email folders are the ones that are either supervisors, or 1st/2nd level managers.

It was great in my pre-management days when I could clear out my inbox and call 50 emails/day alot.

Re:Depends on your email volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658862)

Just curious, but how many off those 100+ emails, are from mailing lists? If you aren't already filtering mailing lists to folders, you're an idiot.

And if you ARE getting 100+ emails a day, and haven't figured out how to organize something that works well for you, well, you're an idiot still.

Re:Depends on your email volume (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659014)

if you are able to setup rules to route the mails to folders automatically

For any filing rule predicate there exists a search predicate you can run later.

Folders to avoid Crackberry replication (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658666)

I only autofile stuff into folders when I don't want it coming over on the Blackberry.

FUCK RMS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658672)

Re:FUCK RMS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658912)

LOL, y u so mad tho?

Odd Conclusion (1)

sgrover (1167171) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658674)

Did they only evaluate those who manually sort their mail? Having the server put mail into appropriate folders doesn't take any time at all once it is set up.

Most of the mail I need access to was in the last few days. When I have to search in my mail client, I'm lucky if the search results come anywhere near close to what I'm looking for.

So, thanks IBM, but I'll stick with the folder approach until such time as the default search capabilities (in ThunderChicken, LookOut, etc) improve.

Re:Odd Conclusion (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658724)

The problem is that unless the sorting mechanism is perfect you can wind up in the situation where you never see an email and don't know that it's even arrived.

I personally, cut down greatly on my work by sorting mailing lists into their own place, but unless there's an easy way of filtering it out, I let it hit my inbox so that I see it before either deleting it, acting on it or ignoring it.

Re:Odd Conclusion (4, Interesting)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658852)

The problem is that unless the sorting mechanism is perfect you can wind up in the situation where you never see an email and don't know that it's even arrived.

Wouldn't your mail client indicate that you have N unread e-mails (sometimes configurable to only show those N from up to M days ago) in the folder it was sorted to?
Pretty hard to miss.

I do think the researchers' claim is a bit silly, but your concern is tangential with another..

The researchers checked two groups:
1. Those who simply let the computer search their entire inbox (be that with or without sorted folders) for the e-mail.
2. Those who go to the sorted folder they believe the e-mail to be in, and then manually look through all of the e-mails in that folder hoping to spot it.

The second group isn't very realistic. More commonly (that I've seen), that group goes to the folder that they believe the e-mail to be in, and then let the computer search that folder. That means the computer doesn't have to look through, say, 2,000 e-mails - it only has to look through, say, 100.
Depending on whether or not the computer can scan every folder faster than you can click to the folder, the latter can be much faster. Certainly on older computers with slow harddisks.

However, there is one problem that crops up... what if the folder you think the e-mail is in, is not where it actually is. What if the e-mail from John about Vacation isn't in the folder 'John' but in the folder 'Vacation'?
That's where time is usually wasted, which often results in having to search all of the folders anyway if you don't remember which other folder(s) it might be in.

I think the vastly increased speed with which e-mails can be searched - especially if you use e.g. gmail which can search many times faster than your home box - does mean that folders become less important in terms of organizing e-mails for faster retrieval purposes. They'll still have their place for organization in general, though (i.e. 'work' vs 'personal') - but alongside tags and 'search folders'.

Automatic Filing (1)

Nithin Philips (859095) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658676)

What about people who have their emails automatically filed through filters (like Sieve [wikipedia.org] on the IMAP server) and search them when they need to? Their productivity must the through the roof.

Re:Automatic Filing (1)

BeShaMo (996745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658760)

Yeah, I was thinking that as well. I use a filter (admittedly crude, since the filtering in Outlook sucks) to do an initial break up of the incoming emails (roughly 4-500 on a daily basis). Essentially a don't-bother-at-all folder, keep-an-eye-on folder, probably-needs-attention folder + plus some archiving folders for stuff like CVS diffs and things like that, that may or may not be automated. Everything else goes in my inbox, but it cuts my inbox from 500 daily emails to about 20-30 which is much more managable. I also know which folders contains what when I need to do a search, which cuts down search time significantly.

Not 354 users (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658682)

345 users, and still statistically insignificant.

Re:Not 354 users (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658824)

So, what sample size would be big enough for you? IMO, in this particular test the sampling method is more important than the sample size.

no way - wrong search terms leave things behind (5, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658686)

Project folders are superior, especially as time passes one can't remember proper keyword to bring up all relevant emails. Yes, I've used e-mail systems that were folderless and only search was possible, not quite as useful.

Re:no way - wrong search terms leave things behind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658746)

I must say I am exactly the opposite.
I can pretty much always remember keywords to find the mails, but for the love of god, I cant find the folder I put it in again.
Its probably because I am bad at organizing things.

Mod parent up! (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658754)

Yeah, that's my experience as well. I'm sure you can use the automatic search function faster ... provided you have the exact string to search on.

But thinking back even 2 years to what happening on a minor project and how to search for that? When there have been a dozen other projects using those same terms?

Project folders are the way to go.

In the business place you use outlook 2003 (1)

hilather (1079603) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658688)

And filing is necessary because outlook and run its search for days. When you file your emails, you can search just within that folder, and its much faster. I supposed if you're using outlook 2010 maybe its faster because of its indexing, but its still not very organized.

Makes sense (1)

ksd1337 (1029386) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658696)

I use Gmail. I used to use the labels for a while, but I got lazy with it. The search feature gets me what I want 99% of the time (1% is when I can't remember anything about the message I need to find). It's faster too---why click through folders or tags or labels when you can just type?

Some of each. (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658700)

As a sys admin I file some things like software feature enablers, communications with vendor support and documentation of the sys admin things I do (for the yearly review). But I also search the inbox for things of a more transient nature.

It's not always about search time (2)

proxima (165692) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658720)

I let my inbox fill up for 3-12 months and massively archive it in one swoop to a small number of folders (about 15). I actually use search quite a bit to help do that sorting faster. What this cleanout process does is force me to delete messages that I'm 99.999% sure I'll never want to see again. They can just clutter up search results and casual browsing.

As messages come in, I use flags to ensure that messages I need to eventually respond to don't get lost in the shuffle. Some frequent, automated stuff gets automatically archived (e.g. amazon purchases), just to help keep the recent inbox low on clutter.

Archiving has advantages and disadvantages. On my personal email account, archived messages are offline; this makes search (or re-indexing) faster but leaves me without those messages when away from my laptop. But more than anything I archive because a single inbox with X years and tens of thousands of messages is pretty cluttered, and I know that eventually I'll want to sort through them to eliminate messages that will never be useful. Fortunately, that's rarely true spam in my case. There's also the odd email I've forgotten about that I have to follow up on, if I forgot to flag it appropriately. What's the cost? Maybe 4 hours a year.

Re:It's not always about search time (2)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658810)

On my personal email account, archived messages are offline; this makes search (or re-indexing) faster but leaves me without those messages when away from my laptop. But more than anything I archive because a single inbox with X years and tens of thousands of messages is pretty cluttered, and I know that eventually I'll want to sort through them to eliminate messages that will never be useful.

Not me. In my personal e-mail account I have every non-spam e-mail message I've received since 1996, and I see no reason why I should ever take the time to sort through them and eliminate useless cruft. Why should I? Decent search means I can always find what I'm looking for, and keeping everything means there's no chance that I deleted it just because at one point in time I thought it would be useless. Heck, I've even at times gone through old e-mails which are in and of themselves useless, but collectively give clues about when some sequence of important life events happened in the past.

Given the way storage capacities keep growing, I see no reason to ever delete any e-mail (spam aside).

So is IBM selling a solution to search Emails now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658722)

Because that's why they'd release such a study.

So... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658730)

People are actually using email in two quite distinct ways; but one way is faster at doing what we thought everyone used email for, and is therefor better? Cool.

Frankly, this sounds like a challenge for team search: computers are very good indeed, even with the quite basic desktop search mechanisms, not the fancy search engine stuff, at assorted glorified greps. You want all the emails that mention project X, or were sent by Mr. Y? No problem. You want to know when project X needs to be finished? Well, get all emails mentioning project X and start exploring the exciting universe of different natural language ways of suggesting that project X needs to be finished. Search isn't completely useless; but you've basically gone back to filing...

I've seen a few hints of this in Gmail, which will pick out emails that appear to obviously be appointments or date/time combinations and offer to add them to your calendar; but further expansion would be nice. Aside from the people who are just conceptually crippled, it seems unlikely that users are sorting their emails into folders just because doing electronic shit work is all fun and giggles. They are likely doing it because search can't(or the advanced search features that can, they can't use) organize their email for them in the way they prefer it to be. Let's see a software agent that starts picking out salient topics, and piecing together a slightly creepy knowledge of it by watching your mailstream(and FFS, let's make it client side, or based on servers you control, not some you are a peon in the cloud plantation shit...)

IBM Uses Lotus Notes for Email (5, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658734)

They're not what I'd call "Experts."

MOD PARENT UP and use folders (1)

Hyperhaplo (575219) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658856)

And please stop referring to Lotus Notes as 'enterprise ready' software. It should never be deployed to any organisation, regardless of size.

To answer the question, if you use Lotus Notes.. you HAVE to have folders. The search is so horrible that if you don't.. then you won't find anything.

Example: You are looking at 'all documents' folder in Lotus Notes, or the Inbox, and you see 5 emails with key words in them and you think "I'd like to see all emails with those key words". So, you open search and type the words in. Does it return the emails currently on the screen? Maybe. Does it return more emails? Maybe. Can it return different search returns on different days? Yes.

Have pity on us who are forced to use Lotus Notes.

Further... I have rules which automatically move emails into specific folders when they arrive in the inbox. It is probably the only useful automation Lotus Notes provides.

To elaborate, the big huhar about Notes is that you can code agents and extensions yourself.. and make your email client / suite do.. anything! anything! at! all! so long as you can grasp Basic syntax, like bashing your head against the wall, can handle running the same agent twice and getting different results and have a zen like attitude towards resolving software bugs while wearing a blindfold.
The problem is that many organisations prevent users from writing and using agents, or making use of any customisation features in Notes. This is partially because it makes it so easy to run rings around corporate stupidity and makes it easy to DDOS Notes servers accidentally. Yes, accidentally. *sigh*

So, back to Notes we go. Don't complain about Outlook. When will Notes die?

And yes, the latest Notes 8, rewritten in Java, is a great improvement.. but is just as annoying as the old Notes 7.

Re:MOD PARENT UP and use folders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37659144)

And please stop referring to Lotus Notes as 'enterprise ready' software. It should never be deployed to any organisation, regardless of size.

To answer the question, if you use Lotus Notes.. you HAVE to have folders. The search is so horrible that if you don't.. then you won't find anything.

I worked at IBM, and the day I discovered that Google desktop had a plugin that made it possible to search notes was the happiest moment in all my time there. It made me realize that terrible software was a boat ancor around my neck that I did not need, and I went to interview at google the next month.

Re:IBM Uses Lotus Notes for Email (1)

kaoshin (110328) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659146)

Amen!

There's an amazing thing called a "Filter" (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658736)

Add the time spent filing...

Ever hear of this amazing technology called a "filter"? It lets you program your email client to do the filing automatically.

Every email client I've used lets you search all your folders at once, so there is no difference in the amount of time it takes to search with either approach to email management.

Did Google pay IBM for this "study"?

Re:There's an amazing thing called a "Filter" (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658764)

In the future, your primitive "filters" will be replaced by an IBM Watson site licence...

Re:There's an amazing thing called a "Filter" (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658962)

The main problem with filters is that they act when the mail is received, not after it's read. So you have to go into umpteen different folders to read your mail.

I sort into folders, and I keep everything. One problem that single inbox users frequently have is that they delete e-mail in order to keep the inbox manageable, and because they tend to use Exchange and fill up their inbox quota.
So when they need something that is a few months old, they ask us others who actually file our e-mail whether we still have a copy. That's a very slow search algorithm right there.

Because of the propensity for people to ask for attachments they've "lost" (i.e. deleted), I have started filing anything with attachments sent by a human in a special folder. Because that's where almost all the searches are going to be. But I wish they would do their own searches.

Re:There's an amazing thing called a "Filter" (1)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659116)

The main problem with filters is that they act when the mail is received, not after it's read. So you have to go into umpteen different folders to read your mail.

That's a mail client shortcoming. If using Thunderbird, just set up a search folder for all unread mail - there you go.

Unless you use Lotus Notes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658742)

The supreme irony here is searching an inbox in Outlook 2007 or later is insanely easy, but not so much with Lotus Notes (IBM's database software that people pretend is an email client but is really some sort of memoing system). First of all, the IT department controls whether or not an index even exists, and may enable for some and not for others. And the syntax for searching is pathetic, and when searching, it only takes you to the message, rather than fitlering out all non-hits - and this is with the latest version of Notes.

Notes users are almost forced to use folders to find anything.

Unless .. (1)

n5vb (587569) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658752)

.. you use client-side rules to do the majority of the sorting.

Even rule-based sorting/routing into category-based folders is a useful heuristic. If the logic in the rules is reasonably smart, you save even more time.

(And that's not even counting performance impact of storing and indexing a huge number of messages in one folder, or server-side purges that silently delete messages when your provider thinks you don't need them anymore, for those who swear by (and sometimes at) IMAP-client or webmail access.)

Maybe IBM emeil users are 'special'? (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658756)

I know exactly what I use folders for, and it is not general searching. It is organizing different dialogs and projects so that I can find what the last or last few messages were. Also I have several mailing lists that get sorted into folders automatically on email-save-to-folder. Very convenient.

I suspect the selection of users was 'special' and not in a positive sense.

Seems to be missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658792)

Folders aren't a search mechanism, they're an organization and triage mechanism.

Then again, this is research from the people behind Lotus Notes...

Delete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658794)

Its easier to do CTRL+A, delete when they are all in the one folder. If it was important the person will send another email.

Let the computer do it (1)

Berkyjay (1225604) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658796)

Funny thing is that I don't manually file any of my emails. That's what filters are for.

Or... (1)

drb226 (1938360) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658812)

Use tagging *and* search. Run a global search, and scan the results for the tags you think you most likely applied to the email you are searching for. It doesn't have to be a dichotomy.

Search? Ever used Outlook? (2)

milbournosphere (1273186) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658826)

Clearly nobody in the 354 person study uses Outlook. Worst. Search. Ever. I could see it in gmail maybe, but never in Outlook. I'd go crazy if I had to keep my work emails in the Inbox, or in one folder. In Outlook, organizing my email(filters or by hand) keeps me sane.

Re:Search? Ever used Outlook? (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658866)

Tried Thunderbird?
Inconvenient, slow and buggy. Misses some mails because it doesn't handle headers correctly.
Yes this is about the newest version.

Re:Search? Ever used Outlook? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658956)

Mmm... i was just looking at the upcoming Ubuntu 11.10 where Thunderbird replaces Evolution.

Then I read a review of a pre-release version written in August, saying TB is a great replacement of "the more limited Evolution". That was an interesting remark. If that is so, then TB really has come a long way over the year or two since I last tried it out. At the time I looked at TB as I don't really like Evolution, and it appeared the best alternative. Very soon I ditched TB for simply not working well and to this day am using Evolution for my e-mail needs.

Re:Search? Ever used Outlook? (1)

The Unusual Suspect (980537) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659008)

I think Thunderbird is great for searching. I have an "All Mail" Search Folder saved on which I use the Quick Filter to find any message I want. Convenient, quick and bug free (in my experience). Can't vouch for it never missing an email, but I've always found what I needed.

Re:Search? Ever used Outlook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658936)

Seconded. We get to use Outlook 2003. Even Google would have a difficult time correlating important emails together where I work, it's a disaster trying to use Outlook search.

Re:Search? Ever used Outlook? (1)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658948)

At my work, the IT department has crippled Outlook e-mail searching because their poor, massively underpowered Exchange server kept crashing under the load. Then, because the XP version of Windows desktop search was slowing boot up times, they crippled that too. Oh yeah, we're not allowed to run any other searching system.

When I search for stuff in GMail, I find it. I rarely use labels as anything other than marking stuff I can safely delete. In Outlook, because of the crippled search, I put things into folders to help Outlook focus its search.

Re:Search? Ever used Outlook? (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659004)

Just save them on your hard drive, and use Vista's built in search. /joke

Re:Search? Ever used Outlook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37659018)

Outlook 2007/2010 plus Windows Search 4.0 on Windows XP [microsoft.com] or inbuilt in Vista/7 makes searching effortless.

I'm a "searcher" and I can pull up e-mails from years ago with ease. Searching without an index is painful though, so I can only agree with parent if they've never tried Outlook with Windows Search enab.

Re:Search? Ever used Outlook? (1)

Y-Crate (540566) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659090)

Clearly nobody in the 354 person study uses Outlook. Worst. Search. Ever. I could see it in gmail maybe, but never in Outlook. I'd go crazy if I had to keep my work emails in the Inbox, or in one folder. In Outlook, organizing my email(filters or by hand) keeps me sane.

I just want the ability to sort invites into a separate folder if they come in for another user for whom I'm a delegate.

This enrages me every single day.

I'm a stupid filer, at my workplace (2)

MikeDawg (721537) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658846)

So, I am one of the stupid filers, at my workplace. But to help defend myself, I think the searching capabilities is most email clients is horrendous. If I had a gmail account for all my work related email, then that may be a different story, but unfortunately, I have to stick to the couple of email clients that I am allowed to use at work, and they can't search worth a damn. I am able to quickly find emails, without searching, as most people lag behind, and try to get the search in the email client to work properly.

Enterprise Vault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658848)

Our company deployed Enterprise Vault to archive our mails, and now it doesn't matter if I file or not, because every search takes 10x as long.

Oh, and it doesn't archive embedded images. So all those screenshots users sent me are now missing. Thanks, IT brains!

"Reference" folder (5, Interesting)

Bodero (136806) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658850)

I once read a Best Practices manual for Microsoft Outlook [microsoft.com] by the Outlook team that changed how I deal with email. The premise is this:
  • Have only two folders: Inbox, and Reference.
  • When an email comes in and it does not need to be acted on, read it, then move it to Reference.
  • If an email needs to be acted upon, leave it in your inbox until the task is complete. This may be hours, days, weeks or months. But everything in your inbox is something that is waiting on someone.

I frequently had a habit of reading emails on my smartphone and forgetting about them. Now, I can either move them to Reference on my phone, or do it when I get back to my desk. But nothing slips through the cracks this way, which was a huge problem when I first got a smartphone.

Re:"Reference" folder (1)

Bourdain (683477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659120)

I've been doing something very similar to this once I took the plunge into using Gmail.

I only keep the emails that require some action in my inbox and everything goes into an archive folder.

The two secret sauces of my email system are this though:

(1) A series of well written rules to tweak what of a few folders email arrive in such as to tweak my level of attention to the arriving email:
(a) if I'm only on the "cc" it goes into a "cc" folder
(b) if it goes firmwide, it goes to a firmwide folder
(c) if I'm on the "to" it stays in my inbox
(d) if it's one of a series of automated emails, it is automatically sent to archive

(2) http://lookeen.com/ [lookeen.com] --> the best outlook search tool I've ever used but it requires some understanding of how it works to most effectively use it
(a) you can only search its index and it can't reliably update it index in realtime (I believe as a function of outlook's terrible internal I/O // pst/ost filesystem...)
(b) the speed of lookeen and outlook by extension appear to be related to the degree of fragmentation of the underlying indices and datafiles so I configure lookeen to rebuild its index (2-3 gb of emails takes 10-15 minutes to index on an older computer) and also to selectively defragment both lookeen's database and outlook's files each night

This approach yields lightning quick searches where I'm frequently telling people I work with when I sent them what email over the phone so they look it up the old fashioned way...

Yep (1)

mojo-raisin (223411) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658884)

The only reason I keep some email in folders is so that I can delete bunches of them when I am done with a task.

For example, once I am done with a project, and I never have to think about it again, the whole thing gets vaporized.

It is quite satisfactory.

Depends on your email program. (1)

Phurge (1112105) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658892)

Yes, if you use gmail because search actually works.

No, if you use Outlook because their search is a dog.

Re:Depends on your email program. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658994)

Hitting the nail on the head there. Outlook email search simply doesn't work worth a damn. Every other email client is superior, but I like Thunderbird search best - instantaneous.

summary disproves itself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37658900)

"Apparently the filers are using their inbox as a to-do list rather than wanting to categorize information to find it more easily."

So where does the writing of to-do lists get measured in the study?

And, how about those of us who both file, and use search in those situations where we know it'll be faster?

GMail (1)

gridengine (960516) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658910)

Old news.
Google told us to use search for emails since day 1 of GMail.

What about real-world application? (1)

dust11 (895301) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658928)

I work for an IT consulting firm. Within the last week I've received over 2000 emails; this is normal. A lot of these messages will be service ticket notifications, which are very useful to keep and access via Exchange for Android when I'm at a client. The rest of these will be important notifications about server health and other important monitoring information. With 52 weeks per year, that's over 100,000 emails in my inbox, which is a phenomenal amount to index. Sorting my email into folders helps to keep my inbox manageable. I'll point out that I don't use my inbox as a to-do list either.

In any case, modern versions of Outlook can easily search in all folders at once, and have the ability to sort email automatically based on patterns. Logically we can assume that a smaller inbox is faster to search through for more relevant information, hence in a real-world test the filers would be more efficient. Being able to see the my recent important messages also helps to keep me focused should I be doing 40 jobs at a time.

This may not apply to everyone, but those who have enough email that they actually need to sort it will probably have a similar experience. Searching may help to free up a few extra seconds here and there, but a clutter will always create a bottleneck. Quickly glancing at my screen once every 30 minutes to see if I have anything new and noteworthy is far more efficient than compulsively checking every 5 minutes and marking all of those misc notifications as read.

Google Beats Yahoo (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658934)

Searching is Google. Folders is Yahoo. Google is the biggest Internet success, now that the Internet is vast and complex. Yahoo can't find a buyer, 15 years after it launched the Internet Bubble with its IPO.

If your email is as full as the 1995 Internet, you might like folders better. If your email is as full as the 2011 Internet, you'll like searching.

Depends on how work related the emails are (1)

jader3rd (2222716) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658938)

Any email that has to deal with my job go to my inbox. Emails from internal DL's that aren't related to the position I'm hired to, go to folders. But if it's an email that's related to my position, my team, etc. all go to my inbox. Any status emails that happen more than once a day go to their own folder as well. I have search folders setup to quickly find items that I do search for. I find this solution to be the best in keeping me in touch with the things I work on. Hundred's of emails a day and it's not overwhelming.

That really depends on your client. (1)

Sarusa (104047) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658944)

With Gmail, I just throw all old email into an 'old' folder and use search since gmail's search is great.

With Thunderbird I separate into separate folders since T-bird's search is... okay. It works like you'd expect. Quick look in the folder, then search all.

With Outlook (at work) I separate things by folders since Outlook's search is abysmally bad. Advanced search never works properly.

Google Beats Yahoo (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658954)

In other news, Google is taking over the world with searching, while Yahoo's original hierarchical directory is so tired it can't find a buyer, 15 years after its IPO launched the Internet Bubble.

What I need is an AI thesaurus map that can organize my emails into categories to show me topics I've discussed within some category selected by timeframe, correspondents, or keywords.

Actually, I do both... (1)

bratwiz (635601) | more than 2 years ago | (#37658976)

Actually, I do both. I file stuff that I want to separate in folders according to a broad category system, but then I just use the 'search' functions to find anything. I don't bother hunting through the folders. That *would* be a waste of time.

Folders Are for Hiding Emails (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659020)

The best use of folders is to direct some emails into their own lists before reading them. So they don't clutter up the main Inbox. Automated alerts each in their own folder as they come in are easier to deal with. Especially if I want to delete a whole series of them, and especially if there's a lot of them which would overwhelm the rest of my inbox. Or just a few, which would get lost in my inbox.

These folders are better implemented as views, rather than actually separate storage. In fact my entire email data store would be best implemented as a database app. Indexing my messages, relating them by correspondents, subjects and keywords, would make them much more productive as a knowledge base. And easier to compose into finished documentation, and find trends and stats, and manage tasks...

Must use folders (2)

bdenton42 (1313735) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659048)

Where I work has absurdly low quotas on the Exchange server, I believe 100 MB. The only thing I keep in my Inbox is the "to-do" kind of stuff, everything else goes into a folder in a pst file on my local drive. It sucks because I end up having to search two places a lot of time because you cannot search both an Exchange and local pst with one search.

Here's how I do it (1)

kagaku (774787) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659056)

First, I'll throw out the environment I'm using. Windows 7 Enterprise, Outlook 2010. I've been using Outlook for over two years after we upgraded from Lotus Notes (anything is an upgrade from Lotus Notes) and have not deleted more than a handful of emails since the upgrade. I receive on average about 150 emails a day. I keep the current month's email in my inbox and archive every prior month into a folder - by month.

This doesn't exactly organize my email - I just end up with 12 folders a year full of around 2000-2500 emails in each depending on the month. How do I make sense of it all? Search. Outlook is set to index all mail in my archives (currently around 9gb total), and I can sometimes narrow down by timeframe based on my folders. So far this scenario works great for me, I'll give an example of how.

Client ABC Inc calls customer service to complain that their file specifications are incorrect - they're missing a "B" record and cannot process the file! We need to fix this immediately because their CEO plays golf with our CEO or something. I was assigned the project that built their "file" and looked through our project folder. At some point on a client call two years ago the customer told us to remove the B record during testing. The test file we sent them never included this record, and when the project went live it of course did not include the B record.

Between the archived test files in our project tracking system and the emails I recovered from 2009 regarding the project we were able to convince the client that they were nuts - they never received a B record because they told us two years ago they did not want one. We then suggested they could add a new B record, but of course - that would cost them. =)

Folders are better, because they also limit size (1)

FridayBob (619244) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659060)

If I were to just keep all of my messages (both sent and received) in the same folder/file/directory (or folders/files/directories) forever, many of them would eventually become too large and inconvenient to work with. So, I wrote a script to file all my old ones away once a year on January the 1st into a directory for the previous year and replace them with new empty ones. Also, this does not stop me from searching (e.g. using grep) through my entire archive to find what I want.

Not the whole picture. (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659064)

The study focused on aspect of folders; searching. Here are a number of other reasons to use folders.

1. Categorizing: I have several different folders for activities that do not need immediate attention; SCA, chainmaille, clubs, etc. When I have time I will read those emails.
2. Priority: There are some emails that I want to respond to immediately. The best way to highlight these is to sort them into a folder.
3. Separate Projects; When I am working on several projects at a time it is great to be able to look at only the emails related to that project. It also highlights when I get replies about a specific project. It also helps with task switching. When I can look at emails that deal only with the project I am working on at that specific time I am less distracted by other emails.
4. Archive/deletion: I have several folders where I will read the emails and then occasionally clear the folder. It is much faster than deleting each individual email. I can also export all the emails from a project and save them in case I need them later.

So no, searching is not the only reason to use folders.

multiple mail groups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37659082)

In my work place I'm a member of about 300 different mail groups. I have filters set up to dump mail into specific folders. I have a bunch of folders I just plain ignore.

sorters = third type (1)

Twillerror (536681) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659086)

I don't do either. I use sorting. Often I can remember a crucial piece of information... the sender.

It still kills me that gmail doesn't have the way to say show me all email from user X in the order they where sent. I read my gmail alongside my work email in outlook.

I often find emails where others fail with this simple strategy. Searching requires you to know the word(s) that are in the email or subject. It is usually something completely different than what your brain remembers. Searching works well on the web because the web pages have tons of content that might match what your trying to hit...or many sources of the same information. Email is more precise....searching for Geese won't return Goose.

Combine this with search you might get a general date that the "subject" was being discussed in your company. Then sort by date and start scrolling. If you delete stupid emails or catalog them away you get even better.

At the end of the day email is a horrible way to store data. Use a wiki or something. If you are searching your email it is usually an indication that the information is not stored somewhere better.

What sort of email system did they use? (1)

rnturn (11092) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659098)

Because if it was Lotus Notes -- IBM's fave -- I can understand why the folks that kept everything in their Inbox were able to find stuff faster. Lotus Notes' search function sucks like a tornado then you ask it to so anything even mildly complex. (And to me searching through a tree of folders shouldn't actually be complex.)

How about doing both? (1)

dubsnipe (1822200) | more than 2 years ago | (#37659128)

It's not rocket science. If one method doesn't work, you try the other.

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