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Communications Google News

GMail Introduces Priority Inbox 242

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the we-have-priority dept.
jason-za writes with this quote from a Google announcement: "People tell us all that time that they're getting more and more mail and often feel overwhelmed by it all. We know what you mean — here at Google we run on email. Our inboxes are slammed with hundreds, sometimes thousands of messages a day — mail from colleagues, from lists, about appointments and automated mail that's often not important. It's time-consuming to figure out what needs to be read and what needs a reply. Today, we're happy to introduce Priority Inbox (in beta) — an experimental new way of taking on information overload in Gmail."
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GMail Introduces Priority Inbox

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:09AM (#33425530)

    Priority Post (beta)

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Luckily for you it's still in beta, 'cause I seem to have found a bug...
    • by kabloom (755503)

      Your priority post even comes pre-expanded for our viewing convenience.

  • "It's time-consuming to figure out what needs to be read and what needs a reply"

    How about putting "For action", "For reply", or "For your information" in the subject lines of e-mails?

    It would also be a good thing to put a 1-line summary of the email, followed up with a Details section.

    Of course, this only works from the perspective of the sender, but if you do this when sending e-mails out to people, they might pick up on it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      ...Well, really out of all of your e-mail how much of it is actually sent by an actual, thinking person. The majority of my e-mail goes as follows:

      Reminder that anyone who wants to go to the company picnic can call XXX-XXXX

      Please conserve paper

      Hi, I saw this funny video of a cat running into a wall

      Did you know that sometimes doctors are wrong and people can live longer then their doctor tells them they can?

      Most of the junk e-mail is sent by:

      A) Mass-emailers
      B) Clueless computer user
    • by Abstrackt (609015) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:24AM (#33425694)

      It would also be a good thing to put a 1-line summary of the email, followed up with a Details section.

      Isn't that what the subject line and message body are supposed to be for?

      I appreciate that Google is trying to idiot-proof email but it'd probably be a simpler task to train people using almost your exact phrasing: the subject line is a one line summary of the email and the body is the details section.

      • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @11:01AM (#33426180) Homepage

        > ...it'd probably be a simpler task to train people...

        No. Training people is a hopeless task.

      • by DIplomatic (1759914) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @11:11AM (#33426304) Journal

        I appreciate that Google is trying to idiot-proof email but it'd probably be a simpler task to train people...

        Are you serious? I'd take a complex sort algorithm over trusting the people who email me in a heartbeat! I've been begging a client of mine to stop marking his emails urgent for half a decade. Give it up man! Flagging your emails and using a lot of exclamation marks does not make you important!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by xaxa (988988)

        I use lots of filters:
        * 95% of opt-in advertising mail goes into the "Boring ads" folder, and is never read. If I'm booking a flight I'll look at some recent emails from the airlines I've used before, in case they've sent me a discount code. The other 5% goes in the "Ads" folder -- stuff I usually read, like emails from my favourite nightclub saying what's on this weekend.
        * Anything from my parents goes into a folder, they email me far too much.
        * Newsletters (from charities, alumni groups, etc) go in a fold

        • by Rutefoot (1338385)
          16 Labels on my personal email and about a dozen filters

          75+ labels on my work email and about 3 dozen filters

          Frankly, I'm going to be pissed if I did all that work for nothing
    • by N1AK (864906)

      How about putting "For action", "For reply", or "For your information" in the subject lines of e-mails?

      Because it would work about as well as the high importance flag in outlook. From experience it seems clear the sender of emails isn't the right person to decide importance etc for the receiver. There is no advantage to sorting my email by someone else's estimate of importance.

      I'm a little surprised that this kind of feature has been so long coming. If it works, it will be a big help to people who proces

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @11:06AM (#33426234) Journal

        Ideally, a mail client should track how often someone uses the 'high importance' flag. Someone where I used to work used it for every single mail that she sent to mailing lists, and they were never important. In contrast, my editor only uses it for stuff that I actually need to read and respond to urgently, maybe 1% of emails I get from him. A mail client could easily learn that the first person always abuses the flag, while the second person uses it appropriately, and only flag emails from him.

        It could also easily learn which senders always get immediate replies, while others get replies after a few days. Presumably the Google system is using the same sort of learning algorithms that they use for spam, but with this kind of thing as input rather.

    • by swarsron (612788)

      We did already lose the TOFU war. There is no way people would ever do this since it means more work for them.

    • by bennomatic (691188) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @11:13AM (#33426332) Homepage
      Most people are idiots about email. Two of my favorite people in the world are brilliant in so many ways, but they're idiots about email.

      One of these people doesn't know how to use an address book or type in an email address unless absolutely necessary, so all emails she sends are responses to old emails. So if I want to find an email that she sent last week, it might be in a thread that started in 2006. Or 2008. She's not consistent about which ones she responds to.

      The other one always puts "Hey Ben" in the subject. Doesn't matter what it's about; the subject is always, "Hey Ben". even when I change the subject line on response, he'll change it right back to "Hey Ben" when it's his turn.

      I've tried to explain the benefits of good subjects to both of them, but they give me that 10,000 mile stare like I'm speaking Klingon or something.
      • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @12:06PM (#33427062)
        I've tried to explain the benefits of good subjects to both of them, but they give me that 10,000 mile stare like I'm speaking Klingon or something.

        That sounds like a candidate for a suitable (fake) "bounce" message. Maybe something like this...

        "Attention Will Robinson! Your email has been intercepted by a lameness filter. Please try supplying an apposite subject line."
  • Yo Dawg (Score:5, Funny)

    by ultraexactzz (546422) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:13AM (#33425560) Journal
    I keep thinking back to our good friend Xibit when I read this article. Yo Dawg, I know you like Gmail, so I got you an inbox for your inbox, so you can read mail while you read mail.
  • by ojintoad (1310811) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:14AM (#33425566)

    Based on his website he doesn't sound like a Gmail engineer but more of a "MSc student in Computer Science at the University of Cape Town where [he does] research how to scale fuzzy crowds on the GPU with CUDA."

    I feel like it's possible that Doug Aberdeen, Software Engineer for Google, wrote that, or someone who represents Doug Aberdeen. It's more likely jason-za just copied and pasted that.

    I really hate writing such snide remarks but come on slashdot editors, how long would it have taken to correctly attribute this stuff...

  • arms race (Score:5, Insightful)

    by corbettw (214229) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `wttebroc'> on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:14AM (#33425576) Journal

    So now only emails meeting a certain priority will make it to the top of the list. How long until people figure out how to make their emails have higher priority and start abusing that power, leading the same problem Google just solved? Better to rely on a combination of filters to sort your mail for you as it comes in than try to trust some automated system (that can be gamed by others) to do it for you.

    • by bunratty (545641) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:17AM (#33425612)
      The solution is obvious... Demand email neutrality now!
      • Wait, a -1 Troll and not a +1 Funny for this obvious sarcasm and reference to net neutrality? Let this be a lesson for safe forum activity: always wear your /sarcasm tag.

    • How long before we see Google applying for a patent for "E-mail delivery and presentation based on priorities other than '!High!', 'Normal' and 'Low'"??
    • Re:arms race (Score:5, Insightful)

      by X_Bones (93097) <danorz13 AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:22AM (#33425674) Homepage Journal
      uh, it's not like they're just examining the X-Priority: OMG CRITICAL header field or anything here. TFA says it's based in part on the people who you email the most, and the emails which you choose to reply to. I imagine it'll work about as well as Gmail's spam filtering (i.e., pretty damn good in my experience).
      • by sorak (246725)

        So you game it by asking lots of questions. :)

    • by Nimey (114278)

      It's supposed to learn from your email-reading habits, so it's something like Thunderbird's Bayesian spamfilter, i.e. gaming this would be difficult.

    • by Moridin42 (219670)

      How is it an arms race? They didn't make it so that these criteria are what makes email important to everybody. It learns whats important to each user, individually. Thats a much harder target.

      If you read LKML messages every time, they'll start getting marked important. If i just look now and then, it won't be so marked in my inbox. You can help it learn by flagging a message important, or one that was incorrectly flagged important you can tag as unimportant. You can set up filters.

      Unlike a search engine, w

    • by esocid (946821)
      I tried it out this morning when I saw that new tab. It doesn't automatically say "Hey, it seems that you apparently have a small penis, so we'll give priority to all these peen enlarger emails." It gives a little prompt at first saying, "Are these emails important, and are these less important?" and you modify it if you need to. Again, in your inbox you can select a message and promote it, or demote it.

      It's actually made quite a difference to my inbox so far. I can now readily distinguish between my "read
    • by toppavak (943659)
      This will be fairly difficult. If I understand how they're implementing this correctly the decision of priority will not be based purely on content but rather on what content corresponds strongly with whether or not the user reads it quickly / other similar measures of importance. SEO is possible because it relies on generating content that allows a website moving up in rankings rather than also looking at user behavior connected to those websites (which links are clicked on most often for a given search, f
    • by adisakp (705706)
      Well, the priority is based on people you e-mail most often. So the only way for that to happen is for someone to hack into your Google contacts and impersonate them (or use your contacts and impersonate you when sending spam to your friends). Of course, given the variety of viruses, trojans, worms and bots on the average computers nowdays, I'm willing to bet that already happens quite often in today's world even before this change with g-mail.
    • by grumpyman (849537)
      It can be solved by introducing "urgent inbox", followed by "very urgent inbox"...etc.
    • by DeadboltX (751907)
      The simplest automatic filter rule I can think of for priority mail is to look for email addresses that I have sent mail to. If I have sent email to a particular email address then chances are I am interested in mail that comes from that address. This would easily cut my inbox down to 1/6 its size and would almost completely separate the "human discussion" emails from the other various types of emails I receive (invoices, alerts, advertisements etc)
    • That's just silly, who would try to game it? My friends and family who email me certainly won't. Anyone who would try to game this to get your attention would be sending junk mail which is already taken care of quite well by Google's spam filters.

      That said I'll give this a try, but I don't think it will be of much use to me. The mail filters I've already set up to prioritize mail work quite well.

  • by saibot834 (1061528) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:21AM (#33425658) Homepage

    The question is: Can a software that doesn't even know what's Viagra spam all the time claim to take over sorting important mail for you? Filtering important emails sounds much more difficult than filtering the usual spam: One one hand, spam usually comes in bulk; it is distributed to millions of addresses (which provides a way of detecting it) with little variety in regards to content. On the other hand, spam messages do have much more in common (because there are few authors with a handful of different content types) than "important mail", which is created by many different people with a huge variety in regards to content.

    • by esocid (946821)
      You seem to misunderstand how it works. It doesn't sort your mail on its own. Did you even watch the little video? You can tag who/what is important and in addition to regularly sorting out spam, it will send emails with people you actively correspond with into your priority box. Just like with your spam box, you can tag other messages as important, or less-important, and they go to their respective inboxes.

      I haven't had any spam get through their filters, but I have a 3 tiered email system. Gmails for per
    • The question is: Can a software that doesn't even know what's Viagra spam all the time claim to take over sorting important mail for you?

      As it turns out, yes. I was using this a decade ago [gnus.org] in Gnus.

  • by nido (102070) <nido56@noSPam.yahoo.com> on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:22AM (#33425668) Homepage

    There's a lot of crap that I used to think was important, or thought I'd be interested in... But the messages just piled up.

    One day i just started deleting. I think I removed 7,000 'conversations' from my gmail inbox in an hour. Now I'm much better about deleting crap emails (without opening them) instead of letting them languish...

    This 'priority inbox' will be interesting... Glad they're thinking about the problem - too bad it won't unsubscribe you from lists automatically. :)

    • by Laxori666 (748529)
      I noticed this with google reader recently. I had like 40 feeds, 20 different comics, that I'd check throughout the day. I just unsubscribed from 80% of them and realized I don't really miss it. The only difference is that now it's more obvious to me when I'm trying to waste time, since I just open and find an empty google reader page. And now it seems I've resorted to slashdot..
    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Should I ask why you didn't just create filters to have traffic from those lists automatically tagged appropriately and removed from your inbox?

      • by nido (102070)

        I did have a few such filters... But for the most part I never read the messages. What's the point of receiving an email if I'm never going to look at it? That's the kind of information I use a search engine for.

  • Someday, in the far future, Gmail may be almost as good as Gnus.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Someday, in the far future, Gmail may be almost as good as Gnus.

      Old saying: all operating systems are destined to reinvent unix, poorly.

      New saying: all applications are destined to reinvent emacs, poorly.

  • Intriguing, but... (Score:4, Informative)

    by jbarr (2233) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:24AM (#33425702) Homepage

    This is intriguing, but it just seems to add yet another layer. Is it really needed? By leveraging Filters and Labels, you can automatically categorize email to whatever you want.

    I also use the "Multiple Inboxes" Labs add-on that gives me a second "inbox" that is defined to display only "starred" items. no matter where the message is (in the inbox of archived with a label) I can always see those which I classify as "important." And by using Filters, this gets done automatically for many messages.

    • by Skreems (598317)
      That's good for people who want to set up a lot of manual labels (I'm one of them). However, there are a lot of people who don't, and even I find myself not taking the time to set up a filter for some of the smaller sources of "nice to have but unimportant" emails that I get. This does it automatically based on your behavior of how you interact with the stuff that makes it through the filter. Seems like a good idea to me.
    • This is intriguing, but it just seems to add yet another layer. Is it really needed? By leveraging Filters and Labels, you can automatically categorize email to whatever you want.

      By using filters and layers you can manually create rules to categorize email.

      Priority inbox doesn't require you to manually create rules, instead it infers the likely priority of mail based on your reading and replying habits.

      They both have their uses.

  • That's my favorite lab item. I have like 5 - mailing lists, purchases I am waiting for in the mail, TODO, etc... I wonder if it is compatible?

  • But he needs my help right now! He's just trying to get the millions of dollars stolen from him in the revolution!
  • by stagg (1606187) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:28AM (#33425754)
    I thought that's what filters were for. Gmail is getting a bit cluttered with features. The elegance of it was always one of the big wins for me. I'd rather have one simple, configurable feature that allows met do many things than a hundred buttons on my screen. Filters and tags already pretty much covered this.
    • Exactly. Filters + Skip the Inbox (archive it).

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @11:21AM (#33426454)

      I thought that's what filters were for.

      No, filters are for categorizing mail by the criteria you have thought through and told Gmail about.

      Priority Inbox is an option that, when you use it, tells Google you want it to do best-guess prioritization automatically, without you telling it any more than "do your thing".

      Priority Inbox will probably be most useful for people who don't want the bother of defining filters, though people who do have explicit filtering rules that are used to categorize mail may also find it useful for prioritizing the stuff that's left in the inbox.

  • Email is overused (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hannson (1369413) <hannson@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:32AM (#33425812)
    Simple solution: Unsubscribe

    I used to get over hundred emails a week; newsletters, stuff from mailing lists and lots of emails of almost no importance to me. I unsubscribed from everything, after all we have this thing called RSS so there's no need to get the same information sent to the inbox.

    I also watched a Google TechTalk called Inbox Zero by Merlin Mann [youtube.com] and have at most 5 emails in my inbox any day.

    We've got RSS for news, newsletters, IM for short messages like "What's for lunch today?", I feel like mailing lists drown my inbox so I don't let them email me at all, so there are a lot of ways to limit the emails you get each day.
    • Easier said than done. I get a daily feed of slashdot into my gmail account. I don't need it since I prefer going directly to the website. But, I can't unsubscribe, even when I follow the simple directions.
      • by pz (113803)

        Easier said than done. I get a daily feed of slashdot into my gmail account. I don't need it since I prefer going directly to the website. But, I can't unsubscribe, even when I follow the simple directions.

        Mark it as spam. Do that a handful of times and you'll never see it again.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        Why not just set up a filter to send it straight into the Trash folder?

  • Unfortunately I had to enable this, as trying to access my corporate gmail through Chrome on Linux always caused the flash "intro movie" to crash the browser. Even selecting "No Thanks" still caused it to hang, and then eventually play the video in the background. The only way to check my email this morning was to turn the damn thing on.
    • by esocid (946821)
      I had no video popup unless I clicked the "New Priority Inbox Feature" thing. I'm running chrome -unstable on Fedora 12. No problem on my desktop running the same on F13 x86_64.
      • by Skraut (545247)
        Interesting. I'm running 6.0.472.41 beta on the latest Ubuntu. It was Flash which was hanging even though the video wasn't selected.
  • Threading (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DirkBalognapantz (609779) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:46AM (#33425968)
    I just wish to hell they would allow users to turn off the threaded conversations. Google has been acting like a smarty-pants little child holding their breath on this one. Finding items around by date (especially when you only know the approximate date) would be so much easier if the just put their big boy pants on and enabled this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by VJ42 (860241) *

      Finding items around by date (especially when you only know the approximate date)

      That's easy, in the search box type: "from:abc@example.com after:YYYY/MM/DD before:YYYY/MM/DD" (quotes not included) you can also use it with a whole bunch of other search options: http://email.about.com/od/gmailtips/qt/et_find_mail.htm [about.com] - you certainly shouldn't 'lose' an email from gmail's archive if you know anything at all about it - Google is good at search.

  • I'd like to see GMail support a Reply-Request header that can be set by the sender and displayed to the recipient. That way when I send a question to someone I can sort my outstanding messages not yet replied to, and send a followup. An automatic timeout that prompts me with a composed followup request would be good. Recipients could see which requests are outstanding in their inbox. When my actual request is satisfied I could mark the thread as completed. The message IDs of the messages could link them all

    • by macraig (621737)

      You could solve that in Thunderbird with a tag applied after sending and a custom view or search folder. No need to involve Google at all.

  • I just went back to using Mac Mail and my iPhone checking all my accounts via IMAP. Everything keeps synced up. Very rarely do I log into Gmail from the web anymore.

    • Honestly, I think an E-mail client with this type of functionality, an address book which works as well as Outlook's and the ability to handle POP & IMAP the same way would be the cat's ass.

      Of course, I think Thunderbird 2 was the best E-mail client I ever had, so YMMV

  • I like what they've done here. They basically took their spam filter and inverted it, creating the anti-spam, aka 'priority inbox'. It is genuinely clever.

    It is also an absolute non-problem. The basic issue here is a human one, and is easily corrected.

    Lesson #1: Your inbox is not an oracle into the past. You do not need everyone to carbon copy you in on everything they ever send 'just in case'. This is absurd and sets you up for failure by accepting mail you never actually intend to read. Instead rev

    • by jvkjvk (102057)

      Sooo....

      Your solution is to make everyone use the application the way you want them to?

      I guess that the same solution should be used for malware.

      However, back in the real world, what if people don't want to do things your way?

      I would guess that Google's solution could be right for those people.

      Regards

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        If people are spamming me, then I suppose I'll block their email addresses.

        It isn't as if there isn't any consent here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      It is also an absolute non-problem.

      I suspect that Google has a lot better handle on their users needs than you do in this area. Your proposed alternative is to get all senders in the world to change their behavior to fit the receiver's preferences. Google's new optional tool allows receivers using GMail a way of getting a reasonable first-cut view of message priority that is based on the receivers treatment of past messages without senders changing behavior. Google's tool, it seems, is more likely to work

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        I'll suppose you failed to consider the final paragraph, but even if you merely disagree with the notion that this technology makes the problem worse, consider this:

        Allowing someone to email you is a choice.

    • PopFile.

      Been there, done that... and without the privacy concerns this will engender.

  • Very useful (Score:4, Insightful)

    by D H NG (779318) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @11:28AM (#33426586)
    I've been using this for about 6 months and it's very useful. Mail from people I read and reply to more often usually percolate to the top. Sometimes unimportant mail are marked as "important" but I can downgrade them. Just keep an eye on the "Everything else" pile once in a while, sometimes important mail are mislabeled.
  • I'm not so sure about the false dichotomy again here. Things aren't black and white, there are shades of grey, so mail should be sorted according to a rating, rather than a seperate folder.

  • Ah, so PopFile's generalized classification system lives again, reanimated in another body?

  • by brentonboy (1067468) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @03:05AM (#33433170) Homepage Journal

    But what would be really useful is a snooze button for emails that would archive them for a few days (or whatever time you specify for that email) and then have it pop up in your inbox as if new after that.

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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