No one should ever have to do anything with a mail message except ignore it, read it, or read and respond. When I see people “cleaning up” their mail files, faithfully stuffing each message into a folder or otherwise file-clerking for a machine, acting as their computer’s loyal (albeit menial) employee, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. (Laugh is usually the right answer.)
As volume rises, more email conversations trail off into nothing for unknown reasons, the medium is devalued further, and the problem gets worse–people set even less store by a mail message, send one out on even less provocation, volume rises, more email conversations trail off into nothing for unknown reasons, the medium is devalued even further.
…and suggests a solution:
there is a way to counteract ever-higher volumes and varieties of online information: by making the interface far simpler and more uniform. Every digital item you own or ever will own will be stored in a single structure. (Various companies, including one I work for, are building this type of software.) This single structure with all your information inside will be accessible from any computer or quasi-computer anywhere. (Any cell phone, laptop, answering machine, TV, automobile.) It will be easy to display, to visualize, to manipulate. Thus, a sort of “information beam” that grows brighter all the time (as more and more information is added), but can be focused easily with pinpoint precision. To handle rich, varied, and voluminous information, you need a simple and uniform package. The book (the physical object–sheets bound on end) is the finest design in history for exactly that reason. A book might be about anything, but all books work the same way. When software design is a tenth as sophisticated as book design, we will be getting somewhere.