TITLE: Moving a Flatter Email Archive AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: January 06, 2017 4:29 PM DESC: ----- BODY: I'm not a New Year's resolution person, but I did make a change recently that moved me out of my comfort zone. Here's a quick version of the story. I'm a hierarchical guy, like a lot of computer scientists, I imagine. That helps me manage a lot of complexity, but sometimes it also consumes more personal time than I'd like. I'm also a POP mail guy. For many years, Eudora was my client of choice. A while back, I switched to Mail.app on OS X. In both, I had an elaborate filing system in which research mail was kept in a separate folder from teaching mail, which was kept in a separate folder from personal was kept in a separate folder from .... There were a dozen or so top-level folders, each having sub-folders. Soon after I became department head a decade or so ago, I began to experience the downsides of this approach as much as the upsides. Some messages wanted to live in two folders, but I had to choose one. Even when the choice was easy, I found myself spending too many minutes each week filing away messages I would likely never think of again. For years now, my browser- and cloud-loving friends have been extolling to me the value of leaving all my mail on the server, hitting 'archive' when I wanted to move a message out of my inbox, and then using the mail client's search feature to find messages when I need them later. I'm not likely to become a cloud email person any time soon, but the cost in time and mental energy of filing messages hierarchically finally became annoying enough that I decided to move into the search era. January 1 was the day. But I wasn't ready to go all the way. (Change is hard!) I'd still like to have a gross separation of personal mail from professional mail, and gross separation among email related to teaching, research, professional work, and university administration. If Mail.app had tags or labels, I might use them, but it doesn't. At this point, I have five targeted archive folders: a folder for the course I am currently teaching, a folder for bulk mail and unavoidable mailing lists, and a folder for everything else. Everything else includes messages from mailing lists I choose to be on, such as the Racket users listserv and personal lists. None of these has subfolders. I still have three other small hierarchies. The first is where I keep folders for other courses I have taught or plan to teach. I like the idea of keeping course questions and materials easy to find. The second is for hot topics I am working on as department head. For instance, we are currently doing a lot of work on outcomes assessment, and it's helpful to have all those messages in a separate bin. When a topic is no longer hot, I'll transfer its messages to the department archive. The third is is a set of two or three small to-do boxes. Again, it's helpful to an organizer like me to have such messages in a separate bin so that I can find and respond to them quickly; eventually those messages will move to the appropriate flat archive. Yes, there is still a lot going on here, but it's a big change for me. So far, so good. I've not felt any urges to create subfolders yet, and I've used search to find things when I've needed them. After I become habituated to this new way of living, perhaps I'll feel daring enough to go even flatter. Let's not talk about folders in my file system, though. Hierarchy reigns supreme there, as it always has. -----