Hmm.  This makes me wish my e-mail system was a self-organizing outliner.  The biggest problem with Outlook is that it makes it difficult to categorize/archive mail and make rules.  Here's some of the attributes I would like to see:

  • Top level nodes would develop around people or type (mail-list). 
  • Contact info for people available via v-card would be located in an icon next to their name.  This eliminates the need for a separate contacts list.
  • Nodes would combine inbound and outbound e-mail to those people.
  • Dragging an e-mail into an outline would co-mingle multiple addresses with a single individual. 
  • Inbox flow would remain the same but would provide indication of whether the e-mail was already categorized to an outline node.  That would allow me to read it and discard it (knowing that it being kept in archive).
  • I could drag people into meta top level nodes to group them by company, organization, or mail list.   Meta nodes would aggregate contact information for individuals attached to the group (this would make it easy to click one button to e-mail the entire group).
  • E-mails that contain multiple individuals would be included in the nodes for each of the individuals listed.
  • A list of new people would be included in my outline automatically. 

Spam would work like this in the inbox (I am more than a little wary of spam filters since they can screen out real mail by accident — so a rules based approach that I could actively manage would be much better):

  • All likely spam based on key word combos would be flagged as potential spam. 
  • Two spam deletes are possible.  One for a soft delete (all e-mails from this specific address are to be blocked in the future) and a hard delete (all e-mails from this domain are to be blocked in the future). 
  • If I delete a person as a spammer, their node in the outline goes away.
  • I could click to view the inbox as a list of people that are known to me.  This would allow me to focus on the good stuff first.
  • I could click to view the inbox by top level nodes (ie. in my case it would include: customers, partners, friends, UserLand, mail-list, etc.)
  • I could quickly delete all e-mails in my inbox that have been categorized with a single click (deleting an e-mail from a node in the outline would delete it from the archive).

E-mail views would work like this:

  • I could view a thread of interactions with a person as a fleshed out outline.
  • I could view a thread of interactions with a person as a weblog. 
  • I could view a thread of  interactions with a meta node as either an outline or a weblog.
  • Duplicate e-mails (like those sent to a group), would be filtered out of the weblog view of a meta node.

E-mail publishing would work like this:

  • All e-mails or e-mail threads could be be published to a weblog as either a story or as a annotated post via a one-click icon next to each node.
  • If published as a story (basically a new page), the page would be created automatically and a link inserted into the edit box for annotation.
  • I could publish a complete thread to my weblog as a category weblog.
  • I could send an e-mail that contained an OPML file that contained interactions with an individual or group by clicking on a send icon next to the top level node.  This allows me to share the effort I put into categorization of my e-mail.
  • I could make certain nodes and items private so that when I published a top level node, every section except the private areas would be published.

Search would work like this:

  • A Google keyword search with Google style output (like Find and Zoe).
  • Results would include a link to the OPML thread for that e-mail.
  • Attachments like PDFs would be converted into HTML for easy viewing (as an option).

For all the people that have 10's of thousands of e-mails in their inbox (I know lots of people that do this), self-categorization would be a God-send.  For those that spend the time to prune/organize their categories and build rules, this would make it simple.  The old e-mail paradigm was OK when I got only 25-50 e-mails a day.  Now that I get 400 or more a day, I need some help staying organized. [John Robb's Radio Weblog]

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