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Microsoft Looks At Integrating Forums and E-mail 462

Posted by Hemos
from the good-ideas dept.
prostoalex writes "Scott Hanselman shares a document from Microsoft Research internal Web site on Gina Venolia's latest research in user interface design. Since half of the e-mail conversations require reply and then further replies, the model is not too different from current Web forums. Future Outlook versions might integrate the nested interface for e-mail conversations." Gotta say, that'd be pretty nice to have.
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Microsoft Looks At Integrating Forums and E-mail

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  • by ChaoticChaos (603248) * <l3sr-v4cf&spamex,com> on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:48PM (#7786797)
    /. ran a story about this very thing from IBM's R&D who also came to the same conclusion.

    Honestly, it's hard to believe that it took PHD "rocket scientists" to come to the conclusion that email is probably better interfaced as a forum. We've all known that for years. It's also hard to understand why there aren't "big name" email clients that already support that kind of interface.

    Thinking of Microsoft's offering in this area, it would be nice if they automatically emailed the author of the worm that ravaged your system so you could conduct a forum-interfaced conversation with the person. Kinda like an auto-Friendster between worm-authors and worm-targets. ;-)
    • Why has this taken so long?

      it hasn't. we used to call it "usenet".

      • by Kaa (21510) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:06PM (#7786996) Homepage
        it hasn't. we used to call it "usenet".

        Nah, not even close. Usenet is a free-for-all public discussion. Email exchange is an invitation-only private discussion. Big difference.
        • Thank you! Finally, someone clarified the issue. It's amazing how many people are waving the Usenet flag around in this thread and that is an apples and oranges comparison.

          A butt is a terrible place to store a head.
          • by Anonymous Coward
            Thank you! Finally, someone clarified the issue. It's amazing how many people are waving the Usenet flag around in this thread and that is an apples and oranges comparison.

            The distinction is less clear if you use a mail-reader/news-reader like Gnus. It threads both and allows references to/from each. I have mailing list topics that are threaded in Gnus and they work just like a newsgroup. Sometimes someone responds to a newsgroup post directly to me, I can use the "get-parent" operation and Gnus will
            • Re:Amazing...WOW (Score:5, Insightful)

              by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:55PM (#7787455) Homepage Journal
              Hmm...my little simple text email client, "Mutt", has been doing the threading of my emails for years now.

              If MS really wanted to impress me with an upgrade to Outlook, they'd take out the damned HTML mail capabilities. I've seen 3 line emails from people come at me, that were so overbloated with background images, fonts and other crap that is not only unnecessary, but, actually distracting from the message they tried to convey...

              I like threaded messages, been working well for awhile, but, do it in plain text like it was meant to be..

              • Hmm...my little simple text email client, "Mutt", has been doing the threading of my emails for years now.

                If MS really wanted to impress me with an upgrade to Outlook, they'd take out the damned HTML mail capabilities. I've seen 3 line emails from people come at me, that were so overbloated with background images, fonts and other crap that is not only unnecessary, but, actually distracting from the message they tried to convey...


                Looks like your "simple text email client" might want to incorporate some f
                • Re:Amazing...WOW (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by cayenne8 (626475)
                  Oh..I can view HTML messages. My argument was that there should NOT be HTML messages....not what email was meant for...it provide unnecessary bloat, and clutter to what is essentially a plain text message.
          • by hamanu (23005) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:17PM (#7787115) Homepage
            Actually it is STILL just usenet.

            You see, you CAN have PRIVATE news servers with PRIVATE newsgroups using exsisting usenet technology. You just have to not specify any news peers, and require login/passwords.

            I did this years ago.
            • by thing12 (45050) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:37PM (#7787293) Homepage
              Actually it is STILL just usenet.

              You see, you CAN have PRIVATE news servers with PRIVATE newsgroups using exsisting usenet technology. You just have to not specify any news peers, and require login/passwords.

              No, really it isn't. This concept is that of a discussion that can evolve from a simple email exchange between a small group, to one that grows and grows as more people are invited in. Unless you can automatically and transparently convert an email thread into a private newsgroup - and then only allow admittance to those who are specifically invited by sending them a message (maybe with some sort of key) - then Usenet doesn't accomodate this at all. Sure, having a "department only" usenet group, or server is a handy thing. But it's ad-hoc discussions between a very small subset of people that you're ignoring. Easilly adding people to a discussion who are not necessarily privvy everything else a group discusses is exactly what email gives you and usenet doesn't.
        • by chadjg (615827) <chadgessele2000 AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:33PM (#7787259) Journal
          Ithink that the "invitation only" part of this might be a bit deceptive. How do you ignore somebody that works a couple of cubes down? God knows you have to ignore most people in chat rooms and nearly all of them on usenet.

          Maybe if Microsoft built a user adjustable moderation system, with some meta-supervision built in it would be easier to gracefully ignore the office yahoo. Something tells me that they may have to spend a couple of bucks for a license to this, I think I've seen it before.

          Some kind of control is essential, I think. I half remember a .sig somewhere about usenet being in aspect and product like a panicked herd of circus elephants.

          I think this could be great, but I hope they think about it before they do it. Having most of the world's emailers with acess to a slashdot would be a freaking disaster.
        • by JimDabell (42870) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:35PM (#7787277) Homepage

          Usenet is a free-for-all public discussion. Email exchange is an invitation-only private discussion. Big difference.

          Not really. It's trivial to set up a private NNTP server. Okay, you can't call private NNTP servers "Usenet", but it's the exact same software.

        • by QNX (551810) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:55PM (#7787452)
          Nah, not even close. Usenet is a free-for-all public discussion. Email exchange is an invitation-only private discussion. Big difference

          Nah, not even close. Email exchange is a free-for-all spam me public discussion. Big difference.

        • Email exchange is private, unless you're sending to a mailing list. Then it's limited to the people who are on the mailing list, unless it's a mailing list archived online. If it's archived online and can get mail from people who are not subscribed, then it's identical to usenet except for the underlying protocols.

          In fact, Pine has provided the same interface to email and usenet for ages. Google actually provides a web forum interface to usenet.

          The only real difference between email and usenet is what the
      • by CoolVibe (11466) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:14PM (#7787087) Journal
        I dunno, but where I come from, we call that a 'mailing list'.
    • Well... I can't say that I like Lotus Notes, but it has had a "discussion thread" mode for viewing e-mails for a long time... It's pretty useful for keeping track of team conversations.
    • by Bazzargh (39195) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:34PM (#7787273)
      I'm not sure if MS aren't talking about something different from what most of this discussion thinks they are. Rather than showing the thread of discussion of whole emails (which we're all used to in other clients) it might be they mean something more like this old discussion of what e-mail discussions should look like [zesty.ca] by Ka Ping-Yee..

      In case you manage to /. that, the idea is that it shows the responses to pieces of your email - the kind where someone says "see my responses inline" and responds to each of your points piecemeal, then you do the same to their responses, and so on.

      I've often thought it would be cool to write something to parse emails the KPY way, but the heuristics would have to be pretty damn clever to deal with supercite [delorie.com]. Specifically what I wanted was something that combined KPY's ideas with text-autosummarization [cpan.org] , and some 'author ranking' information to produce mailing list summaries from gmane [gmane.org] which are like Kernel Traffic and Cousins [zork.net], or the now-defunct Eclectic [userland.com].

      Oh well, I can always wait until MS put this in Outlook 2010 ;)
      • It simply requires people to stop that horribly moronic "top-posting" style of response.

        If I want to respond piecemeal to an email, the only sane way to do it is to write my responses in between your paragraphs. As responses accumulate, back and forth, other readers see an easy-to-read flow of conversation. And "other readers" will include myself, reading old mail weeks/months/years after the fact.

        Trying to respond point-by-point while keeping all of your text preceeding the other person's text is hop

        • You know, I completely agree with you.

          It simply requires people to stop that horribly moronic "top-posting" style of response.

          If I want to respond piecemeal to an email, the only sane way to do it is to write my responses in between your paragraphs. As responses accumulate, back and forth, other readers see an easy-to-read flow of conversation. And "other readers" will include myself, reading old mail weeks/months/years after the fact.

          Trying to respond point-by-point while keeping all of your text prece

    • by Tom (822)
      that email is probably better interfaced as a forum.

      For some people.

      I hate forums, and their uncomfortable UI is one reason. I also keep my mutt in sort-by-date because threading sucks.

      You see, the #1 UI wisdom that M$ will never get is that different people have different wants and needs.

      I don't care what some bigname at some bigcompany thinks is good for me. I already know, thank you, now go away.
    • Thinking of Microsoft's offering in this area

      Actually, I'd like to see someone other than MS devise a popular interface like this first, such as an open source developer. If such a release was Outlook compatible and Linux compatible (of course) and gain some ground in the business world, it would be less likely that MS will devise their new email interface and require new costly per user licensing, instead of simply offering it as an upgrade.

  • Uhm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by metrazol (142037) <jwm33&cornell,edu> on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:49PM (#7786803)
    Great, we're going backwards... this is USENET, isn't it? I love that people first complain that new technology doesn't do what they want, but rejoice when new technology does what the old technology did, just at four times the cost. Really people, can we invent something new for once?
    • Re:Uhm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Albanach (527650) on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:57PM (#7786899) Homepage
      It's interesting that Outlook forces you to use Outlook Express as a usenet client, rather than having the functionality built in. This is fairly typical Microsoft practise when they want to be able to sell you something, yet still say the functionality via open standards is available.

      For example, in Outlook there are frequent problems when using lots of IMAP folders. To share calendars etc, you need to use POP3. Microsoft, however, can sell you exchange server to replace your IMAP folders and allow you to share calendars.

      If Outlook had built in NNTP support, every office would have a local NNTP server doing this. Instead, they'll add a new feature to Outlook that will only be available if you're running it with MS Exchange. Big bucks.

    • Great, we're going backwards... this is USENET, isn't it?

      The invention here is to represent e-mail in a threaded view. Although it's not really an invention since other mail readers can do this.

      Anyway, the problem with switching to Usenet for this feature is that you need to switch.
    • Re:Uhm... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      While I wouldn't go as far as saying that this is 'new' technology, I would say that it's at least a different approach to something common using existing technologies. Email has been pretty much modeled the same way it has been since it was conceived in the 60s/70s. The 'mail' in 'email' implies the kind of model it follows, where one individual sends a message to another similar to mailing a letter. However, while with regular mail it takes several days (at a minimum) to receive a response, email response
  • This way... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lane.exe (672783) on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:49PM (#7786804) Homepage
    You can pinpoint exactly where in the conversation the worm came in!

    It's all about trusted computing, people.

    • Trusting Microsoft with your computing is like trusting your dog with a steak.

      Major difference: It's usually possible to convince your boss not to trust a dog with a steak. At least until the dog starts a multi-billion dollar advertising campaign.
  • by l-ascorbic (200822) on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:50PM (#7786806)
    ...Apple Mail has done this since Panther came out. Emails can be viewed as threaded discussions. It's clever, and doesn't just go on subject line, but also pays attention to in-reply-to headers (or whatever it's really called).
    • by PotPieMan (54815) on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:54PM (#7786869)
      Mutt [mutt.org] has done this for as long as I can remember.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:55PM (#7786879)
      Indeed, the latest Mac mail has a "fancy threads" feature: http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/mail/ [apple.com]
    • by SkArcher (676201) on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:59PM (#7786927) Journal
      Operas inbuilt E-mail client, M2, also already does this, integrating it with the usenet reader as well.

      Opera can be set to a variety of preferences for how it makes threads, depending on reply-to's, users recieve, subject lines and matched text in the mail body.

      This is not a new idea, it is just new to MS users.
    • No it's different (Score:5, Informative)

      by pavon (30274) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:14PM (#7787089)
      Come on guys. I know reading the article is too much to ask for but could you at least look at the pretty picture. Apple Mail, Mozilla, mutt, pine all have a feature that let you sort the message listing in a usenet-style nested format. This is very different from displaying the contents of the messages themselves in a nested slashdot-style format. AFAIK, these other programs do not have this feature.
      • Re:No it's different (Score:5, Informative)

        by CTho9305 (264265) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:44PM (#7787357) Homepage
        See page 6 [microsoft.com] of this pdf for what the article refers to... This [cmu.edu] is what Moz does.
      • by Baki (72515) on Monday December 22, 2003 @02:07PM (#7787544)
        I have been reading mailing lists for 10 years using GNUS, the usenet client for emacs. GNUS has many other "backends", not only nntp/usenet. You can really read mailing lists as if they were newsgroups. You can configure your "post" to just send the message to the list server, and your usenet kill files (and score files) are applied to these "groups" just like elsewhere.

        GNUS can even read your inbox and split your mails into different "groups"/lists based on criteria you configure, you don't need procmail for that.

        And it has a slashdot backend, to convert slashdot into a newsgroup :) (but I'm not using it at the moment).
      • Bingo! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mabhatter654 (561290)
        What's really needed is to "merge" something like slashdot, squirrelmail, jabber, and evolution to create an entirely new beastie! I came the same conclusion at my workplace too. Once you get tired of supporting everybody's seperate folders and tracking all the bits and pieces of individual's accounts you realize there has to be a better way. So you read slashdot every day, and /. is exactly what you need for "internal" email!

        So what needs to happen is for each user to have a personal "account" that d

    • Eudora now does it with Version 6. You can even set your preferences for it to not display anything that has more than 2 reply markers (message nesting)... Comes in very handy so you don't have 500 lines of message to wade through when it's a reply of a reply of a reply....
    • ...Apple Mail has done this since Panther came out.

      ...and Outlook 2003 has done this since before Panther came out.

      On October 21st 2003 to be precise [techtarget.com], as opposed to Panther on October 24th 2003 [askbjoernhansen.com].

      Incidentally has anyone noticed that Panther has Microsoft style crash error reporting back to Apple now?
  • Mozilla Has this (Score:4, Informative)

    by nachoman (87476) on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:50PM (#7786809)
    Mozilla already has this. You can set your email to threaded view and it looks just like it does when viewing a newsgroup. Newsgroups are really email meets forums. Forums just seem to be gaining more ground today instead of newsgroups.

    There is nothing new here. Move along people, nothing to see.
    • Usenet is basically dead. Everyone has moved to forums.

      It's interesting that no one has written software to syphon off new forum posts from all the forums you frequent so you can read them all in one place like Usenet software did.

      That would be some mega-useful software.
      • that would be difficult without forum software. however, many forums allow you to receive email whenever your subscribed threads are replied to.
      • by mr.capaneus (582891)
        Usenet is most definitely not dead. There is a big spam problem in many newsgroups but there are also many active NG's with many contributors. It will be a sad day when usenet really does die.
    • Re:Mozilla Has this (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DukeyToo (681226) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:13PM (#7787080) Homepage
      I think that threaded email is only half of the solution. Some of my conversations use email, some Usenet, some use instant messaging software, some use issue tracking software, some use phone calls, and the rest are person-person.

      Threaded emails is nice, but really it would be great if I had threaded multi-provider tracking of conversations. So, if a IM conversation leads to an email + a phone call, it would be great if that could all be captured in a threaded view.

      Its all technically feasible, except for (perhaps) the person-person chats.
    • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:41PM (#7787341)
      What Mozilla doesn't have is a way to intergrate your responses into the message tree in your inbox. Sure, you can display stuff threaded, but it doesn't look like a conversation because it leaves out your input. I take it the proposed Outlook implementation would be different.
  • MacOS X Mail? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Pirogoeth (662083)
    The latest version of MacOS X Mail [apple.com] attempts to do threading to keep back-and-forth discussions together.
  • Mailing lists???
  • yay (Score:5, Funny)

    by pardasaniman (585320) on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:52PM (#7786843) Journal
    Now we can spend minutes loading chain emails with 1mb activex controls, and several viruses all at once.

    Microsoft: Where will u be able to go today?
    Apple: Where will u go while we distract you with random graphics?
    Linux: How will u go where you want today?
  • Every mail reader I've used for several years will display messages like that. Admittedly, they've added more dancing clowns, but the view looks the same as in other readers.
    Looks to me like they're just fixing stuff that they never got around to implementing in Outlook in the first place. This is one of the reasons that I've always thought Outlook sucked so bad. If they put in thread view, it'll suck a little less bad.
  • by Elladan (17598) on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:53PM (#7786856)
    Wow, next thing you know, they'll be inventing the command line!

    I mean, just imagine... You could control a computer just by typing in text, almost like language! None of those bizarre manhandling a carpal tunnel creating mouse all day to point at primitive representations on the screen!

    Er, oh wait. They are.

    Why is it that whenever Microsoft "invents" something that everyone else has had for decades, it's "big news" and "innovation" ?
  • by mirko (198274)
    For most old-school netizens, the newsgroups are the best way to get spammed.
    Somebody once used Netscape to forward one of my private mails to a newsgroups.
    Since then, this address has become useless : too much spam.
    Now, if you want to integrate both systems, mail and news, you'd rather think of a non-obvious way to obfuscate email address.
    I also guess it'd be a good idea for Google to just enable anyone to EASILY get some posts mentioning his own coordinates removed.
    At least, they could detect email addres
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ximian evolution has done this, at least since 1.4.5 and probably earlier. My e-mail has been a lot easier to manage using this format. It must have been real tricky for Microsoft to 'think up' this idea, when an actual product already has it in use. Oh wait, that's what they do... They'll probably patent it now.
  • by bazik (672335) <bazikNO@SPAMgentoo.org> on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:54PM (#7786872) Homepage Journal
    >Future Outlook versions might integrate
    >the nested interface for e-mail conversations

    They should better work on a noob-proof attachment handling and add a dozen of messageboxes when the luser double-clicks the attachment... 'Are really you sure you want to open nudeteens.jpg.exe?'

    If they'd at least integrate a virus scanner... they did buy a AV company, why dont they use their knowledge?

    Not that I use Windows or Outlook, but I am annoyed about the ~100 viruses I get every day... *sigh*

  • This is at least 1 year since Mozilla Mail has this feature, Thunderbird has it also and so has The Bat and Mail.app (OSX)...

    I would like to know how much Gina Venolia got paid to find something so much obvious...
  • New feature? Hah. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:56PM (#7786882) Homepage

    This sounds a lot like sorting a folder by thread (in-reply-to/references, time, subject). Is there any non-MS e-mail program out there that doesn't allow for that? Pine does, Mutt does, Evolution does, Mozilla/Thunderbird does... does MS really need an R&D department to tell them that a 20-year-old standard feature would be useful?

  • Kudos (Score:2, Funny)

    by mabu (178417)
    Kudos to Microsoft for once again being on the cutting edge of copying 20-year old technology.

    I hear next month they'll be introducing a text-only browser called MS-Hedgehog.
  • by Bowie J. Poag (16898) on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:57PM (#7786904) Homepage


    90% of my car trips involve buying something. Doesn't mean I want a cash-register in my car.

  • by kervel (179803) on Monday December 22, 2003 @12:58PM (#7786916)
    i think they mean the same layout as ./ comments when you set view to 'nested' (not 'threaded')
  • Good... or bad (Score:4, Informative)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:02PM (#7786948)
    This could be useful, but it would really depend on how well it's designed (which is a big red flag, given that we're talking about Microsoft). You'd certainly need some way to disable it.

    I work at a university, and I've got a few professors who use their inbox as their address book. So whenever they write to me, the message invariably has the same subject line - usually from a project that ended one, two, or more years ago! They pick that one because that's the first message from me they find in their inbox. I would imagine in this circumstance every mail I've ever gotten from the particular individuals would be concatenated into one long discussion - even though very little or none of it would be cogent to the current message or messages.
  • Oooh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:03PM (#7786964) Homepage Journal
    After millions of dollars of research, Microsoft "innovates" the web-cached listserve that's been around for years. I bet they patent it, too.

    To give them credit though, their interface draws lines between the messages for the thread, which none of the primative web-cached listserves do. Obviously this advance in user-friendliness justifies the research dollars put into the effort.

  • by Dark Lord Seth (584963) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:03PM (#7786968) Journal

    Automatic "Standard reply" button included with the following options:

    • AOL reply: "me too!!!" with random capital letters.
    • Goth angst reply: 4 page poem describing death, decay and entropy on a personal level. Ends with "me too!!!" with random capital letters.
    • Teen angst reply: 4 page essay on how best friend's sister-in-law got pregnant from a 66 year old bum, End with "me too!!!" with random capital letters.
    • MS developer reply: 40 page EULA which basically means MS owns your house, car, soul and first born, ends with "me too!!!" with random capital letters.
    • Overclocker reply: 20 page essay on why your Outlook is faster because you changed the default desktop theme. Ends with "me too!!!" with random capital letters.
    • Script kiddie reply: Automagically hacks all Outlook apps on other computers using the forum, displays "me too!!!" with random capital letters in an endless popup loop.
    • Linux/Mac user reply: Formats HD, overheats CPU and lists you with the dept of HS as potential communistic terrorist involved with drug cartels. Automaticallly posts a flame claiming Linux is a travestite and RMS's beard is made out of pubic hair.
    • Linux/Mac user reply: Formats HD, overheats CPU and lists you with the dept of HS as potential communistic terrorist involved with drug cartels. Automaticallly posts a flame claiming Linux is a travestite and RMS's beard is made out of pubic hair.

      Funny.. i give you that... But i dunno if you should lump the Linux and Mac folks together yet. They still don't mix together quite so well. ;^)
  • ...but MS trying to pull this sort of thing is just what we need. Maybe i'm biased or pessimistic, but i'm sure that they will find some way to proprietize it (one) and leverage some way to (intentionally or unintentionally) break current email systems (two).

    Case in point? Win95 splash screens extolling the ability to "personalize your email with RTF, different fonts and HTML". Because of this, 3 out of 5 email messages being sent appear to be purple MS Comic Sans text over blue background, with 180K o
  • IM, VOIP, email...we're still looking for a unified inbox here folks. If its all IP packets, it can all be managed in one place.
  • Groupwise (Score:2, Informative)

    by BaronM (122102)
    Groupwise has had this for a while now. I'm pretty sure Notes does too. And Mozilla. And Mutt.
  • by glawrie (663927) * on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:04PM (#7786980)
    An earlier Slashdot article ( Remail: IBM is Reinventing Email [slashdot.org]) from December 9th 2003 discusses similar work done by IBM researcher's on an advanced email system. It too aims to put the 'user' at the heart of email processing, and has identified clever iconic images with dots and lines as a way to help navigate discussion threads. But IBM's project seems to be more expansive than the work reported here, covering more aspects of how we interact with email.
  • by Montag2k (459573) <jgamage@alum.rp i . e du> on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:05PM (#7786985) Homepage
    I've set up my Outlook 2000 to do this. All you need to do is go to the Tools menu, mouse over Current View, and change the option to "By Conversation Topic". You can also add buttons to automatically "Expand all" or "Collapse all" conversations. Its very handy - as soon as a new e-mail comes in, the entire conversation moves to the top of your inbox and you can re-read the history.

    Montag
  • Well for a true Web forum style Outlook to truly work, you would want a centrallized server storing the threads. Relying on client-only (or is standard email best described as peer-to-peer with the ISP just handling delivery) programs would lead to fracture of threads. So with the wonderful XP authentication system, Passport, Messenger and now outlook only being served out of Redmond, not only will MS have a large control of your communication pathways they will be ever so close to offering the dream of t
  • Microsoft had better overhaul their communications/Internet software (i.e. buy it from a proper software developer) before they try to merge forums into the rest of their 'platform'. It's already bad enough that Internet Explorer and Outlook are so tightly integrated.
  • Been there done that in Mozilla. Nice but not worth the MS Marketing Engine.

    How about something more useful like a generic "decoratable" PIM object? i.e. I get an email with somthing I need to do. I attach a date to it so it appears in my calendar. Not just a copy of the message text, but actually the email itself? Attach a priority and percent complete to it and it appears in my task listing. Thus it becomes "data" as opposed to "email".

    And for the record, links or attachments from inside a task to an e
  • It's also hard to understand why there aren't "big name" email clients that already support that kind of interface.

    Umm, you mean like this one [http]?

    Or this one [mozilla.org]?

    Or this one [ximian.com]?

    Just because MS has been dragging it's feet for years doesn't mean other people have.

  • And... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bluesman (104513) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:13PM (#7787081) Homepage
    ...people will still decide to include the whole thread of original messages as mangled text in the bottom of their email, just in case you deleted all the previous emails and forgot what the conversation was about.

    >Oh geez, would you look at this?
    >
    >> Microsoft invents threaded email

  • Once again... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stubear (130454) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:20PM (#7787148)
    ...Slashbots worldwide demonstrate their ignorance and blind devotion to the grand pumbah, errr, penguin and fail to understand what this new interface is all about. Let me first state that this is not simply e-mail threading like that in many other applications, even including Outlook since at least Outlook 97, maybe even sooner but this was the first version I began using as my sole e-mail app (in Outlook: click the 'group by box' and 'field chooser' in the advanced toolbar menu and select the appropriate fields to sort e-mail by. Tres cool.) Go re-read the "Conversation Clues" [hanselman.com] section of the article for a bit more info. Here's a relevant snippet for those who can't be bothered to RTFA though:

    It doesn't stop here. Venolia has also designed the user interface to give you some metrics about your conversations - you can find out at-a-glance just who you communicate with the most, and whether you are the originator, recipient or a participant. You can also see a complete list of the attachments, URLS, and images that are found in all your messages, in case you don't want to hunt through past e-mails to find that one document or Web site reference that you want.


    Innovation does not necessarily mean invention. Sometimes innovation is merely making something that already exists work better or more accessible. Gina's UI research has definitely developed somethign innovative in the field of e-mail UI design.
  • by azaris (699901) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:28PM (#7787220) Journal

    ...but will someone please kill all the "web boards" that:

    a) Require you to click on each message to view it, inviting a host of contentless posts where everything is in the title.

    b) Invite the users to implant 100+k images, signatures and icons for each and every "me too" post they make.

    c) Have built-in smileys. Nuff said.

    A lot of people complain that Usenet is nothing but spam, but if the average "web board" is the future of online discussion I think I'll go back to pen and paper.

  • by Nucleon500 (628631) <tcfelker@example.com> on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:30PM (#7787233) Homepage
    Seriously - this problem was solved long ago in newsgroups (and on Slashdot). Instead of top-posting, quote the relevant material and write below it. Before Outlook Express became the de-facto email/news client, there was no problem. Then OE ruined that custom, and now they want it back. It's a simple change - fix the horrible line-wrapping for replies to text emails, and make the cursor show up on the bottom for replies.

    Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text.
    > Why is top-posting a bad thing?
    >> Top-posting.
    >>> What is the most annoying thing on usenet and in email?
  • by Xthlc (20317) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:34PM (#7787266)
    Grand Central seems like it would be appropriate for short emails, but the technique chosen for illustrating conversation threads (pretty much the same as the Sort Messages By Thread feature I use in Mozilla) depends on having both parent and child on the screen at the same time to illustrate a relationship. Most email conversations that I really care about are a much longer than a few sentences -- the entire body text of any two emails couldn't fit on the screen. Grand Central is trying to apply a visual structure better suited to IM conversations that take place a sentence at a time.

    Now, Grand Central would be impressive if it could parse emails for quoted text, and use that to snip out sections of emails (since a paragraph of text below a quote is most likely to be a reply to that quote). Most of my business discussions tend to consist of point-by-point replies, replies to those replies, etc.
  • As I suspected... (Score:5, Informative)

    by potcrackpot (245556) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:37PM (#7787297) Homepage
    99.9% of the comments so far have been critical. I find this pathetic.

    Would everyone please read and digest the article. This is NOT simply sorting by conversation topic, which a number of people are suggesting (Mozilla already does this, yadda, yadda yadda).

    To the goon who suggested that outlook 2000 already does what the article is talking about - it doesn't! Sorting "by Conversation Topic" is basically just a threaded view, sorted by subject.

    What the article is talking about is separating the conversations from the emails, and displaying them in a time ordered, colour-coded fashion. So, if an email thread splits into two separate conversations, this will be visible in the UI. Sorting by subject will not achieve this.

    I'm not suggesting by the way, that this is a new idea; I'm simply explaining what the article is about to those of you (most of the posters) who can't be fucked to read the article.

    I expect to be modded down for suggesting that people get a clue, and for suggesting that MS have had an idea which isn't bad.
    • Re:As I suspected... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:42PM (#7787348) Homepage

      Problem: doing this requires first solving the natural-language parsing problem. We're on our third generation of linguistics PhDs who can't find a solution to that problem, I don't think one researcher at MS has managed it, and without that breakthrough we're left with a simple threaded view again.

      • Re:As I suspected... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Slime-dogg (120473)

        If this product uses a central server (Exchange), then there is no need for trying to understand the language of the email at all. Exchange will know when someone has sent a message that is a reply to another message that it has stored somewhere. As such, Exchange will then make available the "thread data," which the Outlook clients will then render in a nice color-coded format.

        INO, Exchange will track the parent ID of every message, with the root nodes (inciting emails) having 0 or -1 as the id. Everyt

  • by ttfkam (37064) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:43PM (#7787351) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft invents Kuro5hin [kuro5hin.org]!!!

    Witness the consistent interface. Marvel at the dynamic threading. Be wowed by the stimulus to content generation.

    Boy howdy, I am sure glad Microsoft is innovating here. I mean right now I could access news and discussions from any computer with a web browser. Now that Microsoft has laid its innovating hand on the problem, I'll only be able to get this from my MS Windows box. Thank heaven for Microsoft because I really enjoy having to set up my email account settings on my friends' computers.

    I mean if it weren't for this "thinking out of the box" idea, communication might actually take a step forward. Whew! That was close! No one wants that.

  • Groupwise... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Parsa (525963) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:43PM (#7787352) Homepage
    ...has an option that lets you view the email as a discussion thread.

    I don't use it though.

    J
  • enough... (Score:3, Informative)

    by YE (23647) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:48PM (#7787399)
    OK, now that everybody has said (three times, no less) "it seems they invented threaded view, duh", can you please go read the linked article? This is NOT threaded view, it's something more complicated (and seemingly useful).
  • WikiMail (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tauzell (25739) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:55PM (#7787447) Homepage
    I'd like to see some sort of Wiki integration with email. It would allow me to edit the message. After saving the changes could go to all the recipients and original sender and they could see the updated version.
  • by ryanw (131814) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:55PM (#7787448)
    Apple's mail client already can organize email by THREAD. It's very useful.
  • by avi33 (116048) on Monday December 22, 2003 @01:56PM (#7787460) Homepage
    It's remarkable what they just did to make hotmail unusable:

    1. You can no longer open your messages in another window, (to have them load in the background).
    2. Once you open a message, you have to read the remaining ones in order.
    3. Once you reply, you need to advance through a confirmation screen, then click to get back to the main menu, where you have to start this nonsense all over again.

    All because they now force you to use javascript to view a message, in effect taking away certain web features (the ability to spawn multiple windows, load in the background) and turned it into a single-interface client...one that inherently takes SEVERAL SECONDS to get from one screen to another. I realize that some of this is to drive more ad views, but they've done this sort of thing before without doubling or tripling the effort required to read mail.

    hm, limiting functionality, slower response times? Sound like par-for-the-course MS improvements to me.

    It's finally enough to make me kill that address, which is annoying since I've had it since before the MS 'occupation.'
  • RTFA (Score:3, Informative)

    by greygent (523713) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:07PM (#7788049) Homepage
    I read a bunch of drivel trying to make one of two utterly pointless points:

    - Every email client under the Sun already does threading

    RTFA, they're not talking about threading alone.

    - The sarcastic "Oh look! Microsoft thinks it innovated again!"

    I see no where where Microsoft states that this is some innovation. I do see where it says that this is a Microsoft Research usability study.

    I also note that this paper was published by ACM, so I'm assuming they found it interesting enough.

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