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Remail: IBM is Reinventing Email 510

mrbarkeeper writes "IBM Research has thought about email and came up with a prototype of a better mail client. From their website: 'The Collaborative User Experience (CUE) team in IBM Research has spent nearly a decade studying email. Not only has email become one of the most pervasive and successful collaborative tools available, it has also become a key component of IBM's Lotus Software offerings. In many ways, email can be seen as a victim of its own success - users increasingly suffer from overload and interruptions as well as use email in a manner for which it was not intended.' Several ideas worth discussing, some good, some irrelevant. But still worth a gander for anyone who spends most of their day in their inbox.
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Remail: IBM is Reinventing Email

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @11:55AM (#7668761)

    > The Collaborative User Experience (CUE) team in IBM Research has spent nearly a decade studying email.

    Yeah, and we all know IBM is the foremost authority in creating user-friendly and intuitive e-mail client interfaces. Judging by my experiences with Lotus Notes, they've got a decade or two to go yet.

    • Re:Blowtus Goats (Score:4, Informative)

      by pete-classic ( 75983 ) <> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:03PM (#7668846) Homepage Journal
      I've got to second AC here.

      I have to use notes at work and it is the worst mail client I have ever used, by a comfortable margin.

      Parts of the interface dissapear when the window is inactive. It can't remember that I want to start up in mail. It can't remember that I want a preview pane. Occasionally the preview pane gets confused and displays the body of a message adjacent to the message header that is selected. The buttons are non-standard. The UI medaphor is glaringly inconstant.

      Oh, and it gives me a new mail message, but the new mail isn't listed until I manually refresh half the time.

      This is with 5.0.8. Maybe some of these bugs are fixed in newer versions.

      Anyway, I am skeptical about anything mail related (or UI related for that matter) that comes from the vendor of such a piece of poop.

      • Re:Blowtus Goats (Score:4, Informative)

        by Deacon Jones ( 572246 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:07PM (#7668890)
        Parts of the interface dissapear when the window is inactive.

        I've never seen that, and I've been developing with Notes since '99.

        It can't remember that I want to start up in mail. It can't remember that I want a preview pane.

        File>>Preferences>>User Preferences

        • Re:Blowtus Goats (Score:3, Informative)

          oops, apologies, the I've never seen it came across as a denial. (hit submit to soon). I don't doubt your experience, but perhaps its been troubleshot already.

          Try The R5 forums [] which are usually better then any online help.

          • Re:Blowtus Goats (Score:5, Interesting)

            by larien ( 5608 ) * on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:29PM (#7669122) Homepage Journal
            Yup, it forgets that you want to keep the preview pane up. The only solution I found to this on the web was to put some script into the Notes database which opened it up on Mail startup; this is not something any novice should even think of attempting and even I found the instructions for this rather complex and forgot about it, deciding that starting up the preview pane on startup was going to be less hassle than trying to debug some obscure scripting language.

            Finally, let me echo any sentiments about how crap Notes is. I'm now actually looking forward to having us move to Outlook and Exchange. Among the other bits of weirdness/annoyences:

            • System reports that I have new mail, but selecting "open mail" doesn't reveal any messages
            • Searching for unread messages finds something, somewhere which "isn't in any view" and then tells me it's been deleted.
            • The concept of a trash folder is missing; delete marks the message for deletion and it stays in the mailbox view until cleared out, at which point it is completely gone (barring backups).
            • Re:Blowtus Goats (Score:5, Informative)

              by Deacon Jones ( 572246 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @01:12PM (#7669616)
              OK, here's some free tech support for you:

              Yup, it forgets that you want to keep the preview pane up. The only solution I found to this on the web was to put some script [SNIP}

              There's a VERY easy solution--Go to file>>database>>Properties. Then go to the "rocket ship" tab (sorry, but most people who have these troubles need pictures). Then choose "Restore as last viewed by user" under the "When opened in Notes client" option.

              See, very simple. Should that have been automatically set? Perhaps.

              some obscure scripting language.

              Ahem. Lotusscript is EXACTLY the same syntactically as Visual Basic (prior to .Net). While it may not be favored here on slashdot, its not exactly obscure, unless you're not a programmer, but then every language would be obscure to you.

              System reports that I have new mail, but selecting "open mail" doesn't reveal any messages

              1. Make sure you're checking all your folders. One flaw is that Notes doesn't have an unread count next to the folder, prior to R6. 2. Make sure you're at least past 5.0.5, b/c this issue hasn't shown up for me since then.

              The concept of a trash folder is missing;

              Well, that's a personal aesthetics, issue, as well, if you have a programmer/developer worth his/her salt, its a very EASY scripting fix.

              It sounds to me like your frustration stems from some misinformation, and a lack of a Notes Developer. The Notes mail template is very easily customized, so quite a few options seem to have been left in a manner you don't care for, but with customization could be fixed.

              As for your looking forward to Exchange, well good luck to you, and hope it stays up for more than 24 hours. To borrow the bashing phrase being used all over this thread, I find Outlook to be crap.

              • Re:Blowtus Goats (Score:3, Insightful)

                by faster ( 21765 )
                Sorry, you've been infected with the Lotus Notes Virus. It infects humans who then lose their power to reason about anything related to Notes, and feel obligated to suggest Notes as a solution for EVERY problem, whether it fits or not.

                "We can script that! It will be great!"

                "Oh, that's built in! It will only take a little scripting!"

                Pointing out that URLs with an 80-char hash in them are practically unusable gets a stony glare, and an equally stony silence. One Notes-infected manager told me once that you
            • by solprovider ( 628033 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @02:39PM (#7670711) Homepage
              The Notes client has its issues, but so does every major program. The usual complaint is that it does not act like all other MS apps. I am surprised Slashdotters worry about that. Remember that Lotus Notes was released before MS released Windows3. It was MSWindows that changed all the key bindings from the standards used by Lotus and Wordstar. The only widespread program that did not use those keybindings was WordPerfect, and everybody required cheatsheets to use that it. MS pulled its usual "let's change everything so we can control it." Now it is considered bad that any software has survived from the pre-Windows era when dinosuars roamed.

              I would guess that none of the "Notes sucks" comments come from programmers. I figured a discussion about mail clients would pull more from the techies than the comments from plain users that we are seeing. Lotus Notes mail is a programmer's dream. Every aspect of the application interface is built on open source, meaning you can read it and change it. The only closed source code is the code for the thin client, which handles security and encryption.

              Development can be through interface settings and several languages: Formula, Java, JavaScript, and LotusScript. Most of the GUI can be programmed using JavaScript, for those who cannot learn advanced languages like the manager-targeted Formula Language.
              • Lotus Notes mail is a programmer's dream. Every aspect of the application interface is built on open source, meaning you can read it and change it.

                We're forced into using Notes at my job too (a small software team, none of us have ever used it before). I can't say I like it very much, but I have heard about how Lotus Notes is supposed to be infinitely customizeable. I have yet to find a book or something that explains how to approach programming on Notes. Or any documentation, for that matter, that go

      • Re:Blowtus Goats (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AndyElf ( 23331 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:46PM (#7669332) Homepage
        Keep in mind that notes was not originally IBM's creation. IBM owns it since buying Lotus. All Lotus products had "non-standard" UI features, that is from the dominant standard POV.
        • Re:Blowtus Goats (Score:3, Insightful)

          by autiger ( 576148 )
          Most of the "non-standard" features in Notes are a direct result of two factors; Notes was created prior to a market-dominating windowing interface and needed it's own paradigm and it was and is multi-platform (although the Mac client is the only non-Windoze one left these days, it previously had OS/2, AIX, and Solaris clients). I'm amazed at how the normally anti-MS /. crowd so happily wishes everything to conform to Microsoft's interface views which aren't even completely consistent across all the Office
    • what version are you using? versions that are 5 years old are probably 5 years behind the times. Big corporates which use Notes often have a really long upgrade cycle, so if your work email on Notes 4.5 looks a bit dated when compared to your Outlook Express 2003 or whatever then I am not surprised. Try Notes client 6.5 and remember that Notes is more than email just as windows is more than a word processor and Linux is more than just a development environment. Alan.
    • Lotus Notes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khrustalicious ( 689719 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:55PM (#7669424)
      Notes might not be the most elegant piece of software in the world, but one thing that astounds me is the insistence of people to just classify it as 'email.'

      It's far more than that, and to think it's just an email program is like calling the Vatican a dump because the restroom is nasty. Okay, stupid example.

      Anyway, think about it. When a user has Notes installed, it is far more than just email. They instantly have access to a wide range of applications, some of which can be extremely complex. They can participate in complicated workflow applications simply by having the Notes client; they don't even need to access the databases where these applications are written.

      Think about some of the brilliant executives out there, and trying to show them how to use some new travel approval database. Then consider that all a good programmer needs to do is send the relevant info to the exec when necessary, and the exec simply clicks Yes, No, whatever and it's done. All from email. I don't know any other email programs that do that out of the box. You'll need about 5 different applications within Microsoft to do that for Outlook.

      Anyway, Notes is far more than just email.
      • Re:Lotus Notes (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hendridm ( 302246 )
        I was the AC who posted the parent. I agree that it has some truly innovative features (security, integration), but it also lacks in others (Lotus Script, ODBC anyone?). But the fact (popular opinion?) remains that the Notes e-mail client SUCKS. Do we have to trade powerful features for usability? I don't think we should have to in this case, since it's the little things that suck about Notes that could easily be fixed without sacrificing features... Things like F5 CLEARS the password instead of refres
  • by angryelephant ( 678279 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @11:56AM (#7668774)
    as in Lotus Notes
    as in the worst email client ever
    • by Deacon Jones ( 572246 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:01PM (#7668834)
      I think you meant most secure email client ever, with workflow built in, and an easily accessible API.
      • Security, schmecurity.

        Notes is painful to use. Why develop a secure client if none of your users is going to want to use it?
      • by sukotto ( 122876 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:31PM (#7669158)
        Perhaps Notes is very secure. Certainly the "confidential" tab is useful as it makes encryption transparent and easy to use (don't give me any of that "GPG/PGP is easy" nonsense) but...

        I feel strongly negative about Lotus Notes. It almost NEVER works the way I expect and *want* it to.

        Trying to actually use Notes is unbelieveably frustrating. From trying to search through old messages (why doesn't searching between two dates work?) to the idiotic way it sorts by subject (it doesn't realise that "subject" and "Re: subject" should sort next to each other.) to the simplest tasks like copy/paste... they couldn't even get copy/paste to work correctly. AARRGGHHH!!!!

        And the worst thing is that my company requires me to use the damn thing for my job.

        Notes-eesss... we hates it! We hates it forever!

        Ok... I'll stop now before I really get worked up.

    • by randyest ( 589159 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:02PM (#7668840) Homepage
      Oh no you don't -- cc:Mail, its evil older brother is way worse.

      But I R'd TFA and this client looks pretty cool in some respects. Sounds simple, but the list seperators [] seem quite cool to me (and obvious in hindsight).

      The visualizations [] seem useful and new as well.

      I'd try it out. When is a client including these features going to be released?
      • Those "List Seperators" are just Apple "Labels". The only person who would think they are innovative is someone who's been under the thumb of Pine for the last 20 years.
      • Seconded on the list seperators; I want this in my email client *yesterday*! Just *why* this idea this has escaped everyone's attention is unbelievable given that it is, in effect, simply an extension of the "thread" view of Usenet clients into the other headings. I'm not too sure about the visualisations though, although I dare say that people who like mind mapping software will orgasm over this.
        • by drakaan ( 688386 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @01:20PM (#7669703) Homepage Journal
          It *was* in my mail client Outlook 2003. I haven't been much impressed with MS-Outlook until this version. It has a lot of cool stuff in it (most of which IBM is mentioning as features in the article above). Conversation view (makes e-mail into a newsgroup-style threaded view) has been one of my favorites. I'm still dicking around with it to see what it can do, and I've found a lot of pleasant surprises over the past 3 weeks.
      • ... the list seperators seem quite cool to me (and obvious in hindsight).

        Hindsight? If hindsight means looking the the 'Group by' views in Outlook (or 'Apple Labels' as the other reply points out - not familiar with Apple myself) then yes they showed good hindsight.
        • by randyest ( 589159 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @01:01PM (#7669497) Homepage
          You didn't RTFA, did you? I don't think outlook "group by" is the same thing that the article describle, or at least I can't get it to look like what the article images show. I suspect the apple labels are different from this too, but I can't confirm here. I can and did check outlook, it doesn't seem to do these label speratorsm, and even outlook help describes "group views" differently than what I'm thinking of:

          A group is a set of items with something in common, such as e-mail messages from the same sender or tasks with the same due date. Group items to see related items together, similar to an outline. For example, group items by priority to separate high-priority items from low-priority items. You can expand or collapse the group headings to display or hide the items they contain.

          You can only group items that are in a view based on a table or a timeline view type. When you group items by a field that can contain more than one entry, such as the Categories field, items may appear more than once in the table or timeline. For example, if you group by the field, Categories, and an item has two categories, such as Business and Ideas, the item is listed under both the Business group heading and the Ideas group heading. Though you see the item more than once, it exists as only one item. Any changes you make to one instance of the item are stored with all instances of the item.

          The feature in the article shows horizontal dividing lines between sections in list/table views which change as you re-sort. So a view by date would look something like:

          Monday 3/4, 2 messages, one unread
          message 1
          message 2
          Tuesday 3/5, 1 message, 0 unread
          message 1

          If you click to re-sort by another field, such as date or sender, you get a re-sorted list with new divider labels to break up the list.

          Tell me how to do that in Outlook please.
    • Obviously you have no idea what you are talking about, do you even use Lotus Notes? For the past 5 years, I have used many email clients, outlook, mozilla mail, mutt, evolution, kde, Notes seems to do just fine, archiving, replication, calendar tools, scheduling, reminders, runs circles around most other email colab packages
      • I agree. Notes did have too much of a database feel to it with replication being way too big of a deal. But I actually think Notes helped shape this article. I often created those exact same groupings as they have displayed. Notes is the ONLY email I've ever been able to program to make more useful as in groupings and sorting a folder by views (IANAP).

        If it is IBM then it must terrible, right? (did you forget they SUPPORT linux now)
        Oh, and I do still use pine (it feels like it is quicker and more p
    • Not a surprise they'd need to reinvent it, then, is it?

      As I wrote that, I got a new message in my Notes client here at the office. Not that it told me; the pop-up alert is hidden so that in order to notice it I need to consciously switch to the Notes process. "Alert" is perhaps not the right description for this dialog box. Okay, new message -- I click "OK." I am returned to my browser instead of staying in Notes. Switch back to Notes again. Go to inbox. Which way is the inbox sorting today? Sigh... An al

    • by JonTurner ( 178845 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:13PM (#7668961) Journal
      >as in Lotus Notes
      >as in the worst email client ever

      "Score:2, Funny"? For shame, moderators -- that was "+5 Informative", if I've ever seen it.

      So how bad is Lotus Notes, you ask? So bad that The User Interface Hall Of Shame dedicated an ENTIRE PAGE [] to detailing LN's faults. "This single application could have formed the basis for the entire site."

      Yes, it's that bad.

      • by dominux ( 731134 )
        some valid points some invalid points, and a complete lack of an appreciation that Notes is not just an email system. Developers and users of custom applications love it. People who used 4.6 for just email were less enthusiastic. Moving back into this century Developers still love it and the UI has moved on a bit. Can people please critisise the current versions? this is like flaming Linux 2.0 for inadequate SMP support.
  • spam (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @11:56AM (#7668780)
    does this mean we get better spam as well...?
    • Re:spam (Score:2, Funny)

      by s20451 ( 410424 )
      does this mean we get better spam as well...?

      Now, in addition to making your penis larger, it will make everyone else's smaller.
  • by zeux ( 129034 ) * on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @11:58AM (#7668794)
    Interesting ideas except that the headline should title 'Reinventing EMail CLIENT'.

    I was looking for ideas against SPAM and nothing there, just a new way to organize your messages and Inbox folder. Some ideas are really good though, like the threads.

    But for me the email as we know it is slowly dying because of SPAM and lack of authentication features.

    I am still waiting for a brand new EMail system and I know that's a huge debate. But if we don't do anything we will slowly die under thousand of spam messages... Too bad.
    • SpamBayes is the answer at least in my experience. Yes it is a little work and makes the user become responsible for email management to some extent. But users are also responsible for putting gas in their cars.

      Authentication is something I'm pretty unfamiliar with, at least in terms of how it would actually be implemented, but that seems to me like another example of users becoming responsible for themselves.

      Perhaps the people who depend on email most will learn to use bayesian filters as well as authent
  • how about... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fudgefactor7 ( 581449 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @11:58AM (#7668798)
    making email spoof-proof, killing UCE (spam), and eliminating the whole idea of HTML email...

    Gee, doesn't seem to me that they thought too hard about email at all.
    • Re:how about... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cK-Gunslinger ( 443452 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:08PM (#7668899) Journal

      I don't get on how everyone looks down upon HTML email. I understand that it can have issues, but this isn't the dark ages anymore. Some ideas just can't be expressed as efficiently in plain text. Sometimes bold type is needed. Sometimes a proper table is needed. Sometimes embedded images. Even blinking marquee text may be needed! (just kidding!). And you can't deny the usability of having an active HTML link embedded in an email. Maybe XML or something may be more appropriate (but probably just as prone to abuse), but the idea that a terminal window and pine should be the only allowable way to view email is severely outdated.

      • I wouldn't/don't mind HTML email as much so long as A) It is perfectly validating html
        B) It is clearly marked as html mail with a MIME type, in addition to a plain text version my mail client can display instead.

        The only problem is you're still left with the 5-10k mail(instead of 500bytes or so) in your inbox, so as the original poster suggested this should be something addressed.
        On a protocol level, you could have a message type handshake after you specify sender, eg
      • I've found that people who don't like html email would prefer it if people would just attach .doc files.

        (I'm joking)

        Anyway- email is about communicating and if a little markup helps communicate, then why hold back? The text-only email advocates are a vocal minority. Probably the same people who get their panties in a bunch over the evolution of the word "hacker".

      • Before HTML and spam were widespread, RTF (rich text format) was used for formatting. It has bold, italics, and many other word-processing markup. And it doesn't have embedded viruses and embedded image "bugs" to help spammers.
      • You make some good points, but I don't think it should require an entire HTML page (and all the related bloat and overhead) to make some text bold. Most email clients already turn valid URLs into a clickable HTML link, without any a href necessary. Email clients should also take <b> </b> tags and turn them into bold text (a la AIM/Gaim).

        In other words, simply include the HTML tags in your email, along with some header informing the email client of your HTML-ish intentions, and the client can d
      • If you want to send some fancy, dolled-up, formatted, tabled and/or fonted document and you simply cannot express your thoughts without such accoutrements, attach the god damned thing!

        I'm certainly not saying "a terminal window and pine should be the only allowable way to view email". What I am saying is that HTML has no business being the default format for email. The use of active content as a virus delivery vector alone is reason enough.

  • This is promising... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by whirred ( 182193 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @11:58AM (#7668800)
    Although Lotus Notes has a UI that most users don't like, it runs circles around the alternative mail platforms in terms of workflow and customization. If they can somehow coordinate their efforts here with what they already have in Lotus, maybe we'll be saved from an Outlook work yet.
  • by mgcsinc ( 681597 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @11:59AM (#7668808)
    I must admit that I disagree with the assertion that "Pressure to Respond Quickly" is some sort of negative issue with e-mail; in fact, I'd go so far as to say that with the volume of mail in inboxes today, people are actually not feeling enough pressure to respond quickly. Sure, sometimes we're okay with waiting for a response for a while, but oftentimes nowadays email is used in the role that voicemail used to play, and if one receives a voicemail, one tends to reply directly afterwards. Sometimes, the same attitude needs to be taken in regards to email. Here, I see a much more accurate and responsible use of the priority feature in messages being used, with some type of slider built into the client to rate the priority of a message more efficiently as it is sent...
    • I must admit that I disagree with the assertion that "Pressure to Respond Quickly" is some sort of negative issue with e-mail; in fact, I'd go so far as to say that with the volume of mail in inboxes today, people are actually not feeling enough pressure to respond quickly. Sure, sometimes we're okay with waiting for a response for a while, but oftentimes nowadays email is used in the role that voicemail used to play, and if one receives a voicemail, one tends to reply directly afterwards. Sometimes, the

    • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:07PM (#7668896) Homepage Journal
      I must disagree with you.

      If you want an immediate response, get off your fat ass and come to my office. If you cannot, then pick up the phone and call me.

      One of the BIGGEST problems in today's world is this "I MUST HANDLE THIS NOW!" mindeset we find ourselves in.


      Unless the building is on fire, or somebody is in cardiac arrest, or "they've pushed the big red button", you can damn well wait a few minutes (hours, days even) for a response.

      Too damn many people think they are being "productive" because they are on the phone all the time. No, you are not being "productive". You are being busy. There is a big difference.

      Forcing people to wait for things makes them assess the value of those things, and culls the wheat from the chaff. BS requests get dropped, important requests get made.

      But too many people think they can wait until the last minute, then dump a load of shit onto somebody else and make them jump. They use that as a tool to get what they want - they condition you to jump when they ring the bell, and eventually they can slip past anything they want.

      We are turning into a world of three year olds - "I WANNA GLASS OF WATER - NOW!".
      • One of the BIGGEST problems in today's world is this "I MUST HANDLE THIS NOW!" mindeset we find ourselves in.
        Amen to that, and to the rest of your post.

        Lesson learned from my brief, tempestuous love affair with wired/wireless phones, e-mail, IM, VoIP, etc.: There is such a thing as being TOO accessable.

        DDB (whose [new] cell # is known to exactly six people, none of whom he works for)

      • Here here (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 )
        I heartily agree. My favorite saying has become "A crisis on your part is not necessarily a crisis on my part". I think that the easier it is to access someone there are people who will immediately contact them for an answer instead of taking a few minutes to figure it out themselves. Usually they have figured it out by the time you reply. Wait a bit before sending out an email/page/etc, this is an especially good idea if you are upset. ;)

        This is not to say it is ok to ignore one's email. A check once
    • I must agree with both of you - I feel like I'm at the short end of the stick each time. For example, my experience with most email based support sites has been atrocious to the point where I'll squander upto 30mins waiting for a real person (hopefully not of them droids) to get my problem solved. The phone person is almost always able to see that my email was received but that nobody had taken it up. On the other hand, I know of some people who flood others with so much email that its makes it impossible f
    • by DuckDuckBOOM! ( 535473 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:37PM (#7669206)
      I'd go so far as to say that with the volume of mail in inboxes today, people are actually not feeling enough pressure to respond quickly.
      Imho the ability to reply at my convenience, rather than the sender's, underlies much of the usefulness of e-mail. If you treat mail the same as a phone call, frequent mail will kill your productivity in exactly the same way as do frequent calls. Many of the time management articles / books I've read recently emphasize a disciplined approach to handling mail: On the inbox side, set aside time twice a day to respond to normal mail, and configure your mail client to do pop-up / audio notification only for priority msgs. And avoid IM at all costs. On the outbox side, use mail if a response isn't needed within four hours; otherwise, call.

      Sadly, one of the things which the time management experts apparently haven't addressed is how to deal with the twit who mails you, then calls / drops by two minutes later to see if you received it, and why you haven't answered.....

      DDB (who thought he had a solution, until he discovered his employer frowns on TEC9s in the office)

  • by delirium28 ( 641609 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:00PM (#7668819) Journal
    Is it just me, or does this sound similar to Haystack []? Haystack was covered on Slashdot earlier []

  • Work? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:00PM (#7668820) Homepage Journal
    But still worth a gander for anyone who spends most of their day in their inbox.

    Who spends most of their day in the inbox? Seriously though, a decent email client is found in OS X with good junk mail filters and nesting etc... Most times it gets near 98% of the junk email and I have yet to have it reject a valid email.

    Also from the article: Pressure to Respond Quickly. People report feeling pressure to be more responsive to their email. Messages arrive continuously throughout the day, contributing to the sense of urgency to respond quickly.

    Why reinvent the wheel? If the message is not urgent enough to pick up the phone or in our case, ring someone up on iChatAV, then the paradigm does not need changing.

    • Re:Work? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Channard ( 693317 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:02PM (#7668839) Journal
      Who spends most of their day in the inbox?

      'Clippy', apparently, that annoying swine. I think he's the one sending all those scam emails, so he can fund his tipp-ex habit.

    • Re:Work? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )
      The point, I think, is that people feel they need to stop what there doing, and reply to email.
      Giving it the same 'respect' as someone walking up to there cube, or using the phone. Unfortunatly, people will send you that 'quick email' about nothing. or CC people on a thread that that don't need to be on. But if they are going to talk to you, then they are far more lily to keep it on a work subject.

      I think it was phones4all, or some some such company, that recently mandated that no email is to be used inter
    • Re:Work? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by lordDallan ( 685707 )
      Who spends most of their day in the inbox?

      PHB's at large corporations, at least that's my experience.

      I had a large corporate client where I personally knew 5+ managers who basically spent all day receiving and sending e-mail every second they weren't in meetings.

      There was definitely an element of CYA involved. After all, they wouldn't want to lose their six-figure incomes by not chiming in on the latest-invented-crisis now would they?

      Needless to say, if you had to do anything with the e-mail set
  • Sweet function (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beacher ( 82033 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:00PM (#7668823) Homepage
    I've always liked the way most newsreaders threaded posts - IBM's threaded model [] is one feature that would definately make me switch over. This is a simple yet overlooked feature that Eudora and Outlook have missed. I haven't played with KMail yet and don't know if it has it. Why hasn't email threading been done up until now? -B
    • Re:Sweet function (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Paladin128 ( 203968 ) <aaron@[ ] ['tra' in gap]> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:05PM (#7668869) Homepage
      Yeah... they're mapping and graphing is a beautiful use of modern information visualization techniques. Honestly, after spending 10 minutes with her, I could see my mom using this kind of thing in a way that previous mail clients stumped her. Maybe I can hack an XUL plugin for Thunderbird that will do this...
    • Re:Sweet function (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
      Mozilla mail can display email by thread, and the Apple highlights other mails in a thread when you are reading a message in the default mode, or gives a thread-tree view if you select it as an option.
    • Re:Sweet function (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 )
      Why hasn't email threading been done up until now?

      It has. []

      Why people use bloated clients that try to combine calendars and other stuff with e-mail and don't get either right, rather than simple but full-featured clients that "do one thing and do it well", is beyond my ken.

    • Re:Sweet function (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:33PM (#7669173)
      You've never used a mail client that supports threading?!

      The main thing that I bemoan having been effectively forced to switch to Outbreak at work is the lack of support for email threading. Previously, *every* client I have *ever* used for any amount of time has supported it, in the 9 or so years that I've had a mail account.

      To my mind, not supporting threading simply disqualifies a program from being a serious mail client, no matter what other features it may support. (There are others, too, such as support for multiple accounts, and some sort of filtering mechanism)
  • BBC Article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pvt_medic ( 715692 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:01PM (#7668836)
    The BBC has an interesting article [] about the overflow created by e-mail. Where 31 billion e-mails are sent every day, you think that systems might need to be updated to handle such volume (and help cut some unessary volume out)
    • why? Do you not get emails? is the system delaying emails? I still get my emails from the other side of the world, pretty damn quickly.

      Until it becomes unreliable, id won't be fixed.
      ALso, if you can send email, people will figure out a way to spam you. No technological fix will change human nature.

      A lot of people actually do not mind spam.
      They mind spam they don't like, but other spam is fine. If A local grocer spamed the local email accounts with a good deal, nobody would care. I suspect if you where sp
    • Where 31 billion e-mails are sent every day, you think that systems might need to be updated to handle such volume

      Since 29 billion out of these 31 billion emails are spam, feel free to install and operate SpamAssassin [].

      This program, in my experience, greatly reduces the level of email I receive each day...

      (Yes, this is said in a very cheeky way!)
  • by danamania ( 540950 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:03PM (#7668851)
    A better email client is a good thing, whether being pushed by small developers with a few unique ideas, or by a group as large as IBM with decades of research behind them. However, apart from the occasional efforts from businesses like Yahoo, the whole email distribution path doesn't seem to be getting as much attention as it could.

    Even if it's just theory, research and study, are there publicly accessible projects by larger groups (such as IBM) looking at how to completely overhaul email transmission, especially for the elimination of spam and the ability to drag an address with you that's not dependant (for most people) on an ISP? I'd be all for a completely new system running side by side with conventional SMTP type email for several years, even.
  • by kawika ( 87069 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:03PM (#7668852)
    I was ready to be a critic of this before I RTFA--after all we're talking IBM and Lotus Notes, the worst email client ever--but they really have thought about how integrating this information would make it easier to organize and communicate.

    One problem I see is that most email information is very hard to parse reliably if it's just free-format text. Sure you can tell people to send out formal meeting invitations but not all clients support that. It would be great if you received a message that said "how about a meeting next Monday at 1pm my time" and the software would pop up your schedule for next Monday at 4pm because you're eastern time and he's pacific.
  • by frodo from middle ea ( 602941 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:04PM (#7668857) Homepage
    Especially for my office emails.
    The client should follow my trend of sorting emails for a couple of months and then gain enough intelligence to do it own its own.

    First sorting SPAM v/s useful email :- I guess this is alsways being worked on, thunderbird does it. But its not adaptive enough.

    Second Sorting based on emails that I ignore though they are not spams, like periodic reminders , baby shower notices (really do i need to care ?), emails about personal events in lives of my fellow employes (marriage, death) etc . about which I don't care., Ack. receipts etc.

    A lot of time my inbox is filled with mail which is originating from my company but in a sense is junk to me. It is too cumbersome to come with filters for a lot of them. We need some AI in the email client.

  • Irrelevant (Score:5, Funny)

    by Andy Smith ( 55346 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:05PM (#7668865)
    Several ideas worth discussing, some good, some irrelevant.
    I'm sure the researchers appreciate your clear, concise, thorough, expert and well-reasoned explanation of why some of their ideas are irrelevant. They must be kicking themselves.
  • I am curious if IBM has looked at the OSA Foundations's Chandler project [], which is another attempt to reinvent the personal message handling interface.


  • heh (Score:5, Funny)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:07PM (#7668897) Homepage Journal
    BOSS: Yoy've worked for me for nearly a decade, but All I see is you people reading email
    Employee: uuhhhh...
    BOSS: what is it we pay you for?
    Employes: The Collaborative User Experience ...we study email, been doing it for uhhh.. nearly a decade!
    BOSS:What have you found out?
    Employee: "email has become one of the most pervasive and successful collaborative tools available"

    BOSS: How does that fit in with IBM?
    employee: It uses...[looks at mug on desk] Lotus!

    BOSS: Keep up the good work!
  • by Dave21212 ( 256924 ) <> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:09PM (#7668915) Homepage Journal

    It appears that IBM could use some of it's own On Demand Computing []...

    the research site [] is already slowing to a craw [] !
  • by Dixie_Flatline ( 5077 ) <> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:10PM (#7668929) Homepage
    Basically, they're doing what all good HCI (Human-Computer Interface) teams do. They're grabbing all the good stuff and throwing away all the not-as-good stuff. There's nothing particularily new here, except for the addition of certain visualizations. Most of these ideas are already implemented in M2 (Opera's email client) or in (OS X's default mail client) or in various other Unix mail clients.

    M2 is basically one big folder, and all the other folders you define are filters on the main folder. They also have a quick reply pane at the bottom of the message so you can fire off a reply that doesn't require very much input.

    OS X's has the little green dot beside a sender's name when they're online and available for chat. It threads things (like any good email client. Strangely, MOST Windows clients don't. Hmm.) can colour code things and has a pretty reasonable filtering facility (though nothing as on-the-fly as what IBM proposes.)

    The thing I hate most about working under Windows is the lack of a really solid email client. Opera's M2 is the best I've found so far, and I hear Outlook 2003 FINALLY allows you to respond to emails properly, instead of the fscked up way that Microsoft has always demanded. (Yes, you can embed your replies, but it's never been quite right. Outlook strongly encourages top-posting.)

    Oh, and Mozilla's was good, but I find the browser far inferior to Opera, so I gave up on it. Maybe when the forked email client is finally stable, I'll give it a try again.
  • by segment ( 695309 ) <> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:11PM (#7668939) Homepage Journal

    taco Taco Taco... IBM is Reinventing Email does this mean I can send my thoughts to IBM and let them compose my emails? Does this mean they're unleashing a new protocol?

    People report feeling pressure to be more responsive to their email. Messages arrive continuously throughout the day, contributing to the sense of urgency to respond quickly. Sometimes I wonder where they hold these studies, and I always wonder why they don't post metadata stats on this... (Age, Profession, Sex, etc) I'd like to see who feels pressured into responding to email. Me for one inbox +300 per day mailing lists, friends, fam, work... Pressure = 0 When I get to it, I get to it. I'm human not a machine and if someone would ever attempt to pressure me I would not deal with them anymore. My sanity, and health are more important than email. If it was that important, s'what phones are for.

    Losing Track of Email and the increasing fear of doing so. High volumes of email cause important items to quickly move out of view. Users must hunt down their mail, often having to scroll to other parts of their mailbox. This problem is exacerbated as email arrives in a single, undifferentiated stream. The mailbox becomes an assortment of items requiring action, informational items, and items with no value to the user at all (e.g., spam). I disagree with this. Having worked in numerous sorts of tech industry, I take stupidity to be the number one cause. Porly trained individuals who don't have enough in them to learn something new. EG I used to work on a help desk in the 90's, and remember vividly how etards would call because they didn't know where they saved something.

    The headline is misguiding. I took it to be a new protocol coming out, should be changed to IBM's new email client nothing more

  • A big problem with email is that there is no way to verify that the person actually received a message. A hardcopy could easily solve this. And to prevent spam, you could charge for each message sent, maybe with some sort of stamp of authenticity. to speed up delivery, you could route each message through one of many central locations, and they can all work together, to ensure that once a message passes through one of these locations, it gets delivered to the appropriate recipient. And since encryption

    • A lot of times, I don't want someone to know I got their email. This feature will not be reliable because of that.

      Encryption is good, but only goes so far as how well you trust the smtp servers unless you do it yourself.

      Paying for it will be a major pain in the ass. A added on feature, where a mail server can check win an smtp server and see if the mail really came from there would do wonders. No more forged headers! Then, you can actually trace back spam, not accept email from the "bad" smtp serve
  • by RobertAG ( 176761 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:12PM (#7668945)
    The screenshots look like Outlook, but with extra windows for the calendar and other things. I suppose this will take up desktop space, but then I've been wondering how I was going to waste all this extra space I now have with a dual head video card...

    From the article...
    "People are overwhelmed by the volume of new email they receive each day. They report spending increasing amounts of time simply managing their email."

    In MY world, I call this SPAM. I didn't need 10 years of research to know it was a BAD thing. Spam, I think, is better stopped at the servers or better yet, by blacklisting the spammers.

    Outlook (and other clients) have filters that can direct email into various folders sorted by importance. In this way, the important stuff gets my FIRST attention, while the least important stuff can wait.

    However, a lot of this aforementioned filtering capability is ALSO dependent on a person's ability to fully utilize their email client. I know of a number of people in management positions who are FULLY CLUELESS regarding moving files from one directory to another. Setting up a filter WOULD BE totally beyond them. Without even basic computer literacy skills, any new technology that requires interaction with a user interface is bound to stumble. Relying the smarts of the end user is simply not a good business model unless you're dealing with technically-savvy people.
  • by VivianC ( 206472 ) <> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:12PM (#7668955) Homepage Journal
    The Collaborative User Experience (CUE) team in IBM Research has spent nearly a decade studying email.

    Based on this timeline, I should be on the brink of a major internet porn breakthrough any day now!
  • But I'll vent anyhow. My issues with e-mail are generally twofold:

    1. People expect email to be a time-sensitive medium when it's really the LEAST time-sensitive medium of all. I've seen people send an email that they EXPECT a response in several minutes. If I have a time critical issue, I don't send e-mails, I start calling people directly. And how many times have you avoided even opening up an e-mail from a certain recipient because you didn't want to have to deal with that person and were afraid that
  • Just so long as this new client prevents top quoting. Those that are detected at the act of top quoting should be subject to the activation of a stun-gun embedded in their keyboards, followed by automated photoshopping of their head onto a picture of some redneck sodomizing a goat. This picture shall replace the actual content of the email (as an attachment, damnit!) and sent to all of the intended recipients. If no recipients have yet been specified, the email shall be sent to the user's congressman.
    • by JUSTONEMORELATTE ( 584508 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @01:42PM (#7669943) Homepage
      You seem to feel strongly about this. What's "top quoting" anyway?
      Just so long as this new client prevents top quoting. Those that are detected at the act of top quoting should be subject to the activation of a stun-gun embedded in their keyboards, followed by automated photoshopping of their head onto a picture of some redneck sodomizing a goat. This picture shall replace the actual content of the email (as an attachment, damnit!) and sent to all of the intended recipients. If no recipients have yet been specified, the email shall be sent to the user's congressman.

  • by Macka ( 9388 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:23PM (#7669053)

    What I find myself wishing for the most, is when someone sends me a mail on a new subject (a selectable option on their part) a new and totally unique message-id could be generated and included in the header. This would persist for any replies, forwards, etc from either myself of anyone else on the CC list. My mail client would then allow me to do two things: 1) to thread on this ID, even if the text of the subject changed, and 2) if I no longer wanted to take part in the discussion, to send a special message to the other mail addresses in the discussion, instructing their mail clients to remove me from any more CC's on that ID. Enabling me, if I chose, to opt out of any further discussion on that subject.

    I'd find this very powerful, and very useful. And I'm sure other people would come up with new and interesting ways to make this even more functional.


    • Wow, that is a great idea!
    • <sarcasm>

      Wow, do you think we could implement this with headers called Message-ID and In-Reply-To? And allow users to implement filters on the In-Reply-To or References headers?

      Perhaps we could even create an RFC and give it the number 2822 [].

      And if someone would only write a document [] describing how to correctly implement these headers in MUAs, we'd really be in business.


      Really, it's a wonder that most mail clients make all of this so hard. Even Mozilla gets threading wrong, by

  • Eclipse (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Guillermito ( 187510 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:24PM (#7669070) Homepage
    Did you notice?

    From the screenshots it appears that they have based this prototype on the Eclipse platform.
  • by Dlugar ( 124619 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:26PM (#7669090) Homepage
    Check out the first screenshot on this page: []

  • outlook has had this feature for ages, strangely hidden behind the "View" menu. try it out View -> By Conversation Topic

    as a side note, has anyone actually had a look at Outlook 2003? Office 2003 is like Office XP with chunky toolbars, except for Outlook. MS have put a lot of work into Outook 2003, you should have a look at it, its not that bad!
  • What I would like to see if some kind of urgency feature. I.e. I would like to send an email and tag it with something which says "keep bugging this person till I get a reply".

    To make sure that nincompoops like my manager don't abuse this when they send me an "urgent" email which says; "Please file timesheets by the 28th of this month." (Frikkin idiot - everything is "urgent"), we have the following;

    Only a certain percentages of the emails from each person in your inbox is allowed to have these kind o
  • They may call it "collaborative", but email has become a major push technology. In fact, the more you "collaborate", the more the system ends up pushing to everyone involved. This is why we have trouble managing this incoming stream of mail ... because it is a stream.

    In a more meta sense, email can run you over since they are many and you are just one. Now, you'd think that would mean smart programming to manage the mess, but in practice that hasn't been so. All that email clients seem to let you do is split the stream into smaller ones, which you must still and laboriously examine. Rule systems are still pathetic for managing this for you. But could lay some of this sentiment upon Internet search engines. There's always crucial few features that are absent (to sum up, I need a "do what I meant" button) that make the result a slog though link after link, like with email.

    I spent a little time examining IBM's offering, and I can say from that limited exposure that they are only applying a few more piddling features that still don't address the major problem: You (not the program) are being forced to drink from a firehose.

    To avoid this, the app must do more work, and it must perform that work on its own. It must watch how you work with an incoming stream of email; and with minimal prompts from you, start handling them in accordance to those guidelines.* It must constantly analyze, learn to form new rules and to adjust current ones, and be prepared to axe entire rulesets upon your demand.

    That would be some hellacious programming to attain, but given the pay of the allegedly more skilled programmers around, they'll certainly earn it for this one.

    HAL: Dave, I've noticed that you're pulling my memory and personality boards. Shall I eject the rest for you?
    Dave: Yes, HAL, please pull the remaining boards while I catch up on my $%($^* email.

  • Outlook 2003 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by orangenormal ( 728999 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:44PM (#7669310)
    A lot of these features are already in Outlook 2003, albeit under different names. The coloured annotations, collection folders, and headers described in the article have all recently made an appearance in Outlook 2003.

    At the risk of being modded down, I quite like these features and thus... *gulps* also like... the new Outlook.
  • by hondo ( 77902 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @01:05PM (#7669550) Homepage

    For Outlook users, the best current add-on IMHO is Nelson Email Organizer. []
    It treats the Outlook PST file as a database and all your email is lumped into
    one box. After that, it allows you to set folders and other filter
    criteria based to sort your mail. The same email message can appear in multiple
    places based on filter criteria. But only one copy of the message is
    actually saved. You can filter based on attachment type, or relative dates
    (last week, last Monday) etc.

    I have no association with NEO, just a happy user.

  • Thread handling (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Beautyon ( 214567 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @01:19PM (#7669698) Homepage
    I dont like the way that threads appear to be addressed in this client; nested trees that drop down are intuitive, contextually and chronologically this looks counterintuitive at first glance, with messages in a thread appearing above AND below the root of the thread.

    Once again, Mozilla does it better.

    They spent ten years studying email; they would have done much better releasing this client and moulding it in line with the feedback that they get from tens of thousands of users. I think this is partly why Mozilla is such a pleasure to use; its built on the experience of many people folded into the development cycle over lots of iterations. When you have an insular group looking at a problem from only their own viewpoint, you get suboptimal results, and you end up with cumbersome features like the thread handling in this preview.

    Ideally, they should be building this out of Mozilla in any case, for all the advantages this will bring to IBM and everyone everywhere.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas