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Yahoo Tries to Improve Your Inbox 84

Jamie found a story about Yahoo's plans to improve your inbox by incorporating more information into the sorting. Simple thread order or chronological order ignores tons of information that might be available on social networking websites. That way your friends will be more prominently displayed. Automating this could beat the hell out of a hundred lines of procmail recipes.
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Yahoo Tries to Improve Your Inbox

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  • vs. procmail? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:26AM (#21984228) Homepage Journal

    Automating this could beat the hell out of a hundred lines of procmail recipes.
    Maybe. But I think procmail gives you MUCH more flexibility. Yahoo may work well with MySpace or Facebook, but what about iMeem, CarDomain or GuildCafe? You can get ANYTHING with procmail and a few scripts.
  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:26AM (#21984232) Journal

    Is this a solution looking for a problem? The first thing that comes to mind for me around these new features is, how do I explain this to my parents when now, after years of getting the hang of Outlook (and others), they're seeing e-mail messages arranged in some heuristic-based order they don't understand. (And, yeah, I know for now this is Yahoo only, but it always seems that all jump on the bandwagon and add their version of the latest gee-whiz new e-mail behavior.)

    Heck, I could see it as throwing me... all of a sudden something that should have been a very important note falls to the bottom of the queue because it wasn't a correspondent in my "linkedin" network.

    And, it's a whole new path for spammers to investigate and abuse.

    I've learned to manage my e-mails without these kinds of filters, even when dealing with more than 100 e-mails a day. And, when you're getting that many e-mails a day, organizing "friends" to the top isn't likely to be much help. You still have a ton of e-mail to sort out with your own personal heuristics.

    With inverted indices, IMO, there's enough power at your fingertips to manage your information your own way. Letting Yahoo sift through the chaff to extract phone numbers, restaurant recommendations, etc., starts to make me nervous... again, with spammers figuring ways to get into your lists.... no thanks.

    I know I don't have to use these kinds of new services. But I also know I'm going to get called upon, as always, to explain to family and friends, what's going on with their new mail interactions. At some point these automagic features transcend their explainability. Reminds me a little of Lotus NOTES... a cool and interesting solution religiously doted upon by its followers, but not really a solution to an existing problem but more a solution looking for a problem.

  • gmail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wwmedia ( 950346 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:30AM (#21984292)
    google will never add Sorting into gmail,

    it goes against Googles "search not sort" line of taught,

    even tho it would be a useful addition to gmail to be able to sort emails

    fairplay yahoo, their webmail is already alot more user friendly than gmail
  • Re:vs. procmail? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wwmedia ( 950346 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:32AM (#21984330)
    sure , go tell 200 million non-nurds to use procmail...
  • Re:vs. procmail? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by krog ( 25663 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:32AM (#21984350) Homepage
    Yes, and procmail still sucks.

    In the 21st Century, procmail syntax just doesn't cut it anymore. It's just like Sendmail... works great, but a complete bear to configure.
  • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:36AM (#21984412)
    Threading sounds all right. The rest is tosh. How about they localise properly so I don't have to look at confusing dates in the American format? How hard is that compared with the amount money and time they're throwing at the other crap?
  • Gmail? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AndGodSed ( 968378 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:40AM (#21984490) Homepage Journal
    I have moved over to Gmail from Yahoo, for me that is the best online mail client out there, and with built in pop3/imap support, whatever Yahoo does had better be one heck of a lot better than what Gmail offers in order to even begin competing...
  • Reality check (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:45AM (#21984546) Journal
    I see a number of potential issues with this. There's a very good reason inboxes are normally chronologically sorted - because you are most interested in what is new. I get a daily weather email. I never send email to that address, and it is not part of any social websites. Going by the description of how this new Yahoo system would work, this email would be low priority. With the exception of spam, I really cannot think of any email that I would not want sorted at the top when it first arrives.

    The amount of false positives would be extremely high. Potentially important one-of emails would be ranked of less importance than the typically pointless continuous back and forth banter with people at social networking sites. Unrelated emails would be sorted into threads they don't belong unless the system can contextually link emails with unprecedented accuracy.

    The article goes into a rather contrived example of how Yahoo figures out that a bunch of emails are all related to choosing a restaurant. It automatically groups all the emails together into a thread by context (By what criteria? Because they were all received in the last week and contain the names of restaurants?), then displays the restaurant on a map (why do I need to see a map to choose what type of food I want to eat?), and finally tries to make the decision for you by looking at your previous reviews of various restaurants. This whole scenario is ludicrous. Just because I liked a restaurant, does that mean it is an appropriate place for some sort of business meeting? What if it is too casual? How can they infer that because a restaurant is my highest ranked, that is the only place I would want to eat in the future?

    In the end, I bet this system will amount to nothing more than harvesting your contacts from multiple social sites.

    Dan East
  • by caution live frogs ( 1196367 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:47AM (#21984586)
    I know more about my relationship with my contacts than any automated program does. I'm a human. Relationships between others are what I am genetically programmed to remember and sort. Computers do this through plain text; humans do it through social context, which extends beyond a single email and into real-world interactions. The sheer number of times I might send email to a specific person has no bearing on how important replies from that contact may be to me. I'm sure most people email coworkers much more often than they email the boss or anyone higher up, but that does not mean I want email from the person who signs my paycheck to be dropped lower in my inbox.

    This is why I use IMAP and a small number of simple sorting rules. Messages from X go into box Y. Obvious spam is quarantined. Both are double-checked by me. If Yahoo wants to improve the email experience, they should start by working with others to fix the broken mail protocols that allowed the proliferation of spam in the first place, not find a way to make social networking spam more obvious in my inbox.
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:54AM (#21984670) Homepage Journal

    Simple thread order or chronological order ignores tons of information that might be available on social networking websites.
    They say that like it's a bad thing!
  • by koh ( 124962 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:02PM (#21984780) Journal
    Why don't they just use the ISO date format? Last time I checked, YYYY-MM-DD was both universally and non-equivocally understood and lexicographically sortable.

  • Re:gmail (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spokehedz ( 599285 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:03PM (#21984808)
    Yea, but I find I don't have to search/sort because all the emails are threaded for me automatically. So, I don't have to sort by subject--all the emails that have that subject are threaded.
  • Re:gmail (Score:4, Insightful)

    by owlnation ( 858981 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:21PM (#21985076)

    fairplay yahoo, their webmail is already alot more user friendly than gmail
    Are there two Yahoos and two Gmails? Or are you writing to us from a parallel universe where Yahoo isn't an evil company whose bloated, slow, flashing ad, spam filled, privacy disrespecting email system actually works well?
  • Re:vs. procmail? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BlackCreek ( 1004083 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:32PM (#21985288)

    I used to know procmail like the back of my hand.

    My procmailrc (which I stopped using FWIW) is almost 400 lines at its last incantation. Sure, after all those hours learning the syntax, and after adapting Timo's [] (great page BTW) procmail testing scripts to work on my computer I could indeed do pretty much anything with my email. Procmail is also pretty much bug free (I heard that *every* single C library call has its return values checked for all possible error code values).

    But the point is: procmail is a "email scripting language", whose syntax is a disgrace by any standard, and simply too cumbersome get started with it. Too many small gotchas to learn.

    Everybody does email, the market is huge. Can't we just have good mail programs that can be configured to do what we want? Why do I need to write a program to do it?

    And if I am going to write programs to do it, why learn a specialised dedicated (IMHO) disgracefully ugly syntax? Doing that through a python or ruby library would be the proper way to go. A bastard child of sendmail and awk is not the way to go.

No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.