user experience

Another Gmail Problem – Inescapable IO

Part 4 in a series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one's daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft's Outlook, what brought about this conversion, why it took so long, and what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption.

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb3534This is part 4 of a short story of personal exploration and development by one new to the daily employment of Gmail, long resisted, long desired, and eventually brought to conversion by an Android.

Part 4: To Resist

Recently our journey began. From the humble origins of Outlook to the portable synchronicity of the Windows Mobile platform, I did travel, did evolve, as needs, desires, and demands of communication and productivity so evolved and changed. Through the darkness of masked potential so emerged new and exciting opportunities. But, to fully grasp this fortune, these new degrees of productivity, it is important to pause, take measure of, and understand the crux at the heart at the core of the resistance to Gmail.

I am often asked, more so in the days since my recent conversion to Gmail, what is was, specifically, precisely, that caused me to build up such a strong aversion to a product such as this. The constitution of my answer is thus…

Inescapable IO (Information Overload)

00_gmail_discussion-thread Almost on par with the deficiency of means of acclimation available to (potential) Gmail converts, is the onerously persistent burden of IO — Information Overload. From the beginning of Gmail there have always been discussions, a construct of threaded conversations, automagically grouped, combined, amalgamated into lists.

00_gmail-all Lists, and of lists, bombarding, overwhelming with line after line after line of content with no simple, no familiar way to dig out. A monotony of information, endless in its flattened constancy. Of course, this is a monotony not universal to this method of interchange, for where others have embraced the grouped order hills (sub-folders) comingled with sowed valleys (sorted) and ranges (folders), Gmail plows this all down in lieu of a different order. By these flattened plains, stretching outward, there is no way to easily zoom into what is important, have a sense of past, localized exchanges. With the horizon the only visible bound, without knowing exactly of that for which you seek, it is easy to become lost, no characteristics, no landmarks to point the way, no approach to lead the way between the here and there.

However, in this new order, for as far as the eye can see, there exist few instruments to either approach or approximate the supposedly archaic structures of the prior lands (Outlook, Exchange, Windows Mobile). Digging is limited to the most simplest of shovels, requiring a precision of intent previously unnecessary. For buried deep within a list, unsortable, unorganizable, may be that sought after thing, yet only revealed to the skilled, the lucky, in finding the magic word, the keyword.


And then there are those younger conversations, active, full of life, in the here and now. Conversations woven into threads, subject-locked, compressed together, layer upon layer, each exchange compounding each further layer another more, until at last, with the grounds of this conversation deeply rooted, only then, within this vastly growing mound does one realize that there may be more than one or two who have suffered the fate of being buried alive, messages unread, deep within the endlessly scrolling, organizably deficient, active discussion threads; where many an unread message have before, too been lost.

gmail-thunderbird-screenshot Sure, such structures have their merits, especially in contrast to those ‘archaic’ (Outlook, Exchange, etc.). But with no means by which to avoid or mitigate the suffocating enclosures of the hierarchically challenged experience, with few approximating tools, with the IMAP equivalents merely presenting additional schmutz to the pile that was already heaping layer upon layer of Information Overload, with minimal ability to shift around, to lessen the burden, the paths toward maintaining the productivity and efficiencies of time past can easily be obscured.

The Resistance

But, what of the other reasons for my resistance, which managed to be sustained from the early days of the private Gmail beta to the most recent of but few weeks passed? For surely there must be more to such a stalwart position as has been held by me, and I am sure many others still, for, for them, the resistance most definitely continues. And, indeed there are. In addition to…

Exiguous Encouragement, and
Inescapable IO (Information Overload)

… there too are the staunch galvanizers of resistance …

Suffersome Slowness, and
Tiny Things.

The Next

And, these propellants of reluctance, delayers of adoption, the fundamental causes of my resistance to what would eventually be overshadowed and forced aside, through the coercion of an Android to my conversion to the ways of Gmail, will, my friends, have to wait until next week.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook,

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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  1. Neat post. I use GMail, Thunderbird and Apple Mail and each has its benefits and shortcomings. GMail is good if you’re searching for a specific thing (sometimes) but once you have a lot of mail in there it’s information overload central.


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