Sat, 20 Oct 2007

You might get an email from me tonight

Sometime in August, I said I would watch the Inbox Zero talk later on that day. Well, I finally did today. And I'm ready to mass-murder my (now not so) fat inbox folder and start from scratch, and becoming a good boy.

In fact, I've been on probation for a few weeks. While I wasn't watching the talk (which is pretty insightful and fun, and useful if you also have these horrid mail handling problems) I did roll up my sleeves a few times and worked on reducing the problem. After a few rounds of fighting, things were looking slightly better. I deleted TONS of spam which still was sitting in there. I deleted entire threads of list mail which for some reason wasn't being filtered properly. I archived a lot of random, misc email. I even replied to some job offers, for a change. I fixed my .procmailrc a little to get rid of lots of useless stuff that appears in my mail. It got better, but not entirely better.

I went from the 6600~ which was probably the figure when I said “Enough!” to around 2580. It's still a lot, and I can still get rid of a lot more with easy pattern searches in mutt. The good news is that, for the first time in ages, the number of emails in the mailbox has stayed stable for more than a month. I tell you: I'm proud!

So Merlin gets asked in the talk what to do when you've been a naughty boy for a long time, and you've ended up with this HUGE mailbox you can't handle anymore. His answer was what some people suggested in blog comments: put it aside, start from zero. Merlin calls it mail-DMZ, and that's probably what I'll do in a few hours, admittedly with a sentiment of guilt deep in my chest. And from that point, I'll have my mailbox be a TODO list. Delete. Defer. Delegate. Respond. Do. Simple!

Other Planet Debian participants like joeyh commented that something that really helps is reducing the number of times you poll for email. For me, that means

set daemon      1800            # Pool every 30 minutes

when it was 5 minutes before. I hope I won't find myself issuing awaken commands often...

I remember when, more than five years ago, having more than 100 mails made me feel bad and go cleanup. After some vacation, it went up to 150. Then Christmas came along, 300, until I found myself nearing 7000 last summer.

Before moving my junk to a demilitarised mailbox, I'm having some fun replying to some email. The first one in my mailbox is from a member of a Catalan "Mallach" family.

From: Conchita Broquetas <>
Subject: Hola!
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2001 16:55:17 +0200 (CEST)

who discovered there was a "Jordi Mallach" other than his brother in the Internet. Apparently we had an exchange on where our families came from (Mallach is all but a common surname... anywhere, and my family has always wondered where it came from).

So that's more than 6 years ago. I think I'd love to get a reply to some email sent by me years ago which has been sitting for years in a mailbox, because "I need to reply to this sometime". I think the Mallach-Broquetas are getting one tonight.

If you think I'm dumping random thoughts on a vim buffer, it's probably due to me feeling sad today. Sorry, but I feel like typing, and I don't have a typewriter with me. Speaking of sad, nothing beats the next email which sat for some dramatic 6 months in my messy inbox until I found out in the worst of the possible scenarios. Let's go back to late February, 2004, when I had no job, and I didn't have a clue on what to do with my life.

From: Mark Shuttleworth <>
Subject: New project to discuss
To: Jordi Mallach <>
Date: Sun, 29 Feb 2004 18:33:51 +0000

I'm hiring a team of debian developers to work full time on a new
distribution based on Debian. We're making internationalisation a prime
focus, together with Python and regular release management. I've discussed
it with a number of Debian leaders and they're all very positive about it.

I'm not sure if I totally missed it as it came in, or I skimmed through it and thought ”WTF?! Dude on crack” or I just forgot “I need to reply to this email”, but I'd swear it was the former. Not long after, popped up, the rumours started spreading around Debian channels. Luckily, I got a job at LliureX two months later, where I worked during the following 2½ years, but that's another story. I guess it was July or so when Ubuntu was made public, and Mark and his secret team organised a conference (blog entries [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]), just before the Warty release, and I was invited to it, for the same reasons I got that email.

During that conference, probably because Mark sent me some email and I applied a filter to get to it, I found the lost email, and felt like digging a hole to hide for a LONG while. I couldn't believe the incredible opportunity I had missed. I went to Mark and said "hey, you're not going to believe this", and he did look quite surprised about someone being such an idiot.

I wonder if I should reply to his email today...

Jordi, jo contestaria, mai es sap...

Posted by Xavi Ivars at Mon Oct 22 00:45:32 2007

Digg a hole and hide? Oh I can feel with you! And I always thought I'm the only IT person in the world that can't handle his mail traffic.

Posted by Lukas at Mon Oct 22 12:58:42 2007