News from Google included an upgrade to their popular email service, Gmail. Instead of just one Inbox, users get to have two. This is a terrible idea.
Before I explain to you why Priority Inbox is the worst idea since Google Wave, allow me to reference one of the countless sources that covered the story. Here’s the overview from an article in Mashable:
Priority Inbox is Google’s attempt to solve the e-mail woes of Gmail power users. At its core, the feature is an algorithm; Priority Inbox uses information such as keywords, the people you e-mail the most and your e-mail habits to select the most pressing e-mails in your inbox. Those e-mails are brought to the top of your Gmail and marked as important so you deal with them first.
At first, this might sound helpful. After all, so many of us overwhelmed by email. A quick glance at a screenshot makes this seem like a friendly and practical new offering from Google:
Plus, Google has a cutesy video explaining the service, complete with a jazzy soundtrack and cartoon emails (direct link):
To explain why I despise this new service, we only need to look at the description from The Official Gmail Blog:
Gmail has always been pretty good at filtering junk mail into the “spam” folder. But today, in addition to spam, people get a lot of mail that isn’t outright junk but isn’t very important—bologna, or “bacn.” So we’ve evolved Gmail’s filter to address this problem and extended it to not only classify outright spam, but also to help users separate this “bologna” from the important stuff. In a way, Priority Inbox is like your personal assistant, helping you focus on the messages that matter without requiring you to set up complex rules.
In essence, Priority Inbox is conflict-avoidance for email. Google recognizes that people “get a lot of email that…isn’t very important.” But instead of encouraging people to actually deal with the real problem (unimportant emails) they just try to hide these messages.
Tragically, reviewers across the web continue to swoon for the darling/juggernaut that is Google. Over at Slate, Farhad Majoo writes:
We also get all kinds of annoying messages that aren’t technically spam. In your inbox right now, you’re likely to find friend requests from people on LinkedIn or Facebook, CNN alerts about breaking news, and a message from someone in your office letting you know there’s cake in the kitchen, followed by several responses letting you know that the cake is gone.
Yes, we do. Hey Farhad, unsubscribe from those email updates already! You’re going to visit Facebook anyway and see new requests, so why get them in your email? And if people are using email to communicate about office cake status, isn’t it time to have a conversation about the role of email?
Being productive with email doesn’t require fancy tricks or advanced filtering software. Instead, we can become more efficient with email by changing our perspective. We should not need Gmail to decide which messages are important. Instead, we ought to use our own judgment about what newsletters and notifications we request and how we communicate with others.
All of this may sound bad, but it gets worse. Email marketers are already talking about how to ensure they get into the Priority Inbox. This is a terrible feature that will only further our codependent relationship with email. Want to know what I think Google really should have done instead of creating Priority Inbox? Check out this follow up post.
Contact our email overload specialists if you’re ready to move beyond silly hacks like this and take control of your email.
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