About this Post;A quick design idea, that turned into a long description that resulted from some extra time and a full email inbox after a long day at work.
Product Title; Regular Email
Product Function; Email add-on (plug-in or cloud service) to help declutter the inbox automatically through organic behaviors.
The Problem; I receive emails from companies I receive services from, news i subscribe to, memberships, bank account updates and many other emails that quickly fill my inbox each day if I don't stay on top of them.
A Potential Solution; An additional system of behaviors that learn, react to emails that you receive on a regular basis. This system could be a plug-in feature in your email program of choice or a cloud based service that acts as a personal assistant to managing your inbox.
How it Functions; At the most basic level, the system would recognize the difference between the different types of emails you receive and begin to recognize the ones that you receive on a regular basis that are generally always the same format and get sent as a constant stream all over the world vs ones that are direct communication between two people that are each unique. The unique, personal emails, would remain in the inbox, untouched, waiting to be read and manually moved, archived, deleted or left in the inbox the same as it does now. The scheduled, predictable, anonymous, regularized emails would, after being detected as a Regular Email would be tagged by the system as such and begin to be influenced and managed by behaviors setup within the Regular Email service. When reading the Regular Email an additional toolbar would appear along the top edge of the message with options on how to handle this type of email in the future so that it does not becoming clutter in the inbox after it has served it's intended purpose of potentially providing communication.
For Example; To describe how this might work, I choose an email in my inbox that I receive daily, an updated account balance for my bank account. An email like this can quickly clutter an inbox as the email is not ever responded to, rarely acted upon, often outdated within hours and is unneeded after being read the first time. Alternatively I could manually check my account balance myself using a separate app or online but I could go days without ever actually logging in to my account which requires minutes to complete the process rather than seconds when checking the account update through email.
Potential Behaviors within the Regular Mail service; I see at least three options on how to handle this email from Bank of America about my daily balance:
Option 1. King if the Mountain Behavior: Daily, Weekly email is replaced by most recent "edition" resides in the inbox. Each time an updated email arrives, the older email is moved to archive to allow for only the most recent version of the particular email subscription to reside in the inbox. Action: Move the email to archive once the next email from Bank of America is received the next morning.
Option 2. Fruit Fly Behavior: Fixed lifespan measured in days, if not hours. Action: Move the email to archive after it has been in my inbox for a predetermined amount of time (I know the email is generally sent at about 5-6am so I would choose for it to have it continue to live for 6 hours each day before being killed off into the trash or archive)
Option 3. Toothpick Behavior: use as needed, discard immediately after Action: Start timer once the message has been opened, after being read for at least 5 seconds the message becomes marked as old news, after the reader has moved onto the next email and has not returned to the previous email in the past 90 seconds the email is then moved to an archive or trash folder.
4. _______ there could be a whole host of other behaviors; feel free to offer your suggestions because I'm sure my inbox needs and habits are different than yours but similar to a whole host of other people with an inbox full of emails that are never intended to be read. -One of which could be an option to redeliver Sunday; temporarily hiding the email until Sunday rolls around and there is finally to browse the new photos on Flickr that had been posted by friends that week.
Deciding among the Behaviors; The third option for this particular email (that has been tagged as a regular feature of my inbox) would work well for the email about my bank account because it is the method I currently do this manually each morning. I don't need the email filling up the inbox for any longer than the information is needed for. In this case, the email serves the purpose of showing me that I have not mysteriously been wiped out within the past 24 hours and that I have enough to scrape by another day (although tomorrow I hope to have it provide notice that an anticipated payday has arrived.)
Other Examples for different types of emails tagged by the Regular Mail service;
Irregular Regular Mail: Another regular email I receive throughout each day is an email from The New York Times about breaking news stories when they happen around the world. --It might seem odd that I receive email this way but within the past year I have somehow missed major world events, only learning about them days or weeks later when referenced in a conversation or briefly mentioned in later news articles that are providing updates to the initial event. Only weeks after oil platform fire did learn there was a gusher of oil flowing into the gulf waters and, more recently, days until I knew there was a shooting in Arizona.-- So for the NY Times email, I would choose Regular Mail option 2 with an inbox life of 12 hours. This way I could at least have a fighting chance to be aware of something happening beyond my immediate context but not long enough that I would have to necessary ever learn about the breaking news story if the events in my life where providing enough excitement to fill that day with stories of my own.
2 Marketing Emails: 1, An email from Apple Marketing their latest Verizon iPhone. 2, An email from crate and barrel about a whites sale. These email, like other marketing emails that advertise new products and sales are given an inbox life of 3 days. That way I can be sure to read them before the sale is over but not long enough that I will fall prey to reading an email about a great sale on the C Table I want only to learn that the sale no longer exists. Ignorance in this case (or always?) is bliss.
Weekly Email: TED talk's weekly new video email, Architizer's new projects and firms update, Facebook's email about upcoming birthdays. These emails come on a very regular basis and I usually put off deleting them because I don't have time at the moment I first come across the email that is informing me about new Ted videos. I'm interested to check them out later, I tend to keep these in the inbox, hoping to rediscover them later that night to enjoy before bed.
Conclusion; Feel free to contact me if you managed to make it though this winding service design proposal and have ideas for additional behaviors, general questions, interest in developing such a product or believe this could be something that you could potentially see cleaning up the extra clutter that exists in your email's inbox.
Colophon; everything that fades ways on it's own; through natural thresholds of change or time. - medicine's half life, the cooling effect of an expresso, consumable good's threshold transition with a double flat-line constant once when brand new and again after becoming used held together by a shifted free fall when performing it's intended function, the diminishing focus on something goes from happening to happened and the ever increasing speed of our lives accompanied by a new job and a workplace email inbox that has managed to stay immaculate while my personal email inbox and ever expands (currently 1526 messages) all becoming expressed in the design of a service written in notes app that is built into my phone.
Thanks for reading, Tyler