by Bob Walsh
Tuesday of this week I didn’t read e-mail. I had to get up at an incredibly early hour to catch a flight to meet with the people on a project in another city then flew back and collapsed into bed. Wednesday morning when I got all my e-mail in one pass, it hit me: Email has become an Evil Thing and it’s high time micro-ISV’s find a way to kill this monster once and for all.
Out of 214 emails in my Inbox:

  • Spam caught by Cloudmark and sent to spam hell folder: 160
  • Spam Cloudmark missed: 12
  • Emails from companies I pay money to telling me yes, they charged my credit card or got the payment, or are shipping what they said they’d ship: 2
  • Emails from companies I’ve bought something from in the past, and they want to sell me something now: 15
  • Email from tech media (CNet, O’Reilly, techRepublic, ZDNET, FTP Conferences, etc.) that had a smidgen of possibly valuable information, but really were about selling me something: 13
  • Meaningless news alerts: 11 (plus 6 I’ve already Outlook ruled out of my inbox)
  • Self inflicted Google alerts: 3
  • Pointless alerts from AT&T integrated Voicemail that force you to log into their crappy system to get your Voicemail or just listen to it on the phone anyway: 3
  • TypePad spam comment alert: 1
  • Even more alerts, this time re politics (okay, I admit it, I’m a politics junkie): 3
  • Real actual business email: 4
  • Real actual email from family members: 1

Anything that works 5 out of 214 times is horribly, horribly broken and should be shot and put out of its misery.
What’s the bullet? RSS. But even with RSS in every blog and a few web sites, even though IE7 has RSS baked in, even though Nick Bradbury (a former micro-ISV) has created a great RSS reader, FeedDemon, I feel in my bones there’s a world of RSS applications and services micro-ISVs should be out there creating. Here’s several:

  • I want a micro-ISV written add-in for Outlook that would let me turn any particular stream of e-mail from a given source into RSS that I can control and manage the way I want.
  • I want a micro-ISV written service that takes all of my alert this and alerts that from CNN, CNet, the Washington Post, the New York Times and my local TV station and dumps the 90% of these alerts that mean absolutely nothing to me, aggregates into a single RSS feed, the 9% that might be useful, and actually sends me an e-mail I will want to read for the 1 in 100 of these alerts that really matter to me.
  • I want a micro-ISV service that I’ll pay gladly for each month that extracts and summarizes from all the various tech media e-mails and technical blogs I like to follow out there just the stuff I really actually want and should read.
  • I want a micro-ISV application or Web 2.0 site where I can reliably outsource control of who gets in or not into my InBox. This comes in two parts: an app that lets me pick and choose who gets screened and an RSS feed summarizing and linking to those emails.
  • I want a micro-ISV to make a million dollars by offering a service that makes it so easy for companies to create custom RSS feeds like CastingWords.com does today to tell me the status of my order that every online vendor uses them instead of email.
  • I want to see Amazon start using RSS and SSE to feed me their micro-content in a much more useful way.
  • And I want every spammer to be chained to a wooden block and have their guts pulled out with a metal claw William Wallace-style and left for rats and vermin to eat.

Okay, the last is a little much to ask, but we can hope, can’t we?

10 Comments

  1. Boofus McGoofus Reply

    I’m about to register RipTheirGutsOut.com. What do you think would be a reasonable pricing model for that service? Though since it’s a physical service, I guess I couldn’t call myself an ISV.
    More seriously, Bloglines will let you set up dummy email addresses and turn those into a feed. I hadn’t thought about using it for my “shopping address,” but that’s a great idea.

  2. Thanks for the ideas Bob. There are quiet a few gold nuggets in there. I really like the idea of letting vendors provide order information through RSS. Not to mention the chaining up of the spammers, although I would like to pull something *else* out šŸ˜‰

  3. Bob –
    Maybe I’m not up on all that RSS clients have to offer but how does letting information pile up in an RSS reader differ from letting information pile up in your email reader? Most of the “noise” that’s in your inbox can be filtered into folders for later attention.
    What am I missing?

  4. Bob, I am the leader of a wanna-be mISV that is developing EmailXT.
    EmailXT is a proposal for a new email protocol that aims to solve its current problems and adds many new features. It makes your email private, and defeats any non-authorized bulk emailing, and stops viruses from spreading. It is based on relationships and has a self-updating address book. With its automatic return receipts you always know if your message reached its intended recipient. It does not require any changes to the current infrastructure, just a compatible email client. Other features are listed at the EmailXT website.
    This is a work in progress (currently at v0.1). Upcoming features are forms, photo albums, tasks and calendars, file sharing.
    Along with the protocol, an official email client named InfinityXT is made available, currently at a pre-alpha stage (v0.12).
    Sorry for the shameless plug, but I think this is on-topic regarding your post. We do need some exposure though.

  5. bobw Reply

    Boofus – I like bloglines, but I want a service that has a real revenue model and has a chance of surviving. Yes, that means I *want* to pay money so they stay in business.
    Jorge – Sounds like a great idea! Please keep up the great work. I’ve not had a chance to look at this yet, but some sort of Outlook add-in that would “lift” regular email to the level of EmailXT as far as any other copy of Outlook running the same add in would find a lot of market, especially in small companies who don’t have the IT expertise to handle spam even marginally at the server level.

  6. I set up my own MicroISV to do a small Outlook add-in called Taglocity (http://www.taglocity.com). It uses a form of Bayesian filters to categorize mail (i.e. tags) and helps sort out my inbox deluge. I have a list of mail each day very much just like your’s Bob, but mine ‘autotags’ and moves stuff into where (and when) I want to see it…

  7. Bob –
    I agree, we’re all suffering under the deluge. Some additional steps that may be different from what you’re doing:
    1) keep work related issues in issue tracking software (like fogbugz) if possible. This keeps your email stream cleaner, plus makes it easier to keep thoughts together.
    2) use outlook rules to throw your email in different folders. You are already doing this, but treat certain folders as “oh, I got mail” instead of “oh, I must read mail. Your examples probably include: techmedia, politics, voicemail, shipments.

  8. Nice post, especially the last part. šŸ˜‰ You might like to take a look at RSSBus (yes, this is a product of the company I work with – http://www.rssbus.com). It lets you easily create RSS feeds from different sources like databases, imap folders, pop boxes, ftp servers, paypal history, etc. With a little bit of scripting you can tweak these RSS feeds to take different actions such as only including emails from a particular source of sending an email in the resulting feed.

  9. bobw Reply

    Mike, I’ve tweaked and tweaked my email workflow for years – see http://todoorelse.com and google there Outlook – but beyond all the rules there’s a basic issue here: I need a whole different, deeper, level of control over who can get my attention online. I think RSS may be that way, but David, I will check out your product next.

  10. I’m glad that there’s at least one other person on the planet that understand just how broken email is now. šŸ™‚

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