More mail musings

Next Generation Email Clients.

Wow, you want a lot. πŸ™‚

“A reasonable man adapts himself to the world around him. An unreasonable man expects the world to adapt to him. Therefore, all progress is made by unreasonable men.” – George Bernard Shaw.

Of course, he was a lot more eloquent than me. I just look pointedly at the title of my blog πŸ™‚

First of all you should probably be using IMAP in the short term as it will provide a much better means for accessing email in a centralized location. The downside is that IMAP tends to require a good connection speed because the messages stay on the server and are downloaded on demand, as opposed to the POP strategy which downloads all messages in your INBOX and lets you organize and store them locally.

Yeah, I’ll probably end up doing something like that. Although I can never do things the easy way, so what I might well end up doing is running my own local IMAP server…

As for a cross platform GUI client which actually works well, I have yet to find one which satisfies me. On W2K I use Outlook, and while it is adaquate there are a number of things which really piss me off. Sometimes Outlook just sits there for 10 or 20 minutes “checking for messages”. Then there is the virus issue. On OS X I use the included Mail application which works pretty darn well. In the worse case scenerio I resort to Pine on Linux (if I can only get in via SSH).

The most powerful windows email client I’ve ever used is The Bat!. Also used by Ron Jeffries I believe.

On my side I think I have abandoned the desktop client in favor of a web client. There are just too many issues with synchronization accross clients which are too difficult to overcome. The existing protocols (IMAP and POP) do not really work well when you get into the level of tens of thousands of messages in hundreds of folders. You will essentially need to have a custom server and protocol which deals with these issues so that synchronization is not completely up to the client. Unfortunately this will be a painful if not impossible uphill battle due to the fact that people have their email servers in place and would be very relucatant to replace it with your server.

I wasn’t really suggesting a replacement for established servers, but something more along the lines of a web service. As connectivity increases and more people have permanent connections, it’s not unforseeable that your own static IP is as common as having a phone number. If you believe the IPv6 hype, even your fridge will have a net presence in the not-too-far future. Anyway, if you have your own server on the net, you have more options with regard to applications. Image the scenario: your powerful home server is collecting and indexing your email, news feeds, etc. according to the criteria you have defined. You have your lightweight wireless device / laptop with you, and can simply hook up to your central system and be presented with a condensed and sorted view of all the stuff it has for you. Read some emails, send some replies, organise your calendar, all centrally stored and managed from your personal server. Your personal server could equally well be a hosted service, much like many bloggers already have.

Here are my ideas for a web-based email/information manager:

  • It will not emulate a typical client-side application. No folder trees. No drag and drop. My idea is a single “INBOX” which is an aggregation of your different message sources such as email, RSS, newsgroups, etc.
  • It will link together email/contact management/history/tasks/issues etc. in a fashion which makes it easy to view the lifetime of a particular discussion as well as the results of a discussion.
  • It will provide multi-user functionality so that a group of users could share some messages which are related to the group but not others which are related to the individual only.
  • It will work with POP and IMAP servers.
  • It will track EVERYTHING which comes in and goes out.
  • It will link with JIRA! πŸ™‚

[All Things Java]

All good stuff. Especially the JIRA bit πŸ™‚

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