Why I went back to pull email

(Note to the technically precise: yes, I know what “push” and “pull” email really are, but I’m talking about the user perspective here, not what happens under the hood.)

In May 2009 I got my first Android phone, and was delighted that it signalled the start of converged messaging. And then quickly turned off the notification ringtone for emails, because I get too many to want to hear about each one. But I kept the visible notifications, in particular, the blinking of the phone’s indicator light.

At the end of March 2010, I switched off email notifications. I had been reduced to the sort of person who pulls out their phone every two minutes to check if they have a message. I was manually implementing push email by polling my phone.

Now that I have to open the email program, I’ve stopped. I read and write far fewer emails on my phone, but occasionally it’s very useful to have the facility.

And I miss the fact that I still don’t have integrated messaging (SMS, IM, email &c.).

But a little thought shows that it’s a hard problem. At the moment we use different media for different things, though exactly what those uses are varies from person to person: many people on contracts with unlimited SMSes text each other in the way I’d use online instant messaging, whereas I use it for urgent messages, or for people for whom I don’t have an email address. It strikes me that GMail’s “Priority Inbox” might make a suitable feed for notification, but I still receive few emails that are urgent enough to interrupt me for, and though importance filtering is pretty good (it’s just adding one more category to the spam/ham dichotomy), I’m not aware of any urgency filters. And the thought of applying it to telephony too, so that my phone decides who gets to ring me and who goes to voice mail at what time still seems far-fetched.

Reluctant as the unifier in me is to admit it, the simplest solution to this problem is still to segment my communications by medium. It’s easy (for humans), it works, and it doesn’t involve changing existing media to cope with new ones.

Needs More Work.

Last updated 2010/12/11