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How Full is Your Inbox?



4:36 pm on May 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Engine's thread about an overload of valid e-mails brought my own pet peeve to the surface... My inbox folder has 1300 messages in it. Most of these are items that didn't merit immediate deletion, so I left them there to check out when I had time to kill. Clearly, I need to do some demolition work.

Time management consultants tell you to deal with items immediately - reply, file, act, delete... whatever, just don't look at it twice. I've clearly failed to implement this approach, judging by the sludge building up in my inbox.

My approach is more the septic tank approach - once in a while, you have to pump the darn thing out to make it work right. I've found that letting this stuff age has some benefits, as mass deletion becomes a lot easier when stuff is months old. I guess this is analogous to the "Aging" pile some managers use for paper documents - let stuff age, and if you haven't needed it after a month, toss it.

I suspect there are other festering inboxes out there. On the other hand, there are probably some really ambitious WebmasterWorld members who never shut their computer down unless their inbox is empty and spotless. (These same people probably exhibit other disturbing tendencies, like perfectly clean desks. :)) What does YOUR inbox look like?


9:26 pm on May 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Mozilla Mail has a cool feature called "labels". Labels help me finish dealing with messages before they scroll off and make it easier to recognize and delete obsolete messages.

The default "meanings" and colors of the labels are:

1. Important (red)
2. Work (orange)
3. Personal (green)
4. To Do (blue)
5. Later (purple)

I kept the colors but changed most of the meanings:

1. Important
2. Awaiting follow-up (I replied and am expecting another reply, or the message is a promise to do something for me)
3. To read
4. To do
5. To file (mostly used when I'm actively cleaning out my inbox)

To label a message, I just hit the corresponding number key on the keyboard, or 0 to return a message to the initial unlabelled state.

If I had more labels (bug 114656) and enough colors available, I'd add:

6. Event to attend
7. Mailing list message that would have been filtered to its own folder but wasn't because it contains my name
9. Spam (bug 179588)

Labels aren't a complete solution, but they allowed me to clean out a 1000+ message inbox two years ago and have kept me below 500 since then (364 now). Labels are especially useful for dealing with high-traffic chat lists, because I can just delete all unlabelled messages when I'm done reading them.


9:42 pm on May 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I like the color label idea, jesserud. I guess that a similar approach would be to set up folders for those categories and force oneself to either take action and file an inbox message immediately, delete it, or at least transfer it to the appropriate "holding" folder. My guess is that if I did that I'd probably delete a good portion of the messages before they turned into inbox sludge.


1:19 am on May 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Roger, that's a cool thread!

Guess I'll have to out myself as a historian at this point - I think it's absolutely cool that most of you guys archive your emails, I thought the situation would be much worse. You guys are preserving the cultural communication of your time and generation - congratulations! The (snail) mails of the past centuries (and even millennia!) are a great source for historians to reconstruct what people thought and how they lived. It would be a shame if you choose to wipe out your own life and history just because of the thrifty storage limits of a free provider or because you want to save a couple of useless MBs on a hard disk.

Keep those mails!!!!!


1:33 am on May 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jenstar is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I have over 8,000 emails just in my main inbox - that doesn't include the zillion other folders I have which are brimming with email, too. I tend to save anything business related, just in case. And I do go back and refer to emails from months ago, although rarely more than six months old.

I do archive back 6 months, so all those 8,000+ are six months or newer.

And of course, computer crashes are always excellent for starting over fresh ;)

I must say I am shocked that some of you manage to have only a handful of emails in your in box. I'm impressed!


2:27 am on May 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Yosmc, I don't think my inbox counts as an archive. It's more like a pre-deletion storage area. :)


7:46 am on May 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Yosmc, I don't think my inbox counts as an archive. It's more like a pre-deletion storage area.



10:31 am on May 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

  • 14,160 items in my inbox alone since i last had time to order mails into subfolders (summer 2001).
  • total mailbox size of 1.8 GB.
  • no working organization system unfortunately. i used to order mails in subfolders (one folder per person in my company, topic-folders for external mails) but in practice i don't becouse of lack of time
  • i mark mails unread when i still need to work on them which lead to meanwhile 14 stone-old unread mails i never worked on..
  • i use outlook and would be VERY grateful for any advice that really works..

    <edit>i use cloudmark spamnet add-on for outlook which does a very good job on keeping my life spam-free</edit>

    [edited by: muesli at 11:40 am (utc) on May 13, 2003]

  • count_zer0

    11:09 am on May 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    17,922 emails. I use the Ritlabs' Bat! which is:
    - lightweight (4.5MB exe file)
    - fast
    - powerful
    - secure
    and has unbelievably powerful message filtering. You can filter/delete/run a program when a mail arrives/is read/is sent. I have hundreds of filters for my legit mail.

    For the 2.5K+ spams I get a week, I use PopFile, a tiny open source app which uses Bayesian filtering to tag which what it thinks is spam. You then set up your mail client to put tagged mail in a "Spam" folder. You train PopFile to know what you want to keep - within a week of using it, I was at 95% accuracy. I believe some people get up to 99%. This blows most filtering services out of the water.

    So my inbox is finally free of crap. Just in time too, I was about to give up on email altogether...


    1:46 pm on May 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member


    Email comes in, gets replied to, and then gets archived in the necessary folder.

    If I slip up once, Im gone for the next couple of weeks heh.


    1:59 pm on May 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Over 8,000 emails in my inbox at home.

    At the office today, I finally hit the 'block sender' on that pesky Systems Administrator who was spamming me 10 times a day because my mailbox had gone over some arbitrary 75Mb threshold (excluding local folders).

    Seriously : )

    I mean - how much is another 80Gb hard disk these days anyway?



    4:09 pm on May 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    You are discussing Challenge-Response Anti-Spam System... see [sourceforge.net...] for details...

    > I'm thinking of moving over entirely to Linux (rather than
    > windows) but the fact that Pocomail currently doesn't work
    > with Linux is one of the major things that's making me think > twice

    Pocomail doesn't exist for Linux for good reasons. These are procmail, spamassassin (or any other good spam killer) and the lack of virus for it. I use these three things to keep my mail filtered and spam/virus free. I also use PINE so I can access my email anywhere I can get a ssh session into work. And PINE is fast, which allows me to have a massive archive and still traverse it.

    It took a while to setup and work nicely but the beauty of Linux is that its stayed working for the last 18 months and continuesly for 63 days. Its reliable, its fast and keeps me organised. Thats important for me. When I'm away from work I can be secure in the knowledge that I'm having fun, but my workstation is hard at work keeping me organised..


    4:12 pm on May 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    My inbox = 1 message and always has either 0, 1 or 2 messages in there. I move stuff and file it the second I get it because I hate having things in my inbox.


    5:38 am on May 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    I feel much better about my inbox after reading this thread as I have a mere 702 in mine.

    Seriously, how can you guys have so many without crashing Outlook? My Outlook crashed once over being too full and I couldn't even open it. I had to delete my Sent Items folder through Windows Explorer to even get Outlook to open again.


    6:07 am on May 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member jenstar is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

    It is called a 80GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM ;)


    6:47 am on May 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    95% of my spam email used to come from the email addresses embedded in my websites, which were found by spamming spiders. Once I got over 300 emails per day from these sources I decided to take action.

    To solve this problem I simply altered the Perl script (a varient of Matt Wright's sendform script) to change the email address at send time.

    The email address now embedded in the websites is something like nospam@domain.com, when the sendform Perl script picks it up it says:

    if ($recipient == "nospam@domain.com") {$recipient=realname@realdomain.com;}

    None of the spamming email spiders seem to be able to interpret what the Perl script is doing and they all end up sending their spam to some none existant address!....Problem largely solved.

    Stay away from using sales, info, webmaster and other obvious email addresses for your domains and spam is vitually eliminated :)


    1:57 pm on May 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

    Somebody linked to an interesting study a week or two ago that supports your findings, percentages. By far the most spam comes from addresses posted on the web. The challenge is, of course, to make your information accessible to human visitors but not rogue spiders. People may write down an e-mail address, click on a link, or "copy shortcut" to capture an e-mail address of interest. You don't want to frustrate your visitors by inadvertently feeding them a bogus address. There has been some good discussion of e-mail obfuscation here.

    Unfortunately, I think the inbox sludge that many of us suffer from (thanks to all who have 10K+ in their inboxes, I feel better! :)) isn't due to spam. It's the stuff that you don't want to delete immediately - the newsletter with the interesting article you don't have time to read, the OfficeMax coupon you may need to use next week, the e-mail from the friend that needs a reply eventually. I get 500 - 800 e-mails a day. Most are spam, of course, and never even reach my inbox. A typical day might add only 5 or 10 items to my inbox sludge. Unfortunately, that can add up to a couple of hundred per month.

    One technique I've found for speeding up inbox sludge pumping: try some different sorts - a sort by subject or sender will often group a bunch of similar items, e.g., copies of the same newsletter, updates on an old project, etc. These can often be mass-deleted (or mass-moved if they are still valuable) far more efficiently than if they were reviewed in order of date received. (This works best if you have a significant buildup of sludge that includes multiple similar items! ;))


    6:00 pm on May 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    For those of you using Mailwasher or similar pre-mail filtering system, I could really use some help.

    I am getting two types of emails that I am not able to combat. The first is email addresses that ends in yahoo.com and are flagged to blacklist by the spam companies, but when I bounce the email from my server, yahoo bounces it back and says that there is no one by that email address. Basically a bogus address. I don't even know how someone can use a bogus address but is there any way to fight this?

    The next one is an email that comes with a subject like "Government Loans" but in the from column, it has my email address! It looks something like this:


    How can they get my email address to show up in the from column? And what is the "" about?

    Any help would be appreciated.



    6:26 pm on May 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

    It's easy to spoof the return address, johnnstacy1, even you can do it in your own e-mail client. Spammers will use your return address both to get your attention and to get around spam filters that might flag anything from yourdomain.com as a "friend".


    9:21 am on May 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    > It's the stuff that you don't want to delete immediately -
    > the newsletter with the interesting article you don't have
    > time to read

    Why not just have a mail box for that newsletter? I always create filters that point to unique mailboxes. And I don't always read the newsletters... However, when I need to know about a topic I have a mini-knowledge base sitting on my computer. This technique was formed in the early days of the internet, before I had web access at work... (ie, when I still used to be productive)


    9:46 am on May 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    I just deleted 6000+ emails from the servers. Why? becuase i wanted too. Loads of useful info, but all the important stuff, i have in bookmarks or in my address books.


    2:00 pm on May 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

    Josk, your special box approach isn't bad. For a while, I was diligent about setting up rules so that my newsletters would be automatically routed to the appropriate folder, Microsoft stuff to another, etc. My rules got out of date, though, because the senders kept changing the e-mail address, subject line, etc., that triggered the rule. Also, I have held to the (clearly misguided) belief that if I leave an item in my inbox, I'll deal with it promptly and not let it get moldy in an obscure folder of its own.

    BTW, I'm claiming credit for the term inbox sludgeTM ;) - Google came up with no hits on it...

    inbox sludge - n. The collection of old and mostly irrelevant e-mail messages which accumulate in an e-mail user's inbox.


    5:17 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    I've tried to hide email addresses using &#97; characters and a few other methods which seemed to work. But then you get spammers who will find your domains and then send...

    info@, sales@, contact@, support@, webmaster@

    So I think it's hard hiding from the email harvesters in the first place.

    If I get myself a new POP3 box and change all my contact stuff to info@ (hiding it with ascii characters or whatever in the source code), then set up my POP to trash anything which is not info@?

    Can this be done? :)


    6:20 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Don't want to boast but - 1.2 Gb for my .pst file! (3 years worth). Probably should have a cleanout.... Outlook takes a loooooong time to load :(

    Jock Philips

    6:39 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    I check my emails every morning at the start of work, I dedidate 1 hour to filter through the hundreds of email and spam, and reply or file emails of both importance and information. I have tried diferent filters only to find that one has {an adult theme} so ive lost it. At the moment my inbox is sitting with 243 and my desk looks like a paper refuge. Still we try.


    6:22 am on May 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

    At the moment I've got about 37 e-mails in my hotmail inbox (my main e-mail account) I get so many e-mails! Mostly junk, but I do get loads of stuff that isn't! I try and sort out my e-mails every day, but even if I do it still builds up! I've had like over 200 to go through before, I especially get that many after I've been on holiday, but even if I don't check it for a day or so I have about 50 or something! It's mad! I get like 5 every few minutes!


    5:25 pm on May 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    muesli said
    total mailbox size of 1.8 GB

    Be careful--I don't think you can access Outlook .pst files if they get over 2 GB. Might want to do a quick cleanup. Otherwise, you have to use a tool from Microsoft to truncate your .pst back below to 2 GB, but you'll lose messages.


    1:25 am on May 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member

    I'm very careful about how my address gets out. You might call me a liar for saying this, but I have not gotten a single piece of spam in my primary email address...

    ...and I don't use filters...

    If you're still breathing, I'll tell you what I think is the main reason: I use my hotmail account to sign up for stuff, etc.

    Does anyone know of a good email client that will let me control multiple accounts from a single "profile". Kind of like Outlook separates Hotmail.

    This 57 message thread spans 2 pages: 57

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