Calling something "broken" isn't anything new. It's long been marketing fodder for new products. Apple's iconic "1984" commercial all but condemned modern computing as the result of a monolithic, Big Brother-esque totalitarian regime. It's a tool deployed to elicit a "me too" mentality; a systematic understanding that, allied, you can stand in opposition to the norm. In this way, users and creators alike are aligned to tackle the problems at hand. To rebuild, renew, and refresh a "broken" system.
One such practice that's been under waves of scrutiny is the age-old email experience. A number of companies have tried to tackle a more effective way of handling the burdensome inbox in more digestible, even bite-size, ways. Whether it's about the concept of "Inbox Zero" or it's a rethinking of the entire experience into something more passively conversational (see: Google Wave), the war on the inbox isn't over so long as the experience remains a cumbersome time sink.
Dribbble is drowning in unused and abandoned attempts to redesign the traditional inbox. And while a lot of them seem to have done little more than "flatten" the user interface for modern aesthetics, few have them have actually gotten to the core of the interaction and truly rethought the entire experience. A few of them have made attempts to embody more of a to-do mentality, but from personal anecdote, to-do apps have been nothing but unsuccessful in actually curbing any of my behavior. Instead, I end up with applications I never remember to sign into to update.
One such app that's made some strides in changing the conversation is Mailbox, recently acquired by the good folks over at Dropbox. Its concept of "Inbox Zero" has been about the closest thing to a game-changer. But while I love the idea behind Inbox Zero, I'm finding it a hard practice to actually put into action. On days that I can remember to take the next step to archive my emails, it feels like the right step towards efficiency, but those days that I don't are typically followed by an avalanche of "unread" emails that have, indeed, been read but not archived. And admittedly, my badge notification system on my iPhone hasn't dipped below 1,800. Largely due to the importing problems of the earlier releases that I haven't tried again. Instead of feeling encouraging or "doable", the lofty promises of Inbox Zero seem more a pipe dream than an actual achievable state.
Add that to the fact that Mailbox is currently only available on iOS. This means that all the progress you're putting into keeping your inbox nice and tidy, setting reminders and response alarms, is all but moot when you're actually at your computer and don't want to operate your email protocol by way of iPhone. The landscape for efficient email desktop clients is even more bleak. After Google purchased Sparrow, it's since been abandoned for updates. AirMail is promising but I've had a good deal of hiccups in its use.
Perhaps, put into proper practice, Mailbox's "Inbox Zero" is ideal. Maybe I'm just not any good at it.
Emails have been a constant shortcoming for me. I'm terrible at keeping in touch and even worse at remembering to write back. From someone that's tried a number of email "solutions", I'm here to come clean and admit that maybe the problem isn't the software. After a single failed relationship, one might be inclined to think it's really "them" and not "me". But after repeated relationships with email client after email client, maybe it's time to admit that, by chance, it isn't the software or even the entire concept of email that's the problem.
What if the inbox isn't broken? But, really, it's our own communicative practices?