About a year ago, I signed up for a Google Apps domain mainly for use in e-mail, for a few identifiable reasons:
- Find out how well Google Apps works, and what issues come along with using it.
- Get all my e-mail in one place.
- Stop maintaining a mail relay.
- Play with the hot new thing.
I should note that I only use calendar and mail, and for those purposes Google Apps is fine. MX records took care of my primary e-mail, I used imapsync to get all my relevant e-mail into Google Apps, and I setup all the rest of my accounts to forward into it.
Mostly, it worked, but there were some occasions when I was furious enough to fly to California for a heart-to-heart with whoever designed their lockdown algorithm. Every piece of e-mail I have goes to this one account, so when I’m locked out of my e-mail for 4 hours on a Tuesday morning because I have it open on my Linux laptop and Windows box simultaneously, and double-click on the “Send” button in one of them, that kind of thing is roughly translated as:
I know you’re trying to pretend like you’re a big wheel now, and e-mail is a hard requirement for doing that. Unfortunately, my algorithm says not to let you do anything resembling work for the next few hours in the middle of the day. I also understand that you’ve got a reputation for staying on top of your e-mails, and I’d apologize for the inconvenience of angry phone calls demanding a response to the e-mail you haven’t been able to read, but I’m just a computer so that apology wouldn’t carry much weight anyways.
The other main issue is my fault, to a point. I started using labels like they were tags—which, I think, is the point of calling them
Labels instead of
Folders. I like to use things as it looks like they’re intended, but in this case, it had some interesting side-effects. The first one is that each e-mail would get labeled on about 5 different axes, which added what felt like 30 seconds of overhead to each e-mail as I would process my inbox. It also meant that in order to properly label my e-mail, I had to have some basic view of all 1,000+ tags I ended up with after a year of use in my head while reading e-mail. The thinking here was that I could then just open up a label and see the whole history of a particular project, a given location, a particular customer, etc.
The obvious flaw? The integrity of that system was dependent on my own personal, manual intervention—and while I’m certainly capable of doing nothing but ensuring my e-mail is labeled properly, it’s a gargantuan waste of time and when it fails (around 5% of the time), I would end up just throwing something at the search box and get whatever was looking for anyways—a point that was driven home by Merlin Mann’s presentation to Google.
The second side-effect of my use of labels like that is related to the technical side. Google’s IMAP access treats labels like folders—and messages with multiple labels are actually messages that exist in multiple folders. As far as I know (which is to say, “I assume, because I haven’t done any homework on it”), there’s nothing in the standards that say a message can’t exist in multiple folders, but most all of the tools you’re going to be using (i.e. imapsync) assume that isn’t the case, because before Gmail, nobody else did it. So, if you use labels as folksonomy, you’re basically screwed when it comes to using other tools to get your e-mail out of Gmail (such as imapsync or, so far as I could tell, Evolution + IMAP), for when your account gets locked out, because they seem to all expect your folder hierarchy to be a hierarchy.
imapsync, in particular would duplicate the messages on the destination server, turning an archive of 2.5G on Google into an archive of 15G on something else. Evolution seemed to suffer the same issue, but I could never sit down and actually synchronize the whole archive in a sitting.
To resolve the label issue, I simply deleted them. Yep, I threw away countless cumulative hours spent tagging my e-mail, because it simply wasn’t worth my time. After all, I have to type “label:whatever” in the search box (or use the g-l combo) anyways, so who cares if I type “whatever I’m looking for” instead of “whatever-i-called-the-label-this-should-be-under”.