Thousands of drafts


A few days ago I was helping someone with some computer problems when I discovered she has a thousand unsent messages in Outlook. I was astonished. “You’re in the middle of writing a thousand emails?” I asked her.

“No, that’s where I keep any scraps of information I want to save for later!” she replied. “Web links, notes, bits of text I want to copy and store away…”

I was astonished! I told her there are far better ways to manage information like that! Her web browser can store bookmarks, her notepad program can store pages of notes, her address book can store details about people… “Having to copy and paste information into email messages means adapting the way you work to what you believe the computer has available for you. Instead, you should look for tools that better fit the way you work, so that you can adapt your computer to your needs.”

Later I was talking about this with a friend of mine who works for Google. “We ask new hires,” he said, “how many draft messages should we limit Gmail users to? Ten? Fifty? A hundred? Turns out there are actually a lot of people who use email the way you’re describing – there are people who have tens of thousands of unsent messages, each containing a small snippet of information. And why not? Gmail indexes them, they’re all stored online so they’re backed up and synced automatically across the users’ devices … sure it’s not the intended purpose, but it’s a fine way to store stuff.”

I’d never considered that. I myself would never work that way, but maybe this is these people’s way of adapting the computer to their needs, maybe using email as a notepad fits their needs just fine!

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