Somewhere over the past couple of years, Gmail solved spam. I’m not sure when it happened, precisely, but by now spam in my inbox is so rare that it actually catches me off guard. How did that get through?
Still, about six months back, I realized that nearly half of my email was what’s sometimes called ‘bacn’: those notices, newsletters, updates and alerts somewhere between spam and the ‘ham’ of real, human-sent emails. Shipping notices from Amazon, connection requests on LinkedIn, investor updates, retweets on Twitter, bills due to ConEd, Time Warner and AT&T, server status pings, all piling up at alarming speed. And though I wanted to at least glance at all those emails, few were crucial, few warranted immediate reading or response.
Still, because of their sheer volume, those bacn bits quickly gummed up the works, making it harder to spot and corral the messages that really did deserve quick attention.
So, using Gmail’s filter system, I fixed the problem:
I created a label called “!Robots” (with the ‘bang’ / exclamation point to alphabetize first).
Then, over the course of a month or so, as any email came in that wasn’t a personalized message from a real person, I’d click the little arrow at the top right of the message, choose “Filter messages like this”, then choose “Skip the Inbox” and “Apply the Label: !Robots”.
Now, once every day or two, I head to the !Robots folder, and crank through the hundred or so messages that have inevitably accumulated. Most require nothing more than a quick glance. Others – say, an expiring domain – need a minute or two of action. Still, I can usually get through the folder in well under ten minutes.
And then, the rest of the time, when I check my email – whether in Gmail, in Sparrow, or on my iPhone – all I get is the good stuff. No weeding necessary.
Turns out, taking out the bacn has been as much of an improvement as taking out the spam.