Dare Obasajo recently posted about the drawbacks of Outlook style UI for reading blogs. He says it’s because Outlook has the assumption that you want to read every message. I have a slightly different take on it. I get plenty of email I don’t read 🙂
I originally did most of my blog reading using Newsgator in Outlook. There are a lot of things I like about reading blogs in Outlook. I can use smart folders to organize things and read groups of blogs in a virtual folder. I can move posts to any folder, along with mail items, can flag them, forward them, etc. Recently, I’ve started using Newsgator’s online service. I didn’t think I’d ever use it at first, since I only read blogs from a single machine. However, I find I really like being able to see a large list of posts on the screen at once. I can scan through them much more quickly.
So, I was thinking, why don’t we use the same sort of view for email? I can think of two big reasons:
- Typically you get long threads of email where each message quotes the previous messages. You’d end up seeing a lot of redundant content. This could potentially be helped with smart thread collapsing logic, but it’s difficult to deal with threads that branch.
- Email can end up being really long and you often don’t want to read the entire contents. Sometimes this is true of blog posts too (are you still reading this? :-). It’s also sometimes just a consequence of #1. I can imagine solving this by truncating messages in the view with a button to expand them in place.
Of course, there are some types of email that are just like blog posts, like announcement email or newsletters of various sorts. So, what I’d ideally like is email and blog posts in a single app that supports both sorts of view.