Microsoft's Answer To Death By Email: Meet Clutter - InformationWeek

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Microsoft's Answer To Death By Email: Meet Clutter
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jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
11/20/2014 | 11:20:24 PM
Exchange limitations
Microsoft has set themselves quite a challenge here; if they can deliver, then the world will love them. Screw it up and nobody in business will touch the product going forward.

The comments about sorting by sender are interesting; Exchange is well known for setting aside such a stupidly small space for server-side rules, and running them client-side is really not practical across multiple access platforms. I've tried sorting incoming mail in Exchange using server side rules and I found myself rapidly out of space for rules.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
11/15/2014 | 7:54:43 AM
Filters
I have this option in Thunderbird for years. It is called email filters and works great! All incoming email gets filtered and stuffed into various folders properly named and organized. Some emails get thrown away immediately (because some folks do not honor the unsubscrie, grrr) and it all got even better with using masked emails that with a simple click I can set to forward or discard.

In typical Microsoft fashion, they are years late to the game and now come across as if they invented email, the internet, and yes, the toaster as well.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/13/2014 | 10:46:30 AM
Re: Clutter Consistency
I'm very curious to see if they've really cracked it. Microsoft has been hearing skepticism about Clutter since they announced it back in April. As mentioned, Julia White conceded to us back in May that Microsoft is walking a fine line between succeeding, and that Microsoft could severely damage customer trust if Clutter doesn't work. On a practical level, I don't see how Microsoft's machine learning can be so good that I wouldn't miss any important messages-- or at least so good that I don't mind if I miss an occasional message because Clutter is otherwise so helpful. But at the same time, Microsoft officials have listened to this sort of skepticism without batting an eye. Maybe the company's caught up in its own hubris-- but maybe they've got a winner. We'll see.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/13/2014 | 10:30:48 AM
What's important?
I applaud any effort by Microsoft to declutter email, but I'm skeptical about an algorithm ranking my email by "importance" as importance is subjective and ever-changing. An email source can be irrelevant 10 times and then suddenly important. I worry about a crucial email getting dropped into a spam-like folder and I miss it. I think Gmail's tabs have the right idea in filtering by category (primary, social, promotional) and is being pushed further by Google Inbox. 
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
11/12/2014 | 8:01:20 PM
Re: Clutter
Awwww. @DavidFCarr. I miss Clippy I agree with the reservations people have with software like this. Messages come in three "colors:" black, white, and gray. Software like this sees in black and white. Sometimes there's no substitute for human intervention.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
11/12/2014 | 5:05:19 PM
Re: Clutter
@ThomasClaburn a great name, you say? Is it unfair that I read Clutter and immediately thought of Clippy?
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/12/2014 | 1:50:06 PM
Re: Clutter Consistency
Doug just crystallized why what MS is asking Clutter to do is such a hard task. I dread my spam filter folder and yet every so often, there is something I want. Has MS really cracked the ranking secret?
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
11/12/2014 | 1:35:38 PM
Re: Clutter Consistency
Even if this tool is more subtle than filtering by source, the matter of consistency just might be a key test for Clutter. Humans and events aren't consistent. Sometimes communications from a particular contact or about a particular topic can be very unimportant, but then there might be rare occasions when those same contacts or topics become VERY important. Will Clutter know the difference? If, for example, I consistently ignore a particular PR contact pumping a particular tech vendor nine times in a row, will Clutter suddenly realize that I might be very interested in that 10th contact, say, when the vendor finally makes a high-profile customer available or highlights truly breakthrough capabilities?

Say what you will about (lowercase) clutter, but when it's organized in last-in, reverse-chronological order, it's consistent in a good way. Yahoo! sent many email user for a loop when it suddenly imposed its "conversation" view whereby responses to earlier emails were suddenly clumped together with the original email. That made it hard to find old email messages and caused a revolt, a final straw that moved many long-time Yahoo customers over to GMail and elsewhere.

Long story short, Microsoft had better be careful with this Clutter feature, making it easy for users to experiment with it and turn it off if they don't like it.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/12/2014 | 12:02:55 PM
Re: Clutter
"Filtering by source isn't necessarily going to work consistently."

I think Office Graph is more sophisticated than that. It doesn't filter by source, per se, but rather according to a matrix of interactions that include but are not limited to who sent a given message. That said, I share your caution. Even if Clutter is right 95% of the time, that would mean I'm missing 1 out of every 20 important messages. For most of us, that "success" rate would cause more problems than the "convenience" of Clutter would solve. At the same time, when I brought this line of skeptical questioning to Office GM Julia White back in May, a month after Clutter was first previewed, she seemed to understand that if people miss even one vital email, they'll turned off Clutter forever.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
11/12/2014 | 11:55:34 AM
Re: Clutter
Right, and filtering by topic is almost as problematic. I may not care to see coworker's cat photos, but if my boss sends some around, I might want to know. Plus, this is one more folder to forget to check.
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