Email bankruptcy... is it inevitable?

The short story is that I’m hideously overwhelmed about my email archives and have spent a number of hours trying to get them in shape.

The long story is that I lost my hard drive with email on it in 2002.. although I have some backups and I haven’t ever tried to recover information off of the drive.. it just sits on my desk. So there’s probably some amount of old email to be saved.

I rebuild my email starting then, got on mailing lists, etc.

In July of 2004, I went from a POP-centric mailbox on a crappy ISP to a IMAP setup hosted on Linode and set up folders and such for automatic file management. This helps me a lot in the sorting task but still leaves me with thousands of messages that I haven’t sorted through.

I think in about 2005, I got overwhelmed. Maybe a little earlier. The problem is something like this… There’s some mailing lists that I’d like to better participate in, but have gotten so far behind and have also been too stubborn to just scrap it all and not worry about it. The problem is that some of these lists, like the BEAM list, are incredibly useful little lists with nice little gems contained within.

Sometime in 2006, I realized there was a problem, so I started trying to clean things up, leaving lists that weren’t interesting enough, etc. I keep TRYING to do the ”empty inbox” method, but haven’t.

Now, a few weeks ago, one of my good friends who I’ve known for over a decade passed away suddenly. And I realized that I haven’t done ANYTHING with the dude in years… and started to re-examine things about my life and realized that there were too many stuttered conversations where I meant to respond to something but just let it sit there in my box and forgot about it.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that my old emails are kind of like the old stack of letters you find in your attic. So I guess on some level, I’d love to just have little folders for all of the people I care about now or cared about once. At the very least it’s easier to bury uncomfortable emails in their own little folder so that I don’t have to deal with them while I try to get my email archives in shape.

The easy road is to just declare email bankruptcy, but I’m too stubborn to try that, too.

I wrote down a task list of achievable tasks to get to this goal.

I did the first task, which is getting rid of procmail and using mailfilter instead. All of my rules are easily able to be accomplished in both procmail and in mailfilter… but procmail just feels like I’m using vi and I never learned to like that sort of syntax.

Right now, I’m trying to build a new merged set of topical collections. See, I’ve been using Outlook for years and I think it’s time to stop. I trust the Maildir format. I do not trust the mbox format or the Outlook PST format.

I’m pretty sure that the eventual solution is going to involve some more modern way of managing my presence in mailing lists. I’m pretty sure that I’m going to end up writing some custom script tools to manage things better. I’m also pretty sure that after I’m done, Outlook is not going to be containing any email. I may stop using it altogether, actually.