Email has its uses: Wait until you lose it

Last updated 13:45 02/10/2012

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OPINION: From the most flippant forwarded gag, to the accidental send - everyone has their own email horror stories.

Thanks to a recent transition to more modern systems, I now have a few more of my own.

As part of a Fairfax-wide move, we are being shuffled from Microsoft's Outlook Express to Google's Gmail.

As far as I can tell, this is an attempt to bring us up to date and move us to the more stable servers of Google.

It's causing something of a consternation among the troops, as the less computer-savvy computer users panic about changing a system they've mastered.

Being something of a glutton for punishment and a wannabe-early-adopter, I signed up as part of an advance group of employees who would be moved to the new system early.

As a Google Guide, it will be my job to help other staff through the traumatising transition to the new system. For this, I may even get a T-shirt.

“What the hell,” I thought, “at least I'll get a column out of it, and how hard can it be?”

Some of the problems were my fault. Well, most of them.

I didn't log off on Friday before I left, meaning when I logged in I didn't have the new browser I'd been permitted to use.

When setting up my email on my phone, I didn't bother following a handy guide on the Fairfax site, instead preferring to spend about two hours trying ever-more desperate combinations of passwords, servers, and domain names.

I think my aim was to make the process as difficult as possible, so that I would be full of advice when the rest of the staff moved over.

The whole process also involved a weekend without email, and I'd been looking forward to taking a few days off from receiving work-related missives. Instead, I spent the weekend anxious, wondering whether I'd missed receiving something important that couldn't possibly wait until Monday (I didn't, by the way).

Email is important to us, and when we're cut off from it, we panic.

Even as social networks have risen in popularity, email has remained the most reliable way of electronically reaching out to someone - and being reachable yourself.

There's no guarantee that a given person will be on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook (although this is increasingly a safe bet), but everyone has an email account.

Every so often you'll read impassioned diatribes from people who have quit their email habit, or cut down on their time spent with their inbox open, but I don't see a widespread move away from the service any time soon.

Given the name of this column, that might not be surprising.

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Email is useful as a DIY database of important information.

Us journalists will often have reports, Official Information Act responses, and - unfortunately too frequently - interview responses in our inboxes.

A lot of the organising is done for us - email is displayed in chronological order, and can be organised by subject, recipient, sender, and more.

Although an email is supposed to be the virtual equivalent of a letter, people often treat their email inboxes more like a filing cabinet.

When it comes to email, I subscribe to the “keep everything, do absolutely no organisation” school of thought.

Rather than creating folders and filing each incoming message into the appropriate place, in an effort to get to “inbox zero”, I just leave it all in there and either search for an email or use the filters to zero in on emails from a certain recipient or time.

A Gmail-based life will suit me quite well, as Google's search is even better than Microsoft's.

For the rest of the staff (and hence me), the transition may be more painful.

They move over to the new system on Monday. If you want to know how it goes, email me.

- The Nelson Mail


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