Web2.0 organization of your reference library

I’ve recently started using CiteULike. Bad name, great concept. It applies web 2.0 design patterns to management of your reference library: tags, comments, sharing, etc.

You can extract information on references from many common reference sites like PubMed and, and, erm, is there anything else? References can be exported in a number of formats for when it comes time to actually *write* a MS. Good stuff.

Email workflow outline

email_flow1.pngI’ve finally finished organizing my email workflow.The diagram above illustrates my new email workflow.1. Two accounts (well, many actually) allow me to keep work and home emails separate.2. Each account accepts mail and is IMAP enabled.3. Filters:

  • Each account forwards all emails to an archive account.
  • Select mailing lists have filters that: skip the inbox, forward to the archive, and delete. This keeps my mobile email to only the most critical things.
  • Mail that is FROM me is also sent to the archive address. This ensures that my sent mail is archived, too.

4. The archive account is POP3 enabled.Mail clients are configured to leave mail on the server. Since the account is essentially read only, it’s MUCH faster than archiving all email in Google’s “All Mail” folder when using IMAP.5. Emails can be deleted with impunity from the home or personal accounts, knowing that they have already been archived. I delete everything that doesn’t have an actionable item. This keeps the inbox small and manageable. Beautiful.By pushing filtering, forwarding, and archiving tasks onto the server, I gain the following advantages:

  1. Mail is available and synchronized from multiple devices: phone, client, web.
  2. All incoming and sent mail is archived automatically
  3. Mobile mail is kept thin and light; high traffic lists are available in the archive time permitting
  4. Read-only archive is also stored on the client. Since no synchronization is required, it’s very fast.

Ultimate GMail IMAP solution

My struggle managing and archiving emails across multiple devices continues.

Here are my parameters for an effective email system

1. Read and respond to email from multiple devices

2. Synchronize changes (message status, drafts) across devices

3. Have access to my full email archive

4. Online archive for backup purposes and remote access

Simple, yes?

No. IMAP offers this functionality, but unfortunately,chokes on large folders. It’s so bad that it actually blocks incoming mail while waiting for the IMAP synchronization job to finish.

Here’s my new solution:

1. Primary Gmail account, with IMAP enabled

– Account forwards all email to the archive account

2. Secondary archive Gmail account.

– POP3 access only

Client configuration and usage

IMAP access to the primary account, with mailboxes mapped as appropriate. This is set up on phones, desktops, laptops ensuring that changes made on one device are visible on the others.

Emails requiring attention are starred. Anything else can be deleted since it has been safely sent to the archive account

POP3 access to the primary account. Messages should be set to be left on the server. This serves as a read-only archive.

Drawbacks:

The archive account has ALL emails including those that have been deleted as pointless.

Online access from remote cyber cafes might necessitate checking two accounts if I need to dig back into the archive.

In the event of a machine failure:

1. Configure IMAP access to the primary account.

2. Configure POP3 access to the archive account, messages set to be left on the server.

Here’s how I did it

  1. Create a new Mail Archive account (ie archive@myhost.com).
  2. Copy current Inbox and “Attention” emails into a local mailbox. We will restore these later into the primary IMAP account.
  3. From the primary gmail account, move all messages from All Mail into Inbox. It’s most quickly done via the web interface.
  4. Populate the new Mail Archive account.

    Under settings, set account to download all mail from the primary account via POP3. (Make sure that POP3 access is enabled on that account).

  5. Recreate the primary gmail account in the client (we will populate this via IMAP). Sync the account.
  6. Restore the Inbox/Attention emails to the primary account.
  7. Migrate these emails over the Archive account via POP2
  8. Disable the automatic fetching of the primary account into the Archive account.
  9. Set up the Archive account in the client, via POP3 access. Modify settings so that emails are LEFT ON THE SERVER!

Managing the email flood

After years and years trying different strategies for dealing with email, I’ve finally come up with the easiest and most flexible solution for myself.

In the past, I’ve had many accounts, for work, shopping, websites, etc. This helped compartmentalize different aspects of my life. But in the end, one account tended to drift into the other over time.

And even though I had been a one-machine wonder (I switched to using laptops exclusively almost 10 years ago), I’ve come back around and now have multiple laptops, desktops, etc. On top of that, I’ve been using smart phones (now an iPhone) for 5 years. Finally, I travel – often – and sometimes like to access my mail through a simple web portal.

Keeping all of these devices in sync is time-consuming. And when you get as much email as I do, you don’t want to read any email more than once.

My set up:

Accounts:
I have two email collector accounts. The first, a personal account hosted at Google Apps, has a number of aliases for things like shopping, travel, etc. The second work account at gmail.com that also collects mail from several other work accounts. Thus, all of my mail now comes through Google and its excellent spam filters.

I’ve set up all of these accounts using IMAP. This let’s me keep the accounts in sync regardless of which device I am using to access them.

Folders:
With the powerful searches available in both desktop clients like Apple Mail and through the Google web interface, I’ve abandoned the idea of filing emails into folders.

I have two meaningful folders per account:

* Inbox
* Starred // emails requiring my attention

I have two support folders per account:

* Drafts
* Junk

And a single archive folder for each account. All my old archived mail was moved into this folder (> 200,000 messages).

* All Mail

Advantages:

1. This system keeps my mail client very simple. If I need to find something, or want a finer-grained collection of email, I set up Smart Folders in Apple Mail or search.

2. All clients from machine to machine are synced automatically. When I get a new machine, all I need to do is set up the account configuration and wait while all my archived mail is downloaded. No worries about losing mail or creating backups.

3. I use the IMAP prefix of [Gmail]/ to make the display even clearer. This flattens any Google labels into the same hierarchy level on my mail client (or iPhone).