Will Gmail’s Priority Inbox Work?

by Khalid Hosein on September 5, 2010

Google has a new Gmail feature to help those of us suffering from e-mail overload – Priority Inbox.

The idea is relatively simple. The Priority Inbox component watches your e-mail, what you read and reply to, what you delete and other signals and tries to ‘learn’ what you consider important. It then separates your Inbox into 3 sections: Important (at the top naturally), the Starred items, and Everything Else.

Requisite cute video:

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So will it work?

Well that question is really misleading. Shuffling your e-mail around doesn’t necessarily address the flood or your capacity to deal with it. Yes, it does help with pushing the important stuff to the top. But if you are simply receiving more mail than you are able to deal with – if your unread message count keeps growing – then you have a much larger issue.

You need to simplify! You need to start unsubscribing from newsletters and those Facebook notifications (or possibly consolidating them – perhaps an RSS reader and the judicious use of Yahoo Pipes?). You need to work towards a zero-sized Inbox.

You may be simply overworked. Time to re-evaluate.

Have you ever wondered why it’s ok to let your computer inbox to grow without limit while it would be considered abnormal and a generally bad idea to let your snail mail pile up?

Regarding the application itself and its technology, I thought of at least one good advantage and one potential downfall. This could be very useful once you have it trained to help you quickly get a snapshot of what’s going on, say when you’re on vacation or have very limited time to check e-mail.

The fatal flaw is when you get an ‘important‘ e-mail message from a sender that you’ve never corresponded with before. For example (and I’ve received these), you may get an alert from your insurance company notifying you that you’re behind on your payment, but you normally never receive any e-mail from them.

Despite any misgivings or skepticism I may have, I’m sure Priority Inbox will have more than its fair share of fans.