Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Email stroke recovery

After spending an entire day recovering about 6 months' worth of supposedly archived emails, I'd like to see a change in the way my mail browser works.

The funny thing is, the whole reason my messages went missing is because I was trying to find a better way to keep track of everything. Tired of a mile-high inbox, I had decided to try the GTD approach. This entailed creating an archive folder and automating things with tags and filters, which worked well until a huge number of messages were somehow deleted or trashed in the filter.

Fortunately, I have a 500GB USB hard disk for nightly backups, plus a 1TB NAS to back up the backups, and even more fortunately, the NAS went offline for reasons unknown at about the time the messages were deleted. Vista is still refusing to map the NAS, so I had to log on to it through my web browser and download the outdated backup file, with the result that I'm only missing about a week's worth of received messages.

But this got me to thinking, those messages aren't actually lost; they're just irretrievable, just like all those items buried in the sofa. They're still sitting in the sent messages folders of my contacts, or even embedded in replies in my own sent messages folder.

So what I'd like to do is to redefine my email archives to include the inboxes and sent folders of all my contacts, and have those sent and received emails shared and accessible to my mail browser. This would make 90% or more of all supposedly lost emails immediately retrievable. Just like a stroke victim relying on friends and relatives to recall significant information, my browser could call on this distributed archive and recombobulate my entire correspondence, preferably in the background while I waste my time on hardware problems instead.

Meanwhile, I have the consolation of knowing that my missing correspondence lives on, if only in spirit.

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