Lotus Notes - Unread Marks

Wednesday 1st June, 2005
(a long post, but I'd appreciate any feedback)

Following up from my previous posting it seems I am the only person in the world who has problems with unread marks in their Lotus Notes infrastructure. As such, I know there's no hope whatsoever of IBM actually resolving the SPR so that they work, properly, every time.

So, I now have to rethink a major internal rebranding exercise. I was planning on moving around 1000 users into new OUs but it seems there is no way I can do that without then losing all the unread marks in their inbox or at best most of them messing up. Every time unread marks screw up (server move, cluster change etc.) our helpdesk gets bombed with calls and we simply cannot afford to plan a change which will do this again.

So, I plan to move all new staff into the new OUs when they join. Staff turnover will slowly move the majority of the user base into the new identities, but not soon enough. So what of the existing staff? How do we get them into the new OU without the problem? People have suggested using some kind of agent to extract the unread marks and then import them in again afterwards. This won't help, the names will have changed so the unread marks I exported will be wrong. So then I came up with another plan...

We're shortly planning to introduce a mail archiving tool as part of another concurrent project. The end result of this (aside from compliance) will be smaller, better managed inboxes. But will it? What's actually going to get users to clean up their inboxes? Aren't they just going to archive their oldest messages from their inbox the next time they hit the mailbox quota?

At the end of the day, efficiency of staff comes from effective management of mailboxes; many training courses push people in this direction. What tools do they have for this? Well, we have folders. This allows users to move messages from their inbox to an organised container when it's been dealt with. If they forget where it's been filed, they can use full text search to find it in their "all documents" view. Again, great stuff. Then we have unread marks...

Unread marks are a fantastic way of helping a user to manage their inbox. They can see, easily, which messages they have read and which they haven't. If a message requires a future action, they can mark it "unread" again so it stick out. A view toggled allows you to show/hide read messages so all the unread ones are highlighted.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but any email that doesn't have a pending action should be filed...in a folder...or even better, it should be archived. Any message that needs a follow-up should be marked such, that's what the feature is for. The unread marks, intentionally or not, actually encourage people to not folder their messages.

So, I have an archiving system on the way. I don't just want people to effectively manage their inboxes and folder messages, I want them to archive them too. If you haven't seen where I'm going here...I'm thinking of turning off unread marks.

You get a new message, the new mail notification tells you by a sound/popup/tray icon and the message appears at the bottom (or top) of your inbox. Why does it need to be "unread"? It's right there at the bottom of your inbox, below all the other messages you've yet to action. If it's urgent or high priority, the sender can mark it so, otherwise it just appears as another pending message in the list which an effective person would work through oldest first. In fact, in my Franklyn W Covey training course of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" we were actively instructed to turn off New Mail notification. It only leads to distraction and only rarely is of any benefit at all.

So, I take unread marks away from my ineffective users. The only way they'll be able to manage is to folder/archive their inbox and maybe start marking messages for follow-up. Mission accomplished. Now I just need to get approval for this. I don't value my chances, but at the end of the day I'm removing a feature that doesn't work. Let's face it, the whole concept of marking a read message unread again just defies all logic. You've read it, so it's not unread.

  1. 1) Gerco Wolfswinkel Said: (01/06/2005 15:54:13 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Lotus Notes - Unread Marks

    I don't think I know any organisation where I could pull this off - although it makes sense, at some level!

  2. 2) colman Said: (03/06/2005 14:37:33 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Lotus Notes - Unread Marks

    I know what you're trying to say, but there's a big difference between being notified of new mail and being able to see what has arrived that you haven't read yet. What you really need to do is stop people re-setting the unread indicator, but I can envisage a lot of resistance to switching unread marks off completely. Hell, I get 50+ emails on a quiet day and if I had to go back through them and figure out which I'd read and which I hadn't then I'd be a lot *less* productive.

  3. 3) Chris Whisonant Said: (09/06/2005 21:16:40 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Lotus Notes - Unread Marks

    I see where you're going with it. I, for one, should be slapped on the wrist. Instead of using the follow-up feature I find it much easier to hit my Insert button and mark it unread. Right now my Inbox has only One total message in it and I have one folder with 3 Unread docs that I should get back to.

    I also use rules to move listserv messages, system-generated messages, etc... to various folders. Unread marks prove highly vital here.

    Also, IBM does recommend that documents be move OUT OF the Inbox into other folders (or archived or deleted) because the size of individual Inbox "folders" has an effect on server and/or client performance. See:

    { Link }

    The chapter "Key Findings > Effect of storing documents in the Inbox" is good. While this was a study specifically for iSeries, I would think that the findings would be similar on other servers.

    "The Inbox folder, which contains all new messages received to a mail file, must be updated each time a user opens the file or clicks Refresh to see new mail. The more documents kept in the Inbox folder, the more expensive it is to refresh the view of it. Reducing the number of documents in the folder

    reduces the CPU and main storage required to update the view of it."

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