Inbox Zero

I briefly got to inbox zero over the labor day holiday and have been managing to keep things more or less under control since. There are two services that I've started using that have made a big difference for me recently. – from the man who brought us phonetag (one of my all time favorite services) comes This is as low tech as you can get. The service unsubscribes you from mailing lists, automatically if they can, manually if they have to. You get five unsubscribes per month for free and for $19 you can upgrade to unlimited unsubscribes (not per month, forever). I didn't even bother with the free offer. I paid $19 the minute I saw this service and to date I have unsubscribed to roughly 125 mailing lists with the click of a button.

You download their extension for outlook and gmail and just hit the unsubscribe button. That's it. One click unscubscribe. Extensions for Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL are coming soon. Check it out. For someone like me who maintains many active email addresses, some of which have been active on the Internet for almost 20 years, this is an unbelievable service. And the thing I like most about it is that it doesn't filter the email away or send it to spam. It stops the mail from being sent. It works the way email is supposed to work.


Priority Inbox – from Google comes a new feature in Gmail, one that I have been blogging about and asking for for many years. Most of you probably saw this come out a few weeks ago so this is not news to you. However, Priority Inbox has made a big difference for me. It was pretty bad right out of the box, but I decided to stay quiet for a few weeks and see what happened. I have trained Priority Inbox by clicking the yellow + sign or the blank minus sign on hundreds of mail messages. I have a lot more training to do, but after a couple weeks, it works pretty well for me.

One of the terrible things about getting hundreds of emails per day in one inbox is the fear that you'll miss something important. And I do, all the time. Priority Inbox tries to solve that problem by creating a set of emails that I must get through every day. The rest can wait until the weekend when I generally try to clean out my inbox (and fail most of the time).

The other thing I like about Priority Inbox is the section for starred emails. This simple UI decision forced me to start starring important emails, something many of you have been suggesting to me in various "email hell" posts over the years. It is neat when a feature can change behavior towards best practices. Priority Inbox did that for me.


So these two new services have made my email life a lot better. One from a scrappy entrepreneur who has always focused on solving the problem instead of building technology for technology's sake. And one from one of the biggest tech companies in the world who always chooses technology over people to solve tricky problems. But interestingly, it took a person (me) to get Priority Inbox's technology working right.

If you are using Gmail, I highly recommend using both of these tools. They've made a big impact on my email experience in a short period of time. And I think they can do the same for you.



Comments (Archived):

  1. RichardF

    strange because I thought gmail was already offering an unsubscribe service http://gmailblog.blogspot.c… but when I check my gmail options I can’t find it.Nice service from James.

    1. baba12

      If you want to unsubscribe without reporting the message as spam, click “show details” in the top-right corner of the message, then click “Unsubscribe from this sender.”Thats the last line in that post…

      1. RichardF

        correct – but I don’t have “Unsubscribe from this sender” when I do that

        1. baba12

          That is true, the sender has to be a mailing list.

          1. Josh R.

            There is a significant difference between what Gmail does and what we do at Unsubscribe. Gmail only does this for mail items that have a “List-Unsubscribe” item in the Header of the message (this is a small percentage of senders). We do a much broader swath of emails. Hope this clarifies it a bit.

  2. CliffElam

    My inbox floats between 9 and 20 items – primarily because in my annual year-end-review I noticed that I was spending a lot of time handling emails. So I decided that I would not read an email until and unless I was ready to deal with it – delete, reply, whatever. I get around 100 work related emails a day that are not total junk (“The Fridge is being removed to a toxic waste dump, get your tupperware!”). I get one or two a day that I can’t just manage when I do email. I peel off a few a day that take time to manage. So it floats at a very small number of items.This has also helped whittle down my to-do list that I keep. It helps that the guys on my team are very self directed. I figure I save a few hours a week this way.Perhaps the biggest gain for me was to shut outlook off for a few hours each day to let email trails wind to their own conclusions – it’s easy to read the solution first before you watch the problem get dissected.-XCPS – Cool idea – but i find that if I just hit “Report Spam” three times in Gmail the stuff ends up in the spam filter.

    1. fredwilson

      by hitting report spam you are doing two things that i don’t want to do1) perpetuating that email being sent again and again, taking up bandwidth and space on google’s servers2) forgoing the feedback to the mail sender that you don’t want what they are sendingi have invested in email companies for almost 15 years now and i believe in the email ecosystem and i want to use it the way it is supposed to be used

      1. Mike

        It’s funny that even as long as email has been around, I’d wager that if this is “the way it is supposed to be used” no more than 1 / 10 people are aware of it (or care).

        1. Dan Sweet

          agree. no one knows or cares how it is “supposed” to be used. people view it like yelling at friends on a school playground. lots of other people are shouting too, just ignore the ones you don’t care about.most people don’t even get that it is their inability to pay attention to forms that they fill out online that generates the bulk of the mail they receive. I regularly hear, “I don’t know how they got my name?!?” my biggest pet peeve is the web forms that default to the “of course i want lots of junk mail” option and then RE-DEFAULT back to that setting when an error of some sort kicks you back to the form submission stage again.

      2. daryn

        Report Spam should be used for actual spam. It gives google a hint of abuse, so that it can filter at the server level, as well as training your own spam filter. It shouldn’t be used as a lazy man’s unsubscribe. I hate it when I hear about people doing that.If you’re a legitimate sender, you can opt-in to feedback loops with some providers – aol, hotmail, not yahoo anymore, or gmail – in which you’ll get notification when people flag you as spam. They try and strip out any PII, but there are some ways to figure that out.I’ve worked with email servers and services for nearly as long as you’ve invested in them; I feel your pain πŸ™‚ I still think it’s our best form of general purpose communication though.

      3. CliffElam

        Eeek. If there is a link I can click on the bottom of the email I will use that, but I’m 40+ so it better not be in 6 point font and it also better not lead me to a series of pages where I have to read a lot of krep to figure out how not to subscribe to *more* stuff. (Yes, Rhapsody, I am talking ’bout you!)But 99% of the stuff I end up subscribed to does not have that functionality. So *spam* it is.-XC

  3. Harry DeMott

    Gmail is funny. I use it extensively – 2 accounts open at all times on all computers – and things like priority e-mail (working well now) are a great addition – but it is still a program very much focused on engineers. Contacts have gotten better – but still pale next to Outlook Contacts (and it pains me to write that a Microsoft product has gotten it right). similarly, I get a ton of e-mails with pdf attachments – and in gmail I haven’t found a way to open these up without scrolling down to the bottom of the page.

    1. Tereza

      Totally for engineers.And I feel creeped out loading my contacts into Google. Just don’t want to go there.Harry, as you know, DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED about the damn calendar.I just realized I’d double-booked a celebrity who is critical path to my business, and a friend with cancer at the same time because one of the calendars didn’t sync right to the iPhone. WTF??? How the hell do you make a decision like that??Bad, bad Google Calendar. I hate you.But I will stop now because I have much too much work to do. <inhale. exhale.=””>

      1. JLM

        OK, I’ve got to know, what happened? What did you do?

        1. Tereza

          I called up my friend immediately and I prostrated myself to her saying I royally screwed up with this double booking. I caught her in a good mood. I asked her how she’s doing. Blessedly, the chemo did a nice job on a tumor and upcoming surgery is a lumpectomy not mastectomy.She’s a former colleague and knows exactly what i’ve been up to. I asked her what she thought, does she need me, or should I take the meeting and we’d schedule our thing for ASAP can we reschedule.She said take the meeting. I did. It was an excellent meeting. Seriously terrific.This morning I’m calling my friend to tell her that and profusely thank her for her role in making that happen.We have lunch same time, same place, next week…which I very much look forward to.

  4. LIAD

    i like how unsubscribe fixes the problem at source rather than doing after-the-fact remedial work.was similar to a talk by the founders of message labs (sold to symantec in ’08 for $700mm) at seedcamp yesterday. Their innovation was stopping email viruses at source at the server level rather than trying to stop them once they’d already reached the client. a pretty lucrative innovation

    1. Siminoff

      We did try to attack the problem at the root. When you look at the amount of unwanted email crossing networks and jamming email servers it makes sense to try to stop it from being sent in the first place.

  5. andyswan

    I prefer to train the masses on how best to communicate with me:Leave me a voicemail and you’ve got a 10% shot of getting info back that day (unless you’re MOM), and will probably never hear back from me.Text me and you’ve got an 90% chance of response within an hourIf I missed your email, just email me again. If you still don’t get a response, I’m not interested.If you buy me bourbon, we can sit and talk all night long….provided you are an 8 in one of the following categories: interesting, funny, attractive, of full of great stories.It may not be the most efficient or technological approach, but it does have two features I really love: Sustainability and intuitiveness.

    1. David Semeria

      As Wayne and Garth would say, “We are not worthy” ….

    2. baba12

      Do you train the masses when they meet you & you hand your card with these rules embossed on them or is there a more subtle way of ignoring emails, the sender does not know you missed it.Just wondering how the training process works.

    3. Aaron Klein

      Three features. You forgot the bourbon.

      1. Evan

        hmm. Woodford Reserve. One of the things I miss while I’m in Argentina.

      2. andyswan

        Nice call

  6. baba12

    Mr.Wilson is in a unique position wherein he gets a ton of emails because of his position in society i.e a partner in a venture capital firm focussed in investing in technology companies in the internet space.But unlike many others, he does not have a staff to filter out the emails and present only the “chosen” ones that he should address.In many corporations people send emails to a entire group about some some matter that is of importance to only a single person, yet in the single most egregious decision to cover their behinds they will send it to every person in their department etc. A large part of the emails is crap and of the stuff that is not crap, 99% of it is from people sending stuff to you to cover their behinds, and you sustain the process by hitting “reply to all” perpetuating the cycle.Mr.Wilson states he has invested in email technologies for 15 years now, I wonder if he has come across any companies that put a price on a email being sent based on the value of the content.I feel that all the technologies in the world will not completely solve the problem one faces with the pile up of stuff even with the best filters etc.As a society we have formed a very bad habit and how much ever you may use technology to filter and try and keep inbox trimmed it is a never ending fight.Maybe Mr.Wilson may write a blog on how to change the “cover my behind” syndrome that seems to be a significant player in email pile ups in most peoples work email inbox’s.

  7. philiphotchkiss

    I’d have to echo AndySwan’s comments below, but with a different flavor;)I am very proactive in communicating with people on how best to communicate with me so that I can meet their needs:Voicemail – no guarantees that I’ll listen to it or get back to you within a week. (it is my least favorite form of messaging)Email – I do my best to respond to all emails within 24-hours & I respond to 99% of close relationship or high priority emails the day I receive them.Text Message – when you need to reach me in real-time, PLEASE TEXT ME – and if it’s urgent, I will do my best to drop what I’m doing, duck out of a meeting for a quick response or even leave in the middle of a movie to get you a quick reply.Twitter – I never auto-tweet, so if you see me on Twitter, I’m there, in real-time. Feel free to @ or DM me, but DMs do NOT forward to my email inbox so I won’t see them until I get back on Twitter, which at least in my case, is many times a day.

    1. Jose Paul Martin

      Philip, interesting to see someone use twitter. I personally prefer twitter over text message, in fact I feel they almost overlap… the good thing about twitter is only those who I know can DM me… others can just address me @jpmartin – it gives me choice to control who communicates.

    2. fredwilson

      that more or less is my approachbut very few people have my cell number

  8. chrisclothier

    For those of you using outlook, a tool which I cannot recommend more highly is clear context. It prioritises emails and allows for one touch filing and archiving. It keeps my inbox mostly below 20 messages. Give it a try.

  9. Mark

    I’ll try out unsubscribe first on my junk Hotmail account. :)Someone should make an email service that enables for creating new folders when you provide the email. Example: If my base email is [email protected], I can go ahead and give out [email protected], [email protected], etc. I can make all I want, and poof, I have new folders.

    1. falicon

      With email, you can add a plus sign ( + ) and anything after the plus is ignored…so it’s a great way to see what junk mail comes from what services … for example, if you sign up with my service and want to get emails use an address like [email protected] … that will actually direct emails to [email protected] …but you’ll see the +knowabout in the to address…and so if you started getting spam you would know that I’m either miss using or selling your email.Oh and if this is all news to you, don’t feel bad…I’ve been online, building email-related services, and using email since about ’92 and I didn’t know about this little trick until this year…but very handy πŸ˜‰

      1. Mark

        Thanks Kevin. Actually, I learned about the + function pretty recently too. However, what I’m getting at (with my half-baked idea), is that it would be nice to set the sort up front, so I wouldn’t have to do it in my inbox later.No doubt it needs some thought… A variation might be sending email with a new folder placed in my address. Say I want to email Fred, I could send from [email protected]. Any reply from Fred would create and go to my new AVC folder. Actually, I kind of like that one. πŸ™‚

      2. Fernando Gutierrez

        I’ve been using the plus sign trick for a while, but lately I’ve found a couple of forms that would not let me finish because they said that it was not a valid email address.

        1. falicon

          yeah – the internet is a constant battle of hacks and re-hacks…

  10. Steven Kane

    i’d like a service that with just one click would allow me to “unsubscribe” certain peoplenot just emailhave them rerouted away from my universe entirely;)

    1. Dave Pinsen

      Sounds like you’re imagining some deadly combination of Foursquare and Predator drones.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Oh what a utopia I could create …

        1. Dave Pinsen

          A utopia or a dystopia?________________________________

          1. Matt A. Myers

            Nope. A utopia still. “have them rerouted away from my universe entirely” would simply mean that there wouldn’t be people with the thinking patterns around that allow unneeded pain and suffering of others to exist.

      2. Steven Kane

        Nah. I don’t want to obliterate anybody. Just elegantly send them to a parallel universe where I don’t exist. Maybe something like Foursquare meets The Matrix, or the malfunctioning transporter that sent Kirk to the universe where Spock sported a goatee

    2. Ed Freyfogle

      Ina single word this is why twitter is so powerful – “unfollow”. You create noise, I drop you.

    3. panterosa,

      I’d call it iceberg.It would be great. Though xanax would go under.

    4. Siminoff

      No promises but we can work on that also:)

  11. awaldstein

    Somewhat tangential but if you didn’t see this short piece by Giga Om, might be worth the read… point is that with a plethora of messaging services (email included), the phone call becomes less used and more sacrosanct. Reserved for the most important or most personal.Makes sense that having better methods of sorting, including email, becomes more important and drives this trend. As well, do dashboards for sifting through all the social messages.

    1. Tereza

      Phone is now intimate, urgent, or intrusive. It means so much more than it did.If you’re going to interrupt someone’s work flow, it better be worth it. It creates a pressure to perform, the the recipient is someone you don’t know.And a call to your home landline? The only people that call there are other mommies for playdates, and political robo-calls. Every time my home phone rings, I wince.

      1. awaldstein

        Well said TerezaIt’s great that with many choices, the method can now match the message value.

        1. Tereza

          Unfortunately Rick Lazio is not well-trained.And call after call, usually in the precise window when I am putting my kids to bed, does not turn me into a fan.Anyone here got an app for that?

          1. JLM

            Uhh, yes, vote Democratic? LOL

          2. JLM

            Of course, I was just kidding. You knew that, right?

          3. Tereza

            It’s Fashion Week, Daaahling. Under such circumstances, you can’t expect me to respond immediately, now can you?Naturally, I laughed.After I got over being annoyed that you didn’t give us advance notice of your trip so we could organize a JLMNYCAVC meetup.

          4. JLM

            Yes, I was with the beautiful people at Fashion’s Night Out. Actually my wife was w/ them mostly. I had a blast but I was really working all week and went to a bunch of shows — Memphis was my favorite.Seems like when I come to NYC, I am always moving at a thousand miles per hour. I had a couple of dozen IR meetings and ate out until the wee hours every night.I did manage to walk from the Park to Battery Park and across the Brooklyn Bridge — one of my most favorite things in the whole world.

          5. Tereza

            Oh, you must’ve seen me then. I was the tall thin one.Next time, introduce yourself, OK?

      2. Dave Pinsen

        An e-mail at an odd hour could be anything. If I get a phone call at an odd hour I start wondering if someone I know died.

        1. Tereza

          That is always my first thought too, Dave. At a late hour it literally sets my heart racing…and not in a good way.

          1. JLM

            The more connected we become, the less we like being reached.I am amazed at the amount of communication I conduct during time periods which were sacred once upon a time.

        2. CJ


      3. JLM

        “home landline” — let that phrase hang in the air for a second or two because you will never hear that phrase again in a couple of years LOL

    2. JLM

      Very interesting topic — how we communicate and relate to each other in business. Not the same thing at all.Last week I was in NYC to do a bit of IR work w/ a stable of new prospective stockholders. A ton of meetings over a 4 day period hurrying to and from w/ a driver and the IR hired gun in order to ensure maximum efficiency.Not raising money, just touting the stock now that I have gotten things to a tipping point and should be able to really accelerate earnings growth. Every meeting initiated by me and more than a few “no”s in the course of kissing frogs.I was struck w/ how little things had really changed since my adventures raising gobs of money in the real estate business in the days before e-mail, etc.I had sent a PPT presentation to each and every one of them prior to meeting with them and not a one read it — except for a couple of whiz kids who were managing about $20MM in micro cap funds. The guys managing billions knew I would tell them the story.At each and every meeting, we spoke in a conference room — almost every meeting was at least 60-90 minutes long which I hate because I can tell the story of creation in about 17.5 minutes — and had ample time for Q & A and pleasantries.Lots of low overhead operations and really good single shot coffeemakers (and very proud of them).I had a couple of lunches.Several of these folks had in their files a handwritten note I had sent to them some years ago — frankly I had forgotten that I had met some of these guys — and attached to it was my business card. More than a few remarked on that.I am struck by the fact that “old school” manners and style of doing business is quite rare and therefore attracts a bit more attention than it might otherwise deserve.What I had were a series of unhurried conversations rather than a bunch of premature ejaculations posing as communications.Not suggesting there is anything wrong or right with either approach but just an interesting observation. I conclude that very few people today really know how to have a conversation or be an interesting conversationalist.I just got done sending out 18 handwritten notes to each of the folks I met with.

      1. S. Pandya

        Love your post. Follow-up is a forgotten art. I am trying to get better at it myself.I think there is something about a handwritten thank you note that is impossible to ignore. Given the fact that most people are pressed for time, it is interpreted as a sign of sincerity since the writer must essentially slow his life down and take the time to do it.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Can we make some “I Heart JLM” t-shirts?

        1. JLM

          Of course, if you get my wife’s permission, move to Texas and dip the leaves out of the swimming pool.Thanks for the kind words.

          1. Matt A. Myers

            You want me to be a pool boy for your wife?And you’re very welcome.

      3. awaldstein

        Thanks for this JLM. I really appreciate the story and it has left me with some unclear thoughts to sort out over time (which is good).I’m a big adopter of technology and a believer that new social technologies have enhanced life by adding more to it. And likewise, I try not to make broad generational generalizations…although tempted at times for certain.I guess I believe that interesting, observant, respectful, conversant and creative people have always been a rarity. Thanks for being one of them and being generous with yourself.

      4. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Sadly, have to concur, 100%, JLM…

  12. NI

    The unlimited services shows up at $19/year. Still worth it for many.

  13. falicon – yet another incredibly awesome service I automatically say “why didn’t I think of that” about…anyway, big fan. Thanks for pointing it out/sharing.

  14. hsztul

    I think Siminoff hit the nail on the head with his new service!Now, I wish there was an unsubscribe-from-snail-mail… for all the physical junk mail I get!

    1. Siminoff

      Thanks Henry. As for the physical world, as you know I try to stay out of that:)

  15. Dave Pinsen

    Where do Disqus alert e-mails fit into your new e-mail ecology? Just wondering, because I respondedto one of your comments on a previous post of yours a couple of days ago and you’re usually pretty good about responding to comments. Are your new e-mail services nixing Disqus e-mails?

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Hopefully they can differentiate between mailing lists, and wanted notifications? I’d imagine they’d have a whitelist.

    2. fredwilson

      i’ve got them in priorityi’m not sure what response you are talking about but i believe i am up to date on disqus up to a day or two ago

      1. Dave Pinsen

        This response, where I asked you about the possibility of partnering with Covestor to offer Portfolio Armor to Covestor users.

        1. fredwilson

          daveplease send me a regular email on that

          1. Dave Pinsen

            OK, will do.

  16. kenberger

    now I’d like to see Jamie or someone else nail this for *real mail*. much bigger issue to me.donotcall lists turned my incoming wasted paper down to a trickle a few years ago. but not to zero.I still need to receive renewed credit cards and vehicle insurance policies. but not the other marketing crap that those co’s and their affiliates manage to still get through.

    1. JLM

      Get married and your wife will do it.Put it all in a box and bring it to the office once per week and your assistant will do it.I think you could literally insulate a boat house — small boat, OK — with the amount of crap I receive.During the fall, I use it for kindling for my outside fireplace.

      1. kenberger

        specifically, it only became a serious issue since my gfriend moved in with me this year!!

        1. JLM

          Don’t worry about it, Ken, your GF has it under control including your cell phone bill.”By the way, Sweetie, whose phone number is ……………. and what were you really doing in Miami last month?

      2. panterosa,

        What offends me about the mail solicitations is the colossal waste of paper. I call people back and tell them to take me off, and ask where they found me. I consider it an act which saves my time of chucking it out, saves their production, but mostly saves the paper from being harvested/recycled whatever. Even if my time is precious, I still do it once a quarter, and get of the growing lists.It is of course more ridiculous the more ‘green’ a company calls itself to produce this instantly recycled media.The Do Not Call Registry is great in reducing waste of time (though who picks up the land line these days?).Waste sucks.It is also why the handwritten note sticks out so much, to mention your earlier post. I still write. With a fountain pen no less. It is so refreshing to slow down time. So opposite of waste.

        1. JLM

          There is still a bit of magic in a good old fashioned fountain pen.In the old days, whenever we inked a really big deal I would have engraved Pelikan pens (Mont Blanc was so bourgeois, so predictable) made with some info about the deal and the person’s name engraved on the pen. I still have a drawer full of them.I like a good Pelikan roller ball these days but I am going to hunt out a fountain pen tom’w, soak it and start using one again to sign documents.Thanks for reminding me.The other thing you need is some really nice notecards — either a very nice thick linen single pager or a folded notecard w/ a custom picture on the front and your contact info on the back.

          1. panterosa,

            I have never had an engraved fountain pen. I like the idea of signing a deal that way.I use disposable fountain pens on the go, with pink ink. Home/office/studio I have Waterman. I grew up with Parkers. I learnt calligraphy from a Polish man who had studied with a scribe in the Warsaw ghetto as a young boy. They wrote the responses to letters, which many could not even read. He was in his late 70’s when he taught me. He had wonderful stories and such a kind charming manner. I think it came from the enforced slowness of his craft. He taught people who came just to court a loved one with beautiful letters.I still use the pen he gave me to illustrate my children’s books. I also began designing stationary after calligraphy. A nice note has real weight still.

          2. JLM

            Fabulous story rich with the scent of real life — interesting life. Thanks.

  17. Matt A. Myers

    Sorry if this was answered before.But, how did you get signed up to roughly 125 mailing lists to begin with?

    1. fredwilson

      some i signed up for most i did notan email that has been live on the internet for 20 years is a problematic thing

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Ah πŸ™‚

  18. Josh N.

    Can’t believe that hasn’t come up – this is a great (free) service that lets you either use your own subdomain ( or domain. Basically their Defender service works as a glorified catch all – that ‘creates’ a new mailbox automatically when an email is received – so you can give out WHATEVER email address you want (at your specified domain).Mail is delivered to each ‘mailbox’ and then can be monitored via RSS, IMAP or their web client. The best part is, if you start receiving unsolicited mail, you can isolate it to a specific mailbox and determine which company sold/gave away your email address based on which address you gave to them – you can then block/close that mailbox to no longer receive mail to that address.You could effectively do something very similar with a Google Apps account catch-all and filtering, but this gives you more control (custom RSS feeds, blocking)Apparently v2.0 of their Defender product is on the way – highly recommended.

    1. Senith @ finance tutor

      How does make money? Curious!

      1. Josh N.

        They have another product called Organizer which goes into your mailbox and auto-labels messages – I guess they can collect anonymous metrics around this, in theory.The reality is that the Defender product as is today doesn’t have a great business model, but if it hooks you into their service, they can figure out other ways to make money. Defender used to be freemium (I was a paying customer) but they’ve taken that option away as they plan to roll out v2.0

    2. Aaron Klein

      I tried this by simply creating a catchall on my domain, and it annoyed me to no end so I stopped doing it. Try to remember what address you used when you’re going back to log in to that web service, or God forbid, they have an unsubscribe feature that you have to log in to use.

      1. Josh N.

        That’s what’s great about OtherInbox – you can simply block that mailbox and you no longer receive mail to it (which is fine since it was unique to that sender anyway)Could do the same thing with a filter in Google Apps.

        1. Aaron Klein

          Right, I could and did. But having a different e-mail address for each web service drove me [email protected], [email protected], etc. Those two are simple, but others not so much. Did I use the acronym? Did I use an abbreviated form of the name?Ultimately, it’s just easier to have good spam protection and unsubscribe from stuff you don’t want. Definitely going to set up

          1. Josh N.

            At least with OIB you know which mailbox its coming IN to, so you can block that mailbox immediately if it starts getting spammed or you want to opt-out.

        2. sull

          otherinbox aside, similar results can be achieved with subaddressing and filters in gmail.e.g.michael+newsletter1@gmail dot com….if it gets contaminated, setup a filter to junk/delete the mail to it.unlimited subaddresses with gmail.but otherinbox is surely a very well thought out product and i have experimented with the same techniques myself, using catch-all with my own algorithms to sort/handle the incoming content and fire off some events based on rules etc. fun stuff.

          1. Josh N.

            Good point – the problem with “plus addressing” is that many forms/services won’t accept an email address with a + sign in it as valid.Here is a neat workaround for “minus/dash addressing” that can easily be set up in Google Apps:

          2. sull

            TouchΓ©!I have noticed that from time to time. Very annoying restriction but I suppose some services want to cut down on abuse (i.e. bots) that having infinite virtual email addresses can more easily enable.

          3. Vinay Pai

            I’ve seen that suggested, but I have to say, if I were a spammer, one of the first things I would do is strip out all the sub-addressed portions of e-mail addresses on my list.

          4. sull

            True of course. At the same time, creating a little extra work for spammers is a good thing ;-)Sub-addressing is useful for general organization, not just for thwarting spam. Thankfully, Google etc have excellent tech for dealing with spam today.

          5. Vinay Pai

            Haha very, true! Sadly spammers and scammers are an amazingly motivated bunch.At my last job (at OkCupid) we spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with spammers, Nigerian scammers and other sorts of bottom feeders. It was a constant game of cat and mouse where. It felt like for the amount of effort they put into it, they ought to be able to make a good living doing something more productive.

    3. Vinay Pai

      I used to do something pretty similar with my domain, where I set up a catchall address and gave out a different e-mail address when I signed up somewhere. For example, [email protected]. This created several problems that were a constant source of annoyance for the five or so years I did that:1. I wasn’t always entirely sure what I used when I signed up… was it [email protected], or [email protected]? Often made for some trial and error when I wanted to ask for a lost password e-mail or a site used an e-mail address as a login username.2. It often made of awkward customer service calls. Try telling a Verizon customer service rep on the phone that your e-mail address is [email protected].3. It attracted vast amounts of spam. I got a deluge of spam where they try out <randomname>@domain. Even though much of it went straight to junk, I do look through there every so often to make sure nothing I wanted got filtered, so getting 500+ a day was pretty annoying. Ironically, since most of the names they try are western names, they never my hit my actual e-mail.It seemed like a great idea when I started doing it, but the thing is in all the five years, there’s not one time when I’ve blackholed an e-mail address that started attracting spam. I’ve never seen a legitimate company send me what I’d consider genuine spam. I might have gotten subscribed to newsletters I didn’t want, but hitting unsubscribe was easier.A few weeks ago I decided to give up and turn off the catch-all, and wrote a one-liner to extract all the e-mail addresses I’ve given out over the years, and set up aliases or changed the e-mail addresses of the services I wanted to keep.

  19. ShanaC

    Fred, 1st off Congratulations. You made it past email bankruptcy! May, umm, your email credit score get better from here?Has the training/unsubscribing managed to work yet in such a way that you are still getting the important messages while also not being on the blather list. (I’m afraid to touch certain emails, like the bank ones, most of them are irrelevant to me since I don’t care about that new feature, I do care if I miss a statement)

    1. fredwilson

      it is still a work in progress but i’d say it is working better

  20. sull is interesting. i also spent last weekend unsubscribing from many mailing lists and deleted ~30,000 messages in gmail while i revamped most of my labels and filters. i also started using but need to give that more time to feel any benefits. it might be overkill for me now that i’ve done manual inbox re-organization. priority inbox has also been helpful.

  21. aanwar

    Looks like my email went to your spam! You haven’t responded to my email yet! πŸ˜‰

    1. fredwilson

      pls send it again

  22. Shyam Subramanyan

    For those who want help with reducing snail mail catalogs and make your USPS inbox zero, check out this service –

    1. S. Pandya

      You used to be able to use USPS itself to restrict delivery. Only items specifically addressed to you can get through (and not junk such as “Dear Neighbor”). Don’t know if they offer that service anymore, but it used to be free.

  23. Jose Paul Martin

    If email is the killer app, how come its killing us!??Here’s how I deal with communication these days (might not work for all) -Phone: Important and urgent – this is best. Immediate feedback. Respect of peoples time… you can politely control the conversation if things are not interesting :). Cost attached, therefore respected more.Voicemail: Important and not urgent. Try to avoid. Like I said above, if its urgent, you will call me repeatedly till I pick up call. Alternatively, you will text me to pickup for so-and-so reason.Email: Important and not urgent. Second best option. Hardly any cost attached for the sender, therefore most abused (Trust me… this is coming from a BB addict!). Yet good for communicating long and complex things (though I would prefer a collaborative website to email). Twitter: Not Important, not urgent. Advantage of short and sweet. Limitations help people focus on communicating better. Hardly any cost, other than forcing you to use your brain to communicate in 140 char!

  24. Dale Allyn

    I’m fascinated by the number of people whom I encounter on various tech blogs and fora who use gmail, and use it almost exclusively. I have two gmail accounts (okay, three), but I absolutely hate gmail, the UI/UX, the context aware ads, and more… though the spam filter is pretty darn good.I manage 8 other e-mail accounts which I use regularly, while keeping gmail for one of two purposes: 1) various online registrations and shopping sites that may induce spam; 2) an additional spam filter on an account that I’m willing to have exposed on the net. If either get out of hand they won’t be difficult to walk away from.I’m not an Outlook user, not my cup of tea, but as a techie sort of guy, I prefer all of my important or useful e-mail to be on my local machine and my servers rather than Google’s or any other cloud service. One of the big reasons for this is that searching on my local machine (via Apple’s Spotlight) is soooooooooooooo much more useful than Google’s mail search tool. And smart folders do a ton a of sorting work before I even look at my mail client. I don’t know how so many people tolerate the gmail UI on a regular basis.Glad you found the tools to help you get through your sea of backlog, Fred. You have a bigger task in this area than most of us.

    1. ShanaC

      So what is your favorite web based email client then?

      1. Dale Allyn

        HI Shana,I must admit, I don’t like web-based email. One of my gmail accounts forwards to my domain mail, the other is read via RSS until something needs my interaction.Of my remaining eight or so email accounts, IMAP allows checking/syncing from different devices if needed, but some are still on simple POP setups and work great for me. I’m online nearly 24-7-365 (while coding or running one of my analogue business efforts), though I’m trying to take more time away from the computer daily now.I do understand why people opt for gmail, but to me it comes at such a price in terms UX that I avoid it when possible. I had been watching Zenbe for a while (prior to launch), but they took a different tack than what it looked like they were originally projecting. So to answer your question, I do think that gmail is better than options such as Yahoo!, Hotmail, etc.; and superior to Squirrel Mail and the like. That is, if you don’t mind the ads about whatever personal medical topic you mentioned in your latest message. ;)If there was a quality, elegant, intelligent webmail solution for a reasonable fee, and from a trusted entity, I’d gladly pay for it, rather than going with free gmail. For now, 95% of my e-mail is handled via my domains and my local client (Apple Mail). As mentioned about, the global search of the OS is valuable to me and gets used daily.

        1. Dale Allyn

          Oops!, I meant “As mentioned above…”. Disqus got a little hinky on me and I couldn’t see what I was typing. πŸ˜‰

          1. Dale Allyn

            I guess that I should add that if I were using gmail more, I’d likely add MailPlane (Mac only) as a means of overcoming some of the irritations. But I prefer to keep things simple and tend to avoid additional layers of apps that will require maintenance and updating on my systems if possible.

  25. daryn

    I’m using SaneBox on one account, Priority Inbox on another, jury is still out on which I prefer, but both have been huge productivity is a good idea, though I’ve never really had a problem using unsubscribe links for legitimate mails, and flagging the rest as spam. Also, I’d like to see all the ESPs and mail clients support something like the list-unsubscribe header; though I worked in that industry long enough to know that’s a pipe dream.

    1. sull

      gmail also has ability to unsubscribe from mailing lists when you expand the header info (show details) you should see options to “filter message like this” and/or “attempt to unsubscribe from mailing list”. I’ve used those options often.

      1. daryn

        Yep, that’s what I was talking about. I just wish more mailers, andother mail clients, did that as well.

  26. Jake Rocheleau

    Yeah I’m loving this new era we’re getting into. It’s gonna save a lot of time in productivity

  27. Pete Davies

    Fred — this is great and I signed up immediately. It’s working great on my google apps account. You said you’re using it on multiple email addresses… I’d love to do this but can’t figure out how. Are you importing them into your gmail interface via POP?

    1. Josh R.

      Pete – Happy to help you (and anyone else) get additional emails into the system. If you send an email to [email protected] with the additional emails we’ll add them in. We are working on adding this to the site. BTW – Currently, if you’re using the Gmail button or the Outlook buttons they will both automatically add additional addresses if they are in your account.

  28. Kim @Money and Risk

    Hi Fred,I used to be swamped by emails. I do have tons of email addresses and get hundreds of emails a day.Since I’ve added the Ipad, it’s my preferred method to read emails now. I’ve actually got caught up every day and delete emails quickly.Thanks for the recommendation on Inbox Zero. I’ll check it out.

  29. Tom Krieglstein

    I got on an inbox zero kick at the beginning of the year and haven’t looked back since. In a recent blog post I wrote out my five steps to achieving inbox zero. Below are the main headlines, click through to read the details so I don’t clog the comments with a long a*s response.1) Create an ‘archive’ folder and move your entire inbox to the folder.2) Remove yourself from every and all newsletters/listserves expect the most important.3) Create rules to filter messages away from your inbox to folders.4) Disable all new email notifications.5) Your inbox is not your To-Do list.a) Unsubscribe / Mark As Spamb) Act right away by replying or reading, than archiving. And I mean RIGHT AWAY.c) Move it to a ‘Task – High’ folder which marks the email as high importance that you’ll act on within the week.d) Move it to a ‘Task – Low’ folder which marks the email as low importance that you’ll act on in your free time…whenever that is.

    1. fredwilson

      i am working towards this approachit seems like the only is helping me with #2 and #5a

  30. Fernando Gutierrez

    Fred, how do you manage having multiple email addresses? I also have several and sometimes it becomes a mess because the same person can be included in several categories/addresses or keeps writing to an addreess he got somewhere else and not to the one I’d like him to use (I keep the accounts separated, I prefer not to mix them all in gmail so I can focus on related things at the same time on each of my inboxes).

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t manage them reallythey all come into a single inbox at gmail

  31. Kvzaustin

    +1 for OtherInBox. Absolutely essential inbox tool.

  32. JLM

    Seems to me that today when a guy gets to “in box zero” one of the Rockettes should come over and entertain him for the evening. Hey, it could work!Hell, I’d put money in that deal!

  33. Morgan Warstler

    Perhaps James could white label his unsubscribe service…. I’d pay a pretty premium to have Fred manage my emails.

  34. obscurelyfamous

    It’s funny to see how many people try to clean out their inboxes during long holiday weekends. During labor day weekend I received a bunch of responses to really old email threads. Also sent a few out myself…

  35. Evan

    question for AVCers: if I wanted to leave gmail because I dislike how much info Google has about me (eg, this link), where’s the best place to go?

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      I’d download all email and upload it again to the new service of your choice (just drag and drop with any email client if your new service supports IMAP). Then delete everything in Gmail.I would not do it because you would be just substituting Goggle with whoever you decide, but it’s up to you… No privacy anywhere anymore. And most of us don’t care much. Frankly, I’m not as interesting as to worry about anyone sneaking in my email.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Try Yahoo! mail. I have both (gmail as the contact e-mail for a couple of websites) and I don’t see what’s so great about gmail anyway. Yahoo! has an e-mail search feature too.You don’t get any cool points for using Yahoo!, but they do somethings pretty well, and e-mail is one of them (Yahoo! Finance is another).

      1. Evan

        i had yahoo until that first day or 2 of gmail. obviously yahoo hasimproved a bunch, but i don’t think it’s enough of an improvement to get meto switch. Unlike many here, I’m relatively happy with gmail, except fortheir privacy.i’m not paranoid about privacy, but considering that gmail links everyaccount I have together (as the link above shows), I’d rather avoid that.there is a difference between public and private communication. sometimesyou use words that means different things with your friends in context thatpeople could use against you out of context.

  36. Volnado

    So the big question is how do we email you and get past your priority inbox preferences so we get you to actually read it? πŸ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      you can’tbut this increases the chances that i’ll see your email and reply to it eventually

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Morning Fred! πŸ™‚

  37. RichardF

    The question in my mind is how much manual vs automated work is going on at and is the manual work being outsourced overseas ;)If the majority is manual then you have the scale issue that phonetag/spinvox have (which is why ultimately Spinvox failed and had to be bought by Nuance in a fire sale)

    1. Siminoff

      Richard a interesting comment. First on this business/operations side I believe that things are a lot different here than the voicemail to text market. Sceond, Spinvox was not a “fire sale”, it sold at 5 times revenue in one of the worst economic times in history. Now that was less then they raised but I know a few companies that would be happy to sell at the revenue multiple they did.Regardless I seem to find that the only way to know if something will work is to put your ass and cash on the line and try it. With this one that is exactly what we are doing and time will tell if we made the right or wrong decision.

      1. RichardF

        Hi JamesI like what you are doing with and wish you all the best with it and hope it is a huge success. Absolutely agree with you about getting on and doing it.I will never ever agree with you about Spinvox and I am not going expand on it here.

  38. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Progress, indeed.It’s a shame that email is still so ‘flat’ … would be nice for highly-relevant emails to be automatically rendered in a more engaging way, somehow.

  39. Nick Grossman

    Hey Fred– my comment from yesterday is still in moderation purgatory (too many links I think)

    1. Dave Pinsen

      You may want to try to limit yourself to one link per comment, and just break it up into more than one comment if you have to. Try doing that and re-posting it.

      1. Nick Grossman

        K will do, thanks Dave

    2. fredwilson

      sorry about thati will see if i can find it and fish it out

      1. Nick Grossman

        I just reposted. Thanks though.

  40. Nick Grossman

    I’ve been using SaneBox which provides a similar service to priority inbox. I really feel for them that Priority Inbox came out just as they are getting going — I have been doing a lot of email back and forth with Stuart Roseman the SaneBox CEO to help tweak their algorithms and they’ve been super responsive. SaneBox (and now SaneBox + Priority Inbox) has really helped me answer the most important emails first (even if I’m not at IZ)Aside from more effective filtering, I am also interested in the idea of automations that can help manage your email in other ways.The other tool that has been enormously helpful for me is OmniFocus. I’m not a full-fledged GTD practitioner, but I believe in the notion of moving your to-dos into a “trusted system” and spending as little time working from your inbox as possible. Side note: cloud syncing is what made me switch from Things to OmniFocus, very recently. I am utterly baffled by Things’ slowness in getting cloud syncing done, and I think they lost a lot of users because of it (though many, including me, have given them a lot of leeway because the application is otherwise so nice).

    1. John Milner

      I’ve been using SaneBox as well. The service has been a godsend at organizing my inbox and Stuart has been extremely helpful at tweaking the algorithms. I tried PI and it wasnt nearly as accurate and SaneBox was right out of the box. Right now i’m using PI to mimic the multiple inbox lab with all my SaneBox’s.Going to give a try, i loved PhoneTag and have way too many emails that never seem to get unsubscribed.

  41. Eric Friedman

    Having the starred inbox below PI is the perfect workflow for me – it allows me to process stared emails and keep up with incoming requests. I have not found myself training the system, and been fine with the results so far.

  42. Niko

    Anyone appreciate the ironic fact that makes their money from sending you third party email and catalogs?

    1. Josh R.

      Niko,Our revenue model is pretty straightforward, as Fred mentioned, we are $19/year for Unlimited Unsubscribes. We don’t send out any third part email or catalogs.

    2. fredwilson

      they don’t do thatwhy would you spew bogus info like that about them?

  43. Mike O'Horo

    Can’t get to load.

    1. Josh R.

      Mike, if you’re having a problem with the site, the buttons, or anything, please email us at [email protected].

  44. lesson plan

    i don’t care whether anyone likes or not, what does for a mere $19 is justifiable.

    1. John Milner

      I fully agree. I signed up and paid shortly after reading this post, andI’ve already noticed a decrease in bulk mail. Yes there’s normally aunsubscribe link somewhere, but it really is much easier just to push abutton in gmail that is in the same place every time.

  45. Srikanth

    Fred, I concur with you. Google priority inbox is a time saver. I haven’t tried the unsubscribe.