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May 23, 2004

Ahem. Apropos of nothing, wouldn’t a married pair of busy book editors and bloggers who practically live in their email seem like excellent candidates for beta GMail accounts? You would think. I’m just sayin’.

UPDATE: Thanks to commenters Greg van Eekhout and Bryant, we now both have nifty new GMail accounts—and the “GMail: Threat or Menace” discussion has heaved over the horizon in the comment section. To your weapons! [10:00 AM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Ahem.:

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 10:56 AM:

As an "active Blogger user," I've got one, so if I should get an invitation to invite others, I'll keep you guys in mind.

Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 11:09 AM:

Have just sent you email to your panix account regarding someone who would be able to score you a couple. Not posting his ID here, as he might get swamped.

Greg van Eekhout ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 11:15 AM:

Just sent one. Thought I had two, though. Sorry.

Bryant ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 11:17 AM:

Sending another.

Bryant ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 11:18 AM:

Actually, wait -- Greg, who'd you send yours to? Don't want to duplicate.

Bryant ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 11:26 AM:

Aha, it doesn't matter. Invite sent to tnh@panix.com.

Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 12:16 PM:

Sorry. Donated one of my invite codes to a con charity auction and the other to my father. If you'd mentioned it earlier...

The spam filtering is fairly good, although it doesn't deal with a particular type of spam - I've had a couple of emails from complete strangers asking for an invite code. This was about three weeks back, when invite codes were selling for a couple of hundred dollars on ebay. I suspect that people were googling for gmail addresses and sending begging letters to any they found.

Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 12:34 PM:

My experience was similar to Julia's. However, for those who are still on the hunt for invite codes, I point to http://www.gmailswap.com -- my second code went to a pair of registered Republicans who pledged to vote for Kerry.

My only other kvetch about the interface (already sent to the Gmail team) is that the threading is "strong". That is, if I take a particular mailing list conversation private, I don't get a new thread, even by changing the Subject: line. It all stays filed together, which can make it difficult to tell private messages from public.

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 12:45 PM:

Ambar: I also sent off feedback about the conversational threading [*]. Sounds like you'd like to be able to say "start new conversation here"; I'd also like to be able to say "e-mails from this address do not collapse into conversations."

[*] Tedious details: On LiveJournal, you can get e-mail copies of comments you post, comments other people post in reply to you, or both. Comments without LJ Subjects: get e-mailed with a default e-mail Subject. So if I post six different comments in different people's journals with no LJ Subject: -- they all collapse into one conversation, and I can't label them separately. I can still search, but I'd rather they not collapse at all.

Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 05:40 PM:

I don't have much experience with it for actual email, because I've been using it as my semi-disposable address for posting in scrapeable places. I've been contemplating setting it as my LiveJournal address for private email (I currently don't have *any* address set for that, because the LJ exists purely to post in other people's LJs, and most of the victims already have an email address or several for me). I think the threading problems would put me off using it as the comments address.

I've also had a couple of "Wow, cool, can I have one" comments on newsgroups etc, but that's perfectly reasonable from people I know. It was the total strangers that boggled me slightly.

Other comments on using gmail:

- I use IE 5.5 on a Wintel box. Gamil insisted that I turn on ActiveX to be able to use it. So I a) sent off a note with a slightly politer version of what I said to the computer when I encountered this, b) downloaded Mozilla. It's perfectly happy with Mozilla 1.6.

- I have no intention of making it my main email account. My email client, Turnpike, is far more powerful and flexible, and I have a subdomain style ISP account which offers me infinite email addresses. But it's one of the best webmail interfaces I've seen, and I can see it being a very useful backup.

- the ads are similar in style to the Google search engine, and I didn't find them at all intrusive. They were also actually vaguely relevant, and would have been useful if I'd been looking for something.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 05:54 PM:

Why would anyone with reasonable concern for their privacy want a Gmail account?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 07:23 PM:

Probably because reasonable people, even reasonable people with a history of concern about privacy issues, don't all agree that GMail is an awful threat to privacy.

Meanwhile, the functionality it seems to be striving for is obviously attractive and useful.

Obviously, as events develop, we'll see.

Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 07:55 PM:

I couldn't see what the fuss was about, especially given the known security problems with hotmail, etc. And the thorough chewing-over the UK RIP bill got in demon.service. Maybe it's just because I was brought up with the concept that you shouldn't write anything in an email that you wouldn't write on a postcard. If you want it to be private, encrypt it. And in fact, a reason for getting off my backside and finally learning how to use PGP is that I can see emailing files to my gmail account being a handy way of getting free off-site backup. :-)

Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 02:49 AM:

I've chosen to use it for high-volume mailing lists, which are either public or the next closest thing to. My private mail still gets filtered by MessageFire before landing in OS X's Mail.app.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 10:33 AM:

This line from the article Patrick linked to above made me laugh out loud.

(Perhaps people feel Google is to be feared because they seem to so good at what they do. But that seems rather an odd point of view.)

Which made the people in Logan look at me strangely, but never mind that.

Yeah. I think the article is right I'd trust Google more than some of the other companies who alaready have a lot of my data. For one thing, as I understand it, Google has, as part of their mission statement "Don't be evil."


Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 10:41 AM:

I'm just not sure that whether I "trust" Google or not is really the issue. I like a lot of what they do; I also recognize that they're a corporation, and therefore their interests and mine will inevitably diverge.

What seems to me much more pertinent is that email is insecure. Even if I PGP every word I send, I can't make my correspondents do they same, or prevent them from reproducing what I write in plaintext. Once again, email is like sending postcards: nominally your business, but trivially easy for anyone to snoop into. So worrying about Google machine-reading my email in order to serve a few text ads seems to me a lot like straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 11:22 AM:

And make sure all of the people you email have perfect virus defences.

Someone on one of the same mailing lists as me was infected by one of the viruses that sent random files from the hard drive with each copy of itself that it sent out. I emailed this person more than once requesting him to get his machine cleaned up, but it only stopped when I emailed the abuse department at his ISP (which happened to be the same as mine) to complain.

This person was apparently not in the least bit concerned that his machine was delivering what appeared to be confidential business files to people he didn't know particularly well.

That worries me a lot more than the Googlebot reading my mail.

Columbine ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 01:13 PM:

Sorry to chime in here and thus break my vow of lurkhood, but ... reading the Gmail page, I'm legitimately confused about what the big attraction is. Many members of my peer group are falling over themselves to get into the beta, and my take on it is, "Um, I already have searchable email with permanent archives of everything, and fairly unintrusive advertising," and it's called Eudora.

Now, if you're comparing Gmail to other WEB-BASED mail services, OK, I see the difference, but it's always struck me that people who are seriously living and dying by their email inbox get disgusted with web-based email fairly quickly anyhow, and move to something better.

Am I missing something obvious? I probably am.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 01:51 PM:

Obviously, if you work on the same machine all day, every day, something like Eudora is the way to go.

If you wind up frequently accessing your email from more than one location, things get more complicated.

IMAP is one solution, but much though I love my Panix IMAP account, I wind up bumping against that 75MB limitation pretty frequently. Similar disk quotas will usually obtain if you do your mail in a shell account acessible from anyplace with an SSH client.

The truly technical, of course, can set up and maintain their own command-line email, hosted on their own machines. I've done it myself. You don't have to be an ubergeek to get pine or mutt running on a home OS X machine or Linux box, and if it's on an always-up home broadband connection, you've got the benefits of a shell account without the disk quota.

Like Columbine, I've generally disdained web-based email, but I'd heard that GMail was better. Preliminary report: yes, it is. Frankly, it's hard to believe it's happening in a web browser--it's amazingly fast. Indeed, on both my pokey home G3 and my fast work P4, GMail messages and screens pop up and and switch back and forth faster than the various windows and dialog boxes of Mail.app and Mozilla Thunderbird.

GMail also has a very different approach to organizing old mail and teasing useful information out of it, and I'll write more about that when I've used it for a bit longer. But so far, I can definitely endorse the You Won't Believe It's Webmail reviews.

Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 02:48 PM:

For me, the big plus is the 1000megs of storage. as my my wife and I are in different states right now, we send a lot of pictures back and forth. It's nice to know that I can go more than a week without filling up my storage space, as I often did in Hotmail or yahoo.

Also, as mentioned above, having a googlebot scan my e-mail is not a big concern. All e-mails get scanned or have the potential to be scanned. That's life in the digital age, folks.

neil gaiman ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 12:21 AM:

Well, no-one sent me a g-mail invitation either. Then again, the last time I got an invitation, it was to join Orkut, something I did and still can't work out The Point of...

neil gaiman ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2004, 01:50 AM:

Oops. Just realised that I've had a gmail invite sitting on my blogger page for weeks.

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2004, 06:09 AM:

I assumed that Orkut was a kind of performance art piece involving getting a bunch of people together to try and figure out what the point of getting them together was. If they'd called it "Granfaloon," it would have been too obvious.

Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2004, 10:57 AM:

More "I want a gmail account" spam. One guy's using two different scripts to generate his spam {sigh}. Begging emails are now being *reported* as spam unless I know the person.

I don't mind people who actually know me asking (although the answer's likely to be no since I don't have many), but if anyone here feels like asking me for an invite code, make sure you identify yourself and where you know me from.