Unsubscribe email filter


Last year, I focused on consolidating my disparate email inboxes into one system I could use. This year, I’ve been working hard to reduce the torrent of electronic mail hitting me in the inbox face each morning.

Taking another cue from Merlin Mann, I created a saved search in SeaMonkey Mail to match any email that includes the word “unsubscribe” in its body text. If you think about it for a moment, if a message includes “unsubscribe”, theres a good chance it’s a mass mailing we can live without. They’re many-to-many messages in an inbox that’s really only useful as a one-to-one or many-to-one inbox, to afford ourselves the use of some database terminology.

It was quite a shock! Of the 312 messages in my inbox, the filter identified 96 messages I hadn’t read, and could unsubscribe from. These included newsletters I never asked for, notifications from various sites, and reminders I already receive from other channels.

(As an aside, isn’t it fascinating how rarely we perceive things unless we see them in aggregate? I’m sure a cognitive psychologist could come up with some interesting reasons for this).

With the exception of a few regular invoices and job boards, I swept through and unsubscribed form all of them. It’s my hope this leads to a more manageable inbox filled with messages I can act upon, rather than merely digest. The idea of digesting electrons is so absurd, anyway.

For the final step, I attempted to track down RSS feed versions of those many-to-many messages I wanted to keep. By putting newsletters from InfoWorld in Digg Reader instead of my inbox, I don’t feel the guilt of having so many unread inbox messages, though they’re still available in that less “urgent” channel. For mailing lists, I’ve subscribed to their news equivalents in Gmane.

These might be cop-outs in Merlin’s approach, but it works for me. ^_^

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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