The problem with "Low Priority"

I've always thought it was ironic that low priority emails are the ones I see first in my inbox.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2006/07/the-problem-with-low-priority.html

I agree completely. This is especially annoying when sent out to large distribution lists, such as a site-wide list.

I can see the need for marking some items as being more important, as there are times that an email needs to be reviewed ASAP. Though this only holds its value when not regularly abused (90% of ‘Important’ emails I receive aren’t even related to me).

Outlook’s ‘Low Priority’ is certainly one of its less thought-out features. It’s too bad that they didn’t think about the extra attention any icon draws, even if it’s getting your attention to tell you that you don’t need to pay attention.

It’s a good thing one can filter these prioritzed emails and even make them non-prioritized. I believe that I am much better at deciding what concerns me and what doesn’t, so I chose to not display that “priority” column at all.

You can also set up rules based on priority, which is a metadatum that might not otherwise apply to the contents of an email.

I only put the low priority item when I email geeks, as they will know what it means. Otherwise, as you say, it just draws attention to itself which is not what I intended.

One person I worked with knew that any high priority email from me was one he should actually read, and I was fine with that. He was so snowed under that anything else I sent would get filed as to be read “sometime/never”. On Lotus Notes the exclamation mark looked to him like a footprint, so he called them my “little feet” emails.

You can also set up rules based on priority

It’s still a rule based on a person’s idea of what is important/unimportant, so it’s inherently unreliable.

Any email that you send me that you think is important, is invariably not important

Conversely, if the email you’re sending out is “low priority”, why send it at all? It’s a paradox.

Agreed, except for the “ultimate priority” bit: IMHO, nothing guarantees a message gets read like a recall that’s failed - or worse, where both are sitting in your inbox. You know if you open one, the other will vanish forever… but if you open them in chronological order… mmm.

Or the graph of current sales figures sent out by some VP, that for some reason could not instead just be posted on a Web site somewhere.

Or the animated GIF the marketing department created for the company footer that most people used, and which Exchange attached to each email (rather than linked to the GIF as it was on a public URL), thus overloading employee mailboxes.

Why not use GMAIL. Outlook is to an Email client what a 486 processers is to modern computer enterprises.

There was this guy at our company who kept sending his mail as ‘high priority’. You’d see that for example on our client’s mailing list.

Man, seeing that red exclamation point really makes my heart race, like the poster is in panic or trying to cut in a conversation.

So one day I got angry and mailed him, asking why the heck(sic) he had just sent one mail that contained no critical information as high priority.

Turns out the guy thought that high priority mails were sent faster on the internet… he said that with his hotmail account some “normal priority mail” he had taken took two days to reach a recipient, but when he had sent another one as high priority it was received immediately.

Yes, we work at a high tech software company. I have not freaking idea how could have so little understanding of how email worked…
This was back in 2002 I think.

We use outlook at work (I use gmail for personal mail but the calendaring is used a lot and gmail just isn’t enough) and I never even notice those little flags.

Every so often I’ll notice that an email I got a while ago had a red flag on it when I’m fishing around for something old (outlook really needs decent search) but other than that they don’t even register.

Well these flags take bytes… but on a more serious note – have you seen the steady decline of user interface?

If you’re on an exchange server, try this if works for you: Right-click on the Outlook icon on your desktop (not start menu), and choose ‘Explore’. This will open the old Microsoft Exchange UI, which should have a Windows 2000-ish look.

Tell me that UI isn’t a lot more readable than outlook 2000 or especially 2003. All the new icons, shadings, etc aren’t helping reability, they are eye candy that actually get in the way of getting to information.

I still don’t get this discussion. What I’m reading is “I don’t use this feature of Outlook” – or in some cases “I don’t know how to use this feature” and in a few cases “I actively refuse to use this feature for its designed purposes” – with the conclusion “… so it’s useless.”

The use of a priority flag can be quite useful in a context where sender and receiver understand (by convention, perhaps) what the flags mean. If I have a question to which I need a reply immediately, I send it with a hi-pri flag to alert the recipients that this is urgent. Otherwise normal. When I send out links to this blog, they go out with a lo-prio flag, meaning “read this when you get a chance, or not at all if you don’t want.” No one writes back and says “What does this flag mean!? You sent an email with hi priority so I’m going to ignore it now!”

If you don’t like the feature, fine, but don’t call it useless just because it ain’t for you.

I wonder how much space (disk otherwise) the “high priority” flag has consumed on Exchanges servers

Not quite as much as the “forward this to 12 friends!” crap that everyone’s mother sends them. Or the picture of the cute kitten. Or the graph of current sales figures sent out by some VP, that for some reason could not instead just be posted on a Web site somewhere. With a low-priority flag.

Any “high priority” rating has to be used rarely (very rarely).

I have a question to which I need a reply immediately, I send it with a hi-pri flag to alert the recipients that this is urgent

Or you could, y’know, tell them it was urgent in the first sentence of your email. And any well-written email would do this anyway.

That’s assuming people actually read their email. :wink:

All kidding aside, if the priority flags are working for your team, then clearly use them. Most of us don’t work with people who are quite so responsible.

I tend to use the reverse priority system. Any email that you send me that you think is important, is invariably not important so is put at the bottom of my list. :slight_smile:

I’ve made this exact same observation. The fact the “low priority” messages are flagged with an icon makes them stand out and thus give them a higher priority than normal priority messages.

Isn’t this more in the client implementation rather than the idea of a low priority email? All the priority is is metadata that the email client can display any way it wants to.

I came across this discussion in searching how to make priority flagged messages come at the top of my inbox instead of at the bottom where I never see them until much later. Why they don’t just go in date order as other emails so I don’t know. Since I don’t frequent this mailing list normally I would very much appreciate a reply off list to bdturnham at comcast.net. Thanks

I wonder how much space (disk otherwise) the “high priority” flag has consumed on Exchanges servers and Outlook clients Worldwide.

This feature among others is what makes the Outlook client so phat or is it fat?