When people join active community projects their inbox will suddenly grow in size. People have a finite amount of time and if it is not possible to manage the volume of mail effectively they will soon leave the community. It is therefore important to ensure that your project has a set guidelines and useful personal email productivity tips.
Forums or Mailing Lists?
Some people prefer mailing lists, some people prefer forums. The trick is to provide a solution that satisfies both users. That is, have a mailing list with a good online interface for reading and posting or use a forum that also allows full interaction via an email client, that is allows full reading and replying to posts via email.
Avoid online forums that do not allow users to receive an email with notifications of new posts. Furthermore, avoid forums that send notifications with a link back to the online site rather than containing the content of the post. It is inconvenient for those with an email preference to have to download mail, open mail and then click a link in order to read a post. this is especially true in large and active communities where each reader will typically follow some topics in detail and only skim others.
Ensure emails sent from your list/forum can be clearly identified by the email client as having come from your list. Most good email list/forum software applications will add a header to emails sent thorough it that allow filters to be set up for sorting email as it arrives. The importance of this will be discussed in the section on filtering in the "Personal EMail Productivity Tips" section below.
Some people also like to have an identifier in the subject line, such as a "[LISTNAME]" type prefix.
Archive Mailing Lists
FIXME: project memory stuff
Clearly State Archive Policy
FIXME: draw from ASF archive policy
Provide tips for effective EMail contributions
FIXME: draw from ASF email top tips
Personal Email Productivity Tips
Here's the way I work. I used to do this with thunderbird but GMail + GTD Inbox rocks (yes I know, privacy and data lock-in are serious issues, if anyeone knows of a great online, open source, GTD email client I'd love to switch). Most of the searches etc. are already set up for you using those tools.
- turn email off by default
- remove all notifications of new mail
- start up mail client every four hours (anything more urgent than that can come in on phone/IM)
- Use GTD labels as either labels in GMail or Folders in other clients (Next Action, Action, Wating On, Archive, Finished)
- Set up an email filter for your name
- Set up searches for each of the activities below
- Don't read email apart from in your set times, I do it first thing in the morning, just before/over lunch, mid afternoon
Then in each mail session:
- make a cofee/tea
- work through inbox email that contains your name first
- if it can be dealt with in 2 minutes or less, deal with it
- if more than 2 minutes flag as/move to either next action or action, adding a due date if you are using GMail + GTD (I used to use folders, this week, next week, two weeks, one month, sometime and move them wholesale at the end of each week)
- if someone else needs to do something flag as/move to waiting on
- at the end of each session your inbox should be empty
- work through your inbox every session
- as above
- work through your next action every session
- if there are more than 5 items move some into action
- if there are less than five items pat yourself on the back
- work through your actions once a day
- if there are less than 5 next actions move the appropriate number of most urgent actions into next actions, try and ensure they are related to the same sub-project (if you promised someone delivery, contact them)
- if there are any actions that are more than 2 weeks old consider archiving them as you won't get to them
- if there are any actions that are more than 3 months old *seriously* consider moving archiving them (if you promised someone delivery, contact them)
- if there are any actions that are more than 6 months old *do* archive them (ensuring you never made a promise to deliver and appologising if you did)
- work through your waiting on items once per week
- consider sending a reminder to any items in there
- if anything is going to be dropped notify the person you are waiting on and dump the mail
FIXME: tips on automatically filtering mail as it arrives
FIXME: tips on automatically tagging mail as it arrives (link to GTD TimeManagement stuff)
FIXMEL draw from Netiquette
Understand how to write good emails
FIXME: draw from jakarta mail guidelines
Ask Questions the Smart Way
FIXME: summarise Ask Questions the Smart Way