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Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

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Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby deva » Wed Dec 16, 2009 1:07 pm

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who has already upgraded, especially our beta users who provided lots of great input over the past few months. We take every piece of feedback into account when designing and deciding on features, so please continue to tweet, post, and email us your thoughts!

One of the biggest changes in v5 is the way it handles message prioritization and views in the inbox. We’ve had a number of support requests and forum posts regarding this, so we're posting to give more detailed information on the changes and our approach, plus begin a discussion on future plans in these areas.

As we embarked on v5, one key objective was to address three of the most common issues people faced with ClearContext v4 (based on user input from surveys, forum posts, support requests, and other feedback):

    1) Confusion about prioritization and color-coding.
    2) Performance issues.
    3) Synchronization and conflicts – especially when using multiple machines and mobile devices.

Our goal was to address these issues with as little impact as possible on users who liked the way v4 managed message prioritization, though we knew there would have to be some tradeoffs in the process. With that in mind, this is how we addressed those three issues.

    1) As we wrote in this August blog post, we want to separate the wheat from the chaff in email for our users in as quick and straightforward a way as possible. Our approach is to “validate” messages that are likely to be relevant for you, then highlight individual ones that are of special importance. We started by preserving the concept of contact priority, but simplifying it to unknown, known, and high priority senders. That is the base factor in determining if a message is likely to be important to you or not. However, that is not all that is taken into account. We also validate messages in threads that you have started or participated in. And we also validate messages that are related to active projects, tasks, appointments, etc. Based on user feedback during the beta process, we added back the ability to manually mark individual threads as high priority regardless of sender. We also added back some inbox views to color-code and order messages based on priority.

    2) The biggest factors in performance are how much processing is done to each message and how much additional data is written to each message. The fine granular scoring of each individual message in ClearContext v4 added overhead that caused noticeable performance issues for some users. We addressed this by doing two things. One was to simplify the granularity level of message scoring so we could assign messages to the right bucket with a fraction of the overhead previously required. The second was to utilize native Outlook features such as categories and flags wherever possible. Again, that required a tradeoff in flexibility vs performance, but we felt the improvement was worth the cost.

    3) The biggest issue around synchronization and conflicts had to do with writing custom fields in Outlook. In v4 ClearContext utilized custom fields on each message to store priority and project information. In v5 we decided to use Outlook’s category functionality for that information. This allowed us to eliminate most causes of message conflicts and other synchronization issues for people who deal with their email from multiple places. Based on feedback during the beta process, we added the option to utilize either Outlook flags or importance icon rather than category to indicate priority.

The biggest tradeoffs in making these changes are that we don’t have quite as much flexibility as before in terms of the number of buckets email can be separated into and the types of custom inbox views that can be developed. As we work on v5.1, we’re looking at ways to fine-tune and enhance the new prioritization and views. Please post any questions, thoughts, and requests you have about these features in this thread. Thanks!
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby Francois » Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:42 pm

Thanks for this informative post.

The previous prioritization system was quite nifty and I grew used to it, but to be honest I never got it to work really well. I always had a proportion of random-looking prioritization/colorization. So in this sense I welcome simplification.

However at this time (5.0.2) it's an over-simplification. From what I understand and what I see in my mailbox, prioritization is now only based on the email originator. I'll give it some time, but I'm not convinced it will work for me. Typically, it's not because some people email me a lot (like my collaborators) or because i reply to them a lot that what they have to say is the most important thing in my mailbox right now. Usually it is not.

What I severly miss with v5 is prioritization based on where I am in the address list. It's the best simple indicator of message importance. An email directly addressed to me (I am in the To: field) requires my attention sooner than an email where I am in Cc:. The size of the address list also counts: the shortest it is, the more important the mail is. So my address in a short To: list is higher priority than in a long one, a short Cc: higher priority than a long Cc:.

Do you intend to implement this?
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby Balthazor » Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:02 am

I agree with the problems regarding using only the sender as the primary means of prioritizing messages. Sometimes messages from an important person just aren't important. Even using the current 'categories as priorities' system ClearContext could give us value by incorporating a more nuanced algorithm for picking which priority to assign that is closer to that used in v4.

There is also quite a problem with ordering by priority; since CC uses categories for priorities AND projects/topics, I'm running into issues when I try to sort by category.

I've had to switch to using Outlook priority levels (high / normal / low) in order to achieve the kind of sorting/ordering I want. But ClearContext needs to add the ability to make use of low priority; currently we're only able to use normal (default) or 'important' (high priority.)
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby deva » Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:06 pm

Balthazor, Francois, and others:

Based on the feedback you've given us, areas of prioritization and views we're evaluating for future enhancement include:

Utilizing addressing fields like cc: to influence prioritization level of messages
Additional priority buckets such as low priority
More flexible inbox views
Ability to lower priority of message/contact/thread priority

It's important that we don't impact the benefits we've gained in terms of performance and synchronization reliability in our new infrastructure, so we're not yet sure which changes will be in future releases or what exact form they will take.

In the meantime, as we work on various approaches, we hope everyone reading this will please let us know the one or two specific things that you would most like to do with prioritization and views in ClearContext that you are not currently able to do with v5.0, especially if they have not been mentioned in detail in this or other forum threads.
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby agillies » Sun Dec 20, 2009 12:07 pm

I have spent a very frustrating few hrs trying to achieve -what was for me the no 1 benefit from CC up to Version 5 : namely Have high priority messages highlighted and grouped by date in my inbox. Currently I will not be prepared to upgrade until this function is available as it for me trumps any of the other "benefits" of Version 5.

So quite simply in future versions I would like to have colour coded messages at the top of my inbox grouped on a daily or weekly basis -that for me is a deal breaker.

I hope that this becomes avaialbe in future versions

Alan
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby Balthazor » Mon Dec 21, 2009 9:41 am

Thank you for bringing some or all of the message prioritization and inbox view functionality from 4.0 to 5.0.
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby melee70 » Wed Dec 23, 2009 7:54 pm

The new prioritization scheme is bad, very bad. If I am not able to return to a scheme like was used in v4 then I will no longer be able to use CC. There are other applications coming on the market that provide the ability to conveniently assign topics/projects/categories and file them with rules or a toolbar. I will move to them as soon as it is clear CC v5 is going to remain so unusable.
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby Scott - CC Support » Thu Dec 24, 2009 12:35 pm

melee - I would appreciate it if you could give us some more constructive feedback on how you think prioritization should work in a future release. Thanks and Happy Holidays.
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby alexa » Mon Dec 28, 2009 9:01 am

What I'm missing (as in, can't replicate) in v5 is that v4

put a conversation thread together while at the same time
it prioritized all the messages in some voodoo way that worked.
(now, i get prioritized(which splits up into categories) or I get the threaded view)

and

it was easy to have a couple of views that said:
group by day or week (or just group everything together)

and

the grouping was pretty/easy to differentiate/fit a lot of stuff on the screen.
(I guess I'm talking about the whole line being colored ..when you sorted with out the grouping you could differentite between the different days/priorities...and that let you fit more on the scree)

Could you post (or post a pointer to) to how to set up the views correctly in v5?
The View Wizard in v4 was really useful for that....(actually, I guess you could say views are "to hard" in general in Outlook and the CC View Wizard made it easy)
.


Also,
I think v5 would work better if you started out fresh. I get the feeling that using v5 with all of my v4 categories (and mind set) similar enough to work in theory but in practice it's like, it's your kitchen but someone came in and put the dishes away in the wrong places. Since its the new year I'm thinking of doing a big clean up and seeing if that helps (i'd still like some help/guide for the views though)
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby ClearContext Support » Tue Dec 29, 2009 7:30 am

Alexa -

Thanks for the additional feedback. There is not currently a way to achieve the views you are describing, but as Deva mentions above we may implement in a future release.

The user guide will be updated this week with new information. We will post on the blog when it's available.

Good luck with your New Year's cleanup!
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby ClearContext Support » Thu Dec 31, 2009 3:08 pm

FYI - we have made an initial update of the user guide to reflect v5 changes.
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby blc0002 » Tue Jan 05, 2010 2:23 pm

I really miss the CC threaded views. Any idea when that feature will be available? I'm considering reverting back to v4 until that time.
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby deva » Thu Jan 07, 2010 1:06 am

blc,

Because we are no longer adding special fields to every message, we can't recreate the views to be exactly the same as v4. We don't plan to create views that replicate the v4 views in this release. However, we are seeing if there are ways we can make some changes to allow for more flexible view creation in v5 without significant impact to performance and synchronization. We'll post our findings as we get closer to 5.1 release. In the meantime, please continue to let us know specific ways you would like to organize your messages and projects, and we'll take that into account in our design process.
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby rreifel » Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:59 pm

What a SHAME.

I have to disagree strongly with many of the comments made by CC, the tradeoffs you discuss were NOT worth it!

I am so sad to see such an elegant concept, 'make your inbox usable again' fall by the wayside of expediency!

Without the ability to sort my inbox by MY priorities, what's the value? Just because someone emails me a lot does NOT make them important, in fact, frequenly quite the opposite.

Can I have V4 back please? or can you promise me that this will be fixed soon? If not, sorry but I have to say good by!
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Re: Prioritization and views in ClearContext v5

Postby melee70 » Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:38 pm

The changes to v5 are why I rolled back to v4 and will never upgrade. CC has decided to make changes for the wrong reasons and disregard their own customer base so I am stuck with the old version until I can find a replacement which is being updated in a more customer responsive manner.

Threaded views and control over priorities and colors like in v4 are the killer application of this product. Without it there is a lot of gee whiz nothing.

There are always 2 ways of doing things - the way the customer wants it and the way the developer wants to build it. Looks like we know which one CC has chosen.. and told the customer to f off.

PS - if you will notice I have been on these forums for a number of years and using CC since its first beta. It is horrible that loyal customers are being tossed aside.
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