Creating a New E-mail Taxonomy

I truly am a geek. I am working on a new taxonomy for my e-mails (all of which I'm moving to Gmail, by the way) and...well, I'm having a really good time planning it all out!

The thing is: I'm a very nested-folders type of person so switching to the labels-and-search model is a little scary. Why is it scary? Because, other than the default folders (inbox, sent mail, etc.), I currently have 172 -- yes, that's one hundred and seventy-two -- folders in Thunderbird. And I'm trying to cut that down to about 15.

The reason I can do this (quite easily, in fact) is that most of my existing folders are second-level folders: one for each mailing list that I subscribe to, one for each MBA course that I'm taking, etc. So really I have just 37 top-level folders. Actually, even that's too many because, back in the day, I gave sites that I'm a paid member of their own top-level folder so those will now go. I also have a couple of temporary folders in there. I've been meaning to do a good folders rationalization for a couple of years now but I've just never gotten around to it. I guess this is my chance.

The good thing -- which is making this move much less scary -- is that, having used Google Web Search and Desktop Search for years now, I'm pretty confident that, even with 15 folders instead of 172, finding old e-mails shouldn't be much of a problem.

The New Taxonomy

The key change I'm making to the taxonomy is that my labels will not be about who the e-mails are from -- the taxonomy I've been following since the mid-90s that has served me well -- but what the e-mails are about -- the taxonomy I started to move to a few years ago (and which, obviously, I use for my blogs).

This lends itself well to the whole labels concept because an e-mail can be about more than one subject. So, for example, an e-mail sent from my sister about an Internet meme will get the 'Funny & Forwards' label. However, if she also wrote some family stuff in that e-mail, I'll also attach the 'Family & Friends' label to it. Neat, huh?

The challenge, of course, is in coming up with those few, most useful labels. Here's what I've come up with so far:

  1. Friends & Family -- e-mails about (you guessed it) friends and family

  2. Funny & Forwards -- jokes, forwards, memes, etc.

  3. Life Admin -- e-mails from banks, utilities, ISPs, etc.

  4. Lists & Sites -- e-mails from mailing lists and sites I am a member of

  5. LUMS -- old e-mails from my undergrad days as well as current alumni-related e-mails

  6. MBS -- all course, admin, alumni, etc. e-mails

  7. Music -- old and, in the future, new band-related e-mails

  8. Nadia -- a whole separate label for my wife since she is, after all, more than just a friend or family member

  9. Saved Stuff -- stuff I want to keep for future reference that is not a funny or a forward (i.e. articles and the like)

  10. Sites & Projects -- stuff about non-work websites I maintain or about various projects that come up

  11. Temp Bukkit -- e-mails that I'll catch up on the weekend but want out of my inbox for now

  12. Work -- all work-related e-mail (I presume I'll be maintaining another taxonomy in my work e-mail account)

Just twelve?! Not bad, eh? :)

Of course, as with any taxonomy, I expect this one to evolve over time. So far, though, I think it's an accurate representation of all the e-mails I currently have in Thunderbird. And if it isn't, I'll probably tweak it as I upload my e-mail to Gmail (either that or I'll delete the e-mails instead!). Meanwhile, I'm quite pleased with this list. Now...let the uploading begin!

For the two people who read this blog: what taxonomy do you use for your e-mails?