As a tech enthusiast, one of the things I like about Google mail is the ongoing tweaking and innovating with the service. Sometimes changes are annoying at first (the user interface was "streamlined" a few weeks ago and I didn't like it), sometimes changes don't help that much (Google Buzz certainly did not revolutionize the way I connect and engage with my friends and associates) but sometimes the improvements are hugely beneficial. Since Priority Inbox was announced last week I have been waiting eagerly for it to be activated in my accounts so I can try it out and share my learnings with the Kabissa community. New services tend to be rolled out slowly as Google looks for and irons out bugs, and it took a week this time for Priority Inbox to finallyarrive in my Kabissa mailboxes (though not yet in my mailbox). 


At first glance I like Priority Inbox very much - it adds a new label above the Inbox which presents your incoming email in three categories: important and unread, starred, and everything else. It uses the same automatic algorithms it uses for spam filtering to decide what is important ("based on what you read") and lets you train it by indicating whether it was right or not. Time will tell how well it actually works, and part of the idea is that it will in fact get better with time as it "learns" your priorities.

I think Priority Inbox is a great idea and will be very useful, especially for those in Africa who struggle to make maximum use of the limited time they have in front of Internet connected computers to get their work done. On the other hand, as usual this raises questions about Google and privacy, and how much we can afford to allow corporations like Google to know so much about what we are corresponding about and with whom. For African activists and journalists, keeping certain activities and relationships secret can be a matter of life and death. Perhaps they should not be using gmail. I've already talked about the risks of Facebook for activists - now do we also have to worry about our email? What are the alternatives? 

What do you think?

Below is a copy of the email I received in my inbox explaining the new service and linking to an introductory video with quite the peppy sound track. 

Google Mail

Priority InboxBeta


Welcome to Priority Inbox! By automatically separating out your most important messages, Priority Inbox makes it easy for you to read and respond to the messages that matter.

Get through your email faster


Try reading and replying to the messages in the "Important and Unread" section first. Mark anything that requires follow-up with a star, then go through the "Everything Else" section. If you leave Priority Inbox, you can return to it by clicking the link next to Inbox on the side navigation of Google Mail.

How it works

Google Mail's servers look at several types of information to identify the email that's important to you, including who you email and chat with most, how often you email with these people, and which keywords appear frequently in the emails you read.

Train Priority Inbox

If Priority Inbox makes a mistake, you can use the Mark important Mark not important buttons to correctly mark a conversation as important or not important, and Priority Inbox will quickly learn what you care about most.


And more...

  • Customize Priority Inbox: You can change what type of email you see in each section (like switching the "Important and Unread" section to just "Important"). Just click on the section headers or visit the Priority Inbox tab underSettings and choose to "customize inbox groups."
  • Use filters to guarantee importance: If you want to be absolutely sure that some messages are always marked as important (like email from your boss), you can set up a filter and choose "Always mark it as important."
  • Search by importance: If you want to see all the messages that have been marked as important, both read and unread, do a Google Mail search for "is:important."
  • Switching back to your old inbox: If Priority Inbox isn't for you, you can easily switch back to your normal inbox by clicking "Inbox" on the left or hide Priority Inbox altogether from Google Mail Settings.

To learn more about managing your email with Priority Inbox, check out the Google Mail Help Center.

- The Google Mail Team



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