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Gmail’s “Mute” Feature

I’ve always personally been fairly ambivalent about Gmail (and web-based email in general), but a new “minor” feature they rolled out (not even warranting mention in their official “What’s new” post) is absolutely brilliant.

Officially, the new feature is called Mute Thread, or “Mute” for short. Here’s how it works: THE OLD WAY: 1) You’re reading some posts about the elections. 2) You were once excited about reading this stuff. 3) But at least one conversation is now on its 471th message. You keep hitting Archive but the damn conversation keeps popping up every time someone makes a new post! 4) You’re ready to tear out your hair. The posters’ hair. Your keyboard’s hair. Er, keys. 5) MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT STOP, PLEEEEEASE! THE NEW WAY: 1) You get yet another annoying message in the same damn conversation that’s already been conversed to death. 2) You press the ‘m’ key. Unless a message is written *directly* to you (e.g., your name is in the TO spot), you’ll never see that message in your inbox again!

That description courtesy of Google’s Adam Lasnik. My description would be something along the lines of “For when you can’t stop other people from beating a dead horse, at least you don’t have to watch.” For me, this small feature is the most innovative Gmail has added yet–it’s the small attention to detail that shows they are closely looking at fixing the daily problems people encounter with their social usage of email, not just big line-item “features.”

Amusingly enough, his example is the precise instance of the latest reason why I really want this feature. I’m on a medium-volume mailing list that I typically enjoy reading, but it occasionally gets obliterated by an extremely high-volume, low-value, highly-obnoxious thread. The most recent thread that did this? Yep, election discussions.

Somebody turn this into a Thunderbird extension, please!

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