As many of you know, I spent 42 years plying the waters of computer-based technology to provide for myself and my family. In addition to that, I worked programming computers since I first took a computer science course in 1967 in summer school in between 8th and 9th grade.
I learned a lot about programming, over time and much of what I learned early could be applied to things I encountered later. There are fundamentals to computer programming that really don’t change as technology improves. Processes become faster. Algorithms become easier to define. Errors become easier to prevent, but the basics are still involved. Not all of the fundamentals are lessons about how to build something. One fundamental lesson I was recently reminded of is my one-liner today. If you want the backstory, keep reading. Otherwise, just understand that, at least when it comes to technology,
“Nothing is so screwed up that it can’t be made worse by your best effort to improve it.”
What brought me here today? Google. Not the search engine, but Google the company as in the people who deliver Gmail.
If you use Gmail in a browser, as opposed to the Gmail app, you have the option to let Google place your mail into tabs. The tabs represent categories like ‘Primary’ ‘Social’ ‘Updates’ and so on. For the longest time, this worked very well for me. Emails alerting me to new blog posts by you would show up under the Social tab. Email alerts about comments on my post also landed in under the Social heading. Emails notifying me of Likes on my blog or the fact that you, or one of your readers liked my comment on your post were all on the Update tab.
This was great! Maybe 30 people liked my post, but only three commented on it. Those three notifications were separate. This worked so well…until Google changed something in their algorithm and Marian started showing up under the wrong tab. Marian uses CommentLuv, and it doesn’t get treated the same (don’t get me started on CommentLuv). Despite the newness of her blog post, the notifications always landed under updates, buried under likes and comment-likes and ads from Kohls and reminders from my college alumni association that they still need more money. It wasn’t just Marian; it was every blog author who uses CommentLuv (and there are a bunch).
Last week, I read one of those “10 tricks you don’t know about…” articles about Gmail. One of the tricks was going to fix Marian. All I had to do was drag the notification about Marian’s new blog post from the Update section and drop it on the Social tab. After that, Marian’s notifications would appear where they belong.
How cool is that?
Not cool, not – cool – at – all.
When I opened Gmail the next morning, the notification of Marian’s new post was under the Social tab. Unfortunately, every other notification remotely connected to a WordPress blog was also under that tab. The Update section had three lonely emails from people who wanted money, and one from the Washington Post.
There was no way to undo the change, but I was able to fix the problem. I created a variety of ‘filters’ in Gmail. By creating a filter, you can process incoming mail according to explicit rules. So, now, any email with the words “liked your comment” in the subject are automatically directed to the Updates category. I can even fix Marian by filtering on ‘[new post]’ and putting them under the Social tab.
This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. If you have a one-liner, I’d encourage you to join in on the fun. You can follow this link to participate and to see the one-liners from the other participants.