Apple’s Email Tinkering is Unwanted

| Particle Debris

Apple has tinkered some more with the Mail.app in Mountain Lion. This time Apple has decided that we no longer need to see some of the header text labels for email fields like “Subject” and “From.” This kind of tinkering with standard email protocols is suspect.

Take a look at the header of an email message in OX X 10.7.4, “Lion.”

Lion email

 

Now take a look at OS X 10.8.1 “Mountain Lion’s” New and Improved email header:

Mtn Lion Email

Instead of labeling the data so as to avoid ambiguity, it seems that Apple expects us to infer the subject and from lines by their content and placement, creating an additional cognitive burben on some while removing it for some others. Plus, we must look in a new place for the date, which wastes time. Also, note how the string “Re:” now looks like a header when it isn’t. Presumably, this is one of those simplifications that Apple is bringing to OS X so that its customers needn’t be bothered by tiresome old conventions, like RFC 2822.

TinkeringMy concern here is not about the concept of change. I live and breathe change daily. If I didn’t embrace change as a technical writer in this field, I couldn’t function. That’s not the problem.

What annoys me is that Apple believes that it has the liberty to fundamentally alter email customary usage for its own agenda, namely some kind of fanciful notion that by forcing artificial change without consent or preferences, life will be better for all its customers. And then Apple will, thereby, become more successful. In the largest, most profound ways, in the Spirit of Steve Jobs, Apple succeeds at that brilliantly. But when it comes to the little things, it’s just fiddling around for sake of being annoyingly cute.

Another way of saying this is that email is too important to be left to Apple.

I have written previously in this column about how it’s unlikely that Apple will take up the true challenge of creating fundamental breakthroughs in email technology. There’s no money in that, and it must be left to new entrepreneurs of vision. Instead, Apple — who has the luxury of being the responsible caretaker of the default email app used in OS X — does the easy stuff: declutter the screen by removing labels that serve to disambiguated the presented data. Okay, now, enough.

My search for an alternative, professional, technical email program not driven by this kind of tinkering continues.

Tech News Debris

This week’s collection is not so much about deep analysis as it is about modern technology nuances.

I think this article made somewhat of a splash on the Internet this week. That’s because, for me, the highlight of the article is the analysis of the predictable patterns people fall into when constructing passwords. These pseudo-logical, obsolete approaches to password construction have long been figured out by the hackers, and it’s time to rethink how we create them. Start with Dan Goodin’s seminal “Why passwords have never been weaker—and crackers have never been stronger.” Then follow it up with our own Jim Tanous’s article: “How to Create and Manage Strong Passwords.

Have you ever been traveling and wondered how you might find a place with free Wi-Fi. Off course, we all have some off-hand ideas, like Starbucks or Panera Bread, but here’s a more organized list that might help in a pinch. “How to Find Free WiFi When You’re Traveling.

Scott Kelby, a professional photographer, just bought a new MacBook Pro with Retina Display. But, for him, there’s something very important and very missing. “Something’s Missing From My New MacBook Pro…

Retina MBP

Retina MBP Image Credit: Scott Kelby

Does it seem to you that when the iPad came out, and there was a rush to produce the iWork analogs for the iPad, suddenly the updates to iWork ‘09 stopped? Alexis Kayhill ponders the situation. “Whatever Happened To Apple’s Answer To Microsoft Office For Mac? Remember iWork? As In iWork ’09?

It’s easy to overlook the full power of an iPhone or iPad. It seems that once some users achieve a certain level of proficiency, they stop learning new things. But then a tip comes along that rocks their world, and they happily add it to their repertoire. Here’s a column by the charming Katherine Boehret that will provide plenty of those “aha” moments. “What You Might Not Know About Your iPhone and iPad.

Finally, Jim Dalrymple explains to those dubious of the 7.x-inch iPad what a pickle it puts to the competition in. “A 7-inch iPad Presents Challenges to Apple’s Competition.

What Mr. Dalrymple doesn’t talk about is the timing. Certainly, with Apple’s manufacturing resources, a 7.x-inch iPad could have been produced earlier this year. But I think there are two reasons to wait. The first is a technology gate. Apple may have been waiting for one or more components that they deemed essential to obliterate the Kindle Fire 2 and Nexus 7— and  that would put those guys in a serious bind. After all, its expected that Amazon will come out with a Kindle Fire 2 at Christmas, so why go head to head with slightly obsolete components. Secondly, related to that, Apple knows that a 7-inch iPad, with a price of, say, $249, is more likely to be a gift item. Why not release it near the gift-giving holidays and take the wind out of the sails of the Fire 2? Hit ‘em hard at just the right time. What do you think?

______________

Tinker image via Shutterstock.

Comments

ctwise

They’re just tweaking the visual appearance. It’s such a small change that until your post I hadn’t even noticed it. I had to bring up an email and double-check it to see what you were talking about. Because the lack of the two words (from: and subject:) were trivial changes.

vpndev

I notice that you can customize you can customize the header components to be displayed.

I don’t know if that’s new as I’ never needed to look for it before.

John Martellaro

Right. The customization of the header elements doesn’t, however, reintroduce the lost labels when displayed.

Dude get over it

Wow now it is just like that big fucking flop iPhone mail. Now apple has boned both of them.

Seriously. Where is the journalist research here. I’m gonna stop coming to this useless site.

mrmwebmax

+

Secondly, related to that, Apple knows that a 7-inch iPad, with a price of, say, $249, is more likely to be a gift item. Why not release it near the gift-giving holidays and take the wind out of the sails of the Fire 2? Hit ?em hard at just the right time. What do you think?

Assuming Apple does release a 7-inch (or near-8-inch) iPad, pricing becomes interesting. It has to be close to the $200 mark of other 7-inch tablets, and I think $249 is close enough that most consumers would gladly spend a bit more to get a “genuine” iPad. The big question:

Where does that leave the iPod Touch, which starts at $200?

I honestly think Apple would come close to, or outright kill, the iPod Touch with a 7-inch iPad for only $50 more. Who wouldn’t want the bigger screen and better iPad-optimized apps?

Allister

Wow! Before I’d quibble about tiny cosmetic changes, I’d be complaining about rampant bugs and the ‘conversations’ feature which is actually anything but and an affront to the 1977(!)-issued RFC 733 which explains how to actually do threaded conversations.

And while on the subject of RFCs, you meant RFC 2822, right? grin

John Martellaro

Allister: Yes.

iJack

John ~ On the Jim Tanous?s Passwords article you referenced, a poster opined that there was no gain to the user in employing a mix of alphabet, numerals, symbols and upper/lower case (recommended in the article), because a hacker would have to try a crack using all those combinations anyway, not knowing if they were present in a password or not. 

The poster agreed that password length was of importance, but said that ?correcthorsebatterystaple,” or some other easy to remember phrase could take years to crack.

I queried this, and asked for Jim Tanous comment, but no reply, so far.

Do you have an opinion?

Marty Buchaus

You should maybe review baseball or Fasion shows or something else.  Your review of the mail.app is wrong the appearance of fields derived from the email source has NOTHING to do with protocol.  it’s all derived.

Use VIEW -> MESSAGE You sill see options to view source.

Hello Compliant source of the email.  How an application designers shows that data has Nothing I say Nothing to do with the protocol of sending email which is btw call smtp

Read man Read ftp://ftp.cs.arizona.edu/people/micke/rfc/rfc0821.txt


‘“fundamental changes to email ”  Holy S#*T good luck with that by anyone.  From non compliant (or make their own compliance)  microgarbage to Corporate sheeple that use email as a file management system.. Good luck getting 2 parties to agree on the changes

Yeah Fashion shows..  Maybe the telco industry you need to change careers.

John C. Welch

as a few people have pointed out, there are a number of factual problems with your assertions.

Instead of labeling the data so as to avoid ambiguity, it seems that Apple expects us to infer the subject and from lines by their content and placement, creating an additional cognitive burben on some while removing it for some others. Plus, we must look in a new place for the date, which wastes time. Also, note how the string ?Re:? now looks like a header when it isn?t. Presumably, this is one of those simplifications that Apple is bringing to OS X so that its customers needn?t be bothered by tiresome old conventions, like RFC 2822.

Also, note how the string ?Re:? now looks like a header when it isn?t.

“Re:” only looks like a header if you’re trying really hard to invent a problem. Anyone using email for more than an hour will understand that “re:” in the subject means a reply. People get this.

Plus, we must look in a new place for the date, which wastes time.

Moving the date wastes time? Really? How much? Have you studies which show a human-noticable amount of time lost on *every* single message read, as opposed to the first few until you get used to it. After all, if the problem only exists for a small number of messages following an upgrade, then it’s a temporary issue. If someone has never used a Mac prior to mountain lion, they have no expectations with regard to Mail’s behavior, and if 10.8 is their first exposure to email, then this isn’t a problem at all. So exactly where is this problem? What is the amount of time wasted?

Instead of labeling the data so as to avoid ambiguity, it seems that Apple expects us to infer the subject and from lines by their content and placement, creating an additional cognitive burben on some while removing it for some others.

I’m going to go out on a limb, by which I mean, I’ll stand in the same square mile as a tree, and say that the sum total of this problem is less than ten people, and you have no real data to back this problem up beyond “I don’t like it”.

My concern here is not about the concept of change. I live and breathe change daily. If I didn?t embrace change as a technical writer in this field, I couldn?t function. That?s not the problem.

Unless it’s changing how data is DISPLAYED in an email application. Because clearly, change there is beyond your ability to deal with.

What annoys me is that Apple believes that it has the liberty to fundamentally alter email customary usage for its own agenda, namely some kind of fanciful notion that by forcing artificial change without consent or preferences, life will be better for all its customers. And then Apple will, thereby, become more successful. In the largest, most profound ways, in the Spirit of Steve Jobs, Apple succeeds at that brilliantly. But when it comes to the little things, it?s just fiddling around for sake of being annoyingly cute.

Another way of saying this is that email is too important to be left to Apple.

I’m ready for my closeup Mr. Spielberg.

Drama much? Apple hasn’t changed, no matter how much you wish to infer otherwise, the structure or data in an email message. They have changed how they display certain parts of an email message. that’s all. They haven’t dinked with the quoted RFC, they aren’t altering data. They changed what you see, and you know what?

If you click “show details” because you wish to see it, not only is the full display turned on for that message, it’s turned on for all messages until you turn it back off. Oh my stars and garters.

I have written previously in this column about how it?s unlikely that Apple will take up the true challenge of creating fundamental breakthroughs in email technology. There?s no money in that, and it must be left to new entrepreneurs of vision. Instead, Apple ? who has the luxury of being the responsible caretaker of the default email app used in OS X ? does the easy stuff: declutter the screen by removing labels that serve to disambiguated the presented data. Okay, now, enough.

You first complain that Apple has made a picayune change in how they display some header data, yet, you then dink them for not completely changing email. Pick one john. Either they should never change anything past some application that doesn’t even exist anymore, i’m guessing Eudora?

Or they should change everything. But you can’t complain about OMG HEADERS NOT LABELED OR IN THE PLACE I WANT THEM TO BE, and then say OMG APPLE DIDN’T CHANGE EMAIL ENTIRELY and expect anyone to take you seriously on *either* point.

My search for an alternative, professional, technical email program not driven by this kind of tinkering continues.

Pine. I almost guarantee it shall never have any tinkering designed at people who aren’t just like you.

iJack

John C. Welsh ~

WTF is wrong with you?

Your posts have more snarl and venom than the worst of the regular posters.  John Martellaro is a colleague, fer crissake.

Grow up and get a fucking grip!

Respectfully,

Jack Barker

John C. Welch

First, if you’re going to lecture someone whose last name is only five letters long, and seen in almost any place that sells juice or jam, spelling it correctly is probably a good thing.

“Welch”

not

“Welsh”, “Walsh”, “Walch” “Weltch” or the grand dame “Wealtsch”.

It helps.

Secondly, when someone posts something like this, they’re trying for a reaction. “Let’s stir something up by posting something provocative”. Okay, he did, and it worked.

Finally:

If you’re going to take the time to lecture someone on appropriate behavior, you may not wish to be just as, if not ruder than you are accusing them of being. Otherwise, it makes it hard to take your etiquette tips seriously, because it bespeaks a certain lack of consistency. “Do what I say, not what I do” only works when lecturing small children, and even then, not so much.

Now, do you have any actual POINTS about my reply? Factual errors? Something concrete?

iJack

That’s it?  I spelled your name wrong?
Good God, man. You have serious anger issues. Get some help.

Maybe you should lose your job.  That would wake you up.

John C. Welch

That?s it?? I spelled your name wrong?
Good God, man. You have serious anger issues. Get some help.

Maybe you should lose your job.? That would wake you up.

You’re doing all the “yelling” in this, and lecturing someone you don’t know about etiquette, oh, and telling them they should be unemployed until they learn to think in a way you approve of.

yet *I* am the one with anger issues?

O Irony, How You Amuse Me.

Adam

confirming this is still fixed

Log-in to comment