Gmail Conversations

05 June, 2005

One of the big things about Gmail is supposed to be how it deals with messages and threads. Everything is a “conversation“. There’s no flat view of all your mails. Except I don’t have any say in what’s a conversation and what’s not – it’s all worked out by Gmail. The machine is overlaying what it thinks is going on to what people are actually doing, and whilst it’s got a nice 80-90% success rate, it doesn’t succeed all the time.

If I send someone an email, and they reply by starting a new mail themselves, instead of hitting “reply”, then we lose the conversation. If they use a different email address to reply, but keep the same subject line and have my message body inline, we lose the conversation. If someone sends me a new mail by replying to the last one I sent them (so they don’t have to look for me in their address book or whatever), then that mail becomes part of my last conversation with them, although it’s entirely unrelated.

Gmail needs to have some advanced conversation management. “Join conversations”, “Add mail to conversation”, “Remove mail from conversation/Start new conversation with this mail”.

They know that this is a problem, so we can hope that features like this will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, on those occassions where it does occur, it’s bloody annoying. Annoying enough to blog about, anyway 😉

See other posts tagged with general and all posts made in June 2005.


05 June, 2005 at 13:15

They must have been “working out kinks in our ‘Conversation’ feature” for a year now, and you still can’t manually un-group emails. It’s not really an issue for me anymore, as I file all my emails in Thunderbird and only keep them in my account as backup, but still.

And the storage counter on the main page irks me more than it probably should. I don’t even NEED 2.26 GB of disk space! Get out of “Beta” first!

Ahem. That is to say, I hear you.

05 June, 2005 at 14:14

I’m glad it’s not just me 🙂

06 June, 2005 at 08:53

I’ve always thought the same was true of whatever mail client I ever used (including Thunderbird, currently) – it’s nice being able to switch from ordering by date, to a “thread view” mode, but it’d be even nicer to then be able to manipulate those threads. Does *anything* let you do this? :-/

06 June, 2005 at 09:48

I don’t believe so, no. This is interesting though – why aren’t we allowed to manipulate these threads? Why do we have to work within an arbitrarily imposed order on human conversations?

Whilst it is true of all mail clients, I think it’s worse (or possibly just more obvious) in Gmail because of the enforcing of viewing your mails as conversations.

08 June, 2005 at 14:29

This is definitely something I’d like to see in a mail client (maybe it’s time to learn XUL…), along with other grouping functionality too. Think how many mails you get pertaining to the same subject, but not necessarily in response to each other… The closest we have at the moment, I guess, are Smart Folders and Labels (at least in Thunderbird), but why not allow people to “tag” individual mails or smoething?

17 April, 2006 at 02:25

I am so annoyed with the ‘grouping’ into conversations that I have now stopped using Gmail! It is utterly useless and frustrating for receiving things like logs on a regular basis, which obviously make no sense to lump together in one bundle. I thought this would have been a pretty simply feature for Google to include.

17 April, 2006 at 14:48

They should always float to the top though, and i don’t think that the same subject line is enough to trigger conversation grouping. sounds a little strange to me.

19 April, 2007 at 13:33

The conversation view in Gmail is the most ridiculous and crappy way of doing things. Google not only wants to control the internet…it wants to control how we use it too. It’s frustrating. I have given up using Gmail (webmail version) and I only use it with POP3 and I have also adviced everyone to stop using it after they had enormous problems. Gmail webmail interface has already lost more than about 10 users from my side.

Phil Wilson
19 April, 2007 at 17:39

How would you rather it was done?

17 August, 2007 at 05:36

I like the notion of conversations and the way that tags apply per-thread instead of per-message. My issue is with the execution.

One particular example, I have a stack of messages from the same forum notifier about the same forum message so they all have the same subject. Some of them get grouped together, some of them don’t. This in itself wouldn’t be a major issue if we had some way to group them back together, but since we don’t, it’s awful. 🙁

And I gather that even if they fix the problem now, it isn’t going to retroactively apply to older threads anyway.

05 September, 2007 at 12:14

I must say, this ‘conversation’ thing does annoy me too, sometimes it gathers completely unrelated messages into one conversation(ie, messages from different people, with different subjects, etc., I can’t even begin to understand how they dos it), then when you want to browse quickly through your “sent” mail or “received” mail, that’s another annoying bit, as mail gets hidden behind one single thread, even it it doesn’t belong there!!
If they don’t offer another viewing option soon, I might give it up too!

05 July, 2009 at 04:45

I like the conversation view it improves my mail reading experience 90% of the time. And the losses in the other 10% aren’t irrecoverable.

Innovation requires change.
Changes can be scary.
And the first one isn’t the final destination.

15 September, 2009 at 07:30

Joe, we aren’t talking about major life changes here. I just want to be able to read my email a 100% of the time.

Give me date and time sorting or give me death.

26 September, 2009 at 10:30

I just can’t believe that Google still hasn’t added a lab to allow you to turn off conversations altogether. Just seems like bad programming to me. If I know that there is a “feature” that has glitches, I offer the page without the feature. Can’t the big G do the same?

23 November, 2010 at 12:46

So many years now and still no manual grouping of conversations 🙁


With FB introducing messaging Google will lose millions of ppl