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Mail Pilot: A New Approach To Email and Task Management [Interview]
There are so many people that just won’t get out of their email application to manage tasks. While this has been a problem in the past, new solutions like Asana and Flow allow for email and task management to be integrated within the task management solution. In many cases, the person who doesn’t want to go into the task manager can simply respond and check off tasks via email, removing a lot of the friction that can happen in a team environment.There are so many people that just won’t get out of their email application to manage tasks. While this has been a problem in the past, new solutions like Asana and Flow allow for email and task management to be integrated within the task management solution. In many cases, the person who doesn’t want to go into the task manager can simply respond and check off tasks via email, removing a lot of the friction that can happen in a team environment.
But there’s a new kid on the block that actually lets you manage things from within email — using your email inbox as a task manager. That’s something that many people do already, but in a very impractical way. Mail Pilot looks as if it will add the practicality that’s been missing from the equation.
Mail Pilot is a Kickstarter-funded project that tackles email and task management in a way that is innovative and productive.
What does Mail Pilot do? Well, here’s the word on that straight from the source:
“Mail Pilot is a computer application & service that lets you use your current email accounts in a way that is much more intuitive than today’s email applications. Mail Pilot reimagines email from the ground up, and is built to fit into the workflow of how people use email today.”
But that didn’t answer all of my questions. So I spoke about Mail Pilot with its creators, Josh Milas & Alex Obenauer, shortly after the project went live on Kickstarter.
Mike: I’ve taken a look at Mail Pilot, and it looks really compelling because people who are wanting to manage and/or use their inbox to manage things in terms of productivity and such. Why did you decide to start this thing up and what was the plan behind it?
Alex: So I was in a class in the fall semester and we had to keep a design journal. And a couple of weeks into the semester the professor said that he was going to be doing a check of our journals…and I actually hadn’t written anything in mine yet. So I went home and I tried to come up with a problem that was so big and so problematic that would fill a lot of pages. I chose email because that’s one of my biggest issues — I receive 80 plus emails on average a day, which is less than most people’s average.
And so I started to write about it — and within three pages the entire concept behind Mail Pilot was there. It was very much a thing where I had such an issue with email and really broke it down try to figure out what the essence of email was, and how you would rebuild the client around that essence…ignoring all kind of prior implementations. Then I shared the idea with Josh the next day — and he absolutely loved it. He has very similar problems with email and we had shared our woes together about it.
From there he explained to me that (this) was legitimately something we should act on, that this was much bigger than just changing the way that the two of us use our email, but that this is something that not only do we have the time talents and gifts to make — but something we really should.
Mike: Now there are a lot of productivity apps out there right now where they tell users to “get out of your inbox”, essentially saying that they shouldn’t be managing from within your email. Did you guys decide to go that route because either you tried stuff other task managers and it didn’t work for you and you just kept going back to managing things from email or do you think it’s just that it’s hard to get people to understand that there is an inbox for email and an inbox for all of their stuff?
Alex: It’s definitely both. You know, one of the biggest time drains for us is translating everything in your inbox into your to-do list and translating them into a calendar…stuff like that. And then trying to put something into your to-do list or put it on to your calendar because you need to follow up with it and then link to that email — it just became a kind of complicated interconnected web of ‘to dos’, events and emails. And it didn’t seem to make much sense.
So we really thought that if you could clear out your inbox, but those messages could still be marked for review, or marked to pop back up — say, reappear in three days — then that would help you severely decrease the clutter in your inbox and you wouldn’t have to spend the time working with a to-do list or a calendar. And the other thing too is that email is a standard. You can’t really get the entire market out of the inbox. Google proved that in a big way with Wave. I really liked what they did with the project but it was clear you couldn’t get people out of their email.
Mike: Right. So you’re raising $35,000 through Kickstarter. Where will that money go to? What’s the plan for those funds?
Josh: The plan is that once we meet that goal is to bring on some additional developers to help us really get the product to market. And their goal would be to then release a beta version by June. That will first go to all of our Kickstarter backers so they can start using it and we can start getting some feedback on it. So essentially, about three months from the end of our campaign the plan would be to release our beta.
Most of the money that we would raise would go to additional development support, ramping up our server space — because a lot of our features are really services that would take up space. It’s not just folders and stuff that goes into your normal inbox. We have our own data that we have to store with Mail Pilot so we do need an amplified storage space. That’s a pretty heavy cost so that’s where another portion of the money would go to. But then after that, hopefully we can get out of the beta, release to public and go from there.
Mike: I think one of your biggest battles is that there is so many players in this space. What do you think you are going to be able to do to combat that?
Alex: There are definitely a lot of players in the space, but we definitely think that the workflow that fits right into the core of Mail Pilot is just so deliberate to the way that most (if not many) people who have used their email or try to use their email. And we think that’s it. It works so specifically well for people that it would be a very preferred option.
The other thing is that right now we are a two man operation and so we wouldn’t need a majority of the market just to be sustainable. And so we have been excited to see what we’ve gotten so far and we are really excited to see if we can gain enough support to stay sustainable and then to really start spreading the concept around to a lot more people. So far people’s reactions have been so overwhelmingly positive towards the idea in favor over so many other ideas just because it’s so deliberate in the way it really works with your workflow.
(Editor’s Note: Now that the project has been funded, the expectation is that Mail Pilot will hit the market sometime in June of this year.)
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