I became embroiled in a melee over the Gordon Pask Award yesterday in Twitterland. People suggested I write about those conversations here to clarify the award’s purpose, but instead, I decided to write about an incident emblematic of the root cause of the Pask Award confusion.

My wife, Sarah, pointed me to this article, intriguingly titled “I’m done with GMail” (link long-since dead) complaining that GMail doesn’t have folders, so he can’t get to Inbox Zero.


I wanted to reply with the following, but ZDNet waited until I pressed “Add Your Opinion” to tell me I must register to post replies. Since I’ve read Influence I don’t fall for the Consistency principle much any more. That means I had to post my response here. Enjoy.

Hello, there.

As you know by now, labels act like folders, and if you use IMAP for sharing mail between GMail online and an offline mail client, labels become folders. I’m not here just to repeat those two points.

I’d like to offer this advice: next time when something really doesn’t act the way you’d expect it to, ask a question. I recommend this question:

I’ve used Yahoo! mail and GMail, and it shocks me that GMail doesn’t have folders. I know the people at Google use email, so they can’t have all decided that folders have no value. That just doesn’t compute to me. There must be a way to have folders in GMail that I can’t see. Will someone please tell me what’s going on here?

Maybe if you’d done this instead of accusing GMail of ruthlessly taking a feature away from you, then you wouldn’t have looked like such an idiot or dick for posting this.

Don’t worry: we all learn this lesson eventually.


Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. A classic field guide to understanding how other people’s minds work.