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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

That Didn't Take Long

I used to use Eudora when I first started at Stanford. Later I switched over to Outlook for a while but didn't find it very satisfying either, and then switched to Thunderbird. I figured email is email is email and most fat clients aren't that different. Right after the holidays I switched back to Eudora for the first time in a couple of years because I needed to relearn it for our planned move to Zimbra this year. Most of the campus is still on Eudora, many in the "you can pry it from my cold, dead fingers" kind of way. (We also still have some PINE users.) I was immediately taken aback by how limited it was. There was so much I wanted it to do that it just couldn't.

And then, after less than three weeks of use, it broke. It says my inbox is locked, it says my outbox is locked. It says my TOC is missing. It says that the big email I was working on could not be saved. (Luckily I do all of that sort of work in other documents first, then copy it to Notepad, then copy and paste it into the email program. I've been burned before.)

Luckily, I still had Thunderbird installed so I just went back to it and was able to send the big important message to all of the PG&E bill-payers on campus. I really was thinking that there wasn't that much difference between Thunderbird and Eudora, that they had a roughly similar feature set. But Thunderbird, like Gmail, has slowly added in features and I've quietly discovered them as I went. I didn't even notice the changes because it happened so gently and incrementally, I never had to put a lot of effort into learning a whole new system, but instead kept picking up little things along the way, either new or always there but unnoticed. It's amazing the difference in reaction to incremental change versus sharp break changes. I just wish that we could do all of our software rollouts like that on campus. But I guess if that were true, I'd be out of a job, since a huge part of my job is getting people to deal with these sharp transitions. Still, it's such a better model. I think that has a lot to do with why Mac users go along with the upgrades better - they're usually smaller and more incremental rather than things like going from XP to Vista where you have to totally relearn the system to accommodate the new paradigms. (The huge exception there being the move from old Mac to OSX.)

As ever, change is hard, especially big changes.

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