Q: I'm a member of several listservs that fill my email inbox with unnecessary chatter and bickering. But sometimes there's a message that keeps me from unsubscribing. What can I do?
A: Odds are that you're a member of at least one or two listservs that you find to be incredibly annoying more often than not. Like me, maybe you're on a listserv that's meant to connect and provide a networking opportunity for graduates of your school or college (the Medill School of Journalism, in my case), that is abused by members who quickly resort to bickering and name-calling in long strings of e-mails sent out to the entire group. But every once in a while, a gem -- maybe a great job opportunity or a smart discussion over journalism ethics -- sneaks out and you remember why you're on the list in the first place.
For all of those other times, there's a solution: Gmail's "Smart Mute" feature. The mute feature was one of the first that Google's mail team implemented, but, broken and useless, it quickly fell out of use. According to a post on the official Gmail Blog yesterday afternoon, though, the feature is back and better than ever.
To use "Smart Mute," you'll have to visit the Labs tab in your Gmail Settings and enable the feature. Now, when you mute a conversation, it will only reappear in your inbox if a new message is sent that is specifically addressed to you; someone will need to add your email address to the "To" or "Cc" line of the message. All other responses will be hidden from view.
To "Unmute" a conversation and rejoin it, select the message and choose "Unmute" from the dropdown "More actions" menu or open the email chain and "X" the "Muted" tag you'll find at the top.
Now you'll be able to enjoy the (few) benefits of listservs and email conversations addressed to more than a couple of people while keeping your inbox clear of unnecessary clutter.
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