About 18 months ago, I lost access to my Gmail account for a few hours when an early version of Greasemonkey caused a glitch that made Google think there were an inappropriate number of simultaneous logins being made to my account. The problem was resolved quickly enough but I was devastated for those few hours by the thought that all the information I had stored in that account might be lost. Fast forward to present times and there are reports that a "small number" of people have seen their Gmail accounts vanish and they may be permanently gone.
There's plenty of discussion going on surrounding this glitch led by TechCrunch and Om Malik. With an additional year-and-a-half of data stored in my Gmail account, I got mre than a little concerned about what losing that information might mean to me. So I did the only reasonable thing I could think of and reset my Gmail account's POP3 settings to download all of my mail locally. Every bit of it.
I think it's finally finished now - no, another 682 messages just arrived as I'm writing this! It's taken about 16 hours for
all the mail that's arrived so far to come down from Google's servers and for me to wade through a lot of cruft that I'm sure was important to me at one time but is pretty much history and not content I'm likely to ever need again. What I find most interesting is how much Gmail has impacted my e-mail habits as it relates to the information I send and receive in that environment.
There's a message on the Trash page in Gmail that asks, "Who needs to delete when you have over 2000 MB of storage?!". I guess I've been subliminally conditioned to accept that notion relative to my Gmail context in stark contrast to how I handle my business mail in Outlook on my PCs or Mail.app on the MacBook. Because my company uses IMAP mail, I have an always up-to-date and synchronized view of that mail store from any device I use and I practice my idiosyncratic approach to GTD by converting actionable e-mail messages into tasks and appointments to keep my Inbox empty.
Perhaps it's the lack of real integration between Gmail and Google Calendar (which I don't use all that often) that prevents me from taking the same approach in my webmail. Or maybe Gmail has allowed me to tag and archive with abandon because everything seems to work regardless of how much stuff I allow to accumulate.
In either case, the implications of losing all that history and information rattled me. And so I'm downloading, scanning, deleting, and archiving my Gmail locally. Better to be safe than sorry. I can afford a few hundred megabytes of storage more than I can the loss of years of accumulated correspondence. Google is saying the glitch has only affected a small number of accounts and they're hard at work trying to figure out what went amiss. That's all well and good and exactly what they should be doing. In the unlikely event that this problem is not so isolated (or that I'll be unlucky enough to join that "small number" of affected accounts), I'm changing my approach to make sure I don't wake up to find my stuff vanished.
Back to the triage.