This week, I stopped using Hey after being one of the folks that jumped in with both feet when it launched in June. I’ve imported my Hey messages into Apple Mail, which is what I used before, and set my @hey.com address to forward to my custom domain. There are things I’ll miss for sure, but I just couldn’t do it any more.
The biggest benefit of Hey for me was that it, in its way, “fixed” email. I loved the Screener. I loved the Feed. And I loved the increased privacy. At times, I appreciated the ability to rename subject lines and combine messages together. I got used to the “Reply Later” and “Set Aside” functions and they became part of my new email flow. I no longer felt compelled to get Inbox Zero and that was a relief. I felt I could subscribe with abandon and screen out or skim past in the Feed. Email became less antagonistic, less burdensome, even a bit whimsical. I’ll miss all those things.
But there are issues that I never could integrate or feel okay about and that’s why I switched back. The first is the lack of being able to send from my professional email accounts. Some of you knew immediately that this would be a deal breaker, but I was more optimistic and thought they’d eventually add the feature. I emailed a month or so back and asked if/when they’d add it and they said they didn’t have it in on the list. This meant that for mailing lists I’m subscribed to through professional emails, I’d have to fire up Mail and send the email from there. This has meant that every week I’m in Mail sending emails to university-only email lists, for example.
But I’m in Mail more than that, anyway, because while DHH claims he never has to go back to search for old emails, I find that I do that all the time. And even if I could search for old emails in Hey, I wouldn’t want to because the search interface is terrible. Perhaps I’m not using it correctly, but my experience is that 1) there doesn’t seem to be logic to who appears first in your search results. When there are several people with the same first name, for example, people you emailed once for some random reason appear before people you email all the time. 2) When you find the person you’re searching for you, you have to click their name, scroll through the messages to find the one you want, and click on it to see something. 3) If that’s not the proper message you have to start over by searching for their name, navigating the false positives, clicking, scrolling through the list, and hunting and pecking for the next message.
There are also some pretty basic inadequacies that they should’ve fixed long ago. For example, if you set a message to “reply later” and someone else replies to it, it gets shuttled back to your Imbox and is no longer set to reply later. Also, if you have a thread going and several folks reply, you only see the last reply opened up when you click on the message, even though you haven’t seen the others (they’re collapsed for some reason). I also had at least one email that never made its way into Hey though it should have (this could’ve been on Google, but it seems unlikely). These are major violations of trust in my system and I feel I’ve traded my “inbox zero” obsession for a sort of constant vigilance to make sure I’m not missing something.
ALL THAT SAID… I’m hoping to take the best of Hey into my Mail habits. I’ve set Apple Mail inboxes to filter for unread (⌘L) which gives that same feel of emails going away once you’ve read them. I flag red for “Reply Later” (⌘+SHIFT+L) or gray for “Set Aside” and I’ve created smart folders that contain those messages. I also have Sanebox back up and running and have a smart folder looking at SaneLater and SaneNews across multiple accounts and putting them in a folder I’m calling “The Feed.” I also set them in order so ⌘1 gets me my inbox, ⌘2 The Feed, and so on sort of like in Hey.
It’s not as pretty, but it’s a heck of a lot more powerful. We’ll see where I am in another five months.
I’d be very interested in hearing from folks who are still using Hey and how they’re finding it. And also, as always, I reserve the right to be as fickle and change my mind three or four hundred times before all is said and done.