Giles Bowkett raises a good point about “building windows onto a stream of data you want to watch”:
In every form of Internet communication, the number of messages you give a shit about is always much smaller than the total number of messages you receive. Software design for messaging clients virtually never acknowledges this fundamental and consistent reality.
The cult of inbox zero is a ship of fools. It is the information-age equivalent of a slave religion, where you glorify the most obedient slave to an insane master. You should not get a high five and a merit badge every time you get to a state where you can calmly and intelligently choose what to do next; being able to calmly and intelligently choose what to do next should be your default state.
People really need to design messaging systems around the obvious reality that give-a-shit is a precious and rare treasure. For some insane reason, this is not what we do; most software is designed with the utterly bizarre assumption that all incoming communication receives a standard, uniform, and equal subdivision of give-a-shit.
Software developers are inherently lazy. We build programs to automate things. But sometimes our laziness hurts everyone, when we build the laziest possible solution, too.
I'm with Giles, when it comes to displaying information, it's a much better idea to do so intelligently. Otherwise we're just building whiz-bang-ier lists of stuff.