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The right tool for the job: LetterMeLater vs. FollowUpThen -- keep track of important email!

I send out lots of emails. I can't possibly remember them all, but in some cases, a forgotten email can come back and bite you. Your boss suddenly asks about that thing you promised to have done, and it's delayed because someone didn't reply to an email which you forgot you sent, and then the finger-pointing begins and it's all great fun (nothing I've ever personally experienced, of course...)

An email follow-up service tries to prevent exactly that. A while back, I was looking for something to remind me of email some time after it's been sent.

The first service I found was LetterMeLater, which isn't exactly meant for that kind of work, but I somehow managed to finagle it into working. It's a service that lets you send out "delayed email" and make it look as if it came from you. So I started sending myself "delayed email" by BCCing LetterMeLater on those messages I wanted to follow up.

It's a pretty bad solution, because to use the service you have to replace the first few lines of your message with instructions. It looks somethinglike:

to: me
when: tomorrow

And then you write the rest of your message. Even if I paint the text white, it's still there and pretty easy to spot. To be fair, I think this is mainly because LetterMeLater doesn't really try to be a follow-up service. It has plenty of other functionality for delayed email, and offers an online UI (which I've used exactly once). Another thing I like about it is that they offer a paid version, so they have an actual business model and it's clear where the money comes from.

Then, this morning I found FollowUpThen on Lifehacker. Ahh, the simplicity. No GUI, no account configuration, nothing. Just BCC your email to 3days@followupthen (or any other interval) and it comes back at you in due time. If you CC the message, it gets sent both to you and the recipient when the time comes, unless the recipient replies first and CCs the service on the reply. I think the BCC option is much more elegant.

Bottom line: A service that tries to do just one thing and does it well is often much better than a service which tries to cater to everyone.

Tags: communication, e-mail, email, followup, office