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Meeting Gmail's filter team

On Tuesday, as I was flying back from France, I sat next to +Itamar Gilad who works on the team that does Gmail's smart labels and priority inbox filters (one of those lucky flights where I get to sit next to someone smart and learn about the future -- a few other members of the team were on the flight too). 

If you've read my previous emails you know I really love these filters. But Itamar taught me a few things that I didn't know, so thought I'd pass those along. 

First, you need to turn on these filters in Gmail's settings/Labs tab. Look for "Smart Labels." 

What do they do? They filter out "bacn" or emails that are automatically generated, often by social networks or commercial sites from emails that are total spam. It adds a few new folders:

Notifications (emails that are notifications about things, like servers going down)
Social Updates (things from Google+ or Facebook)
Promotions (commercial emails, often from businesses you signed up to get them)
Forums (Google Groups messages, among others)

I also visit each of these folders and set them to automatically archive (can be tricky to figure out how to do that, but often there's a checkbox at the top of the page, or you need to go to settings and play around a bit), so messages that get filtered into these folders don't get put into the inbox. Everyday this saves me HUGE amounts of time! Even on my wife's account it dramatically cleans out her inbox.

So, what did I learn?

1. We're all in this together. If I put a message into my spam folder, or into one of these new folders, it helps you out. And if you do so (properly, please) it helps me out!

2. These filters are contextual. They look at your contacts and behaviors. So, if you answer someone back they know that's not a spam email or bacn.

3. Everyone's being rated "invisibly" for their ability to mark things as spam or put things in the right folder.

4. The filters don't automatically work just because you drag one email into these folders. It needs to check with other people and systems to see if these are actually bacn or spam and that you're doing them right.

5. Gmail is very conservative because of the wide range of people who use Gmail. They aren't adding a ton of microfolders. They are leaving that to other companies (I use +SaneBox and +OtherInbox which add many more folders and do much more advanced filtering -- you see some of their messages here).

6. UPDATE: Google+'s own circles can be used to write custom filters and influence a bit how these things work too, so choose who you follow on Google+ carefully. 

I highly recommend using these. Are you yet?

Oh, and I deleted 1,638 custom filters in Gmail so I could better see how these things work (and so I could train these filters better to help you all out too). After doing that a few days things are already starting to filter out better.
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Did not know about the Smart Labels Lab. I am trying this for sure. I know I've spoken to Googlers about implementing automatic filters for Google+ notifications, because it makes more sense to manage Google+ notifications with a Gmail folder than the red box, because the red box doesn't scale.

Do you know when they implemented this lab?
I have been using most of these functions for sometime now, but not the way you suggested it so well. I am a freak about trying new features through Labs.
I set this up right away. Awesome. Now lemme work on my invisible ratings to mark things as spam to contribute to the gmail community :)
Yep. I've been using the smart labels since the moment they were announced. Combined with filters and the priority inbox; my inbox is reasonably sane (without sanebox even). 
You lost me at " as I was flying back from France".. Lol... Looking into this feature
Thanks for the tip on otherinbox. On issue I have noticed is that there doesn't seem to be a good option (with smart labels) to mark a message with no label. It wants to categorize every single message but sometimes I just want it in my inbox... Totally off topic, but when you get rolling with your Android phone you gotta try the SwiftKey flow keyboard. It's off the hook! 
Don't forget you can export your filters before you delete all of them, just in case you want to go back
The only problem I found is that I'm still interested in knowing I received them, yet they remain a bid hidden in my mobile gmail.
+Robert Scoble How do you configure the mail that goes into the Smart Labels folders to auto archive? I am having difficulty figuring out where to set this myself.
+Craig Tran In your Filters tab on Gmail settings, you can set what it should do with Smart Labels filters just like any other filter.
+Jake Weisz I did visit the filters tab and located the Smartlabel filter I wish to edit and all it does is pop up a new create filter form where you specify 'From', 'To', etc. I can't advance to the section where it allows me to set auto-archive.
Huh. You're right, that doesn't work.
they just dont have one thing. domain name filters. why ?
Oh, +Craig Tran, go to the label in question, and there's a checkbox at the top right of the screen to auto-archive.
I have over a hundred filters for about 10 labels.  But darn if one of the filters is sending someone to the wrong label, and I cant find it.  I wish that I could sort the filters by label.  
Dude, we missed you at the Crunchies. Steve Gillmor said you were jet-lagged from France ...
+Jake Weisz Thanks buddy, interestingly though I only see that check box available for my 'Promotions' label, its nonexistent for the other Smartlabels. You getting the same?
+Jake Weisz Must have been a bug, so I disabled and reenabled the smart labels feature in Settings and now I see the checkbox on all smartlabels. Phew, took a while but finally all set, thanks again.
We're all in this together. Good one, man
I had also previously delete all but 2 special filters, as well as most of my labels. The smart filters really has helped streamline things for me. My previous manually made filters worked quite well, buy I am surprised at how well Google has glommed various things together in a manner that mostly make perfect sense.
+Robert Scoble +Itamar Gilad you mention that it is recommended to remove all your current label filters so that the system can learn. Right now the only way to report if an email is incorrectly categorized is to report miscategorization on the item and then recategorize them into one of the other Smartlabel folders. What if I need to recategorize the item into a label that isn't a Smartlabel? I want to be able to create a new filter in this case to put it in that folder right? For instance I am getting tons of my billing statement type emails sent to Notifications and I would actually like to subnest them in a separate folder called 'Accounts/Statements' but right now that is a custom filter I have created for myself. Should I remove that?
Great info Robert. I use Sanebox but I'm a stickler for any and all hacks that help me manage my inbox. ;)
I am getting nothing in my personal folder and when it asks me to reassign the email there is no option to choose personal. <pout>
I still want an option to upload Sieve filters either pre- or post- Google's own filtering, for things like matching against Launchpad's X- headers.
Wow u just help me tremendously thanks 
I've been using SmartLabels now for some time and I love it.  The only issue I have with it is that there seems to be no way to train the system to send an email straight to inbox so I find myself checking multiple folders constantly to make sure I'm not missing some important email. 

Is there a solution to that?
Weird thing it worked yesterday on my work pc with windows, at home on ubuntu nothing gets labeled and i dont see the category chooser... i didnt think it os related, maybe it needs newer chrome.... +Itamar Gilad ?
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