32K ought to be enough for everyone

A couple weeks back I had to spend time moving my Outlook local folder file (the *.pst) from where it was by default (somewhere like “c:documents and settingsusernamelocal settingsapplication datamicrosoftoutlook”) to “c:mail”. And I also had to rename my rules (e.g. from something like “WSDM mailing list” to “w1”). And to merge several rules into one (so for example now all emails from ws-i.org go to the same “WS-I” folder, I can’t have one subfolder per working group anymore). That took some time (both to figure out what I needed to do and to make the changes) and left me less productive than before (non-descriptive rule names make them harder to manage and I have lost some granularity in the filtering by consolidating filters). Aren’t outlook rules supposed to make you more productive rather than less?

So why all the trouble? Simply because Exchange says all your rules have to fit in 32K. So it’s ok to have a endless signatures with quotes form other people (that somehow prove that you’re smart) or contact info for your kid’s favorite party clown. But rules, despite being vital to managing the flood of incoming email when you subscribe to several mailing lists, only get 32K.

The most infuriating aspect is that I can’t figure why that is. The rules I use are stored on the server but executed on the client. Clearly it can’t be a matter of storage space on the server. It stores dozen of megabytes of email for me. Turning 32K into 1MB would make little difference. And I’d be happy to settle for a tiny bit less email space for some badly needed rule storage space. It can’t be because of computing resources to execute the rules either. They run on my client machine, not on the server. And my 32K turn into less than 20 rules. Surely, 20 simple rules (the typical rule is “if this comes from mailing list foo put it in the foo folder”) can’t overwhelm my machine. And if they do, let me decide whether it’s worth it to me or not.

Of course this is all the fault of the WS-Addressing WG. I had postponed making the needed changes because of lack of time, but the crazy traffic on the Ws-Addressing mailing list forced me to make room for another filter. So emails could be properly dispatched to the right folder. Ironically, this is for an addressing specification. My take-away is that if Microsoft is only going to give us 32K to dispatch SOAP messages with WS-Addressing header (like they decided to do for email) then I don’t understand why they are so fond of reference properties and reference parameters. Hopefully Don won’t let the Exchange architects anywhere near Indigo. ;-)

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