Tag: <span>Google Mail</span>

These days, with so many different ways to keep track of people, managing your list of contacts can be a bit of a chore. Doubly so if, like me, you’ve tried various ways of synchronising your contact list between your phone and a PIM (Personal Information Manager), or even just between any mobile device and any of the myriad of online ‘contact manager’ web-based applications.

When I first switched from a standard mobile phone to a ‘smartphone‘ (about 7 years ago), one of the advantages for someone with as poor a memory as mine, was the fact that I no longer had to remember all the details for someone. I could store them in one single contact and include useful notes to make sure I didn’t get their kids names wrong, not that I’ve EVER done that. Seriously, I haven’t. I may have gotten the sex of their kids wrong but that’s completely different…

A couple of years back I switched back to a standard mobile phone, ditching internet access and other frivolous items, presuming that, by then, management of contact details would be much easier. Ohh how wrong I was. Trying to synchronise Outlook Contacts with my Samsung mobile phone was a world of painful duplicate and triplicate entries, lost information and generally left my contacts FUBAR‘d.

As I neared the end of my contract I looked, again, towards smartphones and as luck would have it, the 2nd generation iPhone was due out mere weeks after my contract finished. I’d already bought a MacBook, was loving it and thought it would solve my problems.

And it did! After a lot of tidying up I managed to get my Address Book (on my MacBook) nicely organised and synchronised with my iPhone. Finally. All sorted.

Then (to cut a long story short) along came Google’s latest ‘Sync’ offering which would let me synchronise my calendars between work and my personal Google calendar (useful when planning physio and dentist appointments!). I was thrilled as this was the last of my PIM issues finally being sorted.

So my calendar is now synchronised and my contacts… yeah they are back to being FUBAR’d as, for some reaason, you can’t get around the first time SYNC ALL option. Google presume that you use their contact management functionality, offered as part of Google Mail. Except I don’t, cos it sucks.

So for the past couple of nights I’ve been deleting duplicate entries, renaming email only entries as Google Mail creates a ‘contact’ everytime you send to a new email address, meaning I have (after a purge) 38 ’email only’ contacts in my Address Book.

This has pissed me off no end. I like order, I like things to be neat and ‘just so’ and the one area of my personal information, information that *I* should be able to control and manage how *I* want for fecksake, has been nothing but a source of irritation.

Until last night that is, when I downloaded a new app for my iPhone which has helped soothe and calm me and get my contacts sorted out, for once and for all.

And, tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about it.

Tech

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Many moons ago I designed a simple template for a blog. It was a very popular blog back then, and it’s even more popular now with a book deal signed and on-sale, and many Bloggie Awards won (3 in a row!).

It’s a regular read of course, and this evening, as I clicked to view the latest post I was slightly taken aback to see a bug in the template! Ack!! How long had that been there and why hadn’t I spotted it before now!!

I quickly emailed Zoe to tell her and ask for her permission to go in and fix it… ohh ok, I was on the Mac and couldn’t be bothered going upstairs to get the log-in details I would need to edit her Blogger template. Thankfully she was online at the time and very promptly emailed me back with her login and password. Very trusting of her, it’s just as well I’m a nice guy…

Over to Blogger I headed and, having signed myself out (I still use it for Scottish Blogs), I logged into My Boyfriend is a Twat to make one quick change to the template.

Change made and republished, all was well, so I headed back to Google Mail to email Zoe to tell her I was done.

Now as this entire process, from my initial email to her response and on through to the fix to her template, had taken less than 10 minutes, I wasn’t surprised that her email was still at the top of my inbox. I clicked to open it and sent her a quick confirmation that the job was done and that I was looking forward to reading her book.

I clicked Send and was taken back to my inbox. I suddenly noticed that there was a green dot next to Zoe’s name in the list and the Google Talk listing had suddenly appeared in my sidebar as well… hey, hang on, I thought as I looked back at the list of emails in my inbox, I don’t recognise any of these emails either ……. OHHH FUCKITY FUCKSTICKS!!!

Yup, that’s right. I was looking at Zoe’s inbox (phnarr, phnarr).

In my haste to get the fix in place I’d forgotten that, these days, Google owns Blogger so, and this is crucial, WHEN YOU ARE LOGGED IN TO BLOGGER YOU ARE LOGGED INTO GOOGLE.

There, in plain view infront of me was an inbox full of juicy details and, probably, bank account details and sexual scandal. I’m guessing of course for, as soon as the realisation of what I’d done had sunk in, I quickly logged out and emailed Zoe from MY Google Mail account professing my embarassment and offer profound apologies and promises of copious amounts of wine (hey, if you are gonna apologise to someone properly, you’ve got to offer them something you know they like).

In fact, I think it’s the first time I’ve ever blushed with embarassment whilst online.

So, for the record: Zoe, sorry about that, I can’t help though, I is idiot.

Blogging Life

I think it’s safe to say that I’m almost completely reliant on my RSS feeds to ‘manage’ the websites I visit. These days I rarely start any form of “surfing” by visiting a website, instead I head to Google Reader to see what’s new in my feeds.

Aside 1: A quick plug for the FaviconizeTab extension for Firefox which allows you to have the tabs which contain specific websites resized down to just the icon. Handy as you can then leave Google Mail and Google Reader open in two small tabs, leaving plenty of room in the tab area.

Whilst I’m fearful of projecting my own thoughts about my growing adoption of RSS and call it a “trend”, it certainly seems like I’m not the only person who is relying more and more on their RSS reader to help filter and streamline their online time. But let’s not get carried away here, a newsreader can’t account for the amount of time you spend giggling like a loon over LOLcats.

Aside 2: As yet, I’m unaware of the collective term for the applications used to monitor and view RSS feeds. Newsreader? Feed reader? RSS reader?

The case for syndicating your content, in a really simple way (Really Simple Syndication), seems like a bit of a no-brainer. Offering your content to your readers, in a way that makes it easier for them to handle is almost an expected courtesy these days. As I’ve finally made the leap to RSS-centric content consumption, I now find myself discounting any websites that don’t have an RSS feed. If you are hiding or blocking your content, forcing me to visit your website then, sorry but it is unlikely that I’ll visit very often.

And that brings us nicely to the whole “full or partial” debate, and here I have to agree with Mr. Scoble who says (of people who offer partial feeds)

“I notice I read a lot fewer of their items than I read items from … [other sites] … who offer full text feeds.”

Full feeds allow me to digest a post or article in-depth without spending time nipping between websites, and with a requirement for me to invest some of my time if I want to add to the discussion then, implicitly, any comment I leave is more likely to add value, than being just a “Me too!” (or “First” which seems to be a fad at the moment, for why I have no idea).

Of course, the downside of offering all of your content in such a manner is that, as ever, nefarious types may take your lovingly created content, and re-publish it without attribution and possibly even claim it as their own. I’ve long since made my peace on that front, largely because I ‘give’ away my (obviously high quality and high value) content here for free and, frankly, I’ve got better things to do with my time than monitoring and confirming who is taking my RSS feed. Naturally that doesn’t apply to everyone, and some of my regular reads only publish partial feeds and have their own reasons for doing so.

On the flip side, partial feeds do offer advantages as they allow the reader to skim down a shortened list of posts, with less content to consume, and so should simplify the choice of whether or not to visit a site to read a complete post.

However, if that is your stance then I’d suggest you might want to consider how you use your own set of feeds. Most feed readers have the option to ‘Go to next…’, functionality that allows me not to care if your post is 5000 words or 50, it’s easy to skip it if I don’t want to read it. With this model I’m LESS likely to visit your site.

If I have a list of partial feeds on a page, I will scan down the titles and the opening lines of content on the page and, if I want to read the full post, I need to click to go to the site.

But if I have a list of full feeds, I will still scan down the titles and the opening lines of content but if I choose to keep reading, then there is no further action needed. No switching of context and view, I just keep on reading. Simple.

And yes, the presumption is that every post is likely to be as interesting as the next, after I’m sure you carefully selected the feeds to which you subscribe. I know I did, and I have impeccable taste.

Regardless of which type of RSS feed you offer, full or partial, the fact that you offer an RSS feed at all is likely to directly impact on your website stats. Diamond Geezer touched on this recently.

Presuming you care about stats, and let’s face it most of us do check them far too often to be healthy, there is something about checking all those weird referrers, the tangible evidence that real people are actually visiting. These days, ultimately, what you need to be tracking isn’t visits but ‘reads’. How many times has post X been read in the past week, regardless of whether it was via RSS, or on the website itself.. and herein lies a small quandary, is that even technically possible? If I visit your blog, read a post but don’t comment on it, how do you know I read it?

This is another bad side of RSS, you lose visibility of how, why, and where your content is being accessed. Lost in the ether. “Much too much to read, far too little time.” said Diamond Geezer, and I think that that, again, suggest that full feeds are better than partial feeds, the competition is high, so why place another barrier in the road?

Using RSS gives you the opportunity to monitor far more websites than you can read, and if you are happy to ignore the number of unread items then the sky really is the limit. Personally I’ve stopped looking for additional links to other blogs on any of the websites that I end up visiting. “The blogroll is an endangered species” I’ve heard but, in a neat twist, I am starting to see more examples of the “live” blogroll, powered by, you guessed it, RSS Feeds. Rather than a static list of links, you can have snippets of latest content from your favourite reads appear in your sidebar. This is, of course, until the backlash really kicks in and blogrolls see a surge in usage.

However I think that change in the use of blogrolls is telling, after all, how many of you still check them on other people’s sites? How many of you have even noticed that I removed mine a week ago? Perhaps the size of blogrolls was an issue, and RSS combates that by offering a guarantee that you can check for updated content.

Or maybe there is more to it than that?

How many of you will visit a link in a post, but not randomly choose from a list of links in a blogroll? My guess is that including a link in a post is an additional level of endorsement and, as interactions on the web continue to evolve and gain in complexity (in the social scheme of things, what price a link these days?) then what we are really experiencing is a change in the level of endorsement. Linking to something from a post suggests higher endorsement than linking to something continuously in a sidebar. Linking to something from a post presumes that link is current, and the same isn’t always true for a blogroll. As RSS offers us the ability to monitor hundreds of websites, then we already have a reliable way of knowing when someone updates their site. So why bother with a blogroll at all?

By adapting how we process both the consumption and locating of content, we can really start to use RSS to our own advantage. As a consumer I have the power to monitor a multitude of sources, cherry-picking what I want to read. Any barrier to that usage, anything that blocks my reading process is removed by switching my attention elsewhere. Yeah, it’s not nice but it’s true. As ever there are always exceptions to the rule (around 5 of them off the top of my head).

RSS is good, it puts much more power into the hands of the consumer. Yet that shift of power isn’t without pain, and the downsides are evident.

Despite all that I’m spending less and less time visiting websites, and more and more time consuming content from RSS feeds. If the content is good I will invest some of my time, that which is most precious to me, in providing some form of feedback to the creator. And the real downside is that even then my contributions are slowly petering out. Information overload means we spend most of our online time in a state of distracted flux and RSS can either help you reduce the stresses of being a “web citizen” or add to your pain.

I’ve yet to find the balance.

Work

My first OSX screenshot

As promised.

In no particular order, and having installed several application “just to try” I have whittled down my must-have OSX apps to the following. I’m pretty sure these, although it’s early days yet, will remain on my Mac for quite a while, particularly as I’m happy with things and the only stuff I’m still mucking about with is stuff like the desktop background and so on.

Update: The wallpaper in the above screenshot can be found here.

Tech

Early this year I started using Google Mail to monitor my three busiest email addresses. It’s a system that has been working well, allowing me to respond to emails during the day if required. Essentially I’m using Google Mail as a temporary “email checker”.

This system has a downside though.

I’ve got Google Mail set to leave the emails on the server, as there are some emails I want to be able to store on my home PC, but there are many others that will just be deleted.

So, what I really want is to be able to delete emails in Google Mail, and have the deletions reflected on the mail server. That way, when I go home at night, I only need to download the emails I want to store.

Make sense? If it does make sense, is it possible?

Of course the easiest thing would be for me to just use Google Mail fulltime. I could easily setup a new mailbox for any emails that simply HAVE to be stored locally (things like House Insurance claims and whatnot, I’d want them locally so I can still access them if I lose my internet connection), so there is a workable solution there.

I fear I may have answered my own question, but any other thoughts, suggestions or considerations are, as ever, more than welcomed.

The fact that Google has just opened access to Google Mail for everyone (no more invites required) is purely coincidental.

Work