Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

The Fall of Scrybe; The Rise of Gmail

Note: The title of my blog post refers to my personal preferences in selecting a calendar/time management tool.

As you may have read in my recent posts, I’d been trying the beta version of Scrybe as a calendar tool convinced by it’s very effective 2 minute preview on YouTube. Slowly but surely my interest in Scrybe has waned because not because Scrybe was less useful, but because another tool was becoming more useful:

Cons of Scrybe:

1. It opens in another browser window

2. It takes time to load (as compared to gmail and my GTD plugin — see below)

3. The only reason I continued using it were the to-do lists and the intuitive interface

Pros of Gmail:

4. One-stop shop: Gmail was making it easier for me to add events to Google Calendar, while I crafted the email or responded to an email, thus taking care of my calendar needs from 1 interface.

5. The FINAL NAIL: While I found the to-do lists on Scrybe to be both pleasing to the eye and easy to use, most of my action items originated from my emails (gmail). When I stumbled upon the Firefox/Gmail plug-in for “Getting Things Done” (GTD), I didn’t have further reason to continue using Scrybe.


For those of you, who haven’t yet tried David Allen’s GTD principle, check out 43 Folders’ intro w/ tips. It may just change the way you manage your time & your life.

Also, here are 3 blogs that’ll help you enhance your quality of life/work:

1. 43 Folders

2. Lifehack

3. Zen Habits

Are there any other valuable blogs I’m missing?

Filed under: Uncategorized

Gmail is starting to bug me!

Quick update: Google woes, cont… from Michael Arrington. Back to my original post —

Strike 1, Strike 2, and Corporate Blog Blues

Strike 1
After all the love…Gmail is starting to bug me with its incessant problems. Not a great way to start the New Year. Here are 8 reasons I switched from Yahoo! Mail to Gmail, and here is why it doesn’t seem like a great idea!?

Just a week after I wrote “Uh Oh, Gmail Just Got Perfect” a number of users started complaining that all of their Gmail emails and contacts were auto deleted – Michael Arrington

Related blog posts: Google ends year on sour note – Nathan Weinberg, Gmail Disaster – Techcrunch, Even backups are gone (via O’Reilly Net)

Strike 2
And now another issue — Gmail bug exposes your mail account to spammers

Like your Gmail account? Consider it a sacred place which must be protected from spammers at all cost? Yeah, us too. Well, we hate to break the bad news at the dawn of the new year but there’s a weakness in Gmail which exposes your email address to any web site capable of exploiting the bug – Engadget

However, I was able to find a counter point to that at another great google blog (this is how their corporate blog should be), which says:

The JavaScript file is used by Google to make it easy to send videos to your contacts in Google Video, to invite people in Google Spreadsheets and Google Notebook. So it’s not a bug in Gmail, they just exposed some data in a wrong way.

Google can fix this in many ways and will certainly fix it. Until then, it’s a good idea to sign out of Gmail when you’re not using it.

The bottomline is — don’t leave gmail signed on while browsing other sites!? That’s just great. Strike 2.

Related blog posts: Gmail bug exposes users to spammers via Engadget, Gmail contact list exposure via Google operating system, Serious Gmail vulnerability fixed? via Garret Rodgers

Corporate Blog blues:
My first reaction, as a user, would be to read the official Google blog about all these issues. Why? Because you want answers from the real source. From Google’s point-of-view, it’s a great way to:

1. Reassure users that either (a) this is an unwarranted concern, or (b) this is being effectively dealt with and will have a solution by a specific day. Particularly when they already have an official blog, it beats me as to why Google is unwilling to use it to effectively engage with the customer.

It’s like you’re in a relationship and are concerned your partner is cheating on you (I know — bad analogy, nevertheless bear with me). Your partner’s silence and increased chatter from your friends is going to make you feel nervous about the relationship. However, if your partner is the first to assuage your concerns AND take remedial measures, not only does he/she earn your confidence but also effectively nullifies all the chatter.

2. Converse & truthfully engage with your users by allowing comments on your blog and responding to complaints aggressively and effectively. Squash all this blog talk on your blog by inviting user comments and addressing them. Instead all you see on the official blog is Google PR Spiel on “A year in Google blogging” or “Where on earth is Santa?“, nothing more than self-laudatory fluff posts. As a corporation, think more about “We” and less about “Me”.

3. Speak Up when your BRAND IS AT STAKE. All you have to do is to convert the negative chatter into a positive as to how quickly you have been able to address your user concerns, thereby enhancing brand loyalty. This is the same in the political arena — remember the swift boat crisis that doomed Kerry’s campaign. If only he had been more aggressive in quashing all that chatter…

Is Google up to the task?

Filed under: Uncategorized

Why Google will always remain Spock. Never Kirk.

The past few days have witnessed a barrage of non-stop Google Plus nonsense, with marketers vying with one another to carve out their territory on Google+ with the fond hope that it’ll be the next Twitter. In the meanwhile, I’ve not had one meaningful conversation on the platform with nearly 721 followers and I don’t know of any who have.

So, what gives?

Google+ 0 Friends

To get sticky with it: You always start with the community.

Let me share with you a tale of two other social sites that have increasingly become my daily go-to sites: Quora and Tumblr. Those who follow me have probably seen my tweets from either of these sites and the reason is, when I’m there I feel like home. In much the same way as I do on Facebook, which has my real friends and family.

Facebook started with the college community, built that flawlessly across the country, and then finally expanded outside of that circle that they had so masterfully cornered. This was probably what helped them break the monopoly of MySpace, whose ignominious ending we all witnessed this past week.

A tale of two useful social sites: Quora and Tumblr

Likewise, the kinship with my peers on Quora and Tumblr took months to form. On Quora we share a common interest in learning and several common topics that the site is carefully curating over time (like a good librarian who can direct you towards a book that you should read). Tumblr, likewise has a group of artful types who share quotes, pictures and videos (yet again, on topics I dig).

And, on both sites I find good search functionality that lets me pull in updates on these topics I love. Note: I wish both would automatically pull in my Facebook interests since they’re providing a high-quality stream of content on those topics that even Facebook cannot generate. Take that Google+ Sparks.

Now, I probably wouldn’t have published this if I’d not seen this morning’s top post on Techmeme from Paul Allen on Google+ that proclaims:

 Google+ is Growing Like Crazy. Report Coming Monday. Probably More than 4.5 Million Users Already

To which I say: So what? Actually, hang on, Business Insider says it better:

In fact, two days after Buzz went live, Google posted a blog entry bragging that “tens of millions” of people had checked it out, and created more than 9 million posts and comments.

At some point, interest died.

So far Google+ is filled with Googlers, reporters, and tech enthusiasts. They’re posting a lot, enjoying the Hangouts feature, and driving traffic to tech news sites.

But it’s still way too early to know whether Google+ will get any traction with mainstream users — the 750 million people who are on Facebook today.

Personally, despite having hundreds of followers on Google+ nothing of interest has happened on the site in my purview. Yes, I see my good old blogger friends asking questions they used to ask on Twitter, I’ve seen some cool hangouts with random people that Ben and others started, and the curiosity factor over which “interesting stranger” (as BI called it) is on G+ today. 

Summary

Google just doesn’t seem to get social. While the screenshot above (Googlers with 0 Friends) may be a great metaphor, as I’ve argued from the beginning, the Friendfeed cult model (that G+ mimics) just doesn’t work at building sustainable social communities, since it confuses the personal and public spheres. Granted it may scale faster as you’re gonna see soon (millions of users real fast), but will it stick?

Here’s a blog post from George Siemens that suggests why the friend forming algorithm of G+ is messed up:

While power laws (Pareto’s Principle) may exist in many areas of our lives – banking, TV watching habits, book purchases – they are surprisingly absent at a personal level. Yes, I likely respond to a small cluster of blogs and tweets that I encounter. But my personal networks – family and friends – don’t seem to have the power law structure of my public identity. For example, I move fairly fluidly between my personal networks. Facebook gets this. I’ve had very few “way out there” friend suggestions on Facebook.

G+, on the other hand, has been busy trying to make kings of a few: Robert Scoble, Mike Arrington, Loic Le Muer, Mark Zuckerberg, and so on. (Techcrunch addresses this issue as well.) I have precisely zero interest in those people. Nothing in my email history indicates that I would like to connect with them. Google’s algorithm is whacked on how it recommends friends: it is recommending them based on power laws (who is most popular) not on my personal interests. This is a fundamental and significant misunderstanding of social networks. Network properties are different at a personal and social level than they are in public spaces.

Welcome to the Friendfeed conundrum that conflates public and personal spaces. Even, the Pavlovian model of notifications is broken (and frankly useless) in this world, since now the red notification isn’t bringing in the reward that a Facebook notification does and is diminishing its effectiveness.

It’ll be interesting to see how Google+ evolves over time (cos they’ve really invested a ton of resources and are betting their future on it), but in its current avatar I don’t see how it can draw people away from Facebook.

Come back tomorrow for my post on Zuckerberg’s presentation style. This one’s a doozy. Bookmark my blog or subscribe to it.

Related posts you may find useful to form your own opinion:

  1. Follow the Quora topic on Google+
  2. Yishan Wong’s Quora answers (most of the recent ones are on Google+ and social)
  3. Ross Mayfield building on my original post re: different social networking models
  4. George Siemens post on Google+’s fundamental misunderstanding of networks
  5. Rocky Agrawal’s Solving the Scoble problem in Social Networks on TechCrunch (I’d say this is more of a G+ problem)

Sorry, Google+. For similar thoughts, follow me on Twitter.

Filed under: Google+, Quora, Tumblr

Email Sucks! How Facebook email can fix that.

Update: I’ve added my thoughts on a perfectly timed post from Steve Gillmor on the same topic. See end of this post.

Note to self: Never go to bed on an unpublished blog post, esp. one that I was tremendously excited about. Cos, when you wake up you realize someone has written up an awesome piece on those ideas. Well, I did think Gizmodo articulated very well, how FB could create your ultimate priority inbox. After the jump, my original post with my thoughts.

There has been a ton of twitter chatter on Facebook’s looming launch of an email system or a revamp of their messenger system. Of course, there are rumors of their partnering with Microsoft to incorporate Outlook email as the foundation for this email.

Facebook’s Priority Inbox will beat Gmail’s lame Priority Inbox

Despite its best intentions, Gmail’s priority inbox is still a melange of mistakes that I’ve to keep training and fact is it never learns, cos it really does NOT know the people I’m communicating with. Instead the algorithm does a bad interpretation (I’m guessing) based on frequency, senders, etc. And, that’s the problem with email. The senders range from people we know, trust to the spammer next door.

Enter Facebook’s social graph.

Since Gizmodo, articulated this so well, here’s Jesus Diaz’s speculation about Priority Inbox.

Moreover, it’s not only about separating what is important and what is not. Their data tracking and analysis could allow them to do many other things. For example, they just have to analyze who is tagging you in photos, who is with you in those photos, to know who are your real friends, and categorize mail accordingly. They can automatically classify mail from the person who just became your fiance or lower the priority of that ex who keeps mailing you. The possibilities of using your social interactions to enhance the mail experience are endless.

“People tagging” emails will kill the suckiness of group emails

In addition, I think Facebook could use their secret weapon – tagging – to help reduce noise and clutter in your email as well. They’ve  used tagging most famously in photos, but also notes, groups, status updates and places to spread “targeted virality”. The art of tagging offers a targeted high to the individuals who then come back to the site to use it more. The red alert sign on the top left hand corner probably elicits a pavlovian response from its users by now. Y’know it does.

This is something I aggressively requested from Tweetie (before they were Twitter, nearly 18 months ago) but still notifications is not a well thought out twitter mechanism. But on Facebook, imagine, if you could tag just the friends you wanted to respond to an email even when you send a group email. That way the red alert symbol in the top left hand corner will constantly remind you when you actually have priority emails from folks in your social graph or could feed into the social algorithm that prioritizes your email.

I’m sure there’s so much more FB could do to make emails less sucky, but this would be a start. [Would love to hear from you how you think FB email will change email? Comment away!]


Updated: I just stumbled upon a perfectly timed TechCrunch post from Steve Gillmor on this same topic:

What happens now is that these stream objects are lit up with transactional properties. Code gets run based on incoming events, pulling it out of the teeming inbox before we see it and converted into actions predetermined by our inference engines and workflow rules. This is not AI or smart computing; it’s harvesting social signals in the context of realtime economics. If Facebook reinvents email by submerging it in the stream, they’ll have something to announce.

This reminds me of a couple of things, the notifications do mean that your Facebook stream will now contain messages from your FBmail Inbox. But, I do think these notifications could be far more targeted, valuable and productive given hints you give Facebook on your usage of their different social apps (photos, etc.) as well as explicit permission you give it through tagging.

Techmeme also just picked up the thread.

Yes / No? You don’t think this will be the case. Discuss in the comments section or @mariosundar me.

Filed under: Facebook

Why businesses continue to fail in social media

Businesses are confused by social media, always have been. Many businesses feel compelled to start a Facebook page or a Twitter page the same way they used to feel the need for a blog, but they’re not sure why? They amass thousands of followers on Twitter. Now, what?

Always start with the goal and find the means

Feels like Groundhog day to me? It wasn’t that long ago when businesses were jumping on the blogging bandwagon with no goal in sight. This often leads to frustration and discarded corporate blogs. I’m tracking over 200 corporate blogs and find that many of them either fall off the radar or the Top 10 business blog rankings because they stop blogging.

And oddly enough the answers always remain the same. Start with business goals, track metrics and the rest will follow. Starting a Facebook page without a social media strategy doesn’t achieve much and not having social media goals besides # of followers (for e.g.) doesn’t get you far either.

eConsultancy recently had a post on first identifying your target audiences and goals; identifying social platforms later:

Social media can, and should, involve identifying your target audiences and the platforms they already use. If you are a B2B company, LinkedIn and Twitter are likely to be much more useful than Facebook. Demographic information is available for most of the major social networks, so there really is no reason not to target your social media activities.

Also, different social media sites are fine-tuned for different business goals. If you’d like to use social media for lead generation, then identify the appropriate social platforms that’d help you achieve that. Once you’re done with that, define a comprehensive social strategy across those platforms. Hoovers Biz blog (another great blog you should subscribe to) said it best:

Because social media is so easily accessible and fairly straightforward, many businesses are hopping on the Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn bandwagon in an effort to stay current. The problem is these businesses have no idea what they are doing; without a proper strategy, social media is essentially a waste of time. In order to make social media work for your business it must be part of the winning Internet marketing formula to dominate local searches:

Social Media Website structure SEO = Local Search Domination

Bonus tip: And, check out another great post on how to use both LinkedIn and Twitter in concert for prospecting, here.

Integrate with existing strategies

This leads to the more interesting question, how does a new social media site fit into your existing strategy (whether it is marketing or PR or customer service). You probably have an existing email marketing strategy. Use social marketing in combination with what’s been working for you. Looks like marketers are listening:

As reported by eMarketer today, in an April 2010 survey by email marketing agency, eROI, two-thirds of US marketers are now integrating social media into their email marketing campaigns.  In addition, email marketing and social media marketing solution provider, StrongMail indicated that the percentage of marketers who had integrated social and email (or planned to this year) is 71% worldwide, based on June 2010 research. (via Hubspot blog)

For e.g. your existing email marketing strategy could be a great source of lead generation. Promoting a best practices LinkedIn group you’ve created or encouraging your audience to share on LinkedIn (esp. a B2B audience) adds to your email campaign’s long term effectiveness. Those were two of the key objectives that business executives stated as their goal in integrating social with email marketing (Source: eMarketer)

Top reasons for integrating email marketing with social

Companies that are doing it right

Here are five examples of companies that are experimenting with social media right in different areas within the organization – from PR to Enterprise marketing. Will keep this blog updated with future adventures of companies that are early adopters of social media but doing it right. Read on…

1. Pepsi’s Bonin Bough explains the rationale behind Pepsi’s social media strategy – from the master plan to the small wins

2. How Karen Wickre and team at Google approach social media as a team sport (Google’s corporate blog may not be social, but it’s effective)

3. Intel’s Bryan Rhoads goes over social media training for employees and all the cool stuff Intel’s been doing in that regard. A must-read for anyone at a large Fortune 500 organization.

4. Dell’s Manish Mehta shares how Dell scales social media across the enterprise and their numerous internal teams, yet maintaining the intimacy with their consumers.

5. Sorry it’s them again! How Coke and Pepsi are building their “Trust Banks” with their customers. It’s all about trust, yo!

Keep track of the latest in social media. Subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter!

Filed under: Miscellaneous

How to keep your business contacts synced across social networks

I just read a great post on “Work Awesome” last week that asked the question: “How do you pick your friends on social networks?“. I thought I’d share some of my insight into five key business networking hubs  that professionals need to keep synced with their business rolodex. Feel free to bookmark this post and share with your colleagues who wonder how to get the most from social networking sites from a business angle.

How to pick business friends on social networking sites

How to pick business friends on social networking sites

Every professional should approach the art of friending strategically and with greater seriousness like your career and reputation depends on it. And, trust me – it does. I think “People you may know” is a great place to start on all three key social networking sites but the webmail importer is a far more strategic way to approach “friending”:

1. LinkedIn: Without doubt, this should be the CENTER of your business networking universe as it contains the most accurate information mass resume / rolodex / conversation ecosystem you could find. 75 million professionals, millions of companies and tons of opportunities for professionals from finding jobs to collaborating on business. You want to make sure your LinkedIn network is an accurate reflection of your real world professional connections.

The easiest way to do that – find your business connections from your email. LinkedIn has a feature called webmail importer that makes it trivial to find and add your business contacts in your email client to LinkedIn. Fact is, most of them are likely to be on LinkedIn already. Also, all the remaining tips in this post will work more effectively ONLY if your LinkedIn graph is maintained accurately.

LinkedIn's Webmail Importer

Once you’re done with that, try to check the “People You May Know” widget on the top right hand corner of your LinkedIn homepage on a daily basis and add 2 – 3 relevant business connections that are recommended. Click “See more” once every week, to do a more serious update and you’ll be surprised to see a faceted search module on the left that lets you zone in on the most valuable connections for you to add. Just adding folks from your current job alone is priceless!

Faceted Search in LinkedIn's PYMK

Most importantly, make it a habit, to add folks you work on projects with on LinkedIn right away. To me it’s a daily ritual at the end of the day or week to add folks I’m newly working with on projects to LinkedIn. And, the best place to find them would be LinkedIn’s advanced search.

2. Microsoft Outlook / Xobni:

Pulling your  business rolodex (in this case – from LinkedIn) into your email client of choice is equally important, because it’s a great way to enhance the value of your email client. Your LinkedIn graph of connections and conversations can be pulled into Microsoft Outlook through LinkedIn’s Outlook Connector. Download it here.

As soon as LinkedIn and Outlook are connected, Outlook will start bringing in information about your LinkedIn network.  You should then start seeing profile photos and LinkedIn activity for any connection that e-mails you.

Xobni does the same through their plugin that works on Outlook and even in mobile – Blackberry. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with the iPhone, but chances are greater that your company has provided you a Blackberry at work. And, I’m guessing you’re also stuck with Outlook.

I haven’t tried it, but TechCrunch claims that the difference between Xobni and MS Outlook connector seems to be that “it does email search a lot better than Outlook and can resolve different identities to the same person in your contacts list.” If interested, check it out here.

LinkedIn information on Xobni tab

3. Google Contacts / Rapportive:

As a Google contacts user, I find myself increasingly syncing my gmail contacts to my iPhone and find it challenging that Google contacts doesn’t sync with constantly updated professional information on LinkedIn. Enter Rapportive, a browser extension, that pulls LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook information of individuals from the gmail address. It’s like Xobni, but for Gmail.

Rapportive features brings your LinkedIn Graph to Gmail

4. Twitter:

I’ve shared this before, but sync your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Now, this allows you to do two things. One cross-post from LinkedIn to Twitter (harmless) and from Twitter to LinkedIn (careful, I’d only recommend bringing over the #in tweets).

Secondly, you can auto-create a constantly synced Twitter list of all your LinkedIn connections. Oh, yae! Read more about that here.

5. Facebook: Personally, I keep my social and business contacts separate. I love using Facebook to keep my friends and family up to date and there may be the one-off business peer who I know socially, but it’s the exception. That said, if you’re a consultant type who uses Facebook for everything I guess you could still try the same tactics I recommend above for LinkedIn. It’s your call, but beware.

Do location sites matter to professionals? I added this since Work Awesome mentioned Foursquare, but frankly sites like Foursquare don’t offer any value to professionals – today.

That said, I do see value in knowing the location of my business contacts. You can already see this on LinkedIn’s Tripit app (for e.g.). Feel free to leave a comment on how YOU sync your business contacts across multiple social networking sites?

Disclosure: I work at LinkedIn, blog here (subscribe) and tweet @mariosundar.

Filed under: Linkedin

Is Twitter a fad or the next Facebook?

The faster a fad rises in pop-cultural consciousness, the faster it falls in the popularity ratings. Thus says a recent study that surmises that “people believe that items that are adopted quickly will become fads, leading them to avoid these items, thus causing these items to die out”. Weird, uh?

Besides baby names, the symmetry between popularity rise and fall can carry over to other cultural items. For example, the scientists noted that similar outcomes have been observed in the music industry, where new artists who shoot to the top of the charts right away also fall quickly, and so have lower overall sales than those who rise more slowly. While this finding seems counterintuitive, since a quick rise in popularity would seem like a good thing, it shows that a backlash to perceived fads should be taken into account. As the researchers explain, people who want to ensure the persistence and success of particular items should seek to popularize the items at a slow but steady pace.

I’ve read a bunch of articles in the recent past, that talked about users’ disillusionment with Twitter after signing up en masse, thanks to (maybe) Oprah. But my experience has more closely mimicked that of TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld who explains Twitter’s adoption curve thus:

Ever-increasing waves of hype, links, and attention bring in the newbies to Twitter.com where they get their first taste of Twitterdom. Some portion of those set up an account out of curiosity or a fear of being left behind. They try sending out a few Tweets, look around, get bored by the initial banality of the service and abandon it for other pursuits.

But that is not the end of it. A lot of them come back, either because they keep getting links from friends or keep hearing about it on TV or whatever, and then they slowly start to see the usefulness—a funny Tweet from a friend, a link to breaking news, a way to keep an eye on the general zeitgeist. Twitter is the kind of thing that is easier to experience than it is to explain. But it is an acquired taste and often requires repeated exposure before people get hooked. Once they do get hooked, there is no going back.

So, what do you think? Is Twitter a fad or the next Facebook?

p.s. And if you’re wondering what the chart above means, read the entire article here. (via Rex)

Filed under: Facebook, Twitter

Google brings Sexy back with a Wave!

Bringing Sexy Back to technology! And, you thought that was solely Apple’s prerogative. Today was one of those “I was there” moments. It took me back to the day I watched Jobs demo the iPhone, when he had us all at “scrolls like butter“. Yes, I’ve watched that demo quite a few times since then.

Today, Google demoed a technology that has been 4+ years in the making to an adoring crowd of 4000 developers. A collaboration and communication platform that makes traditional email look like the abacus in terms of instant gratification. So enough with the teasing, you say.

Surfing a Google Wave?

Participating in a Wave is a little like an email chain, and a little like instant messaging; you can embed documents, Google Web Elements, photos and other multimedia, and the whole bailywick is presented as one stream of conversation. People can jump in or jump out at any time, and they can track back in conversations to see where things got started. [Source: Fast Company]

What Google continues to do is completely turn on its head the traditional understanding of a mainstream technology (with the iPhone it was stuff like visual voice mail and with gmail it was threaded conversations and tagging) and provide us with a radical, new way to get stuff done.

But, I digress. So, let me cut to the chase and outline for you the 5 key moments in the really long demo below that had 4000 developers cheering like they had just heard Steve Jobs announce the next version of the iPhone (read Arrington’s great piece on Google’s impeccable launch timing). Key portions in the video are highlighted after the jump.

Yes, at an hour and 20 minutes, the video is way too long. So if you’ve five minutes and want to catch the most interesting parts, check out the following timestamps in the video. And, could somebody slice-and-dice these clips together to create a succinct 3 minute video.

The Basics

5:05 – 7:05 The philosophy of Waves

The Components / Demo

7:35 – 12:05  The metaphor of hosted conversations. Quick usage scenarios on how a Wave takes multiple elements and  fits it into a Wave.

10:10 – 12:05 How a real time conversation within a wave mimics Instant Messaging

15:20 – 17:20 Sharing multimedia. How it’s done in a wave.

27:30 – 33:05 Inline discussion, content collaboration and the playback button. Oh, yae! it’s pretty cool.

35:05 – 37:42 Multiple individuals collaborating real-time on a single doc. It’s even better than what Google Docs does today!

And, two more things…

44:00 – 46:04 Spell checker. It’s different this time. Pretty impressive!

1:12:00 – 1:16:00 And, one more thing. Real time translation demo, followed by (what I think was) an extended standing ovation.

So, I’m way past my bedtime having taken a couple of hours to revisit the video embedded above.  And, one thing’s for sure, Google put on an Apple’sque show today and totally wowed us all with what they believe is the future of communication. I can’t wait to try out the product.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

RTM is the best task manager ever. Period.

The secret to Remember the Milk (RTM)’s extreme effectiveness as a task manager is its ability to be wherever you are on the web. Gmail. Check. Firefox. Check. iPhone. Check. All three places I absolutely need a task manager on. Most recently, RTM released their native iPhone app and they just nailed it!

Lifehacker does a comparison of five online task managers, but my $0.02 based on my experience using RTM is that it is incomparable. Here are some features of their newly released iPhone app:

  • Pricing: Free to download, but access requires $25/year Pro account (which also grants access to Windows Mobile/Blackberry app).
  • Task options: Multiple lists, priorities, due dates, tags, repeating tasks, time estimates, location, URL, and notes.
  • Organization: Today/Tomorrow/This Week lists, a multi-list view, and sorting by tags or location.
  • Other features:Can use location awareness to find tasks closest to you; search function; home screen icon updates with tasks due today.
  • Web syncing?: Yes.

But truly, the killer feature of RTM’s native iPhone app is that it allows you to update your lists even when you’re not on Wi-fi and it’d be synced up once connected to the web. Priceless!

iPhones native Remember the Milk App

iPhone's native Remember the Milk App

Filed under: Miscellaneous

10 Must-have iPhone Apps while traveling

So, I’m prepping for my Blog World panel discussions (both on corporate blogging – no surprises there) and planning my trip: packing et al. I’m continually amazed at how the iPhone has changed my travel life for good. I even went so far as contemplating a trip without my laptop but relented since I may need to do some blogging there (and blogging on the iPhone is near impossible).

But, I digress. I soon realized that there are 10 iPhone apps (all free, except for RTM’s web app) I couldn’t travel without. They keep me from boredom, get work done and sometimes help me find my way (iPhone – I’m lost without you). Here’s my list:

1. Communicate (Email/Calendar/Tasks): One of the main reasons for getting MobileMe was so I could maintain both my personal (Gmail) and Work email while on the go. The Calendar and Mail apps both get the job done, though I wish there was a way to star emails for reading later.

iPhone's Mail App

iPhone's Mail App

Equally important is my task manager, which is “Remember the Milk” (RTM). Don’t laugh at the name, because this is the most robust task manager out there that also plugs-in to my Gmail and has a terrific award winning iPhone app that’s a breeze to use.

iPhone's Task App

iPhone's Task App

2. Read News: Gone are the days when one would have to buy books or magazines to read as they waited for the flight to arrive. Google Reader has become my news source with over 140 news feeds that I track on topics that are relevant to me. Imagine accessing that content on my mobile device.

iPhone's News Reader App (RSS)

iPhone's News Reader App (RSS)

The beauty of the Google Reader app is its Mac like simplicity and focus on the things that matter. Case in point: the “star icon” and the “Mark the above items as read” features; allows you to skim through your inbox while you star the news items you wish to read in depth for later, the rest (15 items at a time) you can mark as read.

3. Chat:

Another great way to pass your time while waiting, is to chat with friends and colleagues (if you wish to talk business). At work, I use Adium that pulls together all my chat clients (Gmail/Facebook/Mac) but the iPhone boasts of three great apps to help accomplish that:

a. Gtalk: Painfully simple and surprisingly fast. Most of my contacts reside here and are accessible while I travel.

b. Facebook: Frankly, I haven’t tried Facebook chat on their native iPhone client, but I’m aware that in case I can’t find someone on gtalk, this is a secondary resource for me to tap.

c. Twitterrific: Of course! This app (free version) is a pain to use since I have miles to scroll each time I load the page, but I guess that’s the price to pay for free. The pros of this app includes the ability to tweet pictures I take with the iPhone’s camera.

4. Keep track of Friends: If you’ve an appetite for information overload (esp. it’s about your friends) then Friendfeed is the app for you. While Facebook and Twitter share facets of that information, reading Friendfeed is like drinking from the fire hose. But hey, if you’ve time to kill – that may not be a bad idea after all.

iPhone's Lifestreaming App

iPhone's Lifestreaming App

In addition to Friendfeed’s fire hose feed, you can also post your iPhone photos, Search (killer feature) and access the best of the day/week items and rooms in their iPhone web app.

5. Schmooze:

Now this is for all ye who are travel on business and concerns “my preciousss” LinkedIn app (Did you know: I work there). As my friend & colleague Jerry writes, there are a few things you can do with the LinkedIn app: search, research, and most importantly add to the network folks you schmooze with at the conference. My earlier LinkedIn iPhone app post.

iPhones Professional networking App

iPhone's Professional networking App

I’ve actually stop carrying business cards around, since I can now send an invite to folks I meet at conferences and events. That’s what I’ll be doing as I travel to Blog World Expo later today. Read about my panel discussions (Fri/Sun) at the event.

And, did you know, you could listen to music while you do all the above on this magical device called an iPod 🙂 Are there any other iPhone apps, I’m missing here that require mention?

My other iPhone posts: here and here

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Filed under: Miscellaneous