Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

The Ultimate Email Configuration

I’m kind of obsessive about experimenting with new ways to manage and process my email but I think my obsession can now finally come to the end. Let me present to you, ladies and gentlemen, the ultimate email configuration.

Before we start: If you have anything less than a 22-inch monitor then stop reading this article, get in your car, drive down to a computer dealer and buy one. They’re cheap as chips these days and once you have a decent sized monitor you’ll open up all sorts of possibilities in terms of how you configure your windows and screen real estate to enable you to process more information and become more productive.
 
Ok, so this is a GMail solution and it makes use of the recent Multiple Panes lab feature. Broadly speaking, we split our email into 3 panes. One to process mail, two for items that need to be actioned and the third for items that are just passing through. It looks likes this:
 
gmail
So first thing to do is firstly go into your lab settings and enable it. 
 
gmail2
By default, Multiple Panes puts your additional panes to the right of the main menu. However, even with my 24-inch monitor, I still found that I wasn’t seeing enough of the subject heading to be able to reliably see what the mail was about. So instead, we’re going to put the pane underneath the Inbox.
 
The point of this configuration is to keep you Inbox nice and tidy at all times. We want to keep it down to less than 10 mails at all time. So every time we read an email we do one of two things – star it or archive it.
 
Underneath the Inbox panel, we have a panel for Starred Items. These are emails you need to come back to and either reply or action but can’t do immediately. Having them in a panel underneath the inbox means they are there as a constant reminder that you have items to attend to, and you’ll find yourself trying to knock them off anytime you have a free moment to keep that panel as tidy as your inbox. To only show starred items, put is:starred in pane 1.
 
The bottom panel is what I call my ‘Throughbox’. My throughbox is for mail that is just passing through. Newsletters, alerts, mailing lists and so forth. None of this stuff needs to be actioned so it doesn’t need to come through your inbox, but you still want to see what comes through just in case there’s something you really should be on top of. So you set up another pane just for these emails. I’ve found it to be far more effective than something like Otherinbox, which just didn’t work for me at all. To set up your Throughbox, create a label and then for every single post that you don’t need to show up in your inbox, immediately click Filter Messages Like These under the More Actions button. Then tell the filter to skip your inbox and add the Throughbox label. Then go back into your Multiple Inboxes settings and put in label:throughbox in panel 2.
I’ve been using this configuration for a week now and it’s Friday afternoon and I’m actually going to leave the office with an empty inbox! I reckon it will take a good month before I’ve trapped the majority of lists and so forth I’ve ended up on and have them sailing through the throughbox rather than clogging up my inbox, but this has already made a major difference to mail processing capabilities. GMail Labs is sheer genius. There’s so much innovation flowing out of Google and into the labs, but I can’t help but imagine what we’d see if they allowed developers outside of Google to add Gmail extensions to the labs.

Filed under: AJAX Challenge,

TechCrunch to dump Federated Media

TechCrunch looks certain to dump Federated Media as its ad partner with the growing media organisation now investing in a direct sales force.

Michael Arrington has previously questioned their relationship with Federated Media, complaining about both the margins Federated were taking and also the fact that TechCrunch was effectively holding up other lesser blogs. Then today, I noticed that on the Crunch Board, TechCrunch is advertising for not one, but two sales directors.

The ad says: “[Techcrunch is] expanding our direct-sales effort to deepen sales relationships with each agencies, branded advertisers and start-ups.  Sales directors will be self-starters who can both design custom programs and sell packages to agencies and direct to clients.”

Given that in January this year, Arrington wrote a post which for all intents and purpose, looked like a final warning that Techcrunch was about to give Federated the flick, it seems almost certain the relationship is about to end.

Arrington wrote: “I don’t make any advertising or revenue decisions around here, that’s left to our CEO Heather Harde. But I’m nervous about our ad partner Federated Media, which supplies about a third of our total revenue. They’re going through layoffs (I read this on their blog), and payments from them have dipped substantially in recent months (which isn’t a surprise given market conditions).”

This raises two issues. One is the future health of Federated Media. If they do lose Techcrunch it comes on the back of Digg, and Om Malik’s network going elsewhere. They have restructured recently, cutting back staff.  In that ‘Is it time to switch ad partners?’ blog, Arrington beefs that when TechCrunch generates a lead, it goes to Federated Media who will then disperse the budget around a variety of blogs. Clearly, Federated gains a great deal from having those flagship blogs which do an awful lot of its marketing legwork for it. Its problem is, as organisations like TechCrunch become bigger and able to support a direct force they don’t need Federated anymore. But Federated kind of needs them.

The second point is this would apprear to signal an aggressive growth strategy from TechCrunch. The company is also hiring an Events director, an executive assistant and a bookkeeper. Certainly, TechCrunch looks well placed to start thinking bigger. They have been profitable since inception so Arrington would have built up a relatively tidy warchest over that time. And with ad income plummeting and other blogs likely to be in financial trouble, I can see TechCrunch starting the great tech blog rollup that Arrington has blogged about previously

If TechCrunch wasn’t planning a big growth push, it would likely have just switched ad networks, the fact that it’s investing in a significant internal sales force suggests its aiming to go into expansion mode and to do that in this climate, it needs to expand its network.

If you’re betting on the outcome at The Industry Standard, I think it’s a whole lot greater chance than 33 per cent of this happening.

Filed under: AJAX Challenge,

GDrive just around the corner

Back in November, I predicted that GDrive would launch sometime during the first quarter. I’ve now basically confirmed that will be the case, or at least very close to it, with restricted testing due to begin in a matter of weeks.

You’ve seen a number of blog posts around the place lately giving various hints and indications to what GDrive is going to look like. I’m using all of the information that has made it into the wild, plus the information I’ve picked up myself recently to give what I’m pretty confident will be a reasonably accurate description of what Google is going to unveil, probably in March.

GDrive will be a cloud-based storage system, with full desktop syncing capabilities and widespread integration across Google’s product range. It will be one of the most significant new product launches in the company’s history.

Google Web Drive will be a client application, not dissimiliar to something like SugarSync. This will be the application that you will use to sync your various folders to your Google web drive. Users will have a public folder and also the ability to create shared folders.  There will also be a photos album that will load files directly into Picasaweb. You’ll also have the ability to undelete files and restore previous revisions. In other words, its going to match feature-for-feature all of the other syncing products on the market today.

The web interface will be an upgraded version of Google Docs. I’m expecting this to be renamed GDrive and Docs becomes the name of the word-processing application as it was in the first place when it was branded Docs and Spreadsheets. From this same interface you will have access to all your files on your Gdrive including images, music and video.

GDrive will underpin Google’s application strategy. It’s a critical launch and it’s going to be very interesting to see what pricing the company comes out with. While they have been very generous with GMail (7Gb), they’ve skimped with Picasaweb (1Gb free). I’m sure there will be a free offering but how big will it be? For all the talk about ad-supported applications, in the end I think we will all end-up paying for our apps based on the storage we use.

Filed under: AJAX Challenge, ,

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