The Product Guy: Superfine in 09

Snowman&Bell The Product Guy had another superfine year in 2009, sharing and exploring products, their experiences, and many innovative startups and the founders behind them, while getting to meet and speak with many of The Product Guy’s steadily growing readership.

And, as 2009 comes to a close, as I did last year, let’s take a brief look at the top posts that made this year on The Product Guy so totally superfine….

 

#9 Quick-UX Credibility from Likexo to Etsy

Quick-UX Credibility is a measure of the starting point, the foundation of a product’s Credibility. A look at the popular (and not so popular) examples of web product Credibility online.

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#8 World’s Best Programmer is… [w/ Respect]

The World’s Best Programmer wants respect.

And, respect is just one of those conditions prevalent within the environment of the World’s Best Programmer. In this last post in the series The Product Guy reveals just who exactly is World’s Best Programmer, and where/how they thrive!!

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#7 Converted by an Android. A short story of Gmail, in parts.

Part 1 in a series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook, what brought about this conversion, why it took so long, and what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption.

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#6 jQuery Plugin: It’s CuteTime!

Many online social products, and more continue to, avoid a formal timestamp format… 2009-10-10 23:14:17 and Thu, October 29, 2004 12:14:19 PM … opting for more user friendly, "warm and fuzzy," human-readable styles… 9 days ago and 5 years ago.

As a result, the time has come for the jQuery CuteTime plugin. CuteTime goes beyond similar tools and lets you easily: convert timestamps to ‘cuter’ language-styled forms (e.g. yesterday, 2 hours ago, last year, in the future!), customize the time scales and output formatting, and dynamically update the displayed CuteTime(s) upon request and/or automatically.

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#5 The Future: Gmail, Social Media, and You

Over the past many weeks I have explored, elaborated, and exhausted the extent of the then existent exercising of resistance. Now, with such resistance eroded, drawn out through my conversion by an Android, an exploration into the Future of Gmail and the ‘Should Do’ … Readability, Simplify, Organize, Integration and Consistency.

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#4 Google: True Colors Shine Through

In answering the question of Desirability, "Do I want it?" the sub-category of Color Scheme plays an important role. Google Search is an outstanding example of a Good Color Scheme demonstrating alignment of both colors and messaging. Learn from it.

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#3 Stardoll: Lost and Naked

When you look at a web page, the various elements of the page can often be seen coalescing into distinguishable regions and groups. Intentionally structured, or otherwise, these groups that constitute the page Layout play an important role in the web product’s Desirability. Stardoll is a great example of a web product with Poor Sequential Flow.

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#2 ThreeDots: The jQuery Ellipsis Plugin

Many online products employ ellipses within their products to improve various aspects of the User Experience, such as: allowing for easy summary scanning of page content, and fitting more diversity of content into a smaller space.

As a result, the time has come for the jQuery ThreeDots plugin. ThreeDots goes beyond similar tools and lets you easily and smartly truncate text for when: text is too long, text doesn’t fit within the available space, you want to employ highly configurable and flexible ellipses within your web product.

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#1 Quick-UX. Quick Heuristics for User eXperience.

Quick-UX provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s User Experience (UX), consisting of the core components of Usability (‘Can I use it?’), Usefulness (‘Should I use it?’), and Desirability (‘Do I want to use it?’). 

Quick-UX provides a sure-fire, rapid way to obtain concrete and comparable means by which to assess a single product or compare its strengths and weaknesses to other products.

Growing in popularity by leaps and bounds since its original posting in 2008, this posting has earned prime placement amongst other, more recent, articles that made this year, 2009, SUPERFINE.

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This year also saw the launch of The Product Group (sponsored by Balsamiq Studios) in NYC as an opportunity for Product People of all sorts and levels of experience to meet, interact, and network, in a laid-back, conversational environment.  I am certain 2010 will bring many more exciting gatherings, discoveries, and opportunities; and for those reasons, this too, also helped make 2009 for both Product People and The Product Guy, superfine!

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Happy Holidays!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Future: Gmail, Social Media, and You

The Future: Gmail, Social Media, and You

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb35555It’s been many weeks since my conversion has been wholly complete, many months since it became my primary means of email communication, when I was converted by an Android, and years since I first started using…. Gmail.

Over the past many weeks I have explored, elaborated, and exhausted the exercising of my resistance. Now, with such resistance both worn down and overcome, drawn out through my conversion by an Android, let’s explore what improvements remain undone, those of the ‘Should Do’ variety that would directly facilitate the conversions of many, many more to the ways of Gmail.

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Should Do

00_gmail-all Perhaps the greatest challenge to Gmail is Information Overload and the ability to zero in on both what is desired and what is most important.

  • Gmail can often feel like a very, very long list of information with few visual cues assisting in the efficient user parsing of the data. Many things can be done to assist in this readability challenge.
    • Support grouping of emails / discussion threads, by tags, from, to, substrings, age, size, frequency of receipt as well as frequency of reply (or even average delay before reply to), etc.
    • The introduction of the concepts of hierarchy would allow users to zoom in on what is important, becoming less dependent on knowing the precise search, becoming less likely to miss the ever critical email buried in a long list or discussion thread. Beyond the custom coloring of tags (a labs feature) tags should be able to be grouped as well as support hierarchical concepts, sub-tags. This would allow for a bridging of the folder and tag paradigms within the Gmail experience. Of course, having the choice to use tags, tag groups, and sub-tags and their groups, together with folders would provide for even more flexibility of these means of thinking and empower the users to choose the paths best suited for them. Most importantly, these concepts, when implemented, should facilitate finding information without knowing the exact details incumbent to initiate a search, i.e. browsing, possessing the characteristic of easy historical reference of read and unread content within an organizational superstructure that can cut through the overwhelming list of lists experience of today’s Gmail.
    • Sorting and filters, dynamic, inline, and customizable, as well as saved filter rules, another concept that Outlook implemented very well by way of their Search Folders (the name itself almost necessitates a Google equivalent), would also help cut through the clutter.
    • Provide the option to display either the total number (read + unread) or total unread tagged items alongside the tags. In turn, this would provide the ability to immediately archive communications, while maintaining a visual cue of their existence. In this approach, tags could function as more than mere labels, but become more action oriented keeping track of such things as to-do items or other rapidly evolving and critical communication (that would benefit from being separated from the clutter of the Inbox).
  • Discussion threads for tracking communication evidently work well for some people. For others, the thread is a sure fire way to misplace an important subset of the conversation.
    • Enable the ability to disable threads altogether, establish new threads and sub-threads, remove components / emails / sub-threads from a thread.
    • Allow for archiving of selective portions of a discussion thread.
    • Permit discussion threads that consist of multiple modes of communication; a single discussion thread could consist of Google Talk, Twitter, and Email communications centered around a single topic.

Google has many products that have official, open API’s and hooks for cross-product integration; lacking in the case of Gmail . Open source and APIs play very google_apisimportant roles at Google. They …

  • accelerate idea creation — inspire and build upon,
  • leverage the power of the community — improving and extending the product through community ideas, learning and need discovery,
  • facilitate testing (and bug fixing) on greater scale,
  • increase the stickiness of Google products,
  • .. among many other value-added benefits.

And, greater attention to Integration and Consistency within Gmail would also greatly benefit its current and potential users by…

  • Enabling better cross-linking between Google products (e.g. between Google Calendar and Gmail) as well as amongst external properties (e.g. Gmail and OneNote). For example, including the Gmail live discussion thread from which the Google Calendar event was created would be a step in the right direction. In addition, Gmail and Google Docs could be more tightly integrated, with document revisions coordinated and displayed and accessible, alongside the messages within the discussion thread making use of the underlying document(s). Even integrating, to various degrees, with Google Analytics can provide greater understanding of effective communications, best times to reach out to people, best ways to get desired responses, etc.
  • Creating an open Gmail Labs, or Gmail App Store, for third party development of plugins and enhancements for Gmail.
  • Increasing openness, modularity and portability of Gmail and its parts by establishing an Open Development Platform to provide for the rapid evolution of the features and ideas of Gmail; leverage the strategy that has proven so successful in other Google products.
  • Blending the social media stream, from Picasa, YouTube, Facebook, and Orkut to micro-blogging, blog posts, and comments, building upon the current integration of Google Talk and Google Voice to further become the centralized, single place for all an individuals web communication.
  • Supplying a framework for the robust flexibility and customization of the UX and UI. For example, let users create their own buttons, button containers, and both custom and common actions.
  • Integrating more easily and seamlessly with the OS. Microsoft Windows allows the user to right-click ‘send to mail recipient’ on files.’ When Gmail is the primary email client of choice, performing such action should direct the straight to a newly composing Gmail message.
  • Experience and information management should be consistent from one Google product to another, most especially products like Gmail (tag-based organization) and Google Calendar (calendar-based organization) and Google Docs (folder-based organization).

Now

htc-hero-pictures-15 Now that I have switched to Gmail from Outlook, I couldn’t be happier that I was so coaxed into this long resisted position. But, the conversion could have been better facilitated, and more can be done to accelerate others still resisting. I only hope that this journey, together shared, was more than fun, but also illustrative and educational for those that use, may some day use, or are in positions of power and influence to improve the web-based email / communication platform, Gmail.

First converted to a fan of Android, the platform, then converted to a fan of Gmail, too. I resisted the Android, and succumbed. I, for much longer, both longed for and resisted the conversion to Gmail. Through all of this, despite the long path already journeyed, there remain many more steps to walk, specific steps that those overseers of Gmail can take to further enlighten the experience of ones as of now converted as well as those yet to be.

Remember & Share

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss out on other exciting product explorations and in-depth looks at the people and strategies behind them.

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn 
The Product Guy

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You and the Future of Gmail

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb3555htc-hero-pictures-15 Recently our journey began. From the humble origins of Outlook to the portable synchronicity of the Windows Mobile platform, I did travel, did evolve, as needs, desires, and demands of communication and productivity so evolved and changed. Through the darkness of masked potential so emerged new and exciting opportunities.

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Over the past many weeks I have explored, elaborated, and exhausted the extent of the then existent exercising of resistance. Now, with such resistance eroded, drawn out through my conversion by an Android, let’s explore what improvements remain undone, those of the ‘Should Do’ variety that would directly facilitate the conversions of many, many more to the ways of Gmail.

Should Do

Seemingly, the most obvious steps that could be taken in easing the path to conversion for the average Gmail user are those that would directly both Encourage and Assist in the change.

  • Provide tools that can synchronize email, to-do, and calendar with other client-based and web-based solutions; allowing for the parallel use of communication platforms.
  • Automate the complete or partial porting of existing email organizing and sorting rules to Gmail from platforms like Hotmail, Automate, and Outlook.

00_gmail-all

Gmail takes a very unique approach to t he email paradigm, from tags to discussion threads. Such uniqueness can take some time to adapt to, while also being very intimidating to both the experienced and novice web user. Gmail would benefit from helping users gradually gain comfort, be in control of the transition from one way of thinking about email to another, by addressing the needs for Familiarity and Usability.

  • Allow for multiple paradigms to co-exist. Let the user decide which parts of the current Gmail UX they want right now and what aspects they want to keep in their ‘old,’ more familiar ways. Maybe tags are too much for a user to absorb in conjunction with discussion threads. For example…
    • let the user optionally use a folder hierarchy if, and until, they want to toggle over to the tag model, and/or
    • allow for different signatures per email account; signatures with pictures, links, etc.
  • Allow for the gradual transition to the Google perceived ideal of email and online communication, as well as the non-committal experimentation with all and/or parts of this newer email pattern.
  • With the incorporation of the very commonly found preview pane, the ability to scan through communications and discussion threads can be seriously accelerated.
  • Permit email reminders and the capability to schedule emails to be sent in the future.
  • Gmail and the other Google communication and time management tools should ease the performance of multiple simultaneous tasks, composing multiple emails, scanning another, planning an event, browsing contacts, without having to open quite so many additional browser windows.

01_outlook-instant With Google’s integral strategic goal to ‘make the web faster,’ one place they can most certainly focus on is the Speed of Gmail. Using Google search for the web is the fast way to find something online. The problem with that, of course, is that the user of Google Search does not differentiate between searching for something on the web and something in their email box when both seem to possess the same goals — "find what I want." Further raising the need for speedy email searching, especially for those converting from Microsoft Outlook, is Outlook’s Instant Search, a near real-time search of all one’s indexed email. It’s super fast. So when switching over to Gmail or even experimenting with it in prelude to a possible conversion, to experience performance slower than that of Outlook as well as the average Google web search, for an application so very central to a productive day, it isn’t surprising to see some continue their resistance.

  • Beyond accelerating the speed of displaying search results, Gmail would greatly benefit from a form of Instant Search, as would its users’ productivity.
  • Initial loading of Gmail, as well as individual page loading, should be greatly reduced. With long page loads, Gmail often regresses to a website feel, away from the target application experience desired by all. One such approach can be to always start in an ‘Instant Offline Mode’ and then update and populate the content; at least in this way, users won’t be delayed in getting into their email and finding what they want. Only the updating of the content would be slowed — much more inline with current application behavior expectations.

Now

First converted to a fan of Android, the platform, then converted to a fan of Gmail, too, I resisted the Android, but eventually succumbed. I, for much longer, both longed for and resisted the conversion to Gmail. Through all of this, despite the long path already journeyed, there remain many more steps to walk, specific steps that those overseers of Gmail can take to further enlighten the experience of ones as of now converted as well as those yet to be.

Remember & Share

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss out on the exciting conclusion to this series exploring the challenges facing Gmail and the most important of what should be done next, and other exciting product explorations and in-depth looks at the people and strategies behind them.

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Gmail & What You Think

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb355This is part 7, an interlude in the short story of personal exploration and development by one new to the daily employment of Gmail, long resisted, long desired, and eventually brought to conversion by an Android.

For before I lay out my thoughts on what Google should consider putting on their ‘Should Do’ list, I thought I would share some of the great off-blog thoughts and advice from others who have been or may some day be converted to Gmail — more than a few with whom I agree.

What Other’s See

imagePosted by Antoine Bonnin

There is so much to do, I’m not sure where to start :).

Easy ones could be to allow folder creation (instead of labels) and an option to sort emails in your inbox (by dates, name, etc).

It would also be great to use Ajax instead of refreshing the page when opening an email, the email content would appear as others slide down (tough one to explain without an image).

Posted by Ilana Schwartz

Top 3 wish list for gmail:
1. Preview pane
2. Tabs for inbox, email in progress, other folders.
3. Sort by (as mentioned)

Posted by Ilana Schwartz

Some are required, by law, to save information and folders seems to be easier conceptually. It does mirror how info is saved to an os.

I could do without folders, but I think that Gmail lacks convenience without preview pane and a variety of sorting methods.

But maybe I’m taking too small a view – I’m quite interested in these fundamental changes you would make…?

image Posted by Eric Sunderhaus

Further mirror functionality in Outlook that users have come to rely on.

Such as..
1. Allow screen capture function similar to Outlook.

"Window Key" + "Print Screen"
"Control + V"

2. Allow users to easily change default email in operating system from Outlook to Gmail so that when applications trigger an email message they don’t immediately open Outlook; but rather Gmail.

Posted by Antoine Bonnin

I agree with llana, preview pane would be a nice feature, so you can easily go through each emails without getting lost in the confusing "email UI".

The "search" is so not user-friendly, you can tell Gmail was created by engineers for engineers :)

image Posted by Luca Candela

I think Gmail is ripe for a serious overhaul… most of the features and settings aren’t easily findable, the legibility of pretty much all text is poor, the interface doesn’t make very good use of big screens…

In general I see a lot of space for improvement, although I’m a fanatic of the service.

image Posted by Roberto Champney

Luca, has a point. Gmail’s has some serious usability problems. I can’t ever remember where things are and even to create a new message it is hard to find the function (even though it is right there in front of you; but some genius managed to make it almost invisible). I use it as backup and for its calendar sharing feature, that’s about it.

I like the thread approach, but things can get scary after a few threads are going on. Also the lack of a "drag ‘n drop" capability makes it more a hassle than good all outlook (try attaching 5 files and you get my point)…

good luck…

image Posted by David Garrett

I think step 1 should be more from a business requirements standpoint than a user experience solution. In other words, they need to accommodate all the services that Hotmail and others provide, such as calendar tools but, at the same time, include some of their own unique tools and link tightly with Maps, YouTube, etc. and seriously consider how those services can play into the evolution of gmail.

Posted by Luca Candela

Matt, I STRONGLY disagree with you. Gmail doesn’t need to be beautiful but needs to get better at being usable. Right now it’s downright distracting. Live mail is way better at letting you know instantly what is what and what’s the purpose of everything.

"If they do it that way there’s a good reason for it" it’s the kind of mentality that keeps progress from doing its job. I grew up in a small town surrounded by farmland, and it’s the kind of rationale old farmers would come up with when they had no better way of arguing against some improvement or change in old ways of doing something.

Gmail is an awesome product that was put together by people worried about a few things but definitely not about making it easy to use. It would take very little to make it a better product and I for one wouldn’t miss the old interface AT ALL.

In fact, you can check some interesting experiments in skinning with the style plugin for firefox, if you can’t find it just let me know and I’ll give you the links.

image Posted by Vera Lugovskaya

SORTING
The absence of sorting was a big issue for me. I needed to be able to sort by Sender. After a while I found "Filter". It kinda solved my problem but column sorting would improve usability a lot.

PRINT
Another detail which was bothering me was "Print All" when I needed to print one message from a thread. It seems recently they added "Print" to message features which prints one message though I still feel that "Print All" should be a second choice in the Message window.

LABELS VS. FOLDERS
I agree that labels are limited. Besides they have "Tree" widget in their GWT library. I wonder I they don’t use it in GMail.

image Posted by Matt Gist

Gmail should keep pegging away as is. People should get used to the fact that something like a web-based email client should be highly-customizable and ever changing.

Gmail might not be beautiful, but it wouldn’t be designed the way it is without exhausted research and data to support why it is design the way it is.

If people need acclimating, then the best thing would be tutorials and such.

image Posted by Bob Stoneburner

Actually what Google is doing is probally the best strategy. Provide Android as an open source platform with multiple communication options in a single client, (email, online presence, schedualing, video conferencing, SMS, ect). Get traditional Microsoft OEMS to build smart phones on your mobile platform. Ultimately cost and level of integration in the cloud (with mobile being a primary access point) will drive adoption of which email system users select.

The Next

First converted to a fan of Android, the platform, then converted to a fan of Gmail, too. I resisted the Android, and succumbed. I, for much longer, both longed for and resisted the conversion to Gmail. Through all of this, despite the long path already journeyed, there remain many more steps to walk, specific steps that those overseers of Gmail can take to further enlighten the experience of ones as of now converted as well as those yet to be. But, that, my friends, that part of this short story, I will save for next week.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook,

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Gmail – Sweating the Small Stuff

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb35This is part 6 of a short story of personal exploration and development by one new to the daily employment of Gmail, long resisted, long desired, and eventually brought to conversion by an Android.

Part 6: To Resist

Recently our journey began. From the humble origins of Outlook to the portable synchronicity of the Windows Mobile platform, I did travel, did evolve, as needs, desires, and demands of communication and productivity so evolved and changed. Through the darkness of masked potential so emerged new and exciting opportunities. But, to fully grasp this fortune, these new degrees of productivity, it is important to pause, take measure of, and understand the crux at the heart at the core of the resistance to Gmail.

I am often asked, more so in the days since my recent conversion to Gmail, what is was, specifically, precisely, that caused me to build up such a strong aversion to a product such as this. And, the final piece, pieces, that made whole, almost immutable, my resistance to this conversion where the slowness, and the abundance of the little things.

Tiny Things

My on again, off again relationship, my basic resistance to Gmail was many-fold and lasted only until most recently. It was often the tiny things that got under the skin and kept us apart.

These things that grate at our well being, drive us apart when everything else feels surmountable, like pebbles, individually dismissible, together formidable, and in this case, significant in their contribution to the resistance heretofore exercised in the prelude to my conversion to Gmail.

Enough

Such infractions within this relationship had a cumulative effect:

Of course, to a much lesser extent than those explored in prior weeks, nonetheless, one of those pebbles, was the lack of customization of Gmail and Gmail related products (e.g. Google Calendar). And, by customization, I am referring to the abilities of plug-ins and other functionality aspects of these products whose counterparts in Exchange and Outlook had proven a comfortable harbor — one which I did not long to depart. Sure, calendar coloring by category is a tiny feature, a tiny thing, but one that I had grown accustomed to, one that has been there for me in helping me group and highlight important or critical elements — the similar offerings from Google Calendar, colorizing by calendar, not category, did not pass muster.

01_outlook-colors-calendar

02_google-calendar-colors

Another, inconsiderate act upon which I was frequently subjected, and even continues to this day, with greatly decreased frequency, relates to another notable series of infractions. Gmail never meant me any harm. I know that. It, I have believed, has always had the best intentions in trying to meet my needs, even trying to protect me from harm. But, its rigid treatment of spam, its very powerful spam filtering, … some interruptions occurring mid conversation … has resulted in me losing more than a few messages over the years.

03_gmail-spam

04_outlook-spam

It’s the tiny things that served as a persistent reminder to the Gmail resistance, individually minor, almost insignificant, but there nonetheless, unchanging, unmoving, and reminding me of all the other bigger things, that too persisted in like form. It’s the daily, tiny things that, when the larger ones fade from sight, serve has reminders to all the problems in the relationship that remain, remind us and eventually succeed in ensuring a persistent divide unbridged…

 

…that is, of course, unless, until you have the chance encounter, with an Android.

 

 

The Next

And, these propellants of reluctance, delayers of adoption, the fundamental causes of my resistance to what would eventually be overshadowed and forced aside, through the coercion of an Android to my conversion to the ways of Gmail, will, my friends, have to wait until next week.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook,

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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More Gmail Problems – Slowness

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb3This is part 5 of a short story of personal exploration and development by one new to the daily employment of Gmail, long resisted, long desired, and eventually brought to conversion by an Android.

Part 5: To Resist

Recently our journey began. From the humble origins of Outlook to the portable synchronicity of the Windows Mobile platform, I did travel, did evolve, as needs, desires, and demands of communication and productivity so evolved and changed. Through the darkness of masked potential so emerged new and exciting opportunities. But, to fully grasp this fortune, these new degrees of productivity, it is important to pause, take measure of, and understand the crux at the heart at the core of the resistance to Gmail.

00_gmail-all

I am often asked, more so in the days since my recent conversion to Gmail, what is was, specifically, precisely, that caused me to build up such a strong aversion to a product such as this. And, the final piece, pieces, that made whole, almost immutable, my resistance to this conversion were the slowness, and the abundance of the little things.

Slow Play

The slow ticking, deafening to one waiting for the anticipated. Uncomfortable, the overbearing beating experienced, slowly. For far too often, especially when compared with its (Gmail’s) client-based counterparts, the tortuous drip of the less than instant search…

01_outlook-instant

…as well as the much lamented loading and screen transitions …

02_loading-gmail-1

02_loading-gmail-2

…that seem, even to this day, to reassert themselves and do cause the reluctant reassessment, of reversion from this conversion. And, impediments enough prior to that, too fostered, bolstered the overall aversion.

Thus Be Slow

This product, whose existence in my heart was a duality of contradiction, both courted and simultaneously resisted, placed further strains on this relationship that was still yet to be through its exhibition of yet another form of slow, adding unnecessary ballast to an already firmly cemented resistance.

This flame, with whom I oft flirted and fled, constantly tempted me, showing me a directional inclination to meet my needs and address my concerns. Such innovations were Gmail’s enchantments.

Dressed in exciting and alluring features befitting many a niche market and wanton suitor, myself not excluded, Gmail showed off such items as inline Netflix — great for that quick, one-time thrill; directionally appealing, but not enough upon which to build a long term relationship.

03_gmail-netflix

My family is a small one, but with everyone having their role and doing their part, up to now always getting along. Sure, there’s the occasional spat. But, in the end the family has always come together, harmony reached, OneNote sharing with Outlook, email and notes kindly cooperating and linking up with calendar, etc.

04_onenote-link

05_calendar-link

Gmail looked like it may someday get along with the whole family. However and again, its slowness came into play. Oh, sure, it worked hard in demonstrating the desire to improve and move in this direction, but lacking in facility, and those of which to bring home to and boast about.

But, for sealing the deal, a broader, some more whole approach, more generally appealing would be needed.

Separations

Passionate reunions were, over this long courtship, ignited…

06_gmail-gears

I waited, just outside, for what seemed, maybe even was, an eternity, to be able to take Gmail out and offline. But, while the time did eventually come, and did go a long way in wearing down my long established resistance, freeing myself and Gmail in our travels, enjoying our time in the park, on the plane, in far off places, places where WiFi had yet to reach.

… but, each and every time ending in disappointment, each subsequent breakup more disheartening than the last.

And, while dazzling, this flame, with whom I flirted, was a slow burning one. The evidence of aforementioned inclinations dwindled, giving rise to apprehensions of illusions, concerns of progress in ways most fitting to the needs most relevant, most pertinent to my resistance.

Little Things & The Resistance

But, what of the other reasons for my resistance, which managed to be sustained from the early days of the private Gmail beta to the most recent of but few weeks passed? What sort of little things could have kept me apart from Gmail for so long a time? For surely there must be more to such a stalwart position as has been held by me, and I am sure many others still, for, for them, the resistance most definitely continues. And, indeed there are. In addition to…

Exiguous Encouragement,
Inescapable IO (Information Overload), and
Suffersome Slowness

… there too are the staunch galvanizers of resistance …

Tiny Things.

The Next

And, these propellants of reluctance, delayers of adoption, the fundamental causes of my resistance to what would eventually be overshadowed and forced aside, through the coercion of an Android to my conversion to the ways of Gmail, will, my friends, have to wait until next week.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook,

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Another Gmail Problem – Inescapable IO

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb3534This is part 4 of a short story of personal exploration and development by one new to the daily employment of Gmail, long resisted, long desired, and eventually brought to conversion by an Android.

Part 4: To Resist

Recently our journey began. From the humble origins of Outlook to the portable synchronicity of the Windows Mobile platform, I did travel, did evolve, as needs, desires, and demands of communication and productivity so evolved and changed. Through the darkness of masked potential so emerged new and exciting opportunities. But, to fully grasp this fortune, these new degrees of productivity, it is important to pause, take measure of, and understand the crux at the heart at the core of the resistance to Gmail.

I am often asked, more so in the days since my recent conversion to Gmail, what is was, specifically, precisely, that caused me to build up such a strong aversion to a product such as this. The constitution of my answer is thus…

Inescapable IO (Information Overload)

00_gmail_discussion-thread Almost on par with the deficiency of means of acclimation available to (potential) Gmail converts, is the onerously persistent burden of IO — Information Overload. From the beginning of Gmail there have always been discussions, a construct of threaded conversations, automagically grouped, combined, amalgamated into lists.

00_gmail-all Lists, and of lists, bombarding, overwhelming with line after line after line of content with no simple, no familiar way to dig out. A monotony of information, endless in its flattened constancy. Of course, this is a monotony not universal to this method of interchange, for where others have embraced the grouped order hills (sub-folders) comingled with sowed valleys (sorted) and ranges (folders), Gmail plows this all down in lieu of a different order. By these flattened plains, stretching outward, there is no way to easily zoom into what is important, have a sense of past, localized exchanges. With the horizon the only visible bound, without knowing exactly of that for which you seek, it is easy to become lost, no characteristics, no landmarks to point the way, no approach to lead the way between the here and there.

However, in this new order, for as far as the eye can see, there exist few instruments to either approach or approximate the supposedly archaic structures of the prior lands (Outlook, Exchange, Windows Mobile). Digging is limited to the most simplest of shovels, requiring a precision of intent previously unnecessary. For buried deep within a list, unsortable, unorganizable, may be that sought after thing, yet only revealed to the skilled, the lucky, in finding the magic word, the keyword.

02_gmail_search

And then there are those younger conversations, active, full of life, in the here and now. Conversations woven into threads, subject-locked, compressed together, layer upon layer, each exchange compounding each further layer another more, until at last, with the grounds of this conversation deeply rooted, only then, within this vastly growing mound does one realize that there may be more than one or two who have suffered the fate of being buried alive, messages unread, deep within the endlessly scrolling, organizably deficient, active discussion threads; where many an unread message have before, too been lost.

gmail-thunderbird-screenshot Sure, such structures have their merits, especially in contrast to those ‘archaic’ (Outlook, Exchange, etc.). But with no means by which to avoid or mitigate the suffocating enclosures of the hierarchically challenged experience, with few approximating tools, with the IMAP equivalents merely presenting additional schmutz to the pile that was already heaping layer upon layer of Information Overload, with minimal ability to shift around, to lessen the burden, the paths toward maintaining the productivity and efficiencies of time past can easily be obscured.

The Resistance

But, what of the other reasons for my resistance, which managed to be sustained from the early days of the private Gmail beta to the most recent of but few weeks passed? For surely there must be more to such a stalwart position as has been held by me, and I am sure many others still, for, for them, the resistance most definitely continues. And, indeed there are. In addition to…

Exiguous Encouragement, and
Inescapable IO (Information Overload)

… there too are the staunch galvanizers of resistance …

Suffersome Slowness, and
Tiny Things.

The Next

And, these propellants of reluctance, delayers of adoption, the fundamental causes of my resistance to what would eventually be overshadowed and forced aside, through the coercion of an Android to my conversion to the ways of Gmail, will, my friends, have to wait until next week.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook,

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Gmail Problem – Encouragement

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb35[3]This is part 3 of a short story of personal exploration and development by one new to the daily employment of Gmail, long resisted, long desired, and eventually brought to conversion by an Android.

Part 3: To Resist

Recently our journey began. From the humble origins of Outlook to the portable synchronicity of the Windows Mobile platform, I did travel, did evolve, as needs, desires, and demands of communication and productivity so evolved and changed. Through the darkness of masked potential so emerged new and exciting opportunities. But, to fully grasp this fortune, these new degrees of productivity, it is important to pause, take measure of, and understand the crux at the heart at the core of the resistance to Gmail.

I am often asked, more so in the days since my recent conversion to Gmail, what is was, specifically, precisely, that caused me to build up such a strong aversion to a product such as this. The constitution of my answer is thus…

Exiguous Encouragement

00_gmail-all

To be unwelcomed into foreign arms was foremost the chief reason for my resistance. Over the years I have proven myself adaptive, willing and eager to try and learn new skills, especially of those that possess the potential to further optimize my relationships and time spent thereupon. This cause, perhaps the best embodiment of my duality of desires, the eagerness to embrace, coupled with the strenuous resistance to adopt, too had solutions’ twain — to either or both acclimate or assist.

To acclimate, the more desirous of the paths would have been to support an easing shift, a reduction of the jagged peaks on this most mountainous path to the gentle current of reorganized communication. To teach one, myself, how to swim this new stroke in this new lane, would be to show me, teach me, facilitate my gradual, incremental evolution. Providing an environment wholly novel and new, with no path to acclimation nor encouragement in transition, a total dunking in the deep end, from user interface to other parallels of familiarity that could bring me forth, predicates the alternative, of the lowest common denominator, to assist.

01_google-apps-sync To assist, the tools of self determination would enable the toe dipping into the Gmail pool. To be able to straddle, with one foot in each, the choices, both presenting their own unique experiences, both available to cater to my liquid needs, would have, in an unforceful fashion empowered me to, myself, make the decision as to when I felt I was fully ready to jump into this new pool. Recently, and for far longer at 03_google-syncthe exclusive enterprise level, tools of synchronization do exist, but fall/fell short in timing and implementation — from seamlessness to bidirectionality; capabilities becoming better addressed and more widely available since my full on dive in.

 

The Resistance

But, what of the other reasons for my resistance, which managed to be sustained from the early days of the private Gmail beta to the most recent of but few weeks passed? For surely there must be more to such a stalwart position as has been held by me, and I am sure many others still, for, for them, the resistance most definitely continues. And, indeed there are. In addition to…

Exiguous Encouragement

… there too are the staunch galvanizers of resistance …

Inescapable IO (Information Overload),
Suffersome Slowness, and
Tiny Things.

The Next

And, these propellants of reluctance, delayers of adoption, the fundamental causes of my resistance to what would eventually be overshadowed and forced aside, through the coercion of an Android to my conversion to the ways of Gmail, will, my friends, have to wait until next week.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook,

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Venit Vidi — On the Path to Gmail, I met an Android (2)

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb3This is part 2 of a short story of personal exploration and development by one new to the daily employment of Gmail, long resisted, long desired, and eventually brought to conversion by an Android.

Part 2: Fall and Android

model-t Last week our journey began. From the humble origins of Outlook to the portable synchronicity of the Windows Mobile platform, I did travel, did evolve, as needs, desires, and demands of communication and productivity so evolved and changed. Happy so this journey was, but to me unknown was the approaching end of this long traveled path, a fork in the road, nay, a change in elevation, a transformation of transportation on par with from horse to Model-T, would be a more accurate rendition of the next.

Often there is a little bit of darkness before the coming light. And, here too, this journey, is no different.

The Darkness

A darkness enveloped my already struggling Windows Mobile device; a device that had seen me through many a harrowing experience. Its age beginning to take a toll, it’s memory failing, no longer able to recall a phone number, install a new application, or for that matter, uninstall another. Its joints holding true, but clearly, obviously, succumbing to one too many a fall. It was clearly time for us to part ways, to let go, not linger over memories of good times past, proud unboxings of self and of parts, and shiny new suits of UI. But, to move on, it had become abundantly clear in my device’s last days that, I would be, should be moving on to technologies, new, more powerful, more evolved, more ready to receive me and my data, grow with me and my data; things that my decrepit device, as well as its new born decedents, was no longer capable.

Years of no true improvements to email, calendar, to do’s — I evolved, and it did not; I improved and it did not.

broken-heart-main_Full Such things can strain even the best of relationships, and I do not claim to be special or unique in my such relationship, for comfort had set in, years upon years of comfort, cohabitation with one organized like I thought, worked like I wanted (at least for the most part), whose flaws I had come to see less as such and more as mere traits making for the spice of and helping shape the unique character of this relationship. In retrospect, my Windows Mobile device always had seemed a hair behind the capacities of what I at least recalled of my old Palm PDA.

It Came

But to move on, to look elsewhere, brought forth its own set of challenges. To what device, to what platform, by what means would I find fitting in my desires to continue my ever improving evolution of efficient information, communication and its portability?

Since I had started my journey with Windows Mobile, many viable alternatives, worthy of my consideration, had come onto the scene, most notably, Apple’s iPhone, Palm’s Pre, and Google’s Android.

Iphone 3Gs I flirted, I courted, got to know, built relationships, understandings, with each and every of my new future partners. Despite iPhone’s allure, its sleek and sexy curves, in the end, I found its elitist tendencies (for it would only work with AT&T) and controlling ways (of the developer community) to be too much, a turn off, that pushed me away, and towards the Palm Pre. palm-pre From everything I heard, up to and until I met Pre, it was a friendly device, open to new things and ways of thinking, adaptable, flexible, familiar, everything I could possibly want in another. But, this relationship rapidly followed the fate of my prior encounter. While not immediately evident, Pre eventually revealed similar controlling ways. Those tendencies coupled with the occasional sluggish behavior of its UI experience, and stunted keyboard, and desires for more exclusive relationships (Sprint, non-GSM), lead to a breakup that occurred as quickly as the initial romance was strong.

Had I made a mistake in abandoning one who I had come to know, implicitly understanding its quirks and eccentricities? Had I abandoned the one who had loyally, consistently been with me for so long? On this point I stumbled, looked back, reconsidered. Yet, reluctantly, decided to one last time, give one new look, at one final thing.

My initial impressions of every Android I had heretofore seen, were ones of bewilderment, if not repulsion, from its goofy chin, to odd UI. But, time was running out, a decision was needed, to what new device, new platform, new paradigm, would I be shifting was of utmost importance in rapid determination. In the end, the openness, flexibility, kindness to strangers (developers), its constant, open, and frequent development, improvement, and evolution, sealed the deal.

android-wallpaper5_1024x768

While I was not 100% committed to this relationship at first, I jumped in, two feet; for it was the best of the choices before me at the time, and I would have to be saying ‘goodbye’ to my old friend very soon.

The Conversion

Part of what helped me make this life altering transition was the knowledge that my device, my Android, unlike many that had come before it, would also have abilities to bridge new and old, Gmail and Exchange.

Immediately I setup Exchange, and inputted my Gmail credentials. For, as at that time, I presumed I could continue using Exchange as my primary method of organization with Gmail (and Calendar, ..), my backup.

I was sorely mistaken. The concept of folders on my, now retired, Windows Mobile device, while mostly unusable, did exist, and could be navigated. Now, HTC’s deflating interpretation and subsequent implementation led to an experience quite flat. htc-exchange-flat And, by flat, I mean both emotionally and literally — the hierarchical folder structure, common to the ways of Exchange, Outlook, and Windows Mobile were completely flattened, with all hierarchical footprints and guidance squashed and eliminated.

So, with little alternative available, by initial choice, but then by extreme force, I was converted to Gmail by an Android. Oh yes, at first I resisted, frustrated by the lack of control of my fate, my next steps. I was bound to this path, struggled to look for a logical way back, a way out, to return to the familiar, the comfortable, hierarchically organized world from whence I came. I resented what I saw as trickery, or even, in my darkest moments, lies about what this device was going to be able to do for me.

But, in the end, I converted. Yes, at first kicking and screaming, frustrated and yelling, bewildered and confused, however, in the end, happier, more productive, more efficient, more connected, more modular than ever before in this, this journey of mine.

My email in sync,
my calendar, too.
New apps installed,
enabled yet more productivity to accrue.

The Next

First converted to a fan of Android, the platform, then converted to a fan of Gmail, too. I resisted the Android, and succumbed. I, for much longer, both longed for and resisted the conversion to Gmail. But, that, my friends, that part of this short story, I will save for next week.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook,

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Converted by an Android. A short story of Gmail, in parts. (1)

gmail_logo_stylized This is part 1 of a short story of personal exploration and development by one new to the daily employment of Gmail.

Part 1: Order and Hierarchy

I was converted by an Android. Now, don’t get me wrong, there was at least a part of me that wanted it, welcomed the change, and even sought it out. On the other hand, it was a conversion much resisted from my terrestrial surroundings where I found myself most comfortable, most at ease in the familiar, the simple.

But to tell you about this miraculous conversion, an event I thought would never come to be, it is important that I preface this tale, and take you to the beginning (or thereabouts) of this transformational journey. And that journey, this journey, all begins with a simple Outlook.

My Outlook

outlook-logo For years I used Outlook to check my email, organize my calendar events, and, in the beginning, prioritize my tasks. Over this time, this tool became integral to my every day being, an extension of who I was. It was organized the way I thought, evolved as my methodologies improved and changed. It contained scores of well formed and refined rules for keeping everything inline, my life ordered and organized; most especially the automated organizing of my email into complex hierarchies of priority and categorization, yet simply and personally in tune with me, and my needs.

Over the years, I found my needs pushing up against my Outlook’s limitations, especially with respect to my email. As my career and subsequent online communication became more prolific, a better means of interchange between myself and others, and across my various devices, became all the more critical to my continued growth and success. And, thus a new method of information Exchange was needed.

The Exchange

exchange This new chapter in my life brought forth new challenges and time saving wonders. No longer did I find myself, into the late hours of the night, synchronizing my read/unread emails between computers, re-sorting that which was already sorted on my other device.

Moments in time, saved in more ways than one. Quantifiably changing my exchanges with friends, family, and more, was the theme. With less time spent on the menial, repetitive chores of before, greater peace and harmony was able to be achieved. My things, my email, my calendar, its dates and times, synchronized, harmonized, connected and interlinked with one another, seamlessly, non-disruptively to ways I have long since grown accustomed.

Oh yes, there was a steep path to climb. At times, straight and direct, being an avid Windows user in this Exchange. And at other times, made steeper more through the challenges, the costs, recurring, to maintain these new found seamless heights. But such strains paled in comparison to my precious things, key components of my days and years, all synchronized between and amongst all those I valued and cared about.

Over time, as the relationships I have become involved in have increased in complexity and quantity, so too have my needs so changed; an increase in mobility, of portability, a need to win more chances at continuing my fruitful journey of evolution and improvement.

WinMo(re)

I began as a fan and user of Palm, but let me not digress, for that is another story for another day.

HTC-Hermes-256x256 In a most natural, parallel evolution of need and capability, as one cell phone passed after another, and PDA followed PDA, I arrived at the then ubiquitous solution made possible by Windows Mobile. Affectionately, this relationship began, providing new found freedoms …mobility, portability… with those other treasures that I have long held dear, such as cross-device synchronization of all my important information.

Unable to find new emails buried within folders — I lived with its shortcomings; for at least together we could be happy, it giving me greater mobility and freedom than I had ever previously enjoyed, and I now able to more easily, in sync with all my computers and devices, check everything that is in my Outlook, my OneNote (at least the mobile notebook), from everywhere, make updates, all in real-time, immediately, across everything.

My email in sync,
my calendar, too.
New apps installed,
enabled yet more productivity to accrue.

The Next

But, next, came the Darkness, the moment before the moment that preceded that which brought forth the Hero, the Android. But, that, my friends, that part of this short story, I will save for next week.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook,

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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