Happy Birthday – Celebrating Nine Years of Blogging!

Turns out yesterday was the 9th birthday of this blog – with the earliest posts being made back on November 25, 2001. Next year, we’ll celebrate 10 years of personal blogging!

There actually were earlier posts – a quick look at the Wayback Machine shows an early page on October 19, 1998 – just a placeholder with no content! So the November 2001 date is really just a placeholder for the content I was able to bring across on to whatever platform I was using back then.

A page from August 1999 shows the actual beginnings of the blog – created back in those days using Microsoft FrontPage! So the true birthday was more likely back sometime in 1999 – but the cruft gets the way of actually seeing it!

Over Ten Years Young!

If you look in the right sidebar of this blog, you’ll see a link to November 25, 2001 – as the “founded date”. Turns out that’s not quite right.

I took a walk back in time this afternoon – exploring what the Internet Archive had to say about my presence on the web. Here’s an example of an early page from my initial web presence – with the oldest entry on the page dated Sunday, June 20, 1999.

So, we’ve been around these parts for over 10 years.

Those early pages were “written” in Microsoft FrontPage – what an arcane experience that was. Later on, we used Radio Userland for some stuff – before eventually migrating to TypePad when it launched circa 2003.

What a strange trip it has been!

Should You Move Your Home Page to Facebook?

This afternoon Palo Alto’s Bling Nation began redirecting its home page on the web to its Facebook page instead.

I asked Co-CEO Meyer Malka “what’s up with that?” He replied:

“Our Facebook page has real users experiences and content and not some corporate vision or messages. Facebook allow us to show the real Bling, all good and bad things are there for anybody to read. We are fortunate to have customers. Who better than them to say what Bling is all about?”

Is there anyone else you know using their Facebook page as their home page?

Moving Everything from Skype to Google Voice?

Last November, I wrote about the configuration for voice calls that I’ve been using at my office. That setup involved using a headset on my MacBook Pro along with Skype – with a Skype-In number being used to receive calls I’ve forwarded from my iPhone.

This way, if somebody calls me on my iPhone number (different from my “public” number which is Google Voice-based), it rings through to Skype and I take the call in my headset.

I also have been much preferring doing conference calls etc. using my headset and Skype. In fact, I don’t even have a traditional landline phone in my office – just my iPhone and Skype on my MacBook Pro.

Skype has been setup to show my iPhone number on caller ID – so folks know that it’s me calling – even when using Skype.

Recently Google announced the addition of voice call in Gmail – including an integration with Google Voice for receiving calls to your Google Voice number in your browser. Instead of call forwarding my iPhone to a Skype-In number (that I have to pay an annual fee for), I can now just forward the iPhone to my Google Voice number and have it passed through to Gmail where I can answer it on the same headset I’ve been using. If I don’t answer, Google Voice takes the voice mail, emails me a transcript and sends an SMS to my iPhone.

What’s missing from this setup is an ability to selectively set outbound callerID on Google Voice to my iPhone number. Skype provides that capability – but near as I can tell Google Voice doesn’t. I can understand why they might not want to allow that – and I’m not sure it actually matters. Folks that know me by my “private” iPhone number won’t see it when I call via Google Voice – instead, they’ll see my Google Voice caller ID – which is exactly 1 digit different. If I care about it, I can call them using Skype where I can set my caller ID – assuming I renew my outbound calling subscription. On the other hand, maybe I’d just prefer that everyone (beyond family) just call my Google Voice number anyway – so if they store that one away I’ll be just fine.

Bottom line: seems like I no longer need the Skype In online number. Skype’s fees for that number are something like 50 Euros for 12 months. With Google Voice, I also now don’t need Skype’s unlimited minutes subscription to the US and Canada – which costs about 20 Euros for 12 months but is free (at least until year end) with Google. So, for now, it looks like roughly a 70 Euro savings moving my voice configuration from Skype to Google Voice.

Is there any reason I should be paying Skype anything at this point? The only reason this is interesting is that my Skype annual subscriptions are up in about 10 days!

Snared by the Priority Inbox!

For many years, I’ve been a desktop mail client kind of guy – Mail.app on the Mac to be clear. It just worked for me, brought me a consolidated inbox (I’ve got about a dozen different email accounts around the globe), and a bunch of filters (Mail.app calls them “Rules”).

Since I migrated both work and personal email to Google Apps for Domains a couple of years ago I’ve been increasingly drawn to doing some email work in the browser. In fact, as Chrome has matured, I’ve basically got it configured with Tabs for my various email accounts. But I never committed to mail in the browser – if you know what I mean. Mail.app was my mail client.

Then, two weeks ago, Google announced the launch of priority inbox – a clever way to cleave the noise in your inboxes to separate the wheat from the chaff. Using some nifty smart algorithms that flip span filtering upside down, Gmail now does a more than decent job of identifying what’s important from what isn’t in my endless email stream. And, if it guesses wrong, I can quickly tell it to adjust – and it remembers. (There’s a weird sense of power clicking on an email from someone it thought was important and lowering them to just regular – and vice versa!). Of course, none of this matters (or works!) unless you’re doing email in the browser.

So, after giving it a trial workout, I’ve now migrated most of my email work into the browser – with Mail.app just running alongside for old time’s sake. I’ve learned most of the shortcut keys in Gmail – and it’s become quite productive – feeling faster and easier than Mail.app.

That’s the latest in my endless email story – how about you?

By the way, here are the settings I’m using for Priority Inbox:

priorityinboxsettings.png

Gmail’s Priority Inbox

Sometimes things come into our lives that end up having a profound impact – yet we don’t realize it at the time. Google’s announcement today of a new priority inbox feature for Gmail feels like it might just have that characteristic. If this feature works as well as Google’s anti-spam technology works, I suspect I’ll be spending much more time doing email in the browser instead of in Mail.app on my Mac.

New Header Graphic: “Bookends”

[Update: Sep 17, 2010 – For the story behind this black and white image, see my post “Bookends“!]

I’ve updated the header graphic on my blog with a new photo that I shot in April of this year while on a brief four day vacation to New York City.

The venue was the Brooklyn Bridge subway station. I’ve titled this image “Bookends” – if you look at the right and left sides, you’ll see my inspiration for the title!

To see all of our previous header graphics, click here.

Wave follows Groove into the Deadpool

In the early days of our partnership, we used Groove as our “groupware” platform. We wanted a peer-to-peer solution – wanting to avoid a server-based approach. As Ray Ozzie described it, Groove was a solution for the post-email world.

And, for us, it was a great – if quirky – one. Groove attracted a small group of passionate users – but failed to attract anything close to a mass market. Groove was ultimately acquired by Microsoft – mostly for Ozzie, not for the product itself.

This afternoon, Google announced that development of Wave was ceasing – having failed to attract enough users to be important enough. The closest thing to Groove in my mind was Wave – and it failed similarly.

There’s a definite market here – that both Microsoft and Google found just to small to matter. That market will matter to someone – we’ll see who picks up the gauntlet – and whether they (and their investors) have the patience for this market to really develop. If there’s competition, it’s Google Docs. But, as the success of Dropbox has shown, Google Docs still leaves a LOT to be desired.

Darwin at work.

End of an Era

I received an email yesterday from a friend who somewhat unceremoniously advised that he was shutting down his email accounts for good.

“They won’t be monitored…,” he said. “You can reach me on my mobile.”

End of an era indeed! Some mornings I feel exactly the same way!

Some Thoughts on the iPad

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been using my new iPad in a number of different settings – and have some definite thoughts on where it plays really, really well – and where it doesn’t. Here we go…with the two extremes based on my experience.

iPad Plays Really Well – I recently traveled from SFO to JFK and back on Virgin America – whose optional AirCell wireless works reasonably well cross-country. Let’s just say that it’s not a speed demon (try downloading a new iPad app from the App Store enroute!) – but for basic email, browsing, etc. it works great on the iPad. Both going and coming, the only device in my hands was the iPad.

My iPhone stayed in my pocket – why wouldn’t you opt instead for the huge iPad screen as your content consumption device?

My MacBook Pro stayed in my backpack – even in Virgin’s economy section there’s just not enough room for a 15-inch screen to be used comfortably.

But, with the iPad, even basic email tasks are handled with ease – without the physical constraints. For this kind of travel – on a wifi-equipped airline like Virgin America – the iPad works really well. It’s really “all you need” enroute!

iPad Plays Poorly – When I’m at home – and my MacBook Pro is nearby, it’s the ultimate content creation machine for me. The iPad doesn’t come close – even though many of the basics are present on the iPad. It sort of feels like the days of the TRS-80 Model 100 – which I used to read CompuServe forums back in the good old days – but which wasn’t capable of much else.

As an example, I had a flurry of reading this morning – a typical Sunday morning. Using Safari on the MacBook, I was able to read, decide whether to tweet a story, if so – invoke Bit.ly to post the tweet quickly and get right back to reading.

Along the way, I might decide to save a text copy to Instapaper for reading later (by the way, I’ve recently become totally addicted to Instapaper – but that’s another story!) That straightforward workflow just isn’t possible – yet – on the iPad. On the iPad, there’s too much back and forth through the Home button, selecting different Safari windows (oh how I miss Tabs on the iPad version of Safari!), etc. According to the recent iPhone 4.0 announcement, the iPad will get some new support in the fall – look forward to seeing how those enhancements might enhance my workflow. Meanwhile, there’s an on-going role in my heavy content-creation world for the laptop!

Comparison of iPad to Kindle – That said, it is a very funny feeling to go from working on an iPad for several hours to picking up a Kindle 2 and trying to read! Immediately, the lack of the touchscreen on the Kindle screams out at you! You get over it quickly – the TRS-80 Model 100 comes to mind again!

That said, the Kindle iPad app that Amazon has provided is great – allowing me to access all of my Kindle purchased books on the iPad. It’s very efficient, very easy to use, works just like you’d expect it to work.

But, what’s especially irritating about the Kindle and about to result in my canceling a couple of subscriptions (New York Times, Washington Post) is the lack of periodical support on the Kindle iPad (or iPhone) app. One of these days Amazon will wise up and make periodicals available across a user’s devices in the same way that purchased books are available today. In the interim, paying to subscribe to periodicals on the Kindle just doesn’t make sense.

How about you? How are you and iPad getting along? Share you comments below!