Tag Archives: Gmail

Two Gmail Features I’m Liking


I use Gmail as my email service to mange all things social.  So, if I email subscribe to a blog, follow a mailing list, subscribe to a service, it goes there.  I really wanted the dougpete@gmail.com address but I was slow off the marks and someone else has it.  Oh well.  Them’s the breaks.

For the longest time, managing this account was brutal.  No matter what I’d do, it seems, the number of unread messages continued to pile up.  It’s like the banner on Jenny Luca‘s blog: “Getting Information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant”.  I just couldn’t seem to totally manage it.  The best tool that cam along was Mailbox for iPad but I’m not always doing my reading there.  Reading on computer just gives one big queue of messages.  Sure, Google had created the option for a priority mailbox, and that helped with the filtering, but never quite got me to the mythical inbox zero.

Then recently came a makeover to the mailbox.  Somehow, Google is able to make decisions and filter my incoming for me.

Somehow by classifying messages, I now have gained control over my mailbox.  I actually had knocked things down to nothing unread when I started writing.  A screen capture later and you can see that it’s growing…

and growing…

There must be something psychological happening here.  I can open my mail on the computer and actually tackle it all.  I start with Primary where personal email comes and then just work my way across the tabs.  I’ll never go back.  Should you want, you can go into your settings and go back to your Priority Inbox.  I tried it once just to experience nostalgia from last week and it seems so archaic now!

When I step back and really think about the “why” this works, I think it speaks volumes about the modern browsing experience.  Whether I’m using Chrome, Firefox, or Opera Next, I have numerous tabs open.  Rather than a single browsing space, I have a bunch of them.  Each tab, in effect, filters my browsing experience.  The leftmost tab is always open to Hootsuite.  Within Hootsuite, I have a number of columns (tabs, if you will) open at any point in time.  These columns allow me to focus my attention based upon the theme of the column.  Whether it’s News Feed, Mentions, Ontario Educators, Ontario Educators 2, Inbox, Outbox, Keynote Speakers, etc., they’re all devoted to a particular theme.  I don’t know if it’s safe to say that I’m wired now to think in columns or tabs, but whatever it is, it just seems to work.

So, the second feature.

I’m a real fan when a developer does her/his best to focus you on the task when there are so many other distractions.  The “New Compose” window does a terrific job of that.

There’s a couple of really nice features.

First, everything but your new message is darkened so that your message stands out on top.  When I’m writing an email, I don’t need anything else on the screen to distract me.  Unlike the previous Compose which sort of took over the bottom right corner of the screen, I like the clean and functional way the new version gets you right on task.  To make things even better, although it freaked me out the first time I experienced it, once you address your email, it gets hidden to give you even more real estate on the screen for your message.  It’s just another wonderful usability feature.

Gmail certainly has been an outstanding success in the Google set of products.  It’s good to see that it’s still not “finished” and that new ways to make us more productive around the seemingly simple task of managing email.

Determining What Calls Home


I’ve done some thinking about computer security and privacy over the past while.  It’s been precipitated by conversations with Gust Mees.  It’s good thinking.

We’re all in the same boat.  Just think of the number of times you’ve clicked the checkbox beside this.

  • My team of lawyers and I have read and studied your terms and conditions and we’re cool with agreeing to your rules and the fact that you’ll be accessing some of my private information on this device.  

I know that you’ve done it because you’re using a computer with an operating system and a web browser so you’ve already done the above twice.  (Unless, of course, you’re using someone else’s computer and they’ve already given permission on your behalf.)

This morning’s reading led me to a free application called “Permissions Explorer“.  Of course, my lawyers and I looked through the individual applications as they were being installed but once installed, they’ve got a little out of mind.

I installed it this morning and liked its legal terms -

“/* No permission required to use this app, no ads. Does only what you want it to do */”

So, I decided to put it through its paces.  I was quite impressed with its completeness.

Upon first launch, a menu indicates just what areas of privacy/security it will investigate.

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Ever curious, I decided to work my way through them.  For example, what 61 applications do I have that have access to my contacts?

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As I looked through them, I can see why.  After all, FirstClass and Gmail are the two email systems that I use on a daily basis.  It only makes sense that they have access to my contacts.  It was through exploring the rest of the applications that I became intrigued and really immersed in the exercise.

The next step is to ascertain what resources the applications have permission to use.

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Interesting!  I’ve got 66 ways to vibrate this device.

Look at the number that have access to the internet.  They will all have their purpose – Internet browsers, of course.  Email clients, for sure.  FourSquare?  That’s how you’ll know that I’m walking the dog at the Navy Yard.  It’s interesting to go through the list and  wonder about some of the less obvious ones.

There were a few surprises in the exercise but, for the most part, the results made a great deal of sense.  I’d really like to lay my hands on similar applications for all the major devices.

In the classroom, I think that they could be used very successfully to generate an awareness and a discussion about how students are connected and just what that means.

It would even be an enlightening exercise to generate a report and then look at all the applications that are on school or home provided computers and classify them as “necessary”, “unnecessary”, or “I wonder why”.

It might even generate more interest in looking at the legal terms and conditions the next time you install an application or sign up for a web service.

Self-Analysis of Twitter Etiquette


I read this post from Malhar Bahai “12 Most Basic Twitter Etiquette Tips” and found it really hit the mark.  Just sharing it was too simple so I decided to use it as a checkup for myself.  Here are my thoughts…

1. Don’t be an Egg Head

Got it!  I absolutely agree.  Personally, I generally won’t follow someone who hasn’t taken the time to change the default avatar.  Mine was from a bigger picture taken by Andy Forgrave at an OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century Event.  I just cropped out the person I was helping at the time!  

Related to that, I do think twice before following someone with a cartoon avatar.  I really want to follow serious people and I think that using a real picture shows that they’re ready for transparency from the get-go.

2. Have a bio

Got it!  I really like RebelMouse for what else it offers.  While Twitter shares what you’re doing NOW, RebelMouse shares what you’ve done recently…automatically.

3. Short username

I’ve been dougpete wherever possible since the days of ENOREO and they created user names with first four, first four.  It’s me virtually everywhere except someone snagged the Gmail account before I could.

4. Tweet less than 140

I don’t conscientiously think about this until I go to reTweet someone else’s message and I realize that I’ve got to shorten it to fit.  This is good advice.

5. DM only if necessary

Got it!  I also notice that DMs don’t always get addressed by the recipient.  I think most of us are just accustomed to doing things out in the open.  I’m bad at finding and replying to them myself.

6. High volume warning

D’oh!  I don’t think I’ve ever done that.  It’s probably good advice.

7. Use # tags appropriately

I tend to use Hashtags when I’m actually at an event.  Otherwise, not so much.  I agree with the sentiment that including a string of hashtags is something to be avoided.

8. Engage — Twitter is not a monologue

I try to do that.  I wish that I had time to do more.  There are so many good people and so many good things to talk about.

9. Share/promote others

I honestly try my best to do that.  I think that’s the best way to engage people because everyone likes hearing good things about themselves.  When the urge to do otherwise hits, I just try to bite my tongue and move on.

10. Respond to others in a timely manner

Got it!  I try to do that.  Like most people these days, I have a Twitter client on my phone and try to get back to people as soon as I can.  I feel badly if I’m in the middle of working on a program or something and flip over to see that there’s a conversation that I should be in and I’m missing out.

11. Mind your manners, be gentle

Got it!  I remember hearing or reading this once.  “Never miss a chance to make a good first impression”.   I think it’s important to remember that, even if you’re having a conversation with someone that you know well, you just might be spotted by someone new for the first time.  What will they think?  We tell students to proofread and think before hitting send – it’s good advice for us too.

12. Thank often

I definitely don’t do this enough.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much to those of you who enrich my time online.  Your thoughts and teachings are so appreciated.

How did I do?  Why not try the twelve tips on yourself?  How do YOU fare?

Doug’s Dozen


Anyone who’s been keeping their eyes open to great blog posts have seen posts like “Top 10 Word Processors for the iPad” or “Top 10 Utilities for the iPad”.  They’re pretty much a summary of what all is available within a particular category.

That got me thinking…that would be great if I had a 64GB machine and could download all 10 and do a head to head comparison and then make a choice.  Then, I thought of a couple of scenarios.  Maybe I don’t have 64GB to play around with.  After all, there are smaller units which are much more affordable.  Couple that with the time that it takes to give an application a good shakedown and it gets a little scary.

The process is pretty subjective – many people will opt for free applications to get started and then upgrade to get the one with more features.  Others will go for the gusto and pay for all 10 and then have buyer’s remorse!

To make things more difficult for the new iPad owner (grin) or perhaps you have a class set and are wondering what to load, I offer Doug’s Dozen.  Taken from the experience of a guy who has nothing better to do that search for the best in class in any application, I took a look at the top applications that I use regularly and offer them below for your thoughts, criticisms, and one-up-ed-ness.

In making my choices, I looked at the applications that I use regularly.  Functionality in the iPad environment was extremely important in my choice of applications.  Above all, I looked at them from a teachers lens and put together this Popplet.

Twittelator – Hands down, I feel this is the best Twitter client on the iPad.  I think it may well have been the first application that I purchased.  At $4.99, it’s a real deal.

Popplet – I’m a big fan of graphic organizers to pull my thoughts together.  I’ve linked to Popplet Lite but you may consider upgrading after you enjoy brainstorming with your fingers.

Zite – In a crowded world of online content readers, this is the first one that I open in the morning to get my daily fix of what’s going on.  Free and configurable.  You can’t beat that.

Pearltrees – This is a combination of graphic organizers, bookmark tool, theme creator.  Tuck away those graphics and links into a single pearltree.

Google Chrome – In a crowded world of really good web browser for the iPad, this recently released browser has bubbled to the top for me.  The ability to log in to my Google account and share recently browsing is but one of a big list of features.

Prompterous – If you do a lot of podcasting or need reference to notes, you own personal teleprompter can’t be beat.

Evernote – No list of “best of” applications is complete without Evernote.  It’s a quick and efficient production environment with cloud storage and applications for all your computers.  Never lose a document on another machine again.

Dropbox – In the category of always having access to files, Dropbox is one of the leaders.  Even the image above taken from my iPad and brought into this editor on the computer made its way via Dropbox.  If your iPad is going to be your everything machine, you will need a strategy for transferring files effectively.

ScreenChomp – I’ve always been a fan of Techsmith products for screen capture, editing, screen casting and ScreenChomp just continues the tradition.  It’s a great way to create short instructional videos or to have students self-document a project they’re working on and share with you.

Office HD – I think I paid $10 for this originally but now see it’s priced at $7.99.  If you’re looking for a way to edit word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation files on your iPad, you’ve got to have this.

Skitch – Screen captures and picture taking are easy with the iPad.  How do you do a little post production like cropping, resizing, and editing?  Skitch is your tool.

Gmail App – My email application of choice is Gmail.  It can be accessed via the web but the Gmail App makes it so much handier.  Plus, a recent upgrade lets you open links in Google Chrome rather than Safari.  That’s worth a bundle and yet the app is free.

That was so hard to get things down to a dozen.  Grudgingly, I had to leave some off the list to keep it to a dozen.  But, you’ll need at least a good calculator, a good mapping program, a dictionary, and so much more.  That’s just on the productivity side of the house.  There’s so much more when you head off into curriculum land!

Got better choices that my list?  Argue your choice!

Themes


Daily, we continue to explore Web 2.0 technologies.  They get better and better with each passing day. 

Today, Google announced an enhancement to its terrific Gmail service.

Themes.

No more blah-ish email; you can change the familiar (boring?) background to any one of a number of different designs.  Some are even customizable once you’ve chosen them just like gadgets for iGoogle.

Good web resources continue to get better.  This is a cosmetic thing, to be sure, but isn’t that one of the premises about Web 2.0 technologies?  Isn’t it all about taking resources or tasks and customize them for yourself?

What better way that to colour your world with a new email theme?

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