EmailTray Universal Smart Email Notifier

November 22, 2010

What Facebook Can Do to Win the New Email War vs Google

While both Google and Facebook can take the following advice on how to satisfy email users who want to reduce email overload, big company theory says that the requisite product manager for at least one of the companies will take off early for Thanksgiving, leaving his/her counterpart to design in the following necessary elements that email users will need to combat information overload going forward. I will present the elements as a mild critique of Facebook’s email announcement last week:

1) Facebook Email Needs a Smart Sorting Algorithm: Most of your priority email will not be trivial comments made by friends on Facebook walls. It will be from business people whom you specifically don’t connect with on Facebook. Nobody in the business world who connects on Facebook only with friends and family (100-200 connections) will see much benefit from having a universal Inbox that sorts mail from only their friends into a “Top Priority” folder.

To that end, EmailTray sorts emails based on a smart algorithm that looks at your past behavior towards senders, other EmailTray users behavior toward senders and whether a sender is in your Outlook address book or you were at a sender’s domain recently. Facebook needs a smart algorithm like this, not knowledge about whether a business email is coming from a family member or close friend (because it won’t be coming from either).

2) Facebook Email Needs a Notifier That Works When Browsers are Closed: EmailTray operates when browsers and Outlook are closed. Only Gmail has a notifier that also does this and we can be sure this Gmail notifier will soon be “smart” in that it will allow users to ask that only “Priority Inbox” mail be sent to the notifier for voice or pop-up alerts. EmailTray already has this and it sorts and alerts you on priority messages from all accounts, not just Gmail accounts.

3) Facebook Email Needs to Ensure Read and Deleted Messages are Marked Read and Deleted at Their Source: When someone reads and/or deletes an email in EmailTray, it will be marked read and/or deleted at its source (in Outlook, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo or Hotmail). This would be critical functionality for Facebook or Google to have in a messaging center. Without this, email users will not bother to process email from all their accounts in Facebook because they would still have to go back to Gmail or Outlook to REDELETE or mark AGAIN as read the same emails they already deleted or marked as read at Facebook. Facebook said nothing about being able to do this yesterday. They (and Google engineers) need to look at this because nobody will want to have to duplicate their efforts in processing email.

4) Facebook Email Needs to Authenticate Email (Anti-Phishing Functionality): Facebook has said nothing about authenticating email as having been actually sent from particular major senders like PayPal or Amazon or LinkedIn. EmailTray does this authentication and sends phishing attempts to the spam box with a warning to the user. This is critical because, for instance, 13% of emails that say they’re from Amazon are not really from Amazon.

Where Facebook has an advantage right now is that email users want to see social network photos with their incoming email. The popularity of xobni, Gist and our EmailTray program (formerly SenderOK) attest to the desire of email users to see who’s sending them messages and learn more about them (sometimes leading to the email user connecting with the email sender on Facebook).

Facebook also has an advantage over Gmail in that the idea of having 3 separate Inboxes is slightly better than the new Gmail Priority Inbox solution that can charitably be described as a 2 Inbox solution.

But, as noted in factor #1 above, neither company has invested in a seriously smart algorithm like the one we use at EmailTray (which has 4 Inboxes).

Smart Email Client

EmailTray Smart Email Notifier (Almost a new Email client)

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Click on the above Digg This link if you feel this post deserves to be read more widely. By the way: The instructions for loading Digg buttons on the bottom of WordPress blog posts are severely lacking in competence. Both Digg and WordPress need to get their act together in making it easy to add social media buttons like this.

March 15, 2010

SenderOK Brings Facebook Photos to the Email Header Pane

The merging of social media with email clients continues this week as SenderOK’s free plug-in brings Facebook photos and profile links into a small business card in the message header pane of email clients such as Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo!Mail and Live (Hotmail). If one clicks on the SenderOK business card, one can see message and attachment history for each sender.

Until now, photos from major social networks have been visible in Outlook only via special frames constructed by software products such as xobni and Microsoft’s new Outlook Social Connector, both of which also show a sender’s message and attachment history.

Comparison of SenderOK against Microsoft Outlook Social Connector

SenderOK vs Microsoft Outlook Social Connector

Not only does SenderOK conserve space in Outlook by avoiding the clutter of frames, the ability to see the same Facebook profile photos in the message header pane of Gmail, Yahoo!Mail and Live is a major plus that neither Microsoft nor xobni software provides.

SenderOK puts a Facebook photo inside an email

Closeup of Facebook Photo In the Email Header Pane

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February 3, 2010

Sort Email in Outlook – Triage on the Battlefield of Email Overload

Filed under: Email Deliverability,Email overload,Outlook,Social Networking — EmailTray @ 13:22

While many of us workaholic businesspeople tend to read our email via mobile all day and half the night, we still arrive at work in the morning to find dozens of bold-typed “unread” emails in our Outlook Inbox.

If you have a meeting at 09:00 and it is 08:50 now,  you are going to have to do some triage and it is not wise to do this all manually. You are going to want an educable smart agent to tell you what the priority emails are and sort those emails in Outlook and webmail.

This is where the the updated, Outlook-stable SenderOK plug-in from my company, Web CEO, comes in handy.

With SenderOK add-on in Outlook, just click on the virtual folder VIP first. Read the bold emails in this folder that you haven’t already read and dealt with via your mobile.

Then click on the Important Folder. Read the bold emails in this folder and deal with those you haven’t already dealt with via mobile. After that, briefly check your Routine Folder for emails from people that neither you nor anyone else using SenderOK has ever received an email from, and you can go into your 09:00 meeting without worrying so much that someone important is waiting for an immediate reply. Obviously, you still may have important messages to answer if responding to social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) messages and mentions counts as urgent and you have manually classified their email notifications as Routine (or the SenderOK database has decided that enough people classify those notifications as Routine to make them Routine for you by default until you manually define them otherwise).

SenderOK at first decides for itself, via a smart algorithm, which email senders are to be ranked VIP, Important and Routine. The algorithm takes into account your past behavior (such as answering back or deleting without reading) when receiving emails from specific senders. The algorithm also takes into account whether that sender has serious clout with other SenderOK users. An email from the real Bill Gates might go directly into your VIP folder without your ever having corresponded with him before.  As more people in your industry use SenderOK, the odds will climb that important industry people will have their emails prioritized for those using the SenderOK software.

You may manually classify plenty of email, including a lot of social media BACN, as “No Priority,” which make them lower in importance than even Routine. The manual reclassification function is very important because it is possible and even likely that some of your historical email processing activity has taken place via your mobile or a device that did not have SenderOK loaded on it…and the activity was, therefore, not processed via the smart algorithm that determines future priority status for any particular sender.

Email Sorting in Outlook

Sorting Email in Outlook

When new emails arrive in Outlook, the default that can be modified in “SenderOK Settings” will show a fading pop-up alert for VIP and Important emails along with a pleasant voice alert. This will allow you to work on other tasks all day long without worrying too much about checking your Inbox every ten minutes to see if the boss or the big client needs anything from you.

I tend to give personal family members VIP status along with the boss and important clients, but some would want to do the opposite.

Another major plus is the way SenderOK will save emails from important people that Outlook or webmail services classified as Spam and sent to the Spam Folder. Once in a blue moon SenderOK might save an email from the Spam Box that really was spam to you, but we can guarantee you that we will save enough really important emails from the Spam Box that you will never want to go without SenderOK again. Say, for example,  you register at a website and receive a confirmation email that you have to click on. Normally, such emails go straight to the Spam Box which is a pain in the neck. SenderOK always knows you were just at that domain and the email is Important. Very often this type of email is sent by automatically by Outlook to the Spam Box. SenderOK pulls it right out again and puts it to you front and center.

One of the more amazing functions of SenderOK is that we work with reputable senders to make sure their emails are not phished by others. Non-phished emails from those we include in this program will appear in the Inbox with their color icon where the Outlook envelope icon is normally visible.

Keep posted for a major update in the next few weeks that will further integrate the emails you receive with your social media network. Right now you can create a photo business card that other SenderOK users will see in their email header panes (Outlook, Gmail, !YahooMail and Live).

Allen MacCannell Email: A.MacCannell@SenderOK.com & Mobile: +380 93 031 6742

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November 19, 2009

Microsoft Outlook Social Connector to Compete with Google Buzz? What Will Competitors Do?

Filed under: Email overload,Gmail,Outlook,Social Networking,twitter — EmailTray @ 14:25

Disclaimer:  This post, originally written in November 2009, has been updated to note that Google Buzz has actually been released as of February 2010 where Google Wave remained in beta and Outlook 2010 is still in the future.

With the breaking news announcement by LinkedIn and Microsoft of the new Outlook Social Connector (OSC) functionality for Office 2010, few bloggers are noting (yet) that this *is* Microsoft’s possible answer to  Google Buzz.

Both OSC and Google Buzz are supposed to revolutionize the “Inbox” (after xobni and SenderOK pioneered the way) by providing photos, profile data and the message/attachment history of people who send you communications. Let’s take a look under the hood of what both the giants are proposing:

First of all, GoogleWave was a non-starter the way it was beta released. The GoogleWave Inbox does not receive Gmail Email destined for the Gmail Inbox. I can’t even send a normal Email to my Name@GoogleWave.com address. Why not? People only want to go to a few places per day to communicate with others. They now go to their Email Inbox and maybe their Twitter application and Facebook page on the web. Does Google expect them to go to another URL (GoogleWave.com) to do additional communicating with others? Waves are like forums. GoogleWave can kill the forum software industry and the need for people to buy domains to park their forums…but will GoogleWave become the first place people go when they turn on their machines? Not until waves share the Inbox with normal Email.

That is where Google Buzz comes in (this post said before today’s update “We’ll have to assume that GoogleWave and Gmail will be merged by the time Outlook 2010 becomes available in “early 2010”. The GoogleWave Inbox will have to accept normal Email. Waves themselves are great. But unless a merge happens, GoogleWave will just be a web portal to find and join fancy forums on subjects we search for).

Microsoft’s OSC will present Email with sender profiles with “rich history” in the Email header pane (like SenderOK now does – xobni does this via an extra “frame sidebar”). Microsoft will immediately get many of the world’s businesspeople as users (many of the 500 Million current Outlook users will upgrade to Office 2010). Users will apparently see Email sender profiles via APIs from social networks similar to what xobni and SenderOK now do for Outlook 2003/7  (currently SenderOK draws from its own social network “business card exchange”). OSC will not have the great xobni multiple PST search functionality nor will it have the excellent SenderOK Email priority sorting functionality. But xobni and SenderOK would both like to get the lion’s share of 500 million users overnight the way Microsoft will.

SenderOK Social Network Email Profile in the Outlook header pane

SenderOK Social Network Email Profile in the Outlook header pane

Who will win the “Social Email Fight” between Google and Microsoft? Well…Google business customers are already reading their Gmail hosted mail inside Outlook 2003 and 2007 (a major win for both Google and Microsoft). If Google wants to really win this, they will need to build an Email client that works offline (Gmail does this but Google has not made it obvious that they can do this).

Otherwise Microsoft *will* win the battle to keep Outlook as the first program businesspeople open on their computers in the morning.

What about Mozilla, AOL and Yahoo? If they don’t move fast, the upcoming OSC vs Google Buzz fight will trample them down (we deleted here a criticism of GoogleWave not being integrated with Gmail because Google Buzz has basically done that).

The competitors of Google and Microsoft may want to give us a call. SenderOK, unlike xobni, already has the technology that works with webmail and our plug-in now provides Yahoo, Gmail, Live and Outlook with photo business cards in the Email header pane.

What about international webmail portals like Web.de in Germany or Mail.ru in Russia? They’ll need to get this type of technology quickly as well. SenderOK is the only company that can provide them with this now.

Regarding social network executives, the Microsoft OSC announcement is a big boost for LinkedIn (who will be providing Microsoft’s first API feed, recognizing the identity of email senders by their email address if that is a registered LinkedIn address for that sender).

The future of social networking really *is* inside the Email client, even if the Email client is in a web browser. If you get a message from someone (and Email and SMS text messages are the dominant messaging form), then the photo and profile data that message associates itself with will become the main place for people to go to update their data. Fewer and fewer people will be heading for specific URLs on the web to communicate with contacts on some socnet site – and this includes Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter applications MUST merge with Email clients. The current separate situation is only temporary.

Final Note: Gmail will soon have anti-phishing icons, similar to what SenderOK does. Microsoft has not announced that they will have this helpful and potentially profitable functionality (corporations would pay to have their logos serve as anti-phishing icons = symbols of authenticated Email).

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July 29, 2009

Defining Spam Fairly in the Age of Responsible Email Marketing

Filed under: Email Deliverability,Email overload,Gmail,Outlook — EmailTray @ 15:43

Although some bloggers act as if Email spam is worse than ever (and may auto-reply even to their mother that she needs to get with the program and stop emailing) there has been a very encouraging trend in the past few years in that responsible corporations are conducting thoughtful email marketing campaigns with unsubscribe links and/or immediate removal of uninterested parties from their mailing lists.

On top of this, many corporations are using email deliverability services like SuretyMail where they have to pass a strict accreditation examination showing that they follow and will follow industry best practices in not approaching people regularly with their marketing message who have not asked to be approached.

But people still click the “This is Spam” button in various email programs for email newsletters and notifications that they had *asked* to be sent and which they can easily unsubscribe from.

This really isn’t fair to the reputation of the newsletter sender. Google has shown that they partially recognize this by now offering a Gmail function that let’s you ask Google itself to unsubscribe you from a sender whom you are too lazy to take an extra 1 second to unsubscribe from yourself.

But Google’s recent announcement page showed that you have to rudely “Unsubscribe + Report as Spam” instead of just “Unsubscribe from this Sender” which would be more appropriate.

I realize that newsletter and notification senders tend to put their unsubscribe links at the bottom of their emails, but c’mon folks. As long as such senders play by best practices, there is no need to be rude and hurt their reputation for something you asked them to do. Take the extra second and go to the bottom of their email and unsubscribe (if they ask you to remember a password to do this, go ahead and report them as spammers – while remembering, however, that Twitter would actually require you to remember your password to change your notification settings).

There is another type of sender that may be hurt by enthusiastic “This is Spam” clickers: the honest salesperson or PR person who makes a one-time “cold call” Email to an obviously highly-targeted potential client or journalist/blogger on a topic (not related to a commodity product) that the sender could expect the receiver to consider timely, topical and relevant to what they do for a living.

If you believe a cold caller could reasonably expect you to respond to his or her message and not have to apologize for having sent it (apologizing signals guilt as a spammer) then it would be good protocol and good karma to simply respond to their message either positively, not respond at all if you want to think about it or write the sender to say that you will probably not have interest in any future correspondence along those lines.

In other words, don’t hit “This is Spam” if the other person clearly considered you an important contact as opposed to a statistic…and would gladly not email you a second time if you politely told them of your lack of interest at the time. You could badly hurt their email deliverability to others if you hit the spam button without giving them a chance to take you off their list and that can hurt their ability to feed their wonderful children and mother-in-law.

In the end, humans will be rude to those whom they don’t respect…but it is bad karma not to respect everyone who cold calls…approaches you with what they thought was a relevant and targeted pitch.

Enter my company’s email plug-in SenderOK…this plug-in, which will get better with popularity and use and works with Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail/Live. SenderOK will help you know if a sender email address has been spamming everyone and anyone or if they have been getting replied to and are respected by others. A measurement is displayed in a photo business card in your email header pane which shows the sender’s network power. If they’re using SenderOK, you will see their photo profile. You will know if they are serious or if they are a fly by night spammer. They will identify themselves as part of a social network.

Photo Business Card in SenderOK Email Header Pane (Outlook)

Photo Business Card in SenderOK Email Header Pane (Outlook)

The plug-in will first show you VIP emails from your friends and colleagues and those contacts you’ve written to before. It will then show you Important notices from people who are deemed serious and identifiable. If you happen to be receiving newsletters or notifications from a company we have chosen to support, they will have their authentic emails arrive showing their color corporate icon in the inbox. This provides you with a measure of anti-phishing protection. Finally, SenderOK will show you routine notices and stuff that went to your spam box but didn’t belong there, like confirmation emails that you need to click on from websites you just visited and joined.

In the near future, most business email from reputable senders will arrive with color icons indicating that the sender has passed a best practices accreditation of some sort. Black and white email will be seen as either spam or its great Aunt Martha signing onto Yahoo for the first time and writing you out of the blue. See our last blog post in the above link for more on that.

SenderOK Icons in Yahoo!Mail Authenticate Senders

SenderOK Icons in Yahoo!Mail Authenticate Senders

Many of us find that we have to go into our spam boxes and sort the good from the bad and delete things there anyway. SenderOK helps make sure you don’t have to sort when you go there. If you signed up for something like Twitter notifications and we know that company to be reputable and we support them with authentic email icons…their email will bounce out of the spam box and into the inbox (this is fun to watch) at least long enough for you to unsubscribe, initiate a rule to send the notifications to a special folder or for you to tell SenderOK that you don’t want to take the extra second to unsubscribe and please just let that email keep going to the spam box (that you will have to sort anyway).

If you’re capitalist, your idea of spam might differ from those who don’t like free business practices.

SenderOK will help you sort email and recognize true spam no matter what your idealogy.

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