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.

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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 12, 2010

Google Buzz Landed + Gained a Beachhead But Needs To Move Fast

Disclaimer: I had two uncles who landed at Colleville sur Mer (otherwise known as “Omaha Beach”) on the 6th of June, 1944 and I do not mean for a beach landing analogy to refer to this particular event nor any of the nations or ideologies involved.  Beach landings happened throughout history including the one for the “rescue” of Helen of Troy. Most have failed due to lack of follow-up, planning or resources.

Google Buzz Market Share vs Twitter and Facebook

Google Buzz Beachhead February 2010 vs Twitter + Facebook

It may just seem like its been a busy (and snowy) news week for social media enthusiasts, but what Google is attempting to do with Operation Google Buzz is a do-or-die business operation that could have $Billions in consequences. Unlike their training maneuver, Operation GoogleWave, this landing is serious. Yahoo, with their Operation Meme and their Yahoo Buzz bookmarking feature, already failed to gain a decent foothold on the lucrative social media “sharing” continent. Google cannot afford to fail here.

The Google Buzz Micro-Blog landing this week has been surprisingly successful among early adopter types. Robert Scoble, for instance, likes Buzz more than he did FriendFeed which is saying a lot. But, just as a beach landing can be reversed disastrously without quick action, Google needs to move very quickly to consolidate its beachhead and move forward to gain significant user ground. Right now, they cannot do this unless they fix some glaring deficiencies that could break their effort:

[caveat: Google may fix these issues over the weekend if their programmers are on the ball – Update:  they weren’t on the ball]

1) First of all, Google needs to populate Buzz by allowing Gmail Account Holders to scan their Contact Lists for others who are on Google Buzz and Invite them enmasse like every other social network does via the reputable checkbox permission procedure. Twitter and Facebook allow this and Orkut, owned by Google, allows this. I am assuming that Google has temporarily left out the ability to scan one’s own contacts for other Buzz members because they don’t want to grow too quickly (they don’t want too many people on the beach the first week).

Why Has Google Failed to Integrate Buzz With Contacts?

Why Are Gmail Contact Entries Devoid of Google Buzz Profile Info?

2) While it is great the Google Buzz differs from Twitter in allowing more than 140 characters per post,  each post needs to have a button for would-be readers to shrink them down to a less than 200 character preview…the great thing about Twitter is one can easily scan more than 20 posts to see which ones warrant more attention (Twitter probably could charge for premium accounts where Tweets open up to larger posts on a blog on page 2).

3) This is critical: When deciding whether to follow new followers back on Buzz, users must be able to see what that person’s last post was (or a bio) without clicking further. Twitter allows you to follow back or ignore or block without leaving a page. Google Buzz currently forces a user to click through to see the activity of each new follower and that is a horrendous mistake. It takes too much time. Twitter is correct in allowing new followers to be judged by their last tweet or bio which is placed directly in the list of new followers.

Google Buzz Fails to Describe Followers Without Clicking

Google Buzz Needs to Show a Followers Last Post Like Twitter Does

4) When signing into Gmail, there should be a large and clearly labeled button or link that allows the Gmail account holder to build or edit his or her Google Profile in order to start buzzing (great new verb by the way). As of Friday the 12th, 3 days after the Google Buzz landing, it is still hard for a layperson to see how they can build their profile.  This is like a new house having been built without a front door (where the above-mentioned lack of a “Find Buzzers Among Your Contacts” functionality is like having built a new house without running water).

5) Signing up for Picasa has to become more automatic. Right now there are bugs and extra steps that need to be streamlined. Google programmers should work on this all weekend. The ability to load photo albums is critical to competing with Facebook and it is an advantage over Twitter (which should have allowed this months ago themselves, although Twitter has amazingly held the advantage of being the one site that has been successful in allowing custom backgrounds).

6) For Google not to have provided Blogger.com integration was almost criminal (under the Failure to Promote Your Own Company Products Act) – but neither Facebook nor Twitter have capitalized on the idea that people still use blogging websites like WordPress.com when they might prefer to pay a premium to have in-house blogs hosted at Facebook and Twitter.

Beach landings tend to fail more often than succeed whether in war or (metaphorically) in business. The reason is almost always unpreparedness for consolidating any gains and for fixing deficiencies that either appear because something breaks down temporarily or, worse, because the need for something had not been anticipated.

Most of the above six deficiencies will need to be fixed fast for Operation Google Buzz to save itself from being thrown back in the water with the loss of everyone now on the beach.

Update:  Google Buzz does a great job of presenting this blog article itself – There is more information (with imagery) provided than the Facebook and Twitter posts I made to attract readers.

Example of a Google Buzz Post

The Google Buzz Post for This Article

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

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Update: While Big Company Syndrome may prevent Google managers from even seeing this post, I had also made a critique of  AddThis.com in this space because they had failed to provide a decent share button so I used Sharetoany.com instead. Showing the flexibility of a good startup, Justin Thorp of AddThis immediately saw this article and answered below that his company will look into making AddThis more user friendly for WordPress.com users. Watching what people are saying on the web is a great way for corporations to avoid being overtaken out of seeming nowhere. Without companies like AddThis paying attention, industries like the Share Button “industry” could get another viable player. With Google Alerts, it isn’t all that hard for a small company to keep track of mentions on the web and respond to them. Google itself, however, is probably too big to pay attention to Google Alerts about Buzz.

Please Share this Post By Clicking On The Share Button Above – I love using Google Buzz by the way. Let me know what you think. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Google Buzz compared with Twitter and Facebook.

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