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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July 25, 2009

Black and White Email Turns to Color – Like TV in the 1960s

There are old hands reading this who remember when television was entirely black and white. Monochrome television first appeared well before World War Two but few considered buying a TV set then because radios were in the middle of their Golden Age at the time with incredibly popular programming such as the Green Hornet, the Lone Ranger and Fibber McGee & Molly.  It is true, however, that black and white TV was successfully debuted in the USA in 1927 (see news clipping below) and FDR was televised making a speech at the World’s Fair of 1939. The Germans, Soviets, British and French had all been in a TV “arms race” involving espionage and sabotage…the bombing of Pearl Harbor was actually televised by CBS…Hitler televised from the Eiffel Tower during World War Two after he captured Paris.

The thing was, only “early adopters” had TV sets during this time, which would be similar to the 1980s for personal computers. You can read more about this on a great site called TVHistory.TV

This situation changed drastically after World War Two ended. Americans had spent the war going to the local cinema to see news reels of the troops in action. They now wanted that visual experience in their homes. In 1946, televisions were already a staple in bars and clubs, where major boxing championships played out to hundreds of thousands. In 1947, Kraft Television Theater, Meet the Press and The Howdy Doody Show became major black and white hits.

CBS tried to go straight into manufacturing color TVs in the late 1940s but their attempt didn’t jive with the fact that their proprietary technology did not work with the 10 million black and white sets already in use by Americans by 1949. RCA had a huge Trinitron color TV on the market in the late 40s (it had 3 cathode ray tubes representing the primary colors) but it was only for eccentric millionaires to gawk at and there was still little in terms of color programming. It wasn’t until after the Korean War subsided in 1953 that a standard was approved that would allow programming to work with both new color sets and existing black and white TVs.

In 1954, the first “mass market” color TVs from RCA cost what would be the equivalent of buying a car today.  Few people bought them, even when they could afford it as there was still very little programming for them.  David Sarnoff, the Russian immigrant chairman of RCA, remained in the hot seat with his board of directors until 1964 as all other companies that tried to manufacture and market color TVs gave up.

Dragnet, the famous TV show about LA detectives, was the first to broadcast a color film episode in December 1953.  Nobody noticed because the new RCA sets weren’t yet on the market. In June 1955, President Eisenhower was filmed on a color TV broadcast. Rich people noticed that. But it wasn’t until RCA color TV prices fell and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color premiered in 1961 that the masses started to go out and buy color technology. In 1962, the popularity of the “colorcasted” Flintstones and Jetsons guaranteed that color TV was here to stay. By 1966, the NBC peacock was announcing that 100% of NBC programming would be in color. Sarnoff, the father and champion of color TV, would die 5 years later at the age of 80.

Let’s fast forward to 2009.  Black and white email inboxes have been the standard since most of us started reading email in inboxes 20 years ago (thanks to Compuserve).

But it doesn’t have to stay that way and, if the above history teaches anything, it won’t.

Viktor Tatarov, CEO of the WebCEO company that helps webmasters tweek and monitor the hits they receive on websites, has developed a means by which color corporate icons appear in the inbox of major email programs whenever an SPF or DomainKey authenticated email arrives from that company’s domain(s).

These colorful “anti-phishing” icons, often the favicons that appear in the URL toolbar of web browsers, now appear in the email inbox list panel of users of the SenderOK Email Plug-in, which is downloadable at SenderOK.com. This now works in Microsoft Outlook as well as the webmail programs Hotmail/Live, Gmail and Yahoo. Only reputable companies, not spammers, will be allowed to have their emails appear with their corporate icons.

This will be a bolt from the blue for email marketers pursuing the Holy Grail called “Email Deliverability”. With SenderOK icon presentation, spam email will be separated from serious business email literally as black and white is to color. Email that comes from known reputable senders will be saved from the spambox, at least long enough for users to decide whether to unsubscribe or verify that they personally consider that otherwise reputable sender to be issuing spam. SenderOK can also act like a Nielsen rating box, letting senders know about the anonymous behavior of users in terms of how many users opened their email and how many deleted without reading.

Google has just announced that they will be doing something similar with Gmail Anti-Phishing Keys and their new newsletter unsubscribe service, but they are still thinking in terms of black and white…for now.

Take a look at the future which is here and now. Whether Tatarov and SenderOK will get all the credit or whether Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL will develop and implement similar technology on their own, doesn’t change the fact that the email inbox, like television, will after a 20 year delay, finally move from black and white to color.

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March 30, 2009

How Twitter Can Reduce Email Overload in 2009

Filed under: Email overload — EmailTray @ 08:59
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

There has been a lot of chatter recently about Twitter (and related micro-blogging services) being a great way to reduce email overload. Few people are able to explain how this will happen but let’s give it a try:

Email overload can be defined not only as that which we must plow through in our various inboxes (you are masochistic if you let everything come into just one inbox without pre-sorting), but all those emails that we feel we have to send out just to get a simple message across to a significant number of targeted people (and thus keep food on the family’s table). If we define email overload as including that which we feel we have to send, we can better understand how to reduce it.

I have often wondered why I’ve had to send out 20,000 emails per year in various positions over the past ten years. The answer I always come up with is simple: the Google search algorithm quickly locks in an almost rock-solid result for various keywords, barely taking into account that the most recent mentions of that keyword might be the most relevant.  As Google became everyone’s favorite search engine for 9 years, the world got into the habit of not caring about who made the last mention of a particular keyword combination. Wikipedia articles now appear in the #1 position for most keywords, but with partisans constantly erasing what you may have tried to write there, that is possibly the last place you can rely on to get a message across (I recommend WebCEO to improve your site’s position on Google all the same).

What’s more: You won’t directly get a “following” in Google or from Google. If people find the article you wrote yesterday on page 19 of their Google results, they might visit your site and sign up for your newsletter. Then your new “following” has to be informed via, you guessed it, mass broadcasting of emails.

Google tried to remedy the above situation by letting people subscribe to Google Alerts, but their “followers” end up only subscribing to the key word but not to you. Under this regime, where people were Google Followers and not your followers, we were all still compelled to build huge databases of everyone who might be interested in our messages…and broadcasting the same or varying messages to them, by email, at least once per month.

When I’ve sent out 400 emails in the past, my hope was that I would get 10-20 people to act on the message. That would keep me, as an internationally oriented salesperson, employed under a Google regime where my company’s site was not necessarily ranking well for many foreign keywords and raking in a lot of foreign customers on its own.

Enter Twitter Search. With Twitter and the following you get, you can send a newsletter blurb 20 times per day as long as you remain interesting. If you are interesting, you can be yourself and announce your product benefits while gathering a following of people interested in those products or, more likely, what you have to say about their industry in general that will help them with their careers.

So instead of sending out 400 emails to get 5 people interested, you only have to do one series of 3 or 4 tweets on a compelling subject for about 5 minutes and, voila, you may have 20 new followers. These followers can be extremely high quality because they were looking for information on your subject in real time. You can also grab the attention of targets at an extremely high level simply by following them!

Under such conditions, you may or may not decide to can your email newsletter altogether – if you continue, I recommend that you get accredited by and use an email deliverability service like SuretyMail to make sure your message lands in the inbox. Hot tip: make sure you use authentication when you send emails. New plugins like SenderOK will soon make such email stand out in living color in order to put phishers slowly out of business.

Twitter should have a paid service where customers can download the business cards of their followers if those followers clicked on an Opt-In for that. But, although I would pay for such a service, it generally isn’t hard to identify followers and, using Xing.com, LinkedIn, Ecademy, Viadeo or Google, find out how to email or call them to see if they want to do business.

Have you heard of anyone abandoning email because of Twitter? Well you are about to:

Just this weekend, I retired most of a database of 1000 people who got a few emails from me per year on a non-business issue I wanted to influence (that is 3000 emails I sent per year to a special database on a minor issue with only a 1% opt-out rate). The reason: although the people were obviously interested in getting my email updates, with an extra account on Twitter, I gathered more high quality followers for that subject in a single day than I had over the course of any year previously. Sure, I wish Twitter could allow me to upload a CSV file and invite the old database, but I am otherwise inclined now to just wait until these “old friends” find me via real time Twitter Search and follow me if they want to. It is heartening to know that only those in the old database who were really interested are going to lookup and find me on Twitter when they finally get around to joining that service.

If you extrapolate my experience of retiring a database and ending a broadcast email regime because Twitter gathers more followers more effectively, 2009 might see the end of a lot of broadcast emailing on the part of hundreds of thousands of people like me.

Now I hope it is clear why I wanted to define “Email Overload” as including email we feel we have to send to keep a following interested and informed.

Note: The author works for SenderOK which provides a valuable email plugin (Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo) that will also greatly help you reduce email overload. SenderOK sorts email by importance according to a smart algorithm that analyzes how you’ve evaluated and behaved toward particular sender email addresses in the past. Follow Allen on Twitter @allenonblacksea or follow SenderOK @senderok.

March 9, 2009

Gmail users can now have photo business cards in the header panel

Filed under: Gmail — EmailTray @ 17:21
Tags: , , , ,

There are a lot of free Microsoft Outlook plug-ins available today but the SenderOK plug-in at www.senderok.com works in Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo!Mail as well as Outlook 2003 and 2007.

For the next 10 days or so you will still have to have Outlook installed on your Windows machine, but you won’t have to use Outlook. Soon even that requirement will be a memory. Gmail users…hello.

The main user draw will be a photo business card (which will pull photos out of an address book or if the sender uploaded their photo to our site or via a social networking site). This business card is visible in the header pane (and preview pane) of email. No more business cards as attached files.

If you click on the business card, the view will expand to show all the emails and attachments that person sent before.

Gmail and Hotmail and Yahoo!Mail users…there are more ways to convince you to download from www.senderok.com:

We sort email by importance and will take good emails out of your spam box and put them in the Gmail inbox (or the “important folder” we create in Outlook). That in itself is a reason to install.

We can also authenticate email for our users to avoid phishing attempts. Small company logos for legitimate corporate email would be seen in the user inbox replacing the boring square envelope icon.

Studies have shown that email users are twice as likely to read email that comes with a corporate sender icon instead of the usual envelope icon. They likely trust the sender more…and for good reason. The logo can only appear if the email has been authenticated.

Soon, logos in the inbox will be a standard and SenderOK will have led the way.