The No-Email Fail

Somewhere just before 8 on Wednesday morning last week, I unilaterally  declared it would be a  no email day for me.  I was going to go the rest of the day without looking at email.  Now mind you, I had already processed well more than 150 new emails across four accounts by that time in the morning-but in that moment I had enough and I was going to take a day off.

Some background to keep everyone up to speed.  First, just how (over) connected I am.  I carry three phones which all have the ability to send and receive text messages and generally access seven email accounts (five are mine of which one is work and two belong to the girls).  Along with this, generally people get hold of me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Four Square.

I don’t think that is hugely unique, but there is also no shortage of inbound data that needs to be processed and call it 65% of the time responded to.

The other factor that added to this monumental decision (and ultimate failure) was the middle of the school vacation week that my girls enjoyed.  I was home with them on the Friday before Passover and Easter and the Monday following.  The plan was for me to go into the office Tuesday through Thursday and then take a work from home (child care issue) on Friday. That part was pretty manageable.

The factor I did not add in was the split in the schedule for the girls.  Without school-they were up to 11 (we even had a sleepover one of the nights I had to work) which generally meant I was up anywhere from an hour to two hours later than usual.  That did not impact me on the time I woke up though-I was still at the gym at 4:15 so sleep was at a premium for the week.  The usual routine is that when I get home from the gym I make some coffee, take a shower and begin the daily caffination.

On Wednesday I forgot to make the coffee before hitting the shower.  Since the sitter was coming at 6:30 and I was racing for the 7:19 train (usually I am on the 7:57) I figured I would catch up with coffee in the city and skipped making the coffee.

With email across all the accounts tumbling in-some of it of the spam nature, some of it actionable, some it with me on the “CC” line so others can CYA and no coffee in the system I had enough.  Right there on the train with two of my friends I declared it would be a non-email day.

A bold prediction for someone carrying the three phones, two laptops and iPad in their work bag that day.

As the morning train hit the platform in Penn Station I put some Grateful Dead on for the subway and headed off to be email free.  I stopped to pick up a cup of coffee from the coffee cart lady and hit the office.  As I did, I ran into one of the senior managers in my division at Verizon.  He wanted to review a spreadsheet he had sent me earlier in the morning.

“Sounds great.  Can you pull it up though? It’s a non-email day for me,” I told him.

“A what?” he asked.

“Never mind,” I said.  “Just let me get into this coffee.”

And so no-email day ended before 9AM and less than 10 minutes after hitting the office.

Related Posts:

Back From Vacation

So Much To Do After VacationWow, there are more people who read this blog than I though.  I was on vacation for a few days which doubled as a friend’s wedding.  I came home to a bunch of email and Facebook notes asking if everything is OK.

First, thanks to all who asked, all is well and the girls are doing great.

Second, some updates coming likely over the weekend since it will probably take me the rest of the day today to finish catching up from vacation.  For someone over-connected like me, being unplugged was nice, but unintentional, so I have a lot to catch up on.

More on the vacation, the girls, camp and everything else over the weekend and into next week.

Related Posts:

School Vacation, Rules and Willingness to Go Along

Vacation TimeSo we are into what is the longest break of the school year for the girls.  Spring break this year is a factor of the calendar, a good job managing snow-days by the school district and parent-teacher conferences-when all is said and done, the girls have seven days off from school.  When you roll weekends in, its 13 days without waking up for school.

There are no big plans for trips or anything for this break-although they will spend a couple of days with grandma-because they are now within about 60 days of camp and I am starting to pull their stuff together for that.  In fact, I recently ordered more than $250 worth of stuff-that is not clothes for camp.  Clothes is the next undertaking that we’ll have to figure out.

Meanwhile here at home-I realize I have gone pretty easy on the girls with the house rules.  I’ve eased “connected time” rules for iPods and computer, allowed more computers and let them get dressed later in the day-but is it because they are on vacation or because it’s the path of least resistance for me?

I need some time away from being the enforcer and referee-as much as the girls need some downtime from their daily grind.  So, for now (at least through this week) I am going to go with no harm, no foul.  At some point next week, I’ll ease back into rules and enforcement-and try to get them back onto schedule to close out the school year.

Related Posts:

Identity as the Holy Grail

Despite my early tempestous relationship with Quora, I have found some great insights and moments to think and contribute.

One of them occurred last night as Quora’s designer posed an interesting thread (I am not sure it was in the form of a question but I supposed that’s OK for an insider) about identity-and specifically mobile identity.  You can read Rebekah’s thoughts here or follow her on Twitter here.

Rebekah poses that identity is more than just your email, or your pictures or your Twitter stream for that matter.  Your digital identity is how you manage access to your attention.  Will you read your Twitter or your Facebook wall?  Will you update your Tumblr or your blog?  How you manage external access to that attention is your identity.  The other pieces (email, SMS, Facebook etc) are all components.

Rebekah believes (and I largely concur) the battleground is your mobile device.  This is the access point to your attention, thus the access point to your identity.

Rebekah and I diverge on one point-which is neither huge or insignificant in that I include tablets as part of that access point.

When talking about the consumer experience in digital media and roadmapping over the next five years, the central figures are your cell phone (the assumption being the curve of feature phone to smart phone conversion holds) and I believe the tablet.  The two devices as Apple has shows work together in a lot of ways, and we’ll see that in 2011 from the likes of Samsung and others who merge the Android OS on phone and tablet.

The reality is, chances are if you read this blog you never leave your house without at least one cell phone (the assumption being that readers of this blog probably carry more than one) and more than 90% of the time the tablet it with you as well.  The laptop is easily forgettable, and the desktop is a distant memory.

When thinking about capturing and holding attention-designers need to think about utility and IA.  Content folks need to think about real estate and connection.

I am convinced the way I got my job at CBS Mobile more than 5 years ago was my understanding of the personal nature of the mobile experience–which means that as a product person I need to be able to clearly make the experience sustainable across devices and across OS experiences.

Understanding the way consumers take in data and control their data intake is at the heart of understanding identity.  In context, a news organization can have this generations equivalent of the Pentagon papers.  Unfortunately just having them is less than half the battle–presenting it to a highly connected audience that demands personalization is the key.

Watch as Faebook, Twitter and products that we don’t know yet introduce new ways to access information-that access point will become the key.  It’s a way to sync your self to your data and your phone (and tablet) are at the hub.

Related Posts:

So, Do You Quora?

Well, do you Quora? Huh?

At least in the circles of social media, its become a very hot question.  And if you do, the next hot question is, “How does it work?”

For the uninitiated, Quora is a collection of crowd-sourced questions, categorized by the crowd and answered by the crowd.  Kind of Wiki for asking questions.  (BTW, Quora is another in the long line of start-up companies that for some reason either spent way too much time, or not enough time working on a name)

The questions have a pretty broad range–here is a sample from my home screen:

Real time Quora questions

Similar to other social networking sites, you can follow people, and they can follow you.  There are connections to Facebook and Twitter than will share your questions and answers with your broader social networks and you can vote up or down questions and responses.

The user can categorize questions as well as the people who answer it.  You can also comment directly on another user’s response.

After using Quora for a few days here are some quick gut checks that are somewhere between interesting and quirky:

  1. To add a question, you type into what looks like a search box, in this age of over Google its a little counter intuitive.
  2. When setting up a profile, you pick topics you are interested in (and it makes some recommendations based on something but not sure what) and you can always add more.  However, there is not a very effective way to search other questions.  The result of this is there are probably 2000+ questions that circle around the Goldman/Facebook deal and none of them rise to an authoritative voice.
  3. It seems like the designers/UX engineers went out of their way to be out of the box, the UI takes some getting used to
  4. Although I have my blog registered into my profile, I am not sure what that does or what the interaction between the site and my blog is.

That said, there are some interesting components to this as well–I found a great place to eat lunch scanning through the recommendations of downtown restaurants yesterday, and so far I have not seen (I am sure there are a bunch there) any flame wars.

As always, dip in and see what it’s about.  As someone who does not use Wikipedia all that much, if the content resonates this could be a more direct way to get answers.

 

Related Posts:

EMail, Spam and What Me Worry?

Its been a while since I was able to update this blog–a time when real life gets in the way of theory is the best way to explain it I guess.

Anyway, today an interesting confluence of events happened which prompted this–I was reading with some interest the New York Times write through on the updated Facebook email.  As Quincy used to tell me regularly when we were at CBS, I should not get my tech news from the NY Times.  But in this case, because of the aforementioned real-life stuff, I am a little behind, so I read the times.

As this was going on, I got a daily email from a company called Gilt Groupe which I can thank my 10-year-old for signing me up.  And then the final piece to this puzzle–one of the LIRR warriors I follow on Twitter, @hfleming checked in via FourSquare to Gilt Groupe.

So, this was a reminder to me that I needed to find out more about Gilt Groupe–since I am getting their daily emails, and since I have at least exchanged Tweets with someone who I think works there, I figured why not go to a source, rather than surf around?

I sent @hfleming a tweet (she does not follow me) with my email address in it, and I instantly got back a spam tweet from @emailbot telling me I just potentially opened myself up to spam email.

So, first-spam in my Twitter stream is far more annoying that spam in my email in box, or more likely in my spam folder where I will NEVER look at it.

Beyond that, I would think anyone on Twitter has a “social media” email account–where they expect to get spam, am I wrong about this?  In my case I use my itsonlytv@gmail.com email address.  Now, I still get that email to my iPhone, iPad and BB–after all it also has some useful communication on it via my social networks.  But it also has pretty aggressive spam filtering in place.

So spam away to my email–but leave my Twitter alone.

Related Posts:

The Right Network for the Right Message

My recent brush with semi-unemployment taught me an interesting lesson about social networks (which I admittedly belong to far more than any one per should).  Each one has a unique place and when leveraged in a meaningful can drive results.

So among other places, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and right here on WordPress (which for the sake of this argument I will position as a social network).

Before I left my office at CBS News for the last time (this was late in October) I updated my Facebook status and put out a tweet.  Both were intentionally misleading, as people who knew my situation at work knew what was up–and those who didn’t had questions–but I really did not want to deal with it.

By the time I made my way to Penn Station (admittedly I stopped at a couple of bars) I had job interviews lined up one via a friend (who to this day I have never met in person) through Twitter and one through a good friend (who I actually know) via Facebook.

As the days rolled on, I came to realize that I could make connections to people or reconnect to people across the expanse of my social networks.

  • On LinkedIn I found some folks whose contact information I did not save to my file as I left my CBS office.
  • On Twitter I was getting @ messages and DM’s with links to posted jobs.
  • On Facebook came support and a few laughs.
  • On WordPress I found some tips for better presenting my skills and background.

I have always been a believer in karma when it comes to things professional–I help people (including employees) jobs.  Former employees always have a reference from me. Part of me wants to believe the great support I got was Karma coming back to me–because I will keep on doing what I do.

Beyond the notion of karma though is the reality that we can all be connected–and be there to support one another.  Knowing where to go and how to tap into that resource is part of the emerging field.

My quick takeaways–as I am not sure I have all of the answers on this–and the reality is the place I landed was born more from hard work than working the systems is something like this:

  1. Don’t try to solve all of your problems in an hour or a day.  It’s a process, treat finding a job as a job and make it part of your day-to-day.
  2. Accept help when it’s offered, and don’t be afraid to ask.  None of us have all the answer-but together we are a pretty good knowledge base.
  3. Make sure all of your networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) are presentable to anyone who does a Google search.
  4. Be an active contributor to the communities you want to work in.
  5. Be proactive.  This blog was born out of uncertainty about my job at CBS more than 2 years ago.  I wanted to have a place to send people to see my expertise.  Become and expert and have a place to share that expertise.

Let me know if you have any additions to my list–I am happy to add them on–and I always give credit.

Related Posts:

Location, Location, Location

One of the keys to having a good business, the old adage goes, is, “Location, location, location.”  Now, despite what  a Pew Center report says that location-based services like FourSquare and Gowalla have not caught on–the measure is not mass, at least not yet.

As mentioned in this space in August the reality is there are people out checking in, and leveraging location-based apps and services.  If the Pew Center numbers are correct, 1% of adults in the US use LBS apps and that number is 4% of US adult internet users.  Yeah, percentage wise that’s a small number–but mass wise, that’s a pretty big number.

And something to keep in mind, is something Larry Kramer (like me, he too is former CBS Digital)–those users are  a premium to advertisers today.  Kramer actually said this morning on Bloomberg TV that the future of TV advertising is actually positive if you add in the ability to target–demographically and via geography.

From experience that can be more than 3X an ad buy.

Again, smallish numbers today, but numbers that get better and as the data is better mined, and the targeting better refined–that premium goes up.

On the product side–as I opined in August, Facebook would help drive the LBS market–and is slowly is.  This week, an updated to Facebook places went live.  Add to that some innovations going on–like what another former boss of mine is doing at Shopkick taking LBS into the store–and the actual user experience is becoming richer.

As the user experience gets better–which means the likes of FourSquare, Gowalla, Bright Kite-and the ones we don’t know about yet make their apps better–the user engagement goes up.  That 1% easily becomes 3%.  The 4% becomes 10%.

And the driver for this will be the ad dollars on the table now, and in the future.  It is a business.  Yes, it’s a moment when product is ahead of consumer demand–but as that gap closes–winners will survive, losers will be cut and ultimately a viable product will be left.

 

 

Related Posts:

The Front Door to the Information Superhighway

I am willing to admit to being old enough to remember the promise of “the internet” as promoted by AOL

Or even before that Prodigy

Those early “web” services provided access to a vast array of information–some of it cataloged, most of it untapped.  Along came independent browsers and broadband at that pretty much all but killed the relative beauty of the dial-up service provider:

For those who did it–who can forget that pleasure of surfing looking for dial-up ports that would work, the second number and more….

As what one of those companies promised “the information superhighway” evolved–along game our friends first at Yahoo then at Google who were able to bring order to the relative chaos.  (Yes, I am leaving out the likes of AltaVista, Lycos etc)–you know the search engine.

Open up the page, type in some keywords and you have a menu of options to choose from.

But as technology improved, so did the capabilities of the information providers.  No longer was having a lane on the great information superhighway enough–we needed attention.  So came the skill of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). In essence rigging the system–making my content the top of the search returns, after all we all know no one scrolls.

But alas, internet time waits for no one.  The AOL commercial at the top of this post is from 1995.  A mere 15 years later, and that front door to content has once again morphed.

Think about the way you discover things on-line (if you are even still using a computer or laptop).  Yes, search engines still have their place.  And yes you still have that Yahoo email, but how do you find things?

My bet is more than 70% of the time its through your social networks.  An interesting link on your friends Facebook wall like this one?  Maybe something from your Twitter stream that looks like this?

The reality is we are so connected to our networks, that search engines are a secondary source.  Case in point, over the weekend when Fox Networks and Cablevision settled the two-week imbroglio (it’s the NY Post headline writer in me-sorry) about retransmission, it was on Facebook I found out.  My confirmation was from Twitter, before I hit Google to find out the details.

{Couple of interesting asides here:  1-nornally I get this information first from Twitter, but on an early Saturday evening, my Facebook network was right on it.  2-the email from Cablevision came 5 hours later (a comment on email as a point of dissemination)}.

Our social networks are the touch point we use between information and our day-to-day–and its possible that the front door to the vast reaches of the information superhighway have changed again–from 256k dial-up–to 140 characters.

Where we get and share information is an evolving point of contact, and very individualistic–because it has to serve our needs.  I know 90% of my Twitter is mobile, and less than 5% of my computer based Twitter is on twitter.com.

Think about where and how you get information–and see if perhaps its time for a tune up, or realignment.

Related Posts:

Its Prime Time, are We Ready?

This blog is really just some thoughts and observations from the last few days-as I’ve had some unexpected free-time and a chance to “field test” some apps that I have messed with in controlled settings.

Within the sphere of social media there are a ton of emerging products and platforms–and a ton that should be by now well-tested (three years is my rough cut off) for the sake of argument a “mature” product.

In the category of mature products are Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Yelp, WordPress.  On the fringe are the likes of FourSquare, Gowalla, BrightKite.

As has been discussed here (and elsewhere) there is no shortage of established brands building on the API’s that some of these “mature” products offer.  Powered by Twitter, Facebook fan pages, WordPress powered sites etc.  Want to build check in to your site? FourSquare, Gowalla, Bright Kite all offer that capability.

But what happens when those sites are down–as can happen in the world of technology from time to time.  As one of my past bosses used to say, “Things go bump in the night sometimes.”

So yes, when Twitter has a fail whale showing or Facebook is in accessible, or GMail is down–there is a raining down of people checking to see if its them, or if its a site issue.

But when this happens on a branded site–and the use case that comes to mind is a radio commercial in the NYC area for White Castle that encourages people to go to Facebook, become a fan and leave a comment.  But what happens when Facebook is down, and you can’t reach that page?

Yeah Facebook has a problem–but the brand exposure is huge.

So these sites that sometimes we play on, sometimes we connect on and sometimes we bemoan now have an impact–but are they ready for prime time?

Related Posts: