[Pro-Tip] When writing a delicate email, enter the To: last

So, if you are writing one of those emails that you have to get right, and you plan to check and proof and think about, then don’t start by typing the To:. As long as you don’t type the To: you can’t accidentally send it out before you finish writing it. Once you write the To:, and accidental or careless send will possibly cause collateral damage if you’re not done word smithing your message.

Love/Hate Gmail

I’ve been using Gmail like forever now and have converted many friends and family members to using it. It’s great and it’s ridiculously cheap. Coupled with a good ad-suppressor plug-in for Safari (Mac) it works well for me. I do access it, almost always, via the desktop Mail app on Mac OSX, so I don’t experience it’s UI all the time.

But the Gmail UI is quite bizarre, with multiple different ways to do similar things, weird drop down menus and weird functionality in places. So it’s a little annoying, but, it does scale, it is cheap, and it is up almost all the time.

I only briefly considered the idea of moving from Gmail to something else when reading this article, but within seconds knew I would stay with Gmail. So all I got out of reading the article is an idea for a lousy blog post 🙂

Switching from Gmail to FastMail / Max Masnick:

I switched from Gmail to FastMail a few months ago and I’ve been meaning to write a post about how I did it. I saw a tweet about ads in Gmail that look like normal email this morning and thought, “Ads that look like email??? This is the last straw. I want to help people get out.”


Great tips for dealing with email

This is a tired topic but this article from the New York Times does have some good tips on managing your avalanche of email

“…There’s no quick fix. But set aside a few hours one afternoon, brew a pot of coffee, get a tasty snack, put on your favorite playlist and roll up your sleeves. It’s time to tame your in-box…” (from “How to Lighten the Crush of Email“)

 Read the article here.

Beautiful Outlook

I don’t know why this has not gotten more press. You should take a look at Microsoft’s new Gmail killer, outlook.com. It’s a totally web based email client, like Gmail, but the user experience is miles and miles better than Gmail.

Screen Shot 2012 10 16 at 10 31 48 PM

Now I am a huge Gmail user, and generally I get along really well with it. It has years of my emails and I have fully mastered its tricks and hacks. It works, it’s reliable and it’s free.

But boy, as a user interface, isn’t Gmail UGLY?

And now look at Microsoft’s Outlook.com. I didn’t even realize that such great, responsive UI could be built in html. It might still be missing some features, and maybe MSFT will clutter it up when they add them, but for now, it is impressive.

By the way, the world of Outlook.com is new enough that the good email addresses might still be available, so get your company@outlook.com while you still can!

Sparrow vs. Mail.app and Mountain Lion

Did you hear that Google bought Sparrow? Sparrow is a really cool email client that I for one have been using very happily for a while now.

Did you hear the announcement that there would be no more development of sparrow?

Did you hear that some people were upset at this, while others defended Sparrow’s “right” to let themselves be sold? (Huh????)

Anyway, I am not getting into that discussion. I was selfishly sad, because I am very fond of Sparrow and I know (from first hand knowledge, more than once, but also as a customer) that the product that is acquired doesn’t often do well in its new home, and so I need to end my addiction to Sparrow.

But then came the announcement that Mountain Lion (the new OS X for Mac) was coming out today. I thought I had a theory: Maybe Mail.app on Mountain Lion would be every bit as good as Sparrow.

Sparrow, seeing the writing on the wall decided better not to wait for the inevitable, and ran into Google’s arms. (After all, I can think of many worse companies to be acquired by.)

For that and other reasons (like impatience) I bought my Mountain Lion ($20 for all three computers — good deal!) First impression: Hmm, what’s changed? Second impression, quick let’s go look at Mail.app!

Bad news. Mail.app is a clunker compared to Sparrow. It’s slow to launch and slow to work with compared to Sparrow. Sparrow works much more nicely with GMail than Mail.app.

I guess I will stick with Sparrow, for now.


Email Rookie Mistakes

I’ve watched some people struggling with some email blow ups and frustrations over the years and I was just thinking about some of the ways I’ve developed to avoid them. I am not going into the best salutation or the best conclusion but more touchy-feely things. Here are my guidelines:

  1. Write the email as if it might show up on the front page of the paper tomorrow morning. Because it might. Or it might be forwarded to the wrong person. Or you may accidentally send it to the wrong person. Worse, to a long mailing list of the wrong people. Don’t include anything that you would be embarrassed or worse, ashamed, to have to explain.
  2. Realize that the other person may not have the same email habits as you. They may only check emails once a day. Or they might receive 200 messages per day and habitually not answer many of them. They might even have a hard time typing (yes there are some.) So don’t be offended when you don’t get a response when you think you should have gotten one.
  3. Keep it short. People skim and scan. Don’t tell your life’s story. Focus on what the outcome is that you would like of the email you sent and indicate that up front. Or if you don’t expect an answer, then sometimes it is helpful to say that too (“No response is necessary”) Write your email like an article in USA Today. Start with the most important thing and go from there. And make it short.
  4. Remember that you can call or talk face to face. For most delicate, personal or heavy topics, it is often better to talk. This is self evident and yet I often see people who should know better opting for an email and getting into major fights, misunderstandings or hurt. And even if you go down the email route and things seem to be spinning out of control, remember you can still help by switching to a phone call or face to face conversation.
  5. Be careful about public forums, mailing list and Facebook. Remind yourself about all the people seeing your sarcastic comment or ironic statement or personal attack. Without the context and the relationship who knows what impression they get.

These guidelines may or may not apply for you. I learned them through personal experience and have the scars to prove it!

When no response means “no”

Here’s a tiny social conundrum. When someone writes you, calls you and leave a message, calls and doesn’t, or even texts you, what is your obligation to respond? If the question is “are you free for lunch today” and you know you are not, is it OK to just not answer? If the question is “have you seen this?.”

This seems to come up, and different people and different communities seem to have different rules about this. So before you take offense at the lack of response, consider that it might just be a different social protocol that you may not necessarily adhere to!

I’ve had that happen, though, when leaving several emails or support tickets with services that I use. What do you make of a lack of response? Sometimes I imagine that they are so close to going out of business that responding to emails has become a low priority. Then on the other hand, I am the support@blogbridge.com, and do I always answer all emails that come in? Almost all, but I have to admit that occasionally I’ve just left an email gone unanswered.

There’s this idea of “lifetime value of a customer”. If I could predict the future and how much this customer will eventually spend on my business, I can compare that to the cost of servicing them and decide that actually they are going to lose me money and essentially “fire the customer.”  Of course there are the ‘externalities’ to such a decision, like developing the reputation of being a business that’s hard to live with.