Archive for Email

Business Meeting coordination made simple

// June 30th, 2008 // No Comments » // Collaboration, Email, Office 2.0, Tech for the masses

One of the things that has consistently annoyed me about trying to set up a mutually agreeable time for a meeting, is the amount of back and forth emails and/or calendar counter proposals that are required. OK, it may be trifling to you, but it bugs the heck out of me.

So… to the rescue comes a simple new web app called When is Good. I like this app for two simple reasons, one is it solves a problem that has annoyed be for some time, and two is does one simple job, simply and very well.

So what’s the problem? We let’s say I want to meet with Larry, Curly and Moe, and they all work in different places. I send out a meeting invitation at a time that works for me and I invite all three. Larry and Curly accept the invite, so they can make it at that time. Great! However, Moe responds that he can’t make it and sends back a counter proposal for a different time on a different day. I check my calendar and that works for me, so I accept Moe’s counter proposal and and new invite goes back out to all three for the new time. Great so far. Unfortunately, now Curly can’t make that new time, but instead of responding back, he calls and leaves me a voice mail, without letting me know when he is actually available. Arrghh! It shouldn’t be this difficult, and now, thanks to WhenIsGood. it isn’t.

Same scenario, but now using WhenIsGood. I goto the website and click on the get started button. I am presented with a simple screen that has days listed across the top, and time’s listed down. I simply click on ALL the times that are good for me, enter a name for my meeting/event, and click on the create button. I get a unique code for my event, which they ask you to write down. I then get a link that I post into an email to Larry, Curly and Moe.

Larry, Curly and Moe, individually click on the link they get and are presented with all the times I say I am available. They click on all the times that would work for them. I can optionally get an email telling when they have responded, or I can go back and check the site using my unique code.

When I go back to check, all the times I specified, where Larry, Curly and Moe have all indicated they can make it are highlighted in green. Now I know when I schedule the meeting and be assured that they all can make it.

So let’s review

  1. I create the Event on WhenIsGood and indicate my available times
  2. I check back to the website to see when a mutually agreeable time is
  3. Send out a meeting notice for one of those mutually agreeable times.

I like it when simple, good and useful all come together. Go ahead and give it a try. Organizing family dinners just got easier too.

Email by Pony Express?

// June 11th, 2008 // No Comments » // Email, Tech for the masses, The Future of IT

I was stumbing around the Net and I found this article on the Popular Mechanics web site of all places. It talks about an initiative to bring the information age to remote villages in 3rd world countries by using store and forward technology. Each village has a local server which store cached web pages and email, and then this company has buses, scooters and oxen decked out with wireless equipment that picks up the date from the local servers as they drive thru the village. They then drive into or near by a bigger city that has wireless access to the Internet and automatically forwards the email on, and picks up any emails destined for the local village.

See article here.

This brings things into perspective a couple of things for me. One is how much we take for granted our instant and high speed access to the Net, and the other is how creative people can get to solve real world problems.

One of the disturbing aspects to the explosion in use of the web and wireless technology in the developed nations, is the widening divide between the information haves have and have nots. This article shows that although that divide is real, it may not be quite as dire as I thought it was.

I’d be interested in hearing of other unique and creative methods being used to give people access to the web. Maybe a google search for another day!

Presdo – digitation… simple, smart scheduling

// April 25th, 2008 // No Comments » // Email, Web 2.0

I stumbled upon the really cool web 2.0 scheduling tool, called Presdo. What’s so cool about this app is that it is simple and it does exactly what it says it does. It has a very simple Google-esque user interface, where, using natural language, you tell it what you want to schedule (ie: a meeting, lunch, bring the car in for service, etc…). Click the button and it presents you with it’s interpretation of what you entered, translated into dates, places and/or people. If all is well, you can hit another button to add it to your calendar!

This is a great example of what web 2.0 application should be. Nothing fancy and does one thing really well.

So… you say, why would I want to use this when I can just open a new calendar entry in my Email/Calendar software. Well, my dear naysayers, it comes down to less navigation, fewer keystrokes/mouse clicks, and you have to think less.

For Example, say I wanted to schedule a lunch with Mickey Mouse next Tuesday at noon, at Pluto’s Bar & Grill.

To put that into Outlook, you would have to:

  1. Bring up the calendar
  2. Navigate to next Tuesday on the calendar
  3. Click on or about the day to bring up the calendar entry form.
  4. Enter the subject “Lunch with Mickey Mouse”
  5. Tab over to the Location field and enter “Pluto’s”
  6. Tab over to the time boxes and adjust the time, if necessary
  7. Click save and send

To do the same with Presdo, you would just:

  1. Go to www.presdo.com
  2. Enter “lunch with Mickey Mouse next Tuesday at noon, at Pluto’s” and Clcik on the “Do!” button
  3. Verify everything is OK (and it will be) on the screen that pops up and click Save to Calendar button
  4. Choose your calendar type
  5. Click save on the pre-populated Outlook Calendar Entry form (if that’s the email type you chose)

If you wanted to send an invite to Mickey, you could either have put his Email in the text, or clicked on the enter email link that shows up.

It’s not so much the fewer steps, but the ease by which everything I expected to happen, happened without me navigating and deciding what goes into each field.

In any case, I’d recommend you take it for a spin.

Anyone out there find something better or equal to the task?

What’s in a name… try $350 Million

// September 26th, 2007 // 4 Comments » // Collaboration, Email, Web 2.0

Yahoo recently purchased Zimbra for $350 million. This a great example of good things happening to good products. For those who don’t know, Zimbra is an open source Email, Calendar and file collaboration suite that is simply amazing. They have an AJAX based UI that is simple, elegant and IMHO knocks the socks off of Outlook. This package has everything, from simple administration to sophisticated add-on (called Zimlets) that expand functionality.

Last year, I was researching Email options and took a very serious look at Zimbra and was very impressed by what I discovered. There are similar Open Source products for Email, such as Scalix but for my money, I think Zimbra has a slight edge.

I’ve looked at apps like Zimbra and Scalix as Exchange killers, and indeed they are. However, what Yahoo has done with this move is potentially a Google Apps (or at least Gmail) killer. As an avid user of Gmail and Gmail calendars, I can say with confidence that the Zimbra interface blows gmail away. In fact, I don’t use the Gmail web interface if I could help it, I use my Outlook client, as it efficiently married my Email, Contacts (which I use a lot), and Calendars in to one nice interface. I use Outlook because there is nothing better out there, that is until now. If I could get the Zimbra UI on my Yahoo mail, I’d switch from Google in a heart beat.

So as much as this is good news for both Yahoo and the folks at Zimbra who are now suddenly a lot richer, this is great news for the internet community as a whole. It’s free enterprise at it’s best and positions Yahoo to provide real competition to the Google quasi-monopoly. What would make it even more interesting is if MSN where to scoop up Scalix and be a 3rd contender. Or why not have the tail wag the dog and have Scalix acquire or partner with  some of the Office 2.0 companies out there and be the 3rd alternative.