Struggling with Google Buzz

Google-buzz-page-preview
OK, I’ve really tried to giv e Google Buzz a run and see how useful it can be.  My problem is two fold. First is the lack of integration into my GAFYD (Google Apps for Your Domain) email, the second is lack of integration into the linked sites.

GAFYD:  Lack of integration is a source of constant frustration with this tool.  I personally love the Email, Docs, Calendar.  Don’t want to give it up.  The problem is feeling like a second class citizen because GAFYD does not include things like Reader, Voice or now Buzz.  (sure it’s coming.. but..)  What is the purpose of that little checkbox on the dashboard to get new features if we REALLY don’t get things early?  or at all?

Without Buzz being integrated into my REAL email account, it forces me to go to yet another location for information.  I now have Google Reader, Twitter, Buzz, Email, Facebook.. hmm.. too many.  It isn’t really a solution to fix that problem and just caused a NEW location to look.  If it was part of my email, it might be ok.

LACK OF TIE IN TO LINKED SITE:  My second beef is the lack of tie in back to the social site.  If I am following someone on Buzz, they post something on Twitter.. then I have to either respond in Buzz, and people using Buzz can see it.  The problem is the loss of conversation on Twitter?  I have now moved conversation from the main site (where presumably MOST people follow) to Buzz, where it is a parasite, leaching the good value off to allow itself to live.  Had it not been for the host, Buzz wouldn’t exist.. hell, even parasites provide SOME value back to their host (like cleaning bacteria, etc).. Buzz is just migrating traffic from other sites to their own!  If you are building a nice following on Twitter, it is detrimental to your core group of followers.. unless they all use Buzz.

Here is how I keep track of things.  I’d be interested to know if others have found Buzz to be useful in a way to help consolidate my current sources of news.

Google Reader:  I use this for my blog reading and following.  This link is to my shared items.. but I keep track of around 40 blogs.  It is a lot per day.. I need to find a way to remove dupes… too many people post the same news.

Twitter:  I have found this to be a great source of news.  I use Twitter to keep up with things.. not typically to reach out or communicate.  I’m a consumer, not a producer.

ReadTwit:  I use Readtwit to pull links from Twitter into my RSS feeds.  This helps me while on the bus and using Google Reader on my iPhone.  It finds links in the posts of people I follow on Twitter, pulls in the content and makes an RSS feed for me.  Nicely integrated.

Any additional news consumption is through random surfing, reading or links emailed to me.  My open question then is this.  How does Buzz help?  I would like to benefit from a tool.. I just don’t find this one useful.

 

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My Evernote Blog Post

 

From Evernote:

Evernote Blog Post

Everyone and their brother is posting articles about how they use Evernote.  For god sakes, we know you can keep notes in it people.  We know you can post pictures in it.. please give me insight in to how you integrate into your daily routine!  I’d love to learn more ways to be productive with it.. but your lack of detail kills me!  I want to learn good information from you.. not that you have 7 ways to tell me what I already know.  I am being selfish.  you have figured out how to use Evernote.. I want you to share!    🙂

OK. so you are wondering now, how does JEFF use Evernote?

 

Folder Structure
I try to keep the folders to a minimum.  I will explain the use for what I have.. and I feel it is working.

 

Daily Visit
I keep things like a Recent Achievements note, project list note, etc.. Things that I may need to see or edit daily.  Including my dashboard for my product reporting.  The links are in here.

 

Inbox
This is my default folder.  All new notes go in here to be processed GTD style.  (well, pseudo GTD)  But I know emailed notes, new iPhone notes, etc will all show up here.

 

LOLs
Shared public folder I put funny comics, etc into.  Then I can just email people a link to this shared folder and quit spamming you all with jokes.  You can go look if you want.

 

Main
This is my main archive.  It’s sibling is WORK.  Everything personal goes into MAIN.

 

Projects
This is where I keep my project notes. (See below)

 

Public Tips
If I have to write up tips for friends, like how to remove a virus from their PC (I own a Mac), or how to do X or Y.. I try to write it up, put the links in the note and publish it publicly.  Then I can reuse them.

 

Research
I put all my research findings into this one folder for easy searching.  Why don’t I just drop them into my WORK folder you ask?  Well, I am hoping one day there is an easy feature to exclude a folder from default searches.  I am planning for that feature.  One day it will come and I don’t have to include hundreds of research notes/pdf’s returning false positives.

 

QUICK RANT:
Evernote team, please allow a property on folders to be excluded from searching by default. Then if I want to search that folder, I can do it on my own.

 

Templates
This is where I keep my templates.  (see below)  I just copy and paste the body into new notes when needed.  I have new project templates, new meeting notes, etc.

 

Work
This is my work archive, it’s sibling is my MAIN archive.

 

 

Here are some of my Business uses

 

Project Tracking

I have a folder called Projects.  I put each of my current projects in here under it’s own note.  I title them as PROJECT: Project Name to help them stand out.. then I use a default template for each project.  

I keep the project template in a folder called templates, then just copy and paste the entire body into a new note when I need it.  Much easier than saving out as an evernote file and trying to import each time.  Plus, fully self-contained

Meeting Notes
I try to keep all of my meeting notes in Evernote.  I title them MEETING NOTES: Meeting name. Then add a tag for the project, and a tag for each person in attendance.  This way, if I remember a meeting I had with John.Smith, I can search for tag:meeting tag:john.smith and find a good list.  Then, I use a default meeting notes template.  

I also embed a default mind map template for meetings which I find is a good way to capture notes if I don’t have to be engaged in lots of the conversation.  This is the best part of embedding files. You can have templates in other docs that are useful.  If you used spreadsheets for certain projects, put the default template in there.  


White Boards

I take pictures of all my white board drawings, notes on white boards in meetings, etc. Then I tag them appropriately with each project name, key words, etc.  For meeting specific pictures, I move the pictures into any note that was for a meeting.

 

Here is the kicker for these.  I process almost all of the pictures with JotNot.  If I am using the pics in my own template, I embed them just as normal.  If someone else (like a PGM) has asked to see my pictures, I use JotNot to create all of the pics into a single PDF and send it over.. I also then embed the PDF at the end of the doc.

 

QUICK RANT:
Evernote team, why can’t I make a PDF a thumbnail?  I know in most cases it works great as a full file.. but sometimes I want it to act like other attachments.

 

Business Cards
Everytime I get a business card, I take a pic, JotNot it and save to Evernote.  I then tag them with the company name, position of the person (ceo, cmo, etc) and tag:businesscard.  I can now easily find business cards.  My electronic Rolodex.

 

Receipts for Travel
I take pics of all receipts while coming back on the plane from a business trip.  I use JotNot to correct the images, tag with the trip info and save for later use.  Then if I happen to lose them, I still hopefullly have a copy.

 

Reading To Go
Often I get things I need to read, but now is not the right time.  It might be better to just read it on the bus on the way home.  I put all emails, PDFs, docs, presentations into their own note with just a tag:ToRead.  Then I have a saved search ToRead that let’s me find all my “to go” reading items.  My own “read it later” program.  Once read, I typically delete them as it was a task.. but they could be archived.

 

EMail Templates
Sometimes I need to send the same thing over and over again to people.  Internal Wiki links, documents, attachments, etc.  I just create a series of EMail templates to be used as needed.  Then if someone asks me “Where are the reporting links for project X”, I can send an email to the wiki link for future reference as well as the actual data they needed.

 

 

 

Here are a couple of personal use cases

 

Bookmark Archive
I used to use delicious.. but decided I was not into sharing all the links publicly like that.  Some where private work links that I may want to encrypt.  So.. I now just capture pages, add tags for the items I would remember them by.. and a tag called bookmark.

 

Later, I can search for tag:bookmark tag:tips – which would return all bookmarks that I had tagged with tips.

 

QUICK RANT:
Evernote Team:  The Safari capture tool was the best.  It truly captured a  PDF of the entire page, maintained formatting, etc.  The current Chrome capture leaves a horribly formatted page.  Please make this work better.. even if you end up doing server side PDF creation and embedding.. something.  It sucks now.

 

Reduction of my wallet
I took all the cards out of my wallet, took pictures of the items, used JotNot to clean them up, uploaded them all into Evernote and tagged them all with tag:wallet and the other corresponding tags.  Now my wallet is smaller and I have easy access to everything I needed in those scrap things I saved.  Now when I need my Sheraton rewards number, I search for tag:wallet tag:sheraton and BAM!  Done.

 

Insurance Cards
I took pics of all my insurance cards and tagged them by vehicle, year, INSURANCE.  Now I know I will always have proof even if it isn’t in my car.

 

Gift Ideas
I take pictures of things I see that someone may like, tag it with giftidea, person, birthday/Christmas.  Then I can sort by all gift ideas for a given person for an event.  Makes it easy to remember cool ideas for people.  Great for while out and about shopping.

 

Light Bulbs
I take a picture of odd lightbulbs in my house, tag them as lightbulb, master.bedroom and then I can find them easily.

 

Serial Numbers/Downloads
Any purchase I make online for software, I put the serial number and file into a note so it is archived and available.

 

Draft Documents
Any emails, blog posts, etc I need to do, I typically do them in a new note in my INBOX in Evernote first.  Then only move out of Evernote once it is done.  This makes sure it is available from anywhere.

 

Typical Camera Memory shots
Things like Wine, mexican sour cream, license plate, parking location, etc.  These are quick and easy.. everyone does these.  Tagging and saving.

 

Things that Evernote is missing
I believe Evernote is an amazing tool. .and keeps getting better over time.  I do however have a few serious rants.  You’ve seen a couple above, but there are some that really kill me.

 

Formatting
This is my number one pet peeve.  Formatting on my Mac, iPhone and Web don’t stay consistent.  It is like working in a very bad hack-word processor.  It just plain sucks to make nice looking notes, and keep them formatted correctly.  This has got to be fixed.

 

Non-Linear Notes
OneNote is kicking Evernote’s butt here.  Sometimes my notes should not be just a text file.  Maybe I do want to place free floating containers around the page and move them, etc.  Sure.. I can’t do it from my iPhone, but 99% of my editing is on my Mac.  Don’t make it just a text file. Give me a more fluid experience.

 

Plugins
I’d love to have a MindMap plugin.  Can someone make it for me?  Rather than attaching it? What about embedding maps?  or an editable spreadsheet?  or.. heck, what about using a plugin to create a Gantt chart capability?
Integration with Google Wave
OK, maybe a stretch here.. but embedding a wave inside Evernote would rock.

 

Auto-Extraction of To-Do items
Sure, a checkbox is nice in a page… but without the meta data of an actual task being assigned, there is no single view to see all my TODOs.  This is a pain.  Again, OneNote wins here.

 

History of closed To-Do
I’d like to know what I completed as well, in a timeline.  Maybe auto-generate weekly status reports for me  🙂

 

Templates
I really think that you need to bring back templates.  People could create templates, premium templates, etc.  Then, I could say New Note From Template, and choose one of my own, or a public one.  KEY THING is your formatting would need to be better.  Imagine backgrounds, structured templates, etc.  Could be amazing.

 

Google Docs Integration
Maybe you could sync with Google Docs and allow offline access to files through Evernote? Docs could show up as notes, while Spreadsheets and Presentations could be attachments. If I edit them, once I go back online, they sync.

 

Better Formatting for capturing web pages
This is just plain horrible unless you use the Safari plugin.  Please fix

 

Inline Webpages, Full and Clipped (iFrame)
It’d be great to provide a URL that is embedded into the site.  This would allow me to do a Google Docs form, create a note that has the form in it.. each time I go to the note, I can fill out the form.  Would be great for data capture. Would also be nice for web-clipping for things like bus schedules,etc.  (not full pages, but partial)

 

Maps on the Mac
I’d like to create lists that are location aware  (Shopping by store) as well as see where I took notes by location.

 

 

FINAL THOUGHT
I hope this has been helpful.  I will continue to try to find ways to let Evernote do what my brain is horrible at doing.  Organizing and Remembering.  Thanks to the little elephant.  (and his team of handlers)  If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them.. but please, don’t just tell me you use it for notes and taking a picture.  🙂

 

If Evernote can keep this up.. I see us all using the digital camera video life-cast capture right into Evernote in a few years with face recognition, voice search, location aware.. that will be both helpful and creepy all at once.

Managing your group for success

This is going to be a fairly short little post, but after a couple discussions recently with some other people, it is still amazing to me how many managers don’t know how to manage a team properly.  The experiences I have been hearing about all resonated with me based on my own past.

First off, let me say that as professionals in our fields, we all recognize the times where it is crunch time.. go time.. the time to put your head down, focus on your work to completion.. no matter what it takes.  Those are the make or break opportunities in our own fields, the ones that get us the big deals.. the ones that impress big clients.. the ones that meet a critical deadline.  As a manager, you hope to have team members who recognize these times and do the right thing without you having to ask.  That is what helps create a great team.. and one that truly will gel over time with these experiences.  Now.. as a manager, don’t confuse this with always expecting your team to work long hours, weekends and holidays.. on a regular basis.  If your team is ALWAYS overworked, working long hours, weekends or constantly taking on random tasks…there is a systemic problem in your organization.  You will succeed in the short term with some wins.. but fail in the long-term.  You will fail to deliver long-term sustainable results.  You will fail to retain quality employees.  You will fail to recruit new good candidates as word spreads.  You, as a manager.. will have failed.  You failed yourself, your team and your company.

As a manager you also need to manage the tasks coming in to your team appropriately.  Being the manager that never says no to upper management does not make you successful.  If it is putting your teams ability to succeed at risk, you are failing.  There are two areas I see this happen.  The first is in sheer volume.  (see first rant above)  If you are taking on more work than your team can handle, and expecting them to “suck it up”, you will fail.  The second way this occurs is with managers who don’t know what the capabilities of their team really are.  Some managers take on ANY task and expect good people to just make it work.

If you truly give someone a task that is out of their skill set, hoping they will grow with the task, you may have just set them up to fail.  If you can provide proper education, training or assistance, it could be for the better.  If you don’t enable their success, you just asked them to fail.  The problem is, many managers will have good people who they just expect to succeed.  Nobody can do EVERYTHING well.  There are limits.  Take a solid project manager and try to make them do customer account management across multiple large customers with big projects.  While at surface level.. it is someone tracking and delivering goods on a timeline.. they are two different disciplines.

Lastly, if you are hiring a manager for a group from outside the company into an organization, have a transition plan for the newly hired manager.  Please take the time to think about how this person will succeed or fail.  What is your plan to ramp up this individual on your products?  Do they come in as an individual contributor before taking on a management role?  How do you expect this to impact the team?  Was there someone on the team that may have felt they should have received a promotion and that management slot?  If so, have you talked to the team to let them know why you went the path you did?  Have you clearly laid out a career path for your employees that will help them meet their goals and not feel slighted by this new hire?  How do you plan on educating the rest of the organization on the new hire’s role in the organization.  Educate the current team on the reasons you hired the new person.. what is their background, skill set, etc.  By all means, if you can make them part of the interview loop.. do so.

Anyway.. just a quick little rant. I’ve had too many discussion with people lately who are bringing up similar stories.  Lucky for me these are really not part of my current organization.. but clearly I have had these things happen to me in the past through direct contact or close ties and the great stories that inevitably follow.

Work should and can be fun,  you just need to be set up to succeed.  If your manager is not helping to enable your success, you should be concerned.

One final tip for managers: You will go MUCH farther and do MUCH better by setting your team up to succeed with flying colors time and time again… vs. the manager that is trying to make him/her self look good to upper management.  Do the right thing for YOUR employees;  Their success will drive long-term sustainable wins for your customers, your company and your employees.   Your management team will surely recognize the solid team you have built and maintained. That is what will drive YOUR success.

Mobile Application Fragmentation – The Harsh Truth

I have these talks time and time again with people about the state of application development in mobile.  It is hard.  No matter how many people get excited about the buzz of applications on the iPhone.. no matter how many developers want their applications in an app store and no matter how many people want to buy applications, this is a challenging space.

If you are looking for the best opportunity to make a difference in people’s mobile world, you have limited options.  Take away the discoverability of the apps.. and just looking at platforms.  Here is my view on top bets.

CURRENT:

  1. Web-Kit HTML 5 based web-apps
  2. iPhone
  3. Android
  4. RIM
  5. Windows Mobile
  6. Palm Web OS
FUTURE (2-3 years)
  1. Web-Kit HTML 5 based web-apps
  2. Android
  3. iPhone
  4. Palm Web OS
  5. RIM
  6. Windows Mobile
Sure.. while I love the UI of a downloadable application, I think that pushing the envelope in the Web Application space has a better chance for daily high-value use.  Certain things limit you, sure.. but time to market, limitations in an app store, lack of installation.. all contribute to getting that customer use.  How do people find you?  You will definitely have to solve that problem.. but I still like this option best.

Android will overtake iPhone in the next few years with the way the app stores are panning out.  More manufacturers are developing handsets, new ideas are popping up all the time.  With the open-ness of Android, it does not have some of the limitations Apple is putting in place.  Developers still have the risk of fragmentation here, but I hope Google helps solve that at the OS level and leave the developers to solving problems for end users.

Palm Web OS is going to take better hold over time.  There are a plethora of developers that can develop for this platform with a low learning curve.  It will be interesting to see where this pans out.

Unless you are developing corporate applications for RIM or Windows Mobile, I would struggle to see where you will get much traction through those app stores.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to try to take on that challenge and see how it pans out.. but it will be tough for sure.

Anyway.. that is my $0.02 for where things are heading.  As an application developer, getting distribution scale is a challenge to make money. People are not used to paying for web-apps yet, although as they get better and have integrated off-line use, it will be an option.  I love applications, don’t get me wrong.  I just think it is a challenge for developers to pick a single platform to be successful.  Don’t spread yourself too thin.. it wont work.

One side note.. this is clearly a US focused post.. and not touching on Symbian, Samsungs new plans or even what Google is trying to do with “go”.  I am sure we will see more interesting things come up in the next 18-36 months.  OEMs, please reduce fragmentation.. don’t make it worse.

Compiled list of links from TwitterBook

Compiled list of links from TwitterBook

UPDATE:  This is a re-post since it was lost in migration.  Original date on this article was 2 May, 2009

This was initially a list ONLY out of Twitter book, as people suggest updates, I validate and add to the list, then I will place the update blow.  * means it is NOT in the book I was one of your typical people who did not “get” Twitter back in 2007 when I signed up . It took me a while but I got there.  Once #TwitterBook came out I was anxious to see what else I could learn.  It was a great read for showing value in what most see as a social toy at best. I had asked Sarah Milstein and Tim O’Reilly about a list of links from their book.  They had compiled a good set of tools for Twitter.   One did not exist, so I will start to compile their list here as well as add to it over time.. for now this is the URLs mentioned in #TwitterBookGeneral Links

Twitter Tools

Trends and Advanced Searching Tools

  • Twist – See and compare trends
  • WhatTheTrend – Find out what is trending on Twitter
  • TwitScoop – Tag cloud of current Twitter Trends
  • Twopular – Popular Trends
  • TweetGrid – Create a Twitter Dashboard
  • Monittor – Realtime live Twitter monitor

URL Shortners

  • 140it – One of the many URL Shortners
  • Bit.ly – Customize and track short URLs (What I use)
  • Is.gd – Another popular shortner
  • Twi.bz – hints at the underlying domain while shortening
  • tr.im – track URLS as well
  • TinyURL – One of the original URL Shorteners

Picture / Video Services

  • TwitPic – Post pics to Twitter
  • yFrog – Share pics from Twitter here too *
  • Twitvid – If you want to share videos *

Scheduling Services

Twitter Themes

Twitter Directories

Twitter Clients

Other

UPDATED June 12th Added yFrog and Twitvid per Dennis

Poorly thought out plans to rush and try to beat the competition

I am torn on the battle to get things to market vs. create good product.  As a product manager you are always working with engineering to make trade offs.  Can I get my product to market in time?  Can it make it at least in time for CTIA? No.. hmm, can we cut a couple of features?  No.. don’t worry.. no need to test that right now, we won’t demo that piece.  Seriously.. how many times have people either been a part of this.. or used a product that they can predict is a result of this exact way of life for us. Market timing is essential in most any case.  My concern for companies is really around two areas.  One is what Google does.  Keep everything in BETA, set expectations low yet deliver a fairly competent product.  (or great in some cases).  I am not saying I agree with perpetual beta.. but after a while crutches even start to rub you the wrong way.  The other area where I have concern is around rushing product to market to a “release” that is not solid.  In many cases you can get away with it, in most you cant. In a recent article about Smart Phones, Jim Balsillie was quoted saying that buggy phones are the “new reality“. (Another RIM Article Here) He not only admits that they got it a little wrong on their first touch screen, but most people get it wrong the first time around.  The issue with this in my view is two fold.  Mr. Balsillie was coming to market with his touch screen 1.5 years AFTER the killer touch screen came to market, and not only did it come late.. it had many issues with it.  Sure, Apple had some serious issues with the original version however they were competing with nobody in the market with this phone.  It stood alone.  RIM also had a problem with RIMs stellar reputation.  Sure it is good to have such a solid reputation with “enterprise class” devices, but it makes it impossible to hit the market with a flawed device without severely damaging the brand equity they had built up.

I came across this great chart showing RIMs market share in the corporate world of smartphones.  Sure.. the chart shows Apple passing Palm for market share, but look at the separation between RIM and Apple.  Significant yet starting on the closing trend.  Why give your strongest competitor another advantage by releasing a device that is NOT ready for prime time.  Sure.. I am coming down hard on RIM here but if I were in charge of the brand up there in Canada, I’d be worried about the next device.  Do you come to market 6 months earlier?  With Issues .. since your CEO already set the stage for you.. or do you refine it and release a knock down Apple iPhone enterprise killer to help keep your secure placement in the worlds of corporate IT gods. HTC, RIM, Microsoft, Samsung.. face it.  Apple did the right thing.  They drove a product through proper design and testing, they have fantastic people and you are NOT going to replace the iPhone.  Find your niche and focus there.  Do not lose sight of your core business… bad reputations are hard to repair.