A Pause Button for my Email

Almost every article on improving your productivity recommends focusing your email activity on specific periods instead of checking your email every 10 minutes (or more frequently). While this is a great idea it doesn’t really work for me.

Most of my data is stored in email and I need my previously received messages as a data source. I can’t close my email for hours as it contains a lot of the information I need to work with. Now, what happens typically is what we all know all to well: I’m trying to find this one message and get distracted by incoming email. Before I know it I forget what I was actuallly looking for and wonder off.

The solution: Every email application needs a big pause button that temporarily suspends fetching new email! Sure, a similar result can be achieved by decreasing your fetch frequency in your settings. I wonder if there is a difference in behavior though when you consciously hit pause vs. just decreasing the frequency. You’re basically declaring that you want to focus on a task. And there is no doubt that there are no new messages. In the latter case there is always some uncertainty which might lead you to check.

I’ve been toying around with this idea for a few weeks now. Then this week a change on the corporate Mail server broke my Mail setup and I stopped receiving emails. It did indeed increase my focus and therefore productivity for a while as it reduced distractions. However once I realized that I’m not receiving any messages at all I started investigating what was up and trying to solve the problem. I’m not sure if there was a net benefit in productivity in the end. However it was good to experience that the world didn’t end just because I didn’t reply to any messages in 4 hours.

Dear Mashable – slow down please!

Mashable is one of the most comprehensive blogs covering web startups and technology. It’s written by a group of authors and they’re on a roll. I can barely keep up reading the posts at the pace they publish. The sheer volume of posts has actually made me consider unsubscribing as a few other blogs cover similar topics (Read/WriteWeb, Valleywag, Techcrunch). The quality of the content has kept me subscribed so far. The posts are well written and contain critical analysis.

Interestingly enough I don’t know who’s behind Mashable. This might be mainly due to the fact that I’m reading it in a feed reader where the author is not displayed anywhere. It’s not hard to find out who’s writing it, I just never bothered. The blog itself is important not the individual contributors, similarly to a newspaper. Compare this to Seth Godin or Doc Searls where the person takes the center stage. Can you build your personal brand as a contributor to a group blog?

Back to the blogs mentioned above: I unsubscribed from Techcrunch a while ago. Too much hype, not enough analysis. Plus the arrogant writing style annoyed me. Valleywag has gotten pretty good in terms of analysis and seeing through the hype. Plus it’s funny from time to time. Staying subscribed. Read/WriteWeb is more narrowly focused on the web compared to Mashable. There is a pretty big overlap between the two though. I go from planning to unsubscribe from Read/WriteWeb (Mashable is covering the same topics and more) to planning to unsubscribe from Mashable (Read/WriteWeb covers the essential). It’s interesting to have two point of views and resulting analysis on the same topic though. Staying subscribed to both for the time being.

I stumbled over a draft post on my feed reading habits from about a year ago. My list of subscriptions has changed significantly since then. I’ve unsubscribed from various blogs that didn’t add value. Most of them are probably still around but I stopped reading them. I do consider a few still must reads though namely gapingvoid and Seth Godin. I find both inspiring.

Flash/Flex not fit for Rich Internet Applications?

For any product or service, I’m trying to use the Yahoo! version rather than a competitors product given that I work for Yahoo!. This includes Search btw. I had given up on Yahoo! Maps a while ago as the interface seemed to be getting in my way on a regular basis. They just converted from Flash to Ajax and the experience is so much better! It loads really fast too.

This is huge for Yahoo! Maps and I expect to see an increase in engagement and even unique users. Count me in!

But it’s also a major blow to Adobe in the battle between Ajax and Flash/Flex for Rich Internet Applications (RIA). Are there any widely used web apps out there that are still built in Flash? I guess there is Yahoo! Finance (when are they switching?). Google Finance is using Flash only for their charts and I think the difference between the two shows in the feel of the apps.

Kudos to the team! Keep up the great work. Google is still a bit ahead with their superior version of drag-your-route.

Wrapping up 2007

Reading my last post makes me laugh. After proclaiming to be back 9 months ago I’ve gone silent again. I’m giving it another shot. I realized that I’m spending a lot of time consuming and processing information without actually publishing – verbally or in written form – the outcome. A co-worker said a few months ago: Output, not input. This has stuck with me ever since and I’m trying to improve my input to output ratio.

The end of the year is always a time of reflection on the last 52 weeks, missed opportunities and what to do better next year. I think I’m typically too critical of my own achievements. 2007 has been an eventful year and I’m really happy with where I am. I’m always striving for more though and the slow pace of evolution sometimes causes dissatisfaction.

I’m enjoying the predictions for 2008 that surface on various blogs. And of course the analysis of last years predictions. It is a great way to do a review of what has happened. Often thought of as a silly game, predictions are in fact a result of deep reflection on the near to mid-term future and enable you to position yourself for success. Makes me think: I guess I’ll have to write up my own predictions.

Similarly New Year’s resolutions are a conscious analysis of your current situation and what you want to improve. Unfortunately the execution often breaks down. The act of coming up with resolutions is still worthwhile. I’ve decided to build my own Global Microbrand in 2008. It’s about being remarkable and such…

I just realized that I’ve been reading Hugh MacLeod and Seth Godin (see links above) since September 05 (or longer). Inspiring quality content kept me subscribed for so long. Rock on!

Have You Missed This?

I haven’t posted here in a while. Busy and stuff… You know how the story goes. And I was without Internet access at home for a while. Ah, good times!

Exciting personal news: I finally moved back to San Francisco – after over 2.5 years in Mountain View. Yeah! Trying to get my life back. Commute has been working out so far. And spring in SF is nice. A shame the snowboard season in Tahoe was so crappy this year. :(

A few thoughts that I meant to post in the last few weeks:

  • Visits instead of page views: What do you do when your page view metric becomes meaningless (due to Ajax) and you’re restricted by the data provided by your installed client app? Settle for less: comScore introduces visits. This metric is fairer but doesn’t provide enough information around engagement.
  • Inaccurate metrics: Valleywag’s summary of comScore’s problematic approach and how the numbers will never be accurate.
  • Attention: Compete tries Attention as an engagement metric (basically glorified time spent). Seth’s take on it: meaningless.
  • Firefox computer: The other day I was rambling again how the value of “MY” computer has gone down dramatically. I just need “A” computer. As long as it has a decent Internet connection I have access to all my important data. Most of what I do is somewhere online today (or moving there). Pretty much what Toni describes as The Firefox Computer.
  • Internet access at work: A friend of mine doesn’t have Internet access at work. It blows my mind how this is still possible in 2007! A computer without Internet connection has become useless to me (see bullet above). Then again I work for an Internet company. I guess trust in your employees is still not the norm.
  • Disabled comments: I just disabled comments on this blog (which doesn’t make it a blog anymore according to some). I got a ton of spam comments and basically no real comments. True, I could have installed Akismet and contributed to the 1 billion blocked spam comments. But I’m just tired of dealing with it. If you want to comment on one of my posts, do it on your blog!

I’m back!

Bloggers on the Move

While Scoble “had a wonderful day in Basel yesterday” (that’s where I’m from in Switzerland*) zefrank is hanging out in San Francisco (that’s where I’m right now*). He doesn’t let us know what he’s up to but his take on the Silicon Valley and SF are amusing.

And Overstated has started a discussion about neighborhood equivalents between SF and New York (where I’ll be next weekend).

Yes, I’m fully aware that my last post was 4 weeks ago and already about zefrank. What can I say? Busy and stuff…

Note to self: Write more interesting stuff again!

* At least close to it.

Video Blogger And Product Placement

zefrank’s take on product placement in his video blog. Hilarious! Note the subtle placement of transparent 3M scotch tape.

The fact that marketers are starting to look at video blogs (vlogs) is very interesting. Blogs (the written ones) and video blogs are usually focused on a given topic. And with a big enough audience, it suddenly becomes an interesting place to advertise. We’ll see a lot more of this in 2007.

How Many Readers Do I Need for Google AdSense?

I’ve been asking myself how many daily visitors I need to make it worthwhile to set up AdSense. Or put differently: What Google AdSense revenue can I expect with X daily readers? I haven’t found a satisfying answer until today. Copyblogger reveals in 5 Things You Won’t See on Copyblogger in 2007:

I gave AdSense a shot around here, and I think it sucks and cheapens my blog. It makes me about $200 a month (…)

Copyblogger is a well respected blog with a ton of readers. The FeedBurner counter shows over 8000 subscribers. Now, I have less than 10 readers a day. I guess I can relax and not worry about AdSense for a while…

How much can I make with 100 daily visitors? Probably still not enough. I guess less than $1 a day.

Update 1/5/07: Turns out that the FeedBurner metric might not be the most reliable

Conflicting Metrics Data – Again

I’ve written about the metrics companies quite a bit recently (see So ComScore Understands the Page View Problem? and Page Views Are Already Dead!. And comScore is getting a beating again. Today Techcrunch reports on new conflicting data between the two metrics companies Hitwise and comScore:

[Hitwise's] data is saying that this week, for the first time, Google Blogsearch surpassed Technorati in total visits.

(…) Comscore tells a much different story, and one that makes little sense given the facts.

As mentioned before, comScore skews towards “regular” consumers (rather than more advanced users/geeks). So Technorati has less geeky users? Hard to believe…

And Hitwise, what’s up with that 0.0023% vs. 0.0025% of total internet traffic? There must be a better way to represent these numbers! You know, one that looks less ridiculous.

Top 10 of 2006 – Yahoo! Ties Google

The ‘best of’ and ‘top 10 of’ 2006 are cropping up everywhere. And I like it! At least until I get tired of it. The Best of Copyblogger will become the reference for every aspiring blogger. And while reading I couldn’t resist keeping score (number of titles containing the given term):

  • Firefox: 2
  • Google: 2
  • Yahoo!: 2
  • Search: 1
  • Web 2.0: 1

Yahoo! ties Google and Firefox! And Ajax, YouTube and MySpace are nowhere to be found…

Performancing Selling Out?

Performancing has managed to position itself as a valuable resource for bloggers offering advice on their blog, a blogger Firefox extension, and even a blog advertisement network. Now Techcrunch reports that they’re selling out to PayPerPost, a service that has received plenty of negative press and comments from bloggers recently.

I stopped reading the Performancing blog a while ago as it was too focussed on pro-bloggers. Some advice seemed to be more concerned about making money then adding value for the reader. So is the sell out really that much of a surprise?

And one comment for TechCrunch: We all know that you get exclusives. But why do you have to rub it in with “They will be announcing … tomorrow”? Or am I overly sensitive?

Good luck to Performancing! You have a good reputation to lose.

Update 1/5/07: Looks like the deal is off: Metrics goes Open Source – PayPerPost Deal is Off

Let’s Get Rid of WWW.

While I was watching a friend typing a URL into a browser I realized that I never type the ‘www.’. Everyone has stopped typing ‘http://’ a long time ago (hopefully – stop now if you haven’t and start saving time). But I would guess that the majority is not omitting ‘www.’ yet. Now strangely enough since I realized this I keep getting stuck on sites that require the www!

So please always add a CNAME entry without the ‘www.’ to your full A name. Make is easy for your users to reach you. Thanks for making my life easier!

I guess I’m using the address bar as command line to a certain extent (F6 is my best friend). What are the search engines going to do when people stop using them for navigation?

Note: This is a DNS configuration only. No need to set up any redirects. And a client-side redirect is definitely not the right thing to do! Right comScore? Although I appreciate not getting a 404.

So ComScore Understands the Page View Problem?

None of the metrics companies have made a public statement about the controversy surrounding the page view (PV) metric yet. However Fred Wilson’s comment indicates for the first time that they understand the problem and are working on a solution. Fred’s blog A VC is well read and I had no clue that he’s on the board of comScore.

He also stresses the fact that PVs should not be confused with number of ads seen:

Ajax and other more modern web technologies allow for new ads to be displayed without a page reload. Ad views can grow even as page views decline.

And he brings up another point that I haven’t really considered yet. More and more pages are integrating widgets and third party content. How should those be measured? Who should get credit for the page view? In fact comScore is probably tracking this as a full PV of the target server today if the request is triggered client-side and the response has content-type text/html. See Comscore’s Google Numbers Are Too Low for some technical details.

He wraps up with a promise:

The bottom line is a page view isn’t a page view anymore. It’s a lot more and a lot less. And we are going to come up with new measurement terms in 2007 that recognize this fact.

Google’s Adam Cutts was also joining the discussion a few days ago with his post Page view metrics? Bah, humbug!. Thanks for defending Yahoo! btw:

I want to come to Yahoo’s defense about something. A recent spate of reports says that Yahoo has been surpassed by various companies in terms of page views. Why is that relatively bogus? Because of Yahoo’s switch to AJAX for its mail.

More: Page Views Are Already Dead!

Update 12/28/06: Two more links related to Ajax and PVs: AJAX Affects Page Views (on O’Reilly Radar) and MySpace Passes Yahoo In Page Views But Not Audience (on search engine land)

Update 2 12/28/06: Fred Wilson defended comScore back in late October 06 noting that he’s an investor and board member (I must have missed that). He also points to the bias due to the panel approach that I also mentioned in Comscore’s Google Numbers Are Too Low.

Update 3 12/28/06: If comScore understands that the PV metric is obsolete and has to be replaced with something more meaningful, why is it still making the headline and first paragraph in their press release? To their credit, they’re including a comment about Ajax (but only further down):

Further, Yahoo’s increased integration of AJAX technology may have had a dampening effect on page views, as the technology enables real-time site updates without the need to refresh a page.

Why Google Wins With Answers Move

Yahoo! Answers is celebrating the shutdown of Google Answers claiming victory.

Personally I like the fact that Google is brave enough to make this move. Looks like they read (and understood) the Peanut butter manifesto;)

And while lots of blogs are asking which Google product should be killed next, no one is doing the same for Yahoo!.

Keeping a product alive even without active development ties up resources. Getting rid of unsuccessful products or products that are not in line with the strategy makes these resources available for other projects and products.

Yahoo! announced a reorg yesterday that will lead to the sun-setting of some products and the reassignment of resources. Which products is not clear yet or at least hasn’t been communicated.

The great Seth nails it:

Ignore people like me who scream and yell about how much they love it and how much potential there is. Just kill it. That’s what fashion companies do.

This also applies to changes made to products. I’m not saying ignore the user. But a certain percentage of users will always complain because they refuse change. The grant vision for a product can be too big for some users to understand. Yahoo! TV‘s relaunch received a ton of negative feedback from existing users. But what if the audience doubles in the next 6 months? Some existing users will move on while new users will like the new format. Were the changes still wrong? I trust the product team and am convinced that they’ve put a lot of thought into the changes. Let’s check the user numbers again in a few months and see who was right…

Update 28/12/06: Greg Linden agrees:

Old products never die, but they should. To innovate, it is not enough to love creation. We must also love destruction.

Page Views Are Already Dead!

The Ajaxian is asking: Death of Page View Metrics? based on Steve Rubel’s prediction that the metric has four years to live.

The page view metric (PV) is already dead! Not everyone got the memo though…

Page Views (PVs) have never been a great metric (better than hits though). It is easy to architect a site to generate more PVs. Mike Davidson explains how MySpace is abusing this. And it’s also easy to game the system for example with a hidden iframe.

In fact, a higher number of PVs indicates low usability. If more PVs was better than there would be no Ajax! Remember how online maps used to work? High PV count. Compare this to how they work now with only one PV.

Steve Rubel mentions several Google products but I believe Yahoo! Mail* could actually spearhead the change. Take the largest email provider with its huge number of PVs and see the numbers drop as more and more users migrate to the beta. I believe this should be visible in the October/November numbers – see ComScore. We will see a declining number of PVs while the number of users is growing.

This is not the first time this topic comes up. evhead, Zawondy and others wrote about it before. I think the geeks understand the problem. However, it takes more time for advertisers, press and Wall Street to understand that the game has changed. I believe the transition will happen in two stages:

  1. Page view metric is declared dead after losing significance over time
  2. A new metric is introduced as unique users and time spent are not sufficient to measure engagement

It will be a slow transition to a better metric. I sure hope it’s not going to take four years though!

I’m surprised by the reaction (or lack thereof) of the metrics companies, mainly ComScore and NetRatings. Their entire business model is based on the page view metric (unique users and time spent are closely related). They’re only slowly starting to understand and acknowledge the problem.

The only usable metric today is unique users/visitors. But even that metric has to be taken with a grain of salt. (Don’t get me started on the accuracy of their current metrics…)

* Disclaimer: I work for Yahoo! Mail. The thoughts above are obviously mine.