Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wired: The Great American Timesuck

Xobni is mentioned in this month's print edition of Wired Magazine.

Clive Thompson writes:
"[...] I've been using a new software app called Xobni to manage my horribly overstuffed inbox. Among other cool tricks, Xobni spots hidden patterns in your email usage. [...] This is incredibly useful knowledge."

This is one of my favorite pieces of Xobni coverage so far: When I was a teenager, I used to read every single issue of Wired cover to cover. It was the magazine from the future.

An online version of the article is here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Book Review: Send

Send is a refreshing book. In email research and email software startups, we spend our time coming up with better ways of displaying and organizing email. In this book, David Shipley, Op-Ed page editor of the New York Times and Will Schwalbe, a journalist and editor, discuss the other part of the equation: The humans behind those messages.

Send shines the light on emotions and motives: The emails that are sent to create the impression of progress. The passive-aggressive messages you send when you feel like you’ve been wronged and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

At parts, the book reads like "Email for Dummies", but there are some highlights: I shiver when people send me subject lines like "Quick question" and "Great News", when they should have written "Release date for next version?" and "Expenses approved". This is the book you want to hand out to the guilty.

I'm already wondering about how to put this into a product: Could we make software that orders people to rewrite the email in a more effective manner? It could pop up "Your subject line sucks" and make you rewrite it before you send. Could we find out the mood someone was in when sending a message and display it alongside the email? Food for thought.

Disclosure: I didn't buy this book - I found it in my snail mail one day, and I can only guess that the authors sent it to me. Keep'em coming - this is a good way to get your ideas read by the email community.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Email Sins" on NPR

NPRThis morning, National Public Radio ran a story about how people are feeling crushed by the volume of email they receive. In the story, NPR's Yuki Noguchi interviews Joel Cherkis of Microsoft, John Kremer of Yahoo, and me. I chat about how new ways of looking at email, such as Xobni's people-centric view, can help us tame the email flood.

NPR: E-Mail Sins, Horror Stories and Strategies - "Make It Stop! Crushed by Too Many E-Mails"

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Business Book Diff Tool

I’ve been reading a lot of business books lately to brush up on my management skills. There's a lot of overlap: Most of them devote page after page to the basics. But at the heart of every good business book is a gem: A collection of insights with real value. The take away.

I'm wondering if someone could build a business book diff tool: You feed it a list of all the business books you've read so far, and give it the book you're currently reading. It runs fancy natural language processing algorithms - a text similarity matcher, and a summarizer. It generates a summary of the contents of this book that you haven't read elsewhere, and gives you the pages and chapters you should actually read.

Amazon and Google have the input data for this, since they've scanned and OCRed millions of books. Building the magic NLP algorithms is a different story. Has anyone done something like this?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Profiting from high gas prices

With gas at almost $5 a gallon, Americans are driving less. The Federal Highway Administration said U.S. drivers traveled 11 billion fewer miles in March 2008 than in March 2007, a decrease of 4.3 percent!

People are driving less, and they're driving slower to increase gas mileage. Miles driven are probably linearly correlated to the number of accidents. Insurers are not going to drop premiums and few drivers will think about reducing the miles per year they're insured for. Thus, car insurance companies are probably making a bundle. Is this the time to snap up some stock?