Tuesday, December 25, 2007


I'm in Switzerland for the Holidays. To combat my jet lag, I decided to spend the day outside (9 hours of time difference == you want to wake up at 6 pm and go to bed at 9 am). What better way to spend the day outside than to go snowboarding with my bro?

We went on the Rinderberg in the Gstaad ski region. After 4 days of snowboarding (spread across 3 countries and 5 years), I seem to finally have gotten a hang of it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Xobni Preferred and the Holiday Homepage

A little more than a week ago, we started sending out hundreds of invites every day to people who had signed up for the Beta on our page some time ago.

Xobni outlook add-in for your inboxBut what if you didn't sign up and want to get the Xobni Beta now? If you want to help promote Xobni, you can sign up for Xobni Preferred and you'll get an invite within a day.

In other news, I love our new homepage! It's so beatiful, doesn't feature cliche girl with headset, and mentions "reindeer-fast search", Xobni's most popular feature.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Faster chips? Or better software?

Craig Mundie, Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer in today's New York Times article "Faster Chips are Leaving Programmers in their Dust":

In the future, Mr. Mundie said, parallel software will take on tasks that make the computer increasingly act as an intelligent personal assistant.

“My machine overnight could process my in-box, analyze which ones were probably the most important, but it could go a step further,” he said. “It could interpret some of them, it could look at whether I’ve ever corresponded with these people, it could determine the semantic context, it could draft three possible replies. And when I came in in the morning, it would say, hey, I looked at these messages, these are the ones you probably care about, you probably want to do this for these guys, and just click yes and I’ll finish the appointment.”

We have the processing power to do this today, and do it on-the-fly, not overnight. What we need is better email software, not faster chips.

Processing power will clearly remain a problem for some time to come, but Mundie's example is one where the problem lies with building those "smart assistants", not adding chip horsepower.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Xobnis Love Diet Dr. Pepper

Tuesday morning:

Wednesday morning:

Is this just a fad or a trend?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Lots of famous entrepreneurs and scientists are known for almost blindingly tough feedback. "This is the stupidest idea I've ever heard," they say. One well-known Internet leader is known for canceling products just before launch because "sorting my socks by color is more important than releasing this." How arrogant.

I'm starting to wonder whether this is actually learned behavior.

First, they learned that smart people love honest feedback. Smart people want to improve; When faced with criticism, they work hard to make it right. Delivering feedback in a needlessly hard-hitting way makes them work even harder, thus producing better results. Which in turns makes our fearless leader more successful. And more arrogant.

Just my random thought of the day.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Pirate Lab

Ryan writes on the Xobni blog:

One morning after some deep meditation, the Xobni team woke up and realized that not everyone uses Xobni on the same Dell Inspirons and IBM ThinkPads that we all use. Matt’s head almost exploded from this realization. True story.

We knew that testing had to be done on the machines our users were actually using. This involves more than simply doing testing on virtual machines, which we have used since day 1. Instead we needed computers that have all the pre-configured bloatware, special packs of Microsoft Office, extra restore partitions, and all of the rest of that great stuff that slows down your computer to a crawl.

They also got an EZ-Bake oven. I'm confident that it, too, will improve Xobni's software quality on exotic configurations.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Definition of Inbox 2.0

A friend recently asked me to explain the buzzword "Inbox 2.0" he'd heard about. Here's the definition:

Inbox 2.0 == Using data in email archives to infer people's profiles, behaviors, social graph, and importance, and making this information visible in your email client.

Let's pick this definition apart:
  1. "Using data in your email archives": There are mountains of hidden data in your email archives, whether locally on your machine or on the server. Inbox 2.0 takes your gigabytes of past email, generates statistics, and applies machine learning and natural language processing techniques to find useful conclusions.

  2. "people's profiles": The information in your email paints an accurate picture of your contacts. You can extract their address, phone numbers, their job title, and interests.

  3. "behaviors": Your contacts' email stream allows Inbox 2.0 software to infer what time of day they're usually online, when it's best to send them email, and how soon to expect a reply.

  4. "social graph": It's easy to extract your social network and social graph by looking at who's Cc'ed on emails, who's mentioned, and how often they're included in conversations.

  5. "importance": More important contacts get more of their emails answered faster, and are mentioned in emails to other more often. Their social graph includes other important people.

  6. "and making this information visible in your email client": Users want this information as they're triaging and writing email, not as a standalone application. While the data can come from anywhere – local email archives or your trusty Exchange server - integration into the email client is key, whether it's a desktop client like Outlook, Entourage, Apple Mail, or Thunderbird, or a webmail client like Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, or Gmail.
The term Inbox 2.0 was originally defined in a New York Times article by Yahoo SVP Brad Garlinghouse, and has been discussed by Om Malik, Don Dodge, Deva Hazarika, and Kevin Delaney at the Wall Street Journal.


More posts on email:Also, academic email research is discussed in my thesis: Organizing Email. Happy emailing!