Archive for June, 2009

Xobni Facebook Feeds – Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

I was pretty shocked to learn that Michael Jackson died yesterday. I was even more shocked by how I found out about it.

I was searching for Nicole’s email address in Outlook when I came across her status on my Xobni Facebook feed. There it was. avnet

R.I.P., MJ.

I check the news every day, multiple times a day and yet, increasingly, email and social networking sites are becoming an equally important source of information. This is true of pop-culture updates and also more “important news”. (Although, Michael Jackson’s death is certainly important news to me!)

News travels fast these days and we have greater access to more information. Social networking sites have made this true of personal information, as well.

As the line between one’s professional life and personal life becomes increasingly blurred, the personal lives of professional contacts might just become another source of “news”.

Perhaps we’re already moving towards a culture in which we expect people who we know professionally to be aware of what was previously considered personal information.

Cultivating information through Xobni’s Facebook feed, we can learn things that might benefit us professionally. Xobni creates a link between Outlook and Facebook. This can reveal important personal information about your contacts.

Perhaps there’s a client who you haven’t reached out to in a while. Viewing their Facebook status through Xobni you might learn that they just had a baby or went on a trip to Africa. You’ve just unveiled personal information that provides something to discuss other than work when you send that long overdue email or pick up the phone and give your client a ring.

Utilizing this Xobni feature is a valuable tool for professionals living in an age of online social networking. And, if your professional contacts happen to keep tabs on celebrity gossip, their Facebook feeds might also provide a nice break during a hectic day.

Hidden Patterns – Enron Email Predicted Collapse

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Remember Enron?

Scientists recently gleaned valuable information from emails sent by its employees in the 18 months prior to the company’s collapse. NewScientist reported that two researchers at the Florida Institute of Technology assessed 517,000 emails sent to approximately 15,000 employees at the now defunct energy company.

The study, which did not look at the content of emails, only the numbers sent and the patterns of senders and recipients, showed that the most significant changes in employee’s behavior occurred one month prior to the company’s collapse.

The data showed that “email cliques”, a group in which every member has had direct email access with another member, jumped from 100 to almost 800 around November 1, 2001, one month prior to the company’s fall. This suggests that in stressful times, people talk more with people who they feel more comfortable with, and less with people who they don’t.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made Enron’s emails public in 2003, when it was conducting an investigation of the company. Such a large sample of emails had previously never been available due to privacy concerns and regulation. This provided scientists a unique opportunity.

This is not the first time that researchers looked to Enron for clues on email patterns and employee behavior.

Back in 2005, Gina Kolata of the New York Times reported on similar studies conducted by computer scientists at universities in the United States and Canada.

These studies used Enron emails to test theories on how email communication reflects group dynamics and hidden social structures within an organization. A scientist at Carnegie Mellon University offers that email communication can reveal informal organizations within a company that may underlie “unofficial” power structures that exist outside of the defined corporate hierarchy, similar to the “cliques” theory mentioned above.

It all sounds a bit like high school.

CNET News, in 2003, reported on a study by two scientists at Hewlett-Packard using emails from within that organization. They too discovered that there were informal communities within organizations that came about when people needed to communicate across departments or work together on projects.

Such studies suggest interesting patterns in leadership and power that are not necessarily defined by an organization. Identifying these leaders and organizations might be useful in improving communication and productivity. Or, it might signify shifts in stability or stress, such as in the case of Enron.

It is interesting to think about how human social patterns factor into the workplace and transfer to electronic communication. Shifts in employee interaction-including electronic interaction-can signify very important things.

Future email studies will most likely be few and far between, considering privacy regulations. However, companies might encourage their employees to assess their email patterns using analytics tools, which are built into software such as Xobni, to reveal the “cliques” that they are a part of.

Then, the company can elect a prom king.

Jake Hoban (project manager, Western ECI) – One User Per Week

I had the chance to talk to another great Xobni user recently – Jake Hoban. Jake is a project manager at Western ECI, a land development company, specializing in civil engineering.

jake

Jake discovered Xobni on Lifehacker.com and has been using Xobni for at least one year. Western ECI is a small company of only 10 employees, and 2 or 3 of their employees are using Xobni. Jake is a big fan of Xobni because he manages many small projects and deals with many different clients. Xobni makes his job easier.

Jake told me he gets between 20-60 emails each day. 50% of his email comes from people within his company and 50% are with people outside his company. I thought he’d tell me Xobni was more helpful managing external communications, but he said it honestly helped him a ton with both categories.

When Jake and I really got deep into the conversation, he admitted to me why he really likes Xobni. He told me that his company has a filing system for organizing emails into Outlook folders – but Jake gets lazy about staying on top of foldering all the email he gets. He is even worse about filing sent emails, which are often just as important. He said Xobni gives him all the benefits of being organized without having to work as hard. I admitted that is exactly what I love about Xobni, and is much of the reason we created it.

Jake also told me another cool anecdote. He said he sometimes uses Xobni for silly, non-important things, like looking up the picture of someone he’s never met before, but has exchanged tons of email. With one click he can pull up their LinkedIn profile or Facebook profile and learn all about them. For him it isn’t necessarily something that is important to his job, but he finds it fun. If Xobni can make email more fun for Jake, that makes me happy. That is why we have t-shirts that say “love email again.” It used to be fun to hear that AOL “you’ve got mail” notification. Then email become overwhelming and wasn’t cool anymore. We like to think Xobni can make email cool again. I know Jake feels we have.

Jake wasn’t all praises. He had his list of feature requests like all Xobni users seem to have. He wanted to do more powerful things with the contacts list Xobni creates. He wanted to be able to easily share contact information across his company and he wanted to see more advanced options in our search feature. Jake had a lot of good ideas, and he will be happy to know that a lot of what he wants will be coming to Xobni users soon.

We really like talking to our users. If you have 30 minutes to spare in your busy day, I’d like to talk to you about how you use Xobni for your job. I’ll write about our conversation here on the Xobni blog and we’ll send you a few Xobni tshirts to share with your co-workers. Submit a comment to our blog if you’d like to participate.

One User Per Week – Michelle Deo

I had a great call with Xobni user Michelle Deo today. Michelle is a professional organizer from Georgetown, Kentucky. As you can expect, a professional organizer would be pretty excited about Xobni.

As a professional organizer, Michelle helps families and companies organize the processes by which they run their lives and their businesses. This ranges from new organizing systems for their closets at home to filing systems and work-flow management systems for the office. You can read about Michelle’s business on her website RealNeat.com
photo_michelle

While Michelle focuses on organizing people’s physical information, she uses xobni to organize her digital information.

Michelle gets a lot of personal and business email and loves that Xobni organizes her inbox around people. She enjoys the automatic contact information extraction, the photos of her contacts, and having all of the conversations and attachments from a contact in one place. Michelle has been using Xobni for 6 months, and regrets not finding it earlier!

I asked Michelle about a couple unique ways she uses Xobni. She had some pretty cool examples to share. Here are a few:

Michelle is a leader of a mothers’ group in Kentucky. The mothers’ group shares information about all things related to being a mom: what schools to send kids to, where to get clothes for the kids, recommendations on music teachers, etc Michelle said these interactions always happen through email, because when you are a busy mom with kids crying in the background, the phone just doesn’t cut it. Michelle likes that Xobni organizes all of the conversations and contacts she has from her mothers’ group, making it really easy to find exactly what she needs.

Another cool example of how Michelle uses Xobni came from her experience after the National Professional Organizers Conference. Just like we’ve all experienced after returning from a conference, Michelle got inundated with emails from new contacts after the event. Michelle told me she isn’t great at remembering people’s names, however, she never forgets a face. She used Xobni to manage all of her incoming email from the conference. Xobni put a face to every name. She would remember “oh yeah, Jim, I recognize him, I talked to him at the happy hour on Thursday”, “Carrie, right, she was the speaker on day two.” Without Xobni, and the pictures Xobni pulls from LinkedIn and Facebook, Michelle never would have known how she met each person that emailed her.

I really enjoyed speaking with Michelle. It was great to hear how a mother/small business owner/professional organizer uses Xobni. Michelle has told so many people about Xobni, if she wasn’t running her own business we’d hire her to work on our marketing team!

Google now realizes Outlook is here to stay. Xobni welcomes you.

Here at Xobni, we’ve been saying it for a long time: Outlook is the biggest email client in the world both in terms of engagement and total users. In terms of engagement it has more time in front of a user than any other application (including the web browser) on a business user’s machine. We also realized that while Outlook is huge and entrenched there are some big gaps in what it does and what people would like it to do. Enter Xobni.

We have spent the last 3 years taming Outlook and bringing lightning fast search and people-centric information organization to our users. This is something our users know, but is particularly interesting today in light of the announcement from Google where they announced support of Outlook with Google Apps. What does this mean? It means any Google Apps premium user can now use Outlook to read and write their email. This also means Google Apps users can now use Xobni with their Outlook.

Now Google Apps users can take advantage of these great Xobni features:

• Lightning Fast Search
• Email conversation threading
• Pictures, status, and profile information from Facebook, Linkedin & Hoovers
• Automatic phone number extraction
• Attachment management
• Powerful email analytics
• And more…

We spent the afternoon testing Xobni with the new Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook and we are compatible. Now all of those Google Apps users out there that wanted to use Xobni, but couldn’t because their environment didn’t support Outlook, can now give Xobni a try. Welcome aboard!

Download Xobni for Free here

More details about Xobni for the BlackBerry

A few weeks ago at RIM’s Wireless Enterprise Symposium, we confirmed our plans to make a mobile version of Xobni available later this summer. We appreciate the feedback & excitement from everyone and we’re looking forward to getting it into your hands (literally).

This morning, during Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz’s keynote address at JavaOne, Alan Brenner (RIM’s SVP of BlackBerry Platforms) showed off Xobni for the BlackBerry. Alan highlighted how this will not be just another stand-alone application on your BlackBerry; Xobni Mobile will be deeply integrated into your mobile experience.  For example, you will be able utilize the power of Xobni’s comprehensive people search directly from the completely familiar BlackBerry “Compose Email” screen.

Jonathan Schwartz and Alan Brenner show Xobni

Jonathan Schwartz and Alan Brenner on stage at JavaONE with Xobni Mobile

Why do you need another addressbook?  We have all been on the go, away from the office, desperate to email someone that we know we have been in touch with in the past.  Today you might be stuck fruitlessly hunting for their details (or calling a coworker to look up the information).  With Xobni Mobile, just start a new email message as you normally would, then select the Xobni bar and type in the first letter(s) of their first name, last name, or company name.  Instantly you’ll see results from everyone who has ever emailed you, ranked by importance to you (with profile photos & job titles too!).  Just select the desired person and their email address will be placed into the To/Cc/Bcc field of your choice.

Because Xobni scans all of your emails for contact information, Xobni’s people search often contains 10-30 times the number of contacts that are in a typical Contacts list, and requires no work to maintain.

More details will come further down the road, but we wanted to let you – our beloved Xobni users – know about the latest in our efforts to allow you to take Xobni with you everywhere, saving you precious time when it really counts.  For more updates, please sign up to be notified when Xobni mobile is available here.


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About Xobni

Xobni’s contact management products offer lightning fast email search and organization of your inbox, as well as an innovative and comprehensive address book for the mobile device.

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