Archive for August, 2009

Zen and the Art of Inbox Maintenance

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Email can lead to fits of unholy rage.

Everyone has a torrent of email to parse through and sometimes it feels impossible to keep up.

The method for dealing with this headache is unique to each email user. For the 30 people in your office, there might be 30 different ways that people organize (or don’t organize) their email inbox.

I see inbox organization as akin to how clean people keep their desks. For instance, I can tolerate a certain level of clutter, but I reach a breaking point when I simply have to clean my desk or I will become overwhelmed and perhaps even a little disgusted with myself.

By contrast, I have worked with absolute neat freaks, who always filed papers in drawers, aligned their stapler and mouse pad and never left a stray pencil on their desk. And then there was the guy in the back corner who sat at a workstation teetering on the brink of disaster; piles of papers, books and discarded snacks stacked so high that I feared for his well-being.

A days worth of Googling reveals that email users can be bucketed into three general types. Of course, these three “types” form a spectrum and people can fall anywhere on the line. You might not see yourself as staying completely true to any one of these “types”, but instead feel like you are somewhere in between.

To File or Not to File: A Profile of Three Emailers12065642501242564915sarxos_closed_simple_yellow_foldersvgmed11

The Zealot: They use folders and labels religiously. An endless list of folders lines the left side of their inbox. Sometimes there are folders within folders. The Zealot often uses color codes, flags and stars to create a sense of order. These people are generally very organized in other aspects of their lives and find meaning in religiously filing emails by category, project, administrative task or client.
 
The Monk: The Monk uses only three folders. That’s it. The goal is an “empty” inbox, which provides the Monk a sense of calm. Inbox Nirvana. This method is popular and it pops up quite often on blogs, productivity websites, etc. I’ve seen it referred to as, “The Trusted Trio”, by Gina Trapani on lifehacker.com. The Trusted Trio is: A Follow-Up or To-Do Folder; an Archive Folder; and a Hold Folder. Trapani suggests that users should either respond to an email in under two minutes or, if it requires a lengthier response, place it in the Follow-Up folder to tend to later. All the emails that you might need to reference in the future are placed in the Archive Folder. Finally, the Hold Folder is for those emails that you might need in the next couple of days, such as correspondence on your upcoming meeting or the invitation to a dinner that you’ll attend in two days.

There are several variations on this method, but the general concept remains the same.

The Non-Believer: And, then there are those who do nothing. The way they organize their inbox is by not organizing it. They simply go through their emails, delete, respond, or mark as unread in order to respond at a later time. This person often keeps an archive of prior years. The Non-Believer relies on search tools to retrieve information and relevant emails. As recently as a couple of years ago, the Non-Believer got a bad rap. Their method was viewed as lazy, disorganized, even negligent. All this has changed. The advent of new technology (such as Xobni), allows the Non-Believers to more easily justify their existence. They posit, “Why waste time filing and organizing, when Xobni can find whatever information I need in seconds?”

I would argue that the Non-Believer raises an excellent point.

Email Addiction Survey

Business email is part of everyone’s life these days. We wanted to dig deeper into this phenomenon and learn a bit more about how people are using email. The findings we found from AOL were interesting, so we decided to share them with you (most recent data was from 2008). Enjoy!

According to AOL’s Fourth Annual Email Addiction Survey reported in 2008:

  • 46% of email users said they’re hooked on email (up from 15% the previous year).
  • 51% check their email four or more times a day (up from 45% the previous year).
  • 24% of email users don’t use a salutation.
  • 74% said they excuse errors when emails are sent from a mobile device like a BlackBerry or iPhone.
  • 62% of at-work email users said they check their work email over a typical weekend.
  • 19% check email five or more times in a weekend.
  • 28% said they feel obligated to check work email while on vacation, and 19% choose vacation spots with email access.

Percentage of people checking email from the following places:

  • In bed in their pajamas: 67%
  • From the bathroom: 59%
  • While driving: 50%
  • In a bar or club: 39%
  • In a business meeting: 38%
  • During happy hour: 34%
  • While on a date: 25%
  • From church: 15%

And, finally, the most email addicted cities are:

1.   New York
2.   Houston
3.   Chicago
4.   Detroit
5.   San Francisco
6.   Sacramento
7.   Orlando
8.   Minneapolis-St. Paul
9.   Denver
10. Phoenix

Free minor update available for Xobni and Xobni Plus (1.8.3 build 8135)

Xobni 1.8 Updated

Thank you for making the latest version of Xobni and Xobni Plus a huge success.  We’ve been listening closely to your feedback via the Xobni Community on Get Satisfaction and Xobni Support. Today an update is available that fixes a handful of issues reported by our loyal and extremely helpful users.

Xobni 1.8.3 build 8135 is a minor update and is available now at http://www.xobni.com/download.

Changes between this release and the original Xobni 1.8 release:

Search Improvements

  • Accented and international characters can now be found via search  (thanks to our community for reporting this).
  • Search now correctly finds phrases with upper-case characters
  • New icon for emails in search results that were sent by you ( sent mail vs received icon)
  • Dashes in attachment names show up more reliably in search results
  • Journal entries no longer appearing as half-indexed mail items; removed completely

AutoSuggest Improvements (AutoSuggest is a Xobni Plus feature)

  • AutoSuggest has been greatly improved all around, especially with regards to filling in the proper name/email when a name is selected for some Exchange configurations
  • Deletion of Outlook’ email suggestions in AutoSuggest is now possible (just use the “delete” key after using the down arrow to select the Outlook suggestion you’d like to delete).

Contacts Improvements

  • Outlook Contacts’ names are used in the Xobni profile more reliably
  • If there are two phone numbers in Outlook Contacts, both show up in Xobni (instead of just one)

Other Improvements

  • Xobni displays better with various DPI monitor settings
  • People with IMAP-only Outlook configurations will not see “locked” messages as often when using the free version of Xobni (reported in the Xobni Community)
  • The “heavy” email indexing process is smarter about waiting until you are not using your computer to begin
  • Certain key commands for other programs now re-enabled and not blocked by Xobni
  • Improved Xobni Plus account access and activation from the Options menu
  • Assorted performance improvements and minor bug fixes

After you download, you will be prompted to close Outlook and the new Xobni version will be installed.  If you’re already using Xobni 1.8, no new mail indexing will be required.  All of your data (merges, contact information entries) will be maintained, no matter what version you are using currently.

If you have already purchased Xobni Plus, this download will simply update your software and you will not need to sign in again and no extra fee is required.

Existing users will not be automatically updated to this build, as we are working on even more fixes for an “auto-update” release in the near future.

Thanks again for your feedback and thank you for using Xobni!

Information Overload

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As difficult as it is to remember what my personal life was like before the Internet and cell phone, I really have no idea how businesses operated prior to the Digital Age.

In today’s workplace, technology is essential to productivity.

It also provides a lot of distractions.

According to business research company Basex, distractions at the workplace are costing the United States $900 billion per year. An article in the New York Times discusses the loss of productivity due to too many emails, cell phone calls and text messages. The article sites a Basex study which found that 28% of a typical information worker’s day is spent on interruptions by things that aren’t important-such as unnecessary emails-and the time it takes to get back on track.

Workers have a lot to deal with these days. RescueTime, a company that analyzes computer habits, found that the typical information worker who sits at a computer all day turns to his e-mail program more than 50 times and uses instant messaging 77 times. This is in addition to visiting 40 websites each day.

With so much going on in our workspace, how are we expected to remain focused and productive? And, it’s only going to get worse. According to the Radicati Group, a technology market research firm, estimated worldwide email traffic will rise from 294 billion per day in 2010 to 419 billion per day in 2012.

Tech companies recognize the problem. In 2008, Microsoft, Intel, Google and I.B.M. formed the Information Overload Research Group, a nonprofit organization. The group studies and drives awareness towards the topic of information overload.

Ideally, technology can be used to combat overload. Tools such as Xobni organize information to make it a little less overwhelming.

A more simple piece of technology is Gmail Labs’ “Email Addict,” which allows users to take a break from email and chat for 15 minutes by blocking the user’s screen. A message pops up that reads, “Take a walk, get some real work done, or have a snack. We’ll be back in 15 minutes!”

A 15-minute reprieve from information overload certainly isn’t going to solve all of your problems, but it might just provide a nice break. And, don’t forget, you can always use the OFF button.

In Good Company…Xobni Wins a “Basey”

It’s always a great feeling when your work is recognized, and surpassing 2 million downloads definitely gives us the warm & fuzzies. To stoke the fire even more, today at the first-ever Information Overload Awareness Day, Xobni received a Basex Excellence Award (aka the “Basey” award).

We received this recognition from Basex for providing leading service that is allowing people to be more productive by improving inbox management and reducing information and relationship overload. As Jonathan Spira, Basex CEO and chief analyst, shared last month, “tools such as Xobni have the potential to increase an individual’s efficiency and effectiveness by organizing information in a more natural manner.”

Basex Excellence Awards are given to leaders in the information technology world. The award recognizes companies who have made noteworthy contributions to the industry through outstanding products and service offerings. We’re thrilled that Xobni has been recognized and joins some good company as a Basey award winner (other recipients include Microsoft, IBM, Open Text, Xerox, among others).

For those of you wondering what’s next for Xobni, we’ll soon be announcing the availability of Xobni for BlackBerry (more details here ). And of course we’re going to continue to improve upon the current versions of Xobni. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Xobni Plus, there is a free 14-day trial (no credit card information required). Here is a video that demonstrates many of the new powerful search features that are included: http://www.xobni.com/press/videos

Xobni Presenting at Information Overload Awareness Day (10 free tickets!)

Tomorrow at 11am EST (8am PST) the inaugural Information Overload Awareness Day event will be taking place. This event is hosted by research firm Basex and Xobni is being featured as a visionary vendor. This is an online event that will be attended by over 500 people interested in identifying and solving the problem of information overload in the workplace. Xobni co-founder Matt Brezina will be speaking at 2.15pm EST (11.15pm PST) as part of the visionary vendors panel and will be discussing how Xobni combats the challenges of information and relationship overload.

Free Passes
Basex has provided us 10 free passes ($50 value each) for us to share with our users. Simply use the code ‘MattGuest’ when registering for the event. You can register for the event here: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/379835097 These 10 free passes will be provided on a first come, first serve basis.

If you are interested learning more about this event and the problem of information overload please visit the Information Overload Awareness Day website here. The full agenda, including speakers from companies like Microsoft, Xerox, Dow Jones and of course Xobni can be found here.

James Brown (Sales) – One User Per Week

I keep on meeting cool people doing these One User Per Week interviews. James was no exception.

First, James lives in the UK. Xobni has a lot of international users, with the UK holding first place outside the USA. After I managed to add some more Skype credit to my Skype iPhone app, I was able to call over to England and have a nice chat with James.

jamesbrown
James does sales for a large media company. He specifically sells into the British Government. He described his job as “pretty basic sales, lots of contacts, lots of emails, and lots of relationships to manage.”

The Ideal Xobni User

James sounds like an ideal Xobni user – and it ends up he is more than just that. James is the Xobni Champion within his company. He was the first to discover Xobni and now he has over 40 people in his 80 person office hooked on Xobni. The one bad thing is that all of his coworkers act as if he works for Xobni. He hears all of their feature requests and bug reports. As a company, we can’t thank people like James enough for what they’ve helped us do.

Compliments, Bugs, and Feature Requests

Just like most user calls, James had both compliments, a few bugs, and lots of feature requests. James had one compliment that I made sure to write down word for word, he said “Xobni opened up my archive of email, I can easily reach back and pluck and email from 2 years ago.” When asked, James admits to having over 40,000 emails in his inbox. He has accumulated those emails over 4 years, and if he doesn’t have to file or delete emails, he doesn’t. With Xobni he doesn’t have to. James described his historical emails as his greatest asset within his job, and Xobni makes that asset accessible.

James did have some requests: he wants to delete whole profiles from Xobni – some people he just simply doesn’t need to communicate with ever again, and he’d rather them just not show up in search results. James also found it hard to reset a Facebook profile for a contact after he had already selected wrong Facebook profile for a contact. Xobni allows this, but we need to make it more obvious.

A Great Efficiency Tip From James

James gave me a good tip that I could share with other Xobni emailers out there. He said that Xobni’s fast search and conversation view has changed his behavior. He now writes emails to himself, and uses the subject line of the email to “tag” the email with relevant keywords. This way he can always go back and find an old note by looking at his own Xobni profile and filtering the subject lines in the conversation view. Nice tip!

Sharing The Xobni Love

Finally, James told me of one other common instance when Xobni shines. James will be on a call with a customer, and they’ll be discussing some previous conversation or contract. James can hear the customer typing away on their keyboard – looking through folders in Outlook, attempting to use Outlook’s prehistoric search function, and scrolling through months of email. James is calm and collected on the other side of the phone line – armed with Xobni. He simply says “I have that conversation right here – would you like me to resend it to you?” And more often than he can count he also offers another helpful suggestion “If you haven’t heard of Xobni for Outlook, you should download it. Xobni is the word “inbox” spelled backwards, and it will make your job much easier.”


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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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