Archive for March, 2010

One User Per Week–Revived!, featuring Mason Carpenter

Last year we began a blog series called “One User Per Week” in which Xobni users graciously allowed our co-founder Matt to pick their brains about their relationship with Xobni, including how they found out about us, the capacity in which they use our products, their favorite Xobni tips and tricks, and the top feature requests they have for us.  We had some great conversations and learned a ton from our users, but then got a little distracted*, and One User Per Week went on hiatus.

Well, today, I am pleased to announce: hiatus ended.  The One User Per Week blog series is being revived—and version 2.0 will include such enhanced features as a consistent schedule, posts addressing new Xobni products in addition to our Outlook sidebar, and a new author (err, that’s a feature alteration, rather than an enhancement 🙂 ).  I’m excited to take over the reins and get an in-depth understanding of how individuals make use of Xobni.  And so, without further adieu, let’s jump right into One User Per Week: The New Class.

mcarpenter

Mason Carpenter, Professor at Univ. of Wisconsin School of Business

My phone call last week with Mason Carpenter, Professor of Management and Human Resources at the University of Wisconsin School of Business, was a great jump-restart to One User Per Week.  We’ve never featured someone who works in higher education before, so I was eager to hear about how Xobni is getting put to use in a university setting, and Mason is an engaged Xobni evangelist, so it was great to hear about how he’s been spreading the word about Xobni, as well as how he sees it fitting in as a tool in the online social networking landscape.

The hunt for the “Ultimate Aggregator”

Mason is very interested in social networking and in particular, tools that incorporate social media into business.  He has a bold dream that one day he’ll encounter the “Ultimate Aggregator”, in which all of the information he is looking for about an individual is just there.  That dream is something that our company and Mason have in common, so it was pretty wonderful to hear him say that currently Xobni “is the closest thing I have to one-stop shopping.”  We’re working hard on becoming the Ultimate Address Book, so that “the closest thing I have to” will be omitted in future utterances of that statement.

Attachment magic: “It’s just there.”

The volume of email Mason manages working at an educational institution (over 100 non-junk email messages daily) qualifies him for the dually elite and painful categorization we refer to as Email Power User.  So while he initially was attracted to our Outlook sidebar, which he heard about through a friend at McKinsey & Co., for its social media integration, he has found Xobni’s search capabilities invaluable for hunting through his historical email.  He noted that he has become especially dependent on Xobni’s ability to find attachments: Mason, like most Outlook users, used to take for granted that finding an old attachment exchanged with a contact would be a pain.  With Xobni, he reported, “it’s just there.”  Again, that’s exactly our goal—you shouldn’t have to think about the right syntax to construct your search to get the information you need, it should just be there.

For recruiters, Xobni profile = instant snapshot of a candidate’s web presence

When I spoke with him, Mason was looking forward to a talk he’s giving in April to 100+ HR professionals who work in MBA recruiting.  He was excited about the prospect of sharing Xobni with this group, since, in addition to the major productivity boost Xobni provides its users in general, its social network integration makes Xobni specifically valuable for recruiters, in that it can instantly get them a snapshot of a candidate’s web presence.  By now, most of us know that recruiters often evaluate candidates’ online footprints to weed through the tremendous volume of applicants they encounter daily, and Mason confirmed for me that a basic Google search** is one of the top tools for this group of professionals.

One trouble with getting info about a candidate this way is that sorting through the search results to find ones that pertain to the specific person you’re looking for (particularly in the case of more common names) can wind up being a pretty time-consuming task.  Spending 5 minutes to enter a candidate’s name into a search engine (and maybe Facebook, LinkedIn, & Twitter) manually and then comb through to find relevant results might not seem like that much time, but apply that process to 20, 50, 100 candidates and suddenly you’re talking about serious time.   It was exhilarating to explore this use case with Mason because he had some really good insight into how using Xobni could improve this process for recruiters.  We’ve gained a lot of traction in the HR community already, and I’m excited to hear about how Mason’s presentation of Xobni will be received in his talk next month.

It was a pleasure to chat with Mason, and I’m looking forward to talking to more users for future OUPW posts.  If you’re interested in having your Xobni experience featured on the blog, please let me know by commenting on this post (be sure to leave your email…which will not be visible to anyone but our blog admins), and I’ll get in touch with you.

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*In our defense, we’ve had a lot to be distracted by during that time, including the release of Xobni Plus, Xobni Enterprise, and most recently, Xobni for BlackBerry and Xobni One.  But enough excuses—I’m willing to bet that we’ll be able to release some hot new products and maintain this blog series at the same time going forward.

**As a side note, if you haven’t noticed before, we have a Google search bar integrated into our Outlook client, should you want more info from the web than what’s already presented in the Xobni profile you’re viewing,: Search bar screenshot

Long live e-mail!

by Britton Glasser

Here at Xobni we are always inspired to read articles about the collision between email, social networking and productivity as this is the heart of what we do.  With so many new channels to communicate and broadcast our latest updates, moods and whereabouts, one has to wonder if email will become the telegraph of today.

It is always refreshing to see articles like Opinion: E-mail is dead. Long live e-mail! by Preston Gralla that reinforce what we have always believed here at Xobni – Relationships and contacts are of critical importance to all of our lives, and much of that information is found in email.  Social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter help complete the picture – but email is and continues to be at the center.

Come see us at CTIA

by Terra

If you find yourself in Las Vegas this week for CTIA (or other extra-curriculars), please stop by and see us.  Our friends at RIM have given us a home at the conference by asking us to demo our newly launched app for the BlackBerry in their booth.

RIM’s booth is 3506.  You can find us there selling our wares – with sore feet and smiles.  🙂

BlackBerry Love

by Terra

mossberg-solution-copy

So… we knew what we were doing was cool stuff, but we were thrilled that you do too!  The attention received around the world for the launch of our first mobile product last week was awesome.  From coverage in business outlets (Wall Street Journal, New York Times) to product reviews on top tech sites (CNET and CIO Magazine) and lots of love from mobile and BlackBerry blogs (CrackBerry, BlackBerry Cool, BerryReview), we feel we got a good start on getting the word out about our BlackBerry product and the Xobni One service, and are thrilled with the business received as a result!

Please allow us a tad bit of chest-beating…

  • “If you use a PC, Microsoft Outlook and a BlackBerry, Xobni offers a smart solution for automatically organizing all of your contacts into one place and allows for your contacts to be stored somewhere other than just in Outlook or just on your mobile device.” – Wall Street Journal, Katie Boehret
  • “If you’re one of the many BlackBerry-toting hot shots who fret about the fastest, least laborious way to get their work contacts onto their phones, I have an answer for you. Or rather, Xobni does…” – Jessica Dolcourt, CNET
  • “In my opinion Xobni is one of the few “absolutely must have” apps for BlackBerry.” – CrackBerry.com, Adam Zeis
  • “It’s a pretty exciting app. It works well and it saved me on several occasions when trying to reach people.” – Katie Boehret, Wall Street Journal (video)
  • “You may never use your BlackBerry contacts application, or address book, in the same way again. I know I won’t. As long as the new Xobni for BlackBerry application is available, that is.” – CIO Magazine/IDG Sites – Al Sacco
  • “Instead of a traditional alphabetical list (the alphabet is so uncool these days), Xobni for BlackBerry scours through your emails, text messages, phone calls, and other communication to create a new contact list in order of importance.” – FastCompany, Dan Nosowitz
  • “With advancements like this from companies like Xobni, it’s comforting to know that the technology to merge address books and create rich profiles for my contacts is finally coming of age.” – ZDNet, Sam Diaz
  • “Xobni One is a way to sync your desktop and mobile contacts. If you use Outlook on your desktop at work, but Gmail on your Blackberry, Xobni One reconciles the two. And when you leave your job, your contacts stay with you.” – TechCrunch, Eric Shoenfeld
  • “If you’ve ever found yourself scrabbling back through your BlackBerry inbox for the address of someone you know for a fact you emailed once in 2008, then the newly-launched Xobni for BlackBerry may be just what you need.” –  Recombu, Kate Solomon (UK)
  • “The new software will give BlackBerry users the ability to better manage and maintain their address book information by taking advantage of the program’s automatic indexing, profiling and ranking capabilities,” – V3, Dan Worth (UK)

As much as we love this media attention, we love even more to see the product going to work for our consumers!  We’ve already been able to improve the product based on your feedback, so keep it coming… As we’ve mentioned before, this cloud work is nontrivial stuff, and we’re really excited that we got such a great response – with the media and with our users.

One More Thing…

by Jeff Bonforte, CEO

Xobni One on the Whiteboard

Some of you may have noticed that it was about this time last year when we first announced that we would be building Xobni for the BlackBerry (given that we had just added the BlackBerry Partners Fund as an investor, I guess it made sense). We planned to release our BlackBerry product at the end of Summer 2009 (let’s say generously September 2009). In fact, we were ready with a BlackBerry product in September 2009, as planned. Most of the key features you see today were there, and it even had a simple back-end that allowed it to bring data from your Outlook Xobni to your BlackBerry…but we didn’t like it. So we made that ever painful decision not to launch, and went back to the drawing board to fill in the missing parts.

What emerged, the missing piece that we needed to make the BlackBerry product work as we knew it should, comes to you today as a new service called Xobni One.

We named it Xobni One because at the core the service takes information from any number of sources and gets them to behave like one. To be clear, Xobni One is not “sync,” as we are not adding and deleting contact data. We keep all data sets, fuse those data sets together for comprehensiveness, and surface the most relevant data at the top. Because volume of contacts is mostly the enemy of today’s address books, they break down unless they are maintained aggressively. Xobni maintains itself through the continuous flow of new information in your inbox, social networks, and now your text and calls.

Let’s consider a specific, but simple example. I might be connected to a personal Gmail account (jeff@gmail.com) on my BlackBerry and an Exchange account with Outlook (jbonforte@xobni.com) at work. Xobni One makes all the people and relationships from both accounts available in both places. So when my sister sent me an email from her new job to my personal Gmail account last week, Xobni for BlackBerry noticed the new email address automatically. Xobni One kicked in and appended the new email subject almost instantly to her profile in my Outlook account (and used the data to slightly change her relationship rank with me). The old email addresses didn’t delete. Even if it is not active, email addresses and phone numbers are an important point of reference to our past communication and related relationships.

My example above might make you wonder about privacy. After all, I just gave an example that crossing information between a work and personal account. But Xobni One is not moving the email message bodies between accounts. We are just moving the relationships, selected contact information and their ranking. The people are portable. The email stays put. Security and privacy are fundamental to us – after all, we have big enterprise customers, too!

The long term power of Xobni One will not be evident to customers from day one. This is partly by design. It is a scalable, powerful system that can today handle relatively simple, yet meaningful tasks of fusing Xobni profile data from your BlackBerry with data from Outlook (or even Outlook to Outlook). But Xobni One is capable of doing much more complicated tasks that we will show in the future. We know people want Xobni for webmail and other smart phones. Xobni One makes these much easier for us to build. We know people want to use Xobni with teams. Xobni One can do that, too.

From the company’s very founding four years ago in a dorm room at MIT, we assumed a future where Xobni would serve customers no matter the app, device or OS. Xobni One is our most significant step in that direction. And by no means is Xobni One the end of our love for Outlook. We will continue to make Xobni for Outlook the best addition on the planet for Outlook and the hundreds of millions people who spend almost 40% of their day there. But today we are excited to give you a glimpse of the future of Xobni and the products we are building.

As always, special thanks to all the amazing support from our customers, and to the great team at Xobni who make all these products come to life.

Xobni for BlackBerry is Now Available!

by Michael Holzer

I am very excited to announce the release of Xobni for BlackBerry. It makes managing your address book a thing of the past – You will never need to “Add a Contact” again. Early feedback from our alpha users is that they have stopped using their native address books completely and use only Xobni for BlackBerry.

The power of Xobni for BlackBerry is found in exposing connections you never knew you had as well as in the depth of the profiles that are created. All profiles are created automatically and are as complete as the information we have to complete them – including recent emails, phone calls, SMS messages, upcoming and past meetings, and the network for each of your contacts. You can even view information and images from your contacts using the LinkedIn and Facebook. Everything you need is a single click away, so you can immediately contact anyone the way you want.

With Xobni Rank, we learn who you communicate with most often and order your address book by that – you always have the most important people at the top. Search for “Mike” and even if there are 20 Mikes in your Xobni address book, the most important one rises instantly.

We built our first mobile application on the BlackBerry platform because we could deeply integrate within the native OS to provide an impactful and seamless experience for our users. If you’re composing a message using the native BlackBerry compose screen, you can access all of your Xobni contacts with a flick up of your trackpad/ball. We love being able to improve our customers’ existing work-flow instead of forcing them to change it.

The icing on the cake is Xobni One. Xobni One leverages our new cloud-based service to connect Xobni for Outlook and Xobni for BlackBerry, giving you all your Xobni contacts on your phone, where you need them most. A separate post on the magic of Xobni One is coming soon.

This is the stuff that excites me – Creating great products that solve real problems!

Note: To connect to Outlook, Xobni One requires Xobni for Outlook 1.9.1 (build 10169 or later). This is an optional download for other Xobni users, and contains the following new features since version 1.9.0:

Xobni for Outlook 1.9.1 - Xobni One Menu

  • Xobni One will update automatically when the computer is left idle (after the regular Xobni index process)
  • New “Update Xobni One” menu item (see screenshot)
  • Ability to delete Xobni One data from the server at any time in the Xobni Options window (under the “indexing” tab)
  • Nearly unlimited phone numbers and fax numbers can be added for an existing Xobni profile (though still only the top two will show in the Xobni sidebar)
  • When two Xobni profiles are merged, their phone numbers merge as well
  • Numbers from Outlook Contacts are shown in the Xobni profile “edit” screen to help show the source of those numbers


Learn More about Xobni for BlackBerry

Announcing Work Smart Wednesdays: Our First-Ever Live Twitter Q&A!

Twitter in Outlook with Xobni

At Xobni, we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping you work smarter, not harder, by developing powerful email products to reduce the time you spend digging around your inbox so you can focus on…well, whatever it is you were actually hired to do (we assume it wasn’t to search unsuccessfully in Outlook 🙂 ).

In the years we’ve spent in this space, we’ve accumulated quite a bit of knowledge about email and workplace productivity in general, and rather than sit on what we know, we want to share it with you, our valuable users.  To that end, we’re excited to announce our first-ever Live Twitter Q&A, during which we’ll spend a concentrated hour fielding as many of your questions as we can.  We hope you’ll join us for our inaugural Work Smart Wednesday:


Xobni Live Twitter Q&A
Work Smart Wednesday, March 3rd
11:30AM-12:30PM PST

It’s easy to join the conversation: Direct your questions to @xobni and end them with the hashtag #WorkSmarter between 11:30AM and 12:30PM PST this Wednesday.  Questions tweeted using Xobni’s Twitter extension will receive priority, so if you can, post your questions from Xobni.

If you’re not available then, write your question on Twitter or as a comment on this blog post (please tag with #WorkSmarter and keep it <140 characters) ahead of time, and we’ll answer as many of those as time permits during the Q&A as well.

Example:

  • BillGates: @xobni I want to impress my coworkers with my taste in Outlook tools–what’s the easiest way to invite them to use Xobni? #WorkSmarter

  • Xobni: To @BillGates Open up the Xobni Options menu and click “Invite Users”. Select your invitees there & get a chance to win Xobni Plus for free!

Of course, we’re always listening to you on Twitter (you should take a moment to follow us if you haven’t already), but we’re especially excited to dedicate this entire hour just to answering your top questions.  Get your questions ready, and we’ll see you there!


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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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