Category Archives: Emails

What is the Future of Hashtags?

The other day, my friend Bill Boyd posed the question on his blog, “Will Hashtags Work in Email?” This is a good question, especially considering how these tags can be used to organize content and discussions between larger groups of people. So, what is the future of hashtags?

Hashtags have become an icon of social interaction as they have evolved from being simply a workaround to allow people to carry an open conversation about a specific topic to a supported mechanism within networks including Twitter and Empire Avenue. These tags allow you to assign a topic or trend to your post which others, talking about the same topic can easily find and respond to.

If you’ve been following my posts on Twitter, you may have noticed that I use hashtags frequently. I use them, in part, to allow people that follow me to easily discover others who are talking about a similar topic. These tags can also help others find you, as they seek out users with similar interests.

These tags can also be found in YouTube. Around the time of their fifth anniversary, YouTube added limited support for hashtags including: #LOL, #FTW, #OMG and #FAIL. When you click on one of these tags, you’re taken to a page that shows others that have used the same tag in their comments.

Oddly enough, Facebook doesn’t currently support for hashtags in terms of giving them extra functionality. While you can use them in your posts and interactions with others, they really don’t do anything special at this point in time. This may be linked to the closed nature of Facebook as opposed to the widely open and public Twitter feeds. Still, the idea of hashtags being available and supported within a network of friends could be useful.

I believe that hashtags have a universal appeal which reaches beyond Twitter and Empire Avenue and could be implemented in a way that benefits users of social networks, and even email, well in to the future.

How to Add Email to Windows 7

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I asked my friends over on the Windows Twitter account what some of the questions are that they receive on a regular basis. One of the most common ones they are seeing fired at them lately from newcomers to the operating system is “How do I get my email on Windows 7?”

One of the key differences between Windows 7 and Windows XP and Vista is the lack of an email client. While past versions of Windows included Outlook Express or Windows Mail, depending on which operating system you upgraded from, Windows 7 lacks an email client as part of the install. You can, of course, use an online version of your mail client or even sign up for a free Gmail account. However, many of us still rely on our trusty desktop clients. What are you supposed to do in Windows 7 then?

If you want that desktop experience and liked Outlook Express in older versions of Windows, then you’ll likely enjoy Windows Live Mail. It’s a free download, but you will need to sign up for an account. When you complete your registration, you’ll have access to several different features and functions if you choose to use them:

  • Get 25 GB of free online storage on SkyDrive. Use it to save your files or share photos and videos.
  • Windows Live Photo Gallery can help you remove red eye, create amazing panoramas, and more.
  • Now you can stop emailing files to yourself. Keep docs, photos, and other files in sync across your PCs.
  • Hotmail to access your email anywhere you may be.
  • Windows Live Messenger helps you stay connected to friends.

Windows Live Mail helps you organize your life into one place on your computer. Add multiple accounts such as Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! and more. You can browse your email, calendars and contacts when your Internet connection isn’t on.

I remember using Internet Mail and News – MSIMN. That’s how many years I’ve been around online. That’s the first graphical email client released by Microsoft and it may still be something you can launch from your machine.

I’m a big email user and admit that I prefer OS X. However, I will admit that Windows Live Mail is beautiful. The layout is clean and awesome. It’s slick… it’s good. I definitely recommend it.

Which desktop mail application are you using?

How to Turn off Conversation View in Gmail

My eyes nearly bugged out of my head as I read about Google helping users to turn off Conversation View within Gmail. In my opinion, threaded conversations are the best thing to happen to email since email itself was invented. Communication is actually much easier when you are able to track what has been added to a thread without wading hip-deep into your Inbox. As a proponent of this service, I hadn’t thought of those of you out there who actually may not enjoy being forced to have threaded conversations.

There are several people who aren’t happy with the way Gmail displays their email. Perhaps they are users who are simply stuck on the way things used to be handled by programs such as Outlook. Maybe they enjoy having to pull their boots on and having to dive into the Inbox (or whatever other folders they have) in order to track something that had been discussed already. For those people, Google has now created an option to turn OFF Conversation View. Wiltse Carpenter, Technical Lead for Gmail, has a colorful explanation for the move:

The way Gmail organizes mail into conversations is like cilantro. You either love it — and, like me, enjoy the nice citrusy, herbal finish it gives to everything from salsa to curry — or you hate it. It turns out not everyone feels the same way. And just as an outspoken minority has banded together in unison to declare their distaste of one of nature’s most delicious herbs, some of you have been very vocal about your dislike of conversation threading. So just like you can order your baja fish tacos without cilantro, you can now get Gmail served up sans conversation view. Go to the main Settings page, look for the “Conversation View” section, select the option to turn it off, and save changes. If you change your mind, you can always go back.

What are your thoughts? Can you imagine having to go back to the old ways of finding things in your email client of choice? Would you die from frustration by simply thinking about it? Or are you one of those this change was made for? If so, I’d love to hear your perspective. Perhaps I am missing an important point and reasoning you wouldn’t want to take advantage of beautiful threaded email goodness.

Boomerang Shows Email When You Need to See It

If you tend to get far too many emails every day, it’s easy to lose track of things you might not need right away. It’s happened to me before: I will let something languish in my Inbox, knowing I’ll need it in say a week or so. However, when the week has come and gone, I’ll have someone emailing me again to ask if I have forgotten about them. The original email was buried amongst the piles of other things my mail client sees, and I had completely forgotten about it. I know that’s happened to you at some point – but Boomerang isn’t going to let it happen again – as long as you’re using Gmail.

When a message hits your Inbox that you’ll need to deal with later, simply use the Boomerang tool. Tell it when you want to see the missive again, and the plugin does the rest. This comes in handy if you’re under contract to do certain things at certain times. Have the tool magically re-send the email to your attention on whatever day you need to see it – and even choose what time you want it to show up!

Another cool feature of Boomerang is to use it to schedule your outgoing mail. This is very handy for Geeks like myself. I tend to stay up entirely too late at night sometimes. I’ll often shoot out an important email, only to find later that the person didn’t see what I had sent. It was lost among the hundred other messages waiting for them when they sat down at their desk in the morning. Using Boomerang, I can now set a specific time for my message to be sent so that I don’t run into this problem again.

Likely the best part of all is that you don’t even have to be online in order to schedule your emails. Since everything is handled server-side, you can set your schedules and then synchronize when you’re back on an Internet connection. How cool is that?

How Do You Manage Your Inbox?

One of the longest-running issues we all seem to have is trying to deal with an Inbox that is too full. There have been many pieces of software developed over the years in an attempt to help us manage these monstrosities. However, they’ve all fallen short of the mark. However, there’s a new kid on the block who promises to deliver in ways others never have. The only catch is that only Gmail subscribers can use the service.

Gtriage is a service that scans all your email messages and to determine which ones are the most important to you. It then tags those messages “Important” with bright red labels so they don’t get missed. The way it works is nothing short of ingenious – as long as it does as promised. Their algorithm for measuring the email weights is being called “powerful machine-learning technology” by the company. They even have two cartoon-looking characters representing the two parts: Buckminster and Blockhead. Blockhead learns the universal characteristics that make email important, and Buckminister learns what you find to be important.

According to their website, Gtraige learns about you and gets even better once you’ve been using it awhile. After it’s set up, you just use your Gmail account as you normally would, while Buckminster and Blockhead watch your actions – and customize themselves to your behavior. In theory, the end result is an email filtering program that works without your having to actually DO anything. Will it work? Only time will tell. This isn’t something that can be tested in a matter of days. I will have to reserve judgment until I’ve used it for awhile.

For now, the service is free… if you can get an invite code. The company has set up pricing tiers, and is confident that Gtriage will work so well, you’ll want to pay for the service. While that remains to be seen at this point, it will likely be worth the cost if it delivers as promised.

Gmail Labs

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I think everyone I know has a Gmail account. Do you use it? Do you like it? If so… why? I’m interested in hearing your responses.

If you’re not familiar with the Labs feature, it’s something that will extend the capabilities of your Gmail account. Jamie submitted a top five list of Labs tips and features. I wanted to pass them along to you. Jamie has tried almost every Lab script there is, and compiled the following list of what he feels are the five best ones that you should be using.

  • Title Tweaks – This moves the “Inbox (n)” element of the page title to the front, meaning that when you have lots of tabs open you can still see when new emails come in. I’ve found this to be really handy as it means I no longer have the title “Google Mail” taking up space unnecessarily in my tabs… and I don’t have to open a tab/window to see if I have any new email. Really simple, but very helpful when you’ve right-clicked a number of links into new tabs.
  • Old Snakey – Email can be, and often is, dull. Sometimes it’s nice to distract ourselves with a simple game to take our mind off things for a couple of minutes. Old Snakey does exactly that. As long as you have keyboard shortcuts enabled pressing Shift + 7 (= & – which sort of resembles a snake, I guess!) will open up a simple game of Snake right inside your email window. No pop-ups, no new windows or tabs – and you can still see your inbox right behind the game. It’s an excellent stress reliever during the course of your day, as well.
  • Remove Labels from Subjects – This one is especially useful if, like me, you have a netbook with a small screen that you often use to check your email. This script hides the labels from the subject line, meaning that not only can you see more of the subject and snippet of an email, but also the subjects are properly aligned with each other – not zigzagging like they are when labels are enabled. I found that before using this script I’d started to almost ignore the subject completely, instead I was paying more attention to who an email was from and the labels it’d been assigned by my filters.
  • Inbox Preview – Inbox preview shows a static list of the emails in your inbox as Gmail is loading. Whilst Gmail is usually very fast to load, this allows me to see if I’ve got any new email immediately, and even provides a “Sign Out” link if I should decide there’s no need to go any further. This might also be useful to those that have Chat turned on in Gmail, and want to check their email quickly without popping up as “Available” in Chat. If there’s nothing that demands your attention, just sign out.
  • Mark as Read Button – I’m constantly marking email as read without actually opening them up. Notifications from sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube often don’t actually need to be read, but I still prefer to have them sent to my inbox as unread just in case. Of course, Gmail has had the “Mark as read” feature since the beginning, but this has always been hidden away in the “More Actions” menu. This script adds this option as a button next to “Delete”, so I can quickly clean my inbox of those emails that I don’t need to read. This Labs feature gets the number one spot not because of how amazingly technical or clever it is, but simply because it’s almost certainly the feature that I use the most.

If you’re using Gmail Labs, what are your favorites? Do you find that they are fun – or functional? Do they make your email experience better? Let’s hear what you have to say.

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How to Send Large Files Via Email

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I love my Dad, but we have the same argument every week on the phone. He wants to attach videos through email, even though they’re huge. I keep trying to tell him not to. Sending large files through email is considered to be bad netiquette! But, of course, there are times when you may need to send things like a PowerPoint presentation or other large file via email. What do you use to make this easier?

Filemail allows you to send up to 2GB of files at a time through your email. All you have to do is upload your files directly to Filemail. They are stored on servers located in either San Diego, or Norway. An email is sent to your recipient(s), telling them they have files ready to download. There is a clickable link within the email. Once they click the link, they are taken directly to the download page that was created when you uploaded the files. After a certain number of days, the files are deleted off of the Filemail servers.

You don’t even have to register, or pay anything! If you have to send a file over about 5MB, then you need to use this service. They even have a corporate level, for large companies who need to send large files. If you sign up for a corporate account, you will have a dedicated corporate upload box.

Don’t send any more large files! Now I can stop having this argument with my Dad!

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PC Questions and Answers

I received this email from “Helen” earlier today, and I wasn’t really sure where to being dispensing advice – since it seems she’s starting at ground zero. It was a bit overwhelming, so I thought you might be able to pick your favorite question(s) from her list and answer with your own opinion(s). You should know that the original message came in ALL CAPS, so I had to do some converting to make this more presentable:

Chris, I am emailing you because I happened to run across your website as I was doing some research and trying to get some current information on what the best video equipment to buy is, if you want to do a web show via youtube, webcasting or even to incorporate a video window and video show on my website, if I had a website. LOL! I am a pretty smart gal, but the problem is I am not computer savvy or technologically advanced at all! I have pretty much no idea what I’m doing on a PC. I simply roll the dice every time I turn this beast on and hope nothing goes wrong or I don’t click the wrong button and everything goes haywire.

To add insult to injury, I am deaf, so this makes it especially hard when I’m trying to communicate with someone in person. I am 46 years old and was actually born with perfect hearing, and had perfect hearing throughout my entire life until 2001. I went completely deaf in 2001 after unknowingly taking a medication which had been given to me by my doctor. I am able speak really good because losing my hearing did not in any way affect my speech. I just can’t hear. I lost my hearing about 7 years ago. I was 39 years old when I lost my hearing, so I could hear fantastic up until that time. Let’s put it this way. If your doctor ever wants to put you on a medication, make for darn sure you know exactly what the side-effects are, because it could cost you something very precious in your life. When this happened, I didn’t just lose my hearing, I lost everything that was most important to me in my life. So be very careful what you put into your mouth.

I can communicate perfect while I’m online because it’s all done by typing and keystrokes. I also manage pretty well when I’m on the telephone also, because I have a TTY machine, along with the assistance of a tyy operator, who does all the translating for me. The tyy operator tells me everything the other person is saying, and then it is displayed on a small monitor on my TTY machine.

One of my dreams is to actually find someone who has invented voice regognition software that I can easily install in 2 small laptops, so I can communicate directly with people in person. All the other person has to do is speak/talk into one laptop, then it automatically reads/diplays out on the other laptop’s montior, much the same way a TTY machine does – minus the TTY operator! LOL! I live in a completely isolated world, never really genuine part of, or belonging to/in the deaf world or the hearing world. It’s a very lonely existence, and if I could remedy that in some small, but very effective way, it would change my entire world; my direction; my options; my ability; and my purpose in life. It would restore 95% of the life I once knew, minus the music I loved.

It’s pretty much impossible for someone like me to become self educated on PCs, the web, browers, tech instructions or support, and everything else that is going in the computer world, because you must be able to hear what they are talking about or explaining. I really feel left out and unable to enjoy all this great, new, advanced technology now availbale when I can’t even hear anything. There are no computer deaf schools, so I am basically on my own. Everything I have found out so far, I have done so on my own. They say PCs are now so simple for everyone to use that a five year-old can operate one. They claim all you have to do is turn it on and click! Yes, it’s pretty easy… until you experience your first pc problem. Then something that was supposed to be so easy, becomes really complicated, really fast! LOL! I’ve had many problems come up where my PC would freeze, my processor would stop working, my printer spooler quit on me, my index file went missing all of a sudden after I uninstalled a program, continual error messages, unlimited problems with aol interent service, PC running super slow, problems getting a connection on line, and many other types of problems. I’ve had to buy five different PCs in the past two years because I could not fix the problems, and of course the problems did not crop up until after the warranty lapsed. I think these PC companies rig their machines to start having problems after the warranty period is expired, because this has happened to every single PC I’ve owned. And once it starts having problems, it goes from bad to worse, and of course I don’t have anyone around to help me fix whatever the problems are.

You seem to be very PC savvy, techincally advanced, very educated and well informed, and that is why I am contacting you in the hope that you can, and will help me. There are things that I long to accomplish and do on the computer, but I do not even have a basic understanding or how it all works, and what is what. I know very little about PCs; Just enough to get by. I really want to be as computer smart and advanced as you.

Can you recommend where or how I should start?

I would also love to have a little political talk show to discuss politics and news – something I’m very, very good at.

Anyway, if you would be kind enough to help me just a little bit, to become a better educated member if the computer world, I would deeply appreciate it. And if you could give me some information on what the best video equipment, camera equipment, lighting, sound, etc, is that I should buy to go on youtube, I would also appreciate it. I want set up a little studio and go on youtube, but I have no idea what the best video/camera equpiment, lighting or sound equipment, extra computer equipemnt, software, etc., Is, or where to get it. I also have no idea how to get on youtube or facebook either.

I am so computer ignorant, that I don’t even know what the difference is between a web browser, java script, firefox, adobe flash, and an internet provider?? I can’t even get some type of my own files, or files i’ve downloaded from the internet or other sources to open because a message window will pop up and tell me I don’t have a compatiable program to open it. I have no idea what that means or how to recify or resolve the problem. I am on aol, so isn’t aol my web browser??

You see, I told you, I am computer illiterate. LOL!

I know that you must be extremely popular and exteremly busy, but any bit of time, recommendations, referrals, or help you could give me, would be extremely appreciated.

These are just a few of the things on my wish list, which I would like to know; Know how to do; And would like to accomplish on my pc, such as:

1. Learning how to properly use, operate, and trouble-shoot my pc, browsers, software, hard drives, etc., Including all the definitions, meanings, and terminologies relating to and about computers.

2. Learning how to build or install, and operate my own website, and who I need to contact to get on the “WWW”? Who’s in charge and oversee’s the entire “WWW”?

3. I would like to know what I need to do and what I need to buy, in order to do webcasting, and what equipment I would need to buy for webcasting? Who do I contact to get a channel on the internet?

4. Learn how to establish an eBay, YouTube, Facebook, and a Twitter account. Once I have these accounts, I would like to learn how to install their programs and properly operate them.

5. I would like to know what the best computers, monitors, keyboards, accessories, video add-ons, software, security, ISPs, etc., are, and where to buy them.

6. I would like to know what the best software is and who the best software companies are, if someone wants to air thier own show on YouTube and webcasting? I would also like to know what equipement is need for that, where to buy it, and how to operate it?

7. What are really good, high tech websites for staying up-to-date on all current computer issues and Internet news?

Chris, I don’t know what a server, Web browser, processor, or anything else is, in a computer, or how it all works together. I don’t even know how to text message from a computer or do much of anything using my PC. How do you get people’s text addresses if you want to send them a message?

In closing, I want to thank you for your time and any help, recommendations, and suggestions you can offer me, and looking forward to hearing from soon.

Stop Email Forwards and Video Emails

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I received the following email the other day from Doug:

I’m still surprised at times when I get an e-mail forwarded to me that claims something is true without anyone having checked the validity of the contents. I recently got an e-mail regarding a Dr Dobson petition, and there were almost 3000 names on it already when it came to me. To me it should be common practice to people to do a quick & simple internet search to find out more information before blindly forwarding stuff to everyone on your contacts list. Even if the e-mail already has a link attempting to validate the information, I’m going to want more than one source reporting the same thing. One person forwarding an e-mail with 0-1 sources does not validate the contents.

I will usually copy/paste some main part of the text into Google and I’ll typically quickly find several resources that discuss the origin and validity of the information in the e-mail. Then I will reply to all on the e-mail I got and post a few of those links letting them know where to find more information and encouraging them to do likewise in the future when they get e-mails like this and are tempted to forward them to people. I would like to think that the audience that watch your videos are internet savvy enough to already know this but even if they are, perhaps they would encourage their circle of contacts (friends, relatives, community, etc) to squash useless e-mail chains instead of fueling them. What the world needs now is more useful information and less useless information to fill up our in-boxes, bog down the mail servers, and waste our time reading the garbage.

So I wanted to see how you felt about doing a video to your audience on this topic.

One of the first things you should do when receiving an email claiming “You’ll save this little girl’s life by forwarding this!”, or “Send me to ten friends right now!”… is to check with Snopes. The Snopes website is a huge ‘database’ full of urban legends and truths. I’ll bet 99% of the time that the email chains you receive are useless junk.
As Doug stated in his email, you can also paste a small part of the text of the email into Google, and research it. Don’t blindly forward an email like these. Know what it is you’re sending out. Know whether it’s even legitimate or not.
Also, stop sending emails to people with videos embedded in them. It’s horrible to do! There are SO many places online you can host the video for free. Then, just send out the link to the video. It’s smaller, and faster to send a simple link to someone. It’s just not cool to send entire videos in an email.


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Can Temporary Email Addresses Stop Spam?

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I’ve used my [email protected] email for many years now. The reason I share that address so openly is that I’m just not afraid of it. Some of you are quite afraid of sharing your email address, with good reason. You never know where that address will end up, or what mailing lists it could get sold to.

There are various ways you can stop junk email from hitting your Inbox, or filtering it out once it does hit. My plan right now is an Exchange account, in combination with server-side software. I also have local spam filtering, as well. There’s very little that actually makes it into my Inbox folder. What’s your solution to keeping Spam from entering your world?

I had something happen to me today that I’ve heard has happened to others. Coldplay is one of my favorite bands, and they released a new single. In order to get that single and download it, you had to supply an email address. I thought about it. I didn’t want to receive indefinite information from this company. I needed to find a temporary email address. It’s a lot of work to create a new alias, especially when there are many services out there that will allow you to create a temporary email address in order to access things just like this.

TemporaryInbox is really simple to use. You don’t even need to sign up, which is the whole idea. It will give you a random email address that you can use, and access for up to six hours. It’s a good thing to use if you’re not sure whether a site is going to keep your identity protected, or if you’re unsure as to whether you will end up using the site/service.

I don’t know if I see the Spam problem going away any time soon. There’s no authentication present in an email. Some people change their email address on a regular basis to keep it private and away from spammers. Meh, not me. My name is never going to change, therefore my email address will always work. Changing your email is not fun, when you have to update so many contacts, sites, etc.

Email is one of those things I cannot live without. I send email newsletters out on a near-daily basis. I also wrote the book on Email publishing. I spend more hours a day in my Inbox than anywhere else… including sleeping.


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