Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tricks for managing your email inbox

Email is both an incredible convenience and a huge stressor for many of us. Our inboxes overwhelm us with messages, yet most of them are necessary. Fortunately, there are many techniques out there that can help make your inbox easier to handle. Here are a few of them:

 

    1. Set up foldersSetting up folders or labels in your email client is an uncomplicated way to manage your inbox. Often, you can set filters to label your emails automatically so that emails from certain addresses will go into a separate folder.

      With this feature, unimportant emails are filtered out and don’t take up important space in your inbox. It’s pretty easy to set this up and since this feature is available in most email clients and services, it is likely available to you.

 

  • Enable conversation viewEnabling conversation view or as some email clients call it, threaded view, is a very simple way to tidy up your inbox. You will no longer see dozens of emails linked to one topic. Instead, they will all be found under a single “email.” Email threads take up much less space in your inbox, making it seem more manageable.

    Also, when you use this feature, you will address all emails in a conversation whenever you address one. There is no longer a need to go through and archive each individual email – delete one, and you’re done.

 

 

  • If it will take less than 5 minutes to address, deal with it right away Many emails take lots of time and energy to really address. For those emails that don’t require much time, it is generally best to deal with it right away. Putting it off will only make it seem bigger than it is and create more stress than is necessary. As you address these emails right away more often they will become easier to deal with.

 

These are just a few basic techniques that can help make your inbox more manageable. There are many more tricks that are just as easy and can make a huge difference in your everyday email habits.

For more tips on email management check out this Business Insider article.

Wireless vs. wired mice

Wired or wireless mice? This is a debate that’s been going on for years now, and there is still no conclusive winner. The truth is, there are advantages to each type of mouse, and it’s all about which attributes matter most to you.

Wired

Just like wireless mice, wired mice have plenty of positives as well as negatives. These are a couple of the major benefits:

  • Extended life expectancy
  • Quicker response time
  • More cost efficient
  • More accuracy – a big pro for gamers
  • No chance of inadvertently gaining control of someone else’s machine

Although wired mice are the longtime standard, there are some drawbacks. The most often cited disadvantage is the inability to roam, which is a deal-breaker for many.

Wireless

The argument for wireless mice is quite strong. They may require you to buy batteries from time to time, but they also offer a great deal of convenience that just can’t be found with a wired mouse. These are some of the primary benefits:

  • More freedom – another favorite feature among gamers, who often control their TVs from the couch
  • Improvements in response time and accuracy
  • Fewer cords
  • Smoother movement due to the lack of a cord

Despite these advantages, there are still several disadvantages to think about. Bad signals and dead batteries may not happen frequently, but if they come at an inopportune time, the results can be detrimental.

In general, the decision between wireless and wired mice is about preference. If you require accuracy and fast response times, a wired mouse would most likely suit you best. If you’re someone who likes to work from the couch or other untraditional spots, you may enjoy the convenience and freedom of a wireless mouse. There are plenty of great wired as well as wireless options, so you can’t go wrong either way.

For more information on the debate between wireless and wired mice, check out this website.

Commenting on Google Docs just got easier

Many of us are familiar with Google Docs as a tool for quick and easy document creation. What plenty of people don’t know is how great of a collaboration tool it can be, especially due to its recent updates.

The popular commenting feature in Google Docs has recently received some big improvements – some of the most significant are:

  • Timestamps and profile pictures on comments
  • The ability to edit and resolve comments
  • Implementation of email notifications via @mentions

The addition of email notifications is the thing that businesses will likely benefit from the most. These notifications allow users to invite new people into the discussion whenever they’re needed.

The message that you send via the email notifications feature will always include the text of the comment, so that person does not always need access to Google Docs in order to contribute. He or she can simply respond to the email and it will show up in the discussion thread.

These new features also make it easier to see what has been done and what still needs to be done. Instead of simply removing a comment once edits have been made on the document, you can now mark it as resolved. This allows you to go back and view which changes were made and if they were, in fact, done properly.

Google Docs and tools like it make it easier to work on a distributed team. Staying in sync is easier as everybody’s version of the document is identical, so there is far less confusion around changes.

Having several people working on a document simultaneously from different locations can get quite confusing. It’s easy to lose track of edits and it can be difficult to make sure you’re incorporating everyone’s input. These collaboration tools make the process much more streamlined.

For more insight into the recent changes to Google Docs check out this article.

Who are the stars of SXSW so far?

Every year the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) takes over Austin with its multitude of festivals and presentations. It connects some of the greatest thinkers from music, movies, and new media. Creativity and innovation are the themes of the conference, and their presence this year has been apparent.

SXSW Interactive is one of the primary conferences at SXSW that encompasses all of the new media, and it has already unearthed some great ideas. Although the SXSW Technology Summit, which is full of great ideas and presentations on technology and business, has just begun, some standout startups have already emerged.

Every year, in addition to all of the conferences, there is a “Startup Bus” competition. The Startup Bus departs from Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, New York and San Francisco, and drives to Austin in two days. In those 48 hours, teams are assembled and they are given the task of developing an original idea, creating a demo and website, and then presenting their idea to a panel of judges once they arrive in Austin.

48 hours hardly seems long enough to come up with a business idea and actually create a demo for it but, for these people, it’s ample time. Great ideas are virtually always born on the buses, and this year was no different. These are the two winners of this year’s competition.

TripMedi

TripMedi focuses on the world of medical tourism, which is growing surprisingly fast. Medical tourism is a term used to describe the process of travelling to a developing nation to save money on medical procedures, both elective and non-elective.

The industry is growing by 15% yearly, so a comprehensive system for finding services is essential. Calling itself the “Yelp for medical tourism,” TripMedi hopes to become a one-stop-shop for the industry.

People can now go to one place to find a list of locations, doctors, and procedures and pricing available, making the process much less frightening. With 1,300 unique visitors and 44 sign-ups in just four days, TripMedi is sure to do well.

WalkIN

WalkIN looked to solve a problem that everyone can relate to – waiting for a table at a restaurant. We all know how annoying it is to cram into a restaurant lobby waiting for your name to be called.

WalkIN eliminates one of the biggest pains of waiting for a table by allowing you to roam while you wait. You can simply go into the restaurant, check in using a QR code, and then wander around until you are alerted via phone that your table is ready.

This is a big improvement from many restaurant pagers that are large and chunky and only work within a certain radius.

This year’s SXSW conferences, like all other years’, has already brought us some truly innovative ideas, and is sure to bring us even more.

For more information on SXSW, check out the website.

Flash storage – what exactly is it?

Whether we know it or not, a lot of us use flash storage frequently. Flash memory is built into many devices that some of us use daily such as MP3 players, laptops and mobile phones.

What is flash storage?

Flash storage devices are frequently used to store and transport information, usually from one computer to another. Flash memory is known as a solid state storage device, which means everything is electronic instead of mechanical, like a data CD.

Other key features of flash storage include:

  • A non-volatile storage chip, meaning it doesn’t need a constant flow of power to maintain the information stored in the chip
  • There are no moving parts
  • Allows for easy electronic storage
  • Data can be easily erased and the device can be reprogrammed
  • Allows for quick access to data
  • Extreme durability, especially when coming in the form of a memory card

Flash storage is so popular because of the convenience of all of these features. This type of storage is especially convenient for mobile devices such as cell phones and MP3 players, since it is so durable. Most MP3 players and smartphones can even serve as external hard drives just by plugging them into a computer.

If you’re interested in learning more about flash storage, check out this article from HowStuffWorks.

How does changing a search algorithm affect results?

For the majority of us, online search engines are the first place we turn when we’re searching for information. We trust them to provide us with the most relevant results, but those results are not always consistent.

The reason for the inconsistency is the frequent evolution of the search algorithms employed by each search engine. Each search engine uses a unique algorithm that takes certain factors into account. So, how do Google and Bing’s algorithms compare?

Google

Google’s search algorithm has seen some big changes recently. One of the most drastic of those changes is the suppression of results that are coming from content farms.

Content farms are companies that employ a large number of writers whose job is to produce lots of content that is designed to satisfy search algorithms without much actual or factual content. The main goal of these companies is to generate ad revenue by gaining more page views.

Google’s hope is to place higher quality websites at the top of search results. Google’s new algorithm uses advances in computer intelligence, such as mimicking human understanding, and it could help produce more relevant results. Google is also using Twitter postings to focus on real-time results.

Bing

Bing came onto the scene calling itself the “decision engine.” It was a play on the idea that most search engines give you results that you aren’t looking for, while Bing knows what you’re looking for and finds it.

Bing is more of a social search engine than most. It takes into account what sites were shared or “liked” by your friends on social networks and shows you those results, which are often most relevant.

Using two different search engines can yield different results. All results should be somewhat relevant, the specific results just depend on what the search engine’s algorithm accounts for.

If you’re interested in learning more about the changes to Google’s search algorithm, take a look at this New York Times article.

These are the stars so far of the 2012 TED Conference

The TED Conference happens twice a year, and brings together people from the technology, entertainment, and design fields. TED gives these people a platform to demonstrate their knowledge and ideas in an 18-minute time span.

The conference, taking place this week, is full of great presenters and ideas. These are just a few of them.

Ford Motor Company

Due to the fact the global population is expected to grow to 9 billion people by 2044, the people at Ford are looking for a way to prevent the constant gridlock that is seemingly inevitable on our nation’s highways and streets.

Ford sees a future filled with cars that can communicate with each other in real-time.  SYNC, from Ford, is the first version of this technology. It performs many functions, such as 911 Assist and Vehicle Health Reports and is onboard about 3 million vehicles.

The future iterations of this technology will be able to automatically re-route you to avoid traffic based on real-time data being sent from other cars, among other things.

Bluefin Labs

Deb Roy is the co-founder of Bluefin Labs and his presentation centered on the first 90,000 hours of his son’s life and the video that went along with it. Roy’s team built a machine-learning system that analyzed the video and broke down the evolution of his son’s learning.

Bluefin Labs hopes to expand this technology to study things such as how audiences react to television advertisements and other forms of media. Using this technology, they are already looking at Twitter, Facebook and blog posts to help big ad agencies understand how their television advertisements resonate with online audiences.

This system could be a great way for businesses to better understand their audiences’ impressions of them.

These are just two of they many profound ideas and products that have been presented thus far at this year’s TED Conference. If you’d like to check out some other cool ideas, check out this Inc. article.

What is hot at the 2012 DEMO Spring conference?

The DEMO Spring 2012 conference, the “launchpad for emerging technology”, is going on this week and, already, many great ideas have emerged from it. One of the key focuses of the conference is social technology. These are some of the best products so far, social or otherwise:

Websense’s Defensio for Facebook

Defensio for Facebook helps companies that use the social network protect their information. It prevents unwanted content, spam and spyware. Since spam-riddled Pages and discussion threads are very unattractive to customers and prospects, it is best to keep your Page free of clutter.

Users can set preferences so that they can moderate all posts on their Page’s wall. They can also block their Page from linking to certain sites.

Nimble

Social relationship manager Nimble allows users to connect all of their contacts, calendars and communications. It currently integrates email, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to bring all of your connections to one place. 

Nimble hopes to make it easier for companies to maintain a dialogue and improve interactions with their customers. Once it is integrated with more social networks, it will become even more useful.

mSignia’s Dynamic Device Identity

mSignia works on Android devices to make access to cloud services easier. It secures your smartphone while eliminating the need to enter passwords on every site.

mSignia tracks your phone as well as the cloud services you access. Once you change phones, it will eliminate credentials on the old device so that phone can no longer access your information. Seeing as our mobile phones are often our primary means of accessing cloud-based services, this service could be a huge time-saver.

These products, along with many others being presented at the DEMO Spring 2012 event, make conducting business simpler and more seamless.

Spam levels are drastically declining

Spam in the form of email has seen a drastic decline in the last few months. One report shows a fall from 200 billion spam messages being sent each day in August to only 50 billion per day in December. It’s difficult to say exactly why this has happened, but there are several theories.

Inactive botnets

Botnets are networks of infected computers which account for the majority of the world’s spam. Just one of the botnets, Rustock, was responsible for nearly 50% of all global spam at its peak. Rustock, along with two of the other prominent botnets stopped churning out so much spam in December.

Usually, botnets stop spamming because they have been temporarily disturbed, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Rustock. The most practical explanation is simply that the people controlling Rustock decided to stop spamming as much.

Anti-spam campaigns

Spammers are primarily driven by profit. When they stop seeing profit as a result of their work, they are likely to give up and move on to something else.

Recent anti-spam campaigns have been successful in disrupting spammers’ efforts therefore decreasing their profitability. This could be a reason for their halted efforts.

Other outlets

One very plausible explanation could be that spam isn’t declining so much as it is just being transferred to other forms of media. Twitter and Facebook, for example, have recently become huge outlets for spam.

These are all logical theories behind the decline of email spam. However, nobody can be certain as to what specifically is causing it. For more information on the topic, check out this BBC News article.