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Gmail vs. Mailstrom: the battle to reach Inbox Zero

While early versions of email have been around since the 1960’s and 1970’s, email didn’t become mainstream and accessible until about 1993. 20 years later, email is a daily form of communication we’re still learning to organize.

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Comparing the new Gmail and Mailstrom

A quiet but increasingly epic battle is being waged online. Email users around the world are struggling to balance their inbox communication needs against an increasing stream of information. Newsletters, blogs, news sites, social media, coupon programs, work correspondence, family news, useless (but funny) jokes, spam and many more email topics fill inboxes daily, leaving users scratching their heads about how to properly filter through this information overload.

Two services, the massively popular web based e-mail provider Gmail and new web app Mailstrom, are struggling to be the leaders in helping users reach the fabled “inbox zero.”

What is Inbox Zero?

Many email users, fed up with information overload, have struggled in recent years to reach inbox zero, and reclaim their email. Merlin mailstrom-report became famous doing speeches and presentations about reaching inbox zero amidst inundation.

Numerous others have offered information and suggestions for reaching inbox zero, while critics have stated inbox zero is an unrealistic and unattainable holy grail.

Gmail’s Advantages

Gmail is a favorite web-based email product for over 425 million users around the globe. When the web-based service burst onto the scene in 2004, skeptics raged against its simple interface. Concerns about privacy, advertising and more plagued the service in the beginning but Google steadily began to integrate additional products and services, providing an enormous suite of services.

Now, with its May 2013 release, Gmail has created a way to better organize emails automatically into categories utilizing tabs. Ironically, this was within a few weeks of Mailstrom opening its beta service to users. Currently Gmail is limited to preset categories with no option for additional customization, which is where its main limitation exists.

Mailstrom’s Advantages

Mailstrom, a web based app currently in beta, provides Gmail users with an efficient way to sort emails into 7 different main categories including by sender, by subject, by time, social, shopping or size. It also provides a regularly updated progress bar with details about received emails, how many were removed and how close your inbox is to inbox zero.

The service makes it very simple, with just a few clicks to archive, move, or delete emails easily. For lists, there’s even an unsubscribe option to mass unsubscribe.

How They Compare

I’ve personally been testing these services against each other for the last several weeks so this is only based on my own experiences. Initially, I was very excited about Gmail’s release. I’ve been a loyal Google follower and fan for over 10 years now after making the switch away from Yahoo in 2004 (and never once regretted it – sorry Yahoo). I use many of their products daily including Google+, Google Drive, Analytics and more.

It’s my central hub for everything related to the internet including searches, email, analytics, keyword research and more. To say I’ve “drunk the Kool-Aid” would be an understatement – Google is a part of my daily personal and professional life.

I was thrilled with Gmail’s new tab functions and considered switching to it completely. But after a few days, I found myself missing the simplicity of Mailstrom. I couldn’t sort by timeframe, which was a critical key to me being sure I don’t miss responding to the latest emails. So often I would find emails I’d forgotten I received, thanks to Mailstrom. Being a mobile user of Gmail, emails that have been opened are automatically marked as read unless I change it (which I forget to do frequently). The ability to sort based on emails received that day, the previous day or in the last week, is a critical component to Mailstrom’s value for me.

In addition, I love the psychological boost Mailstrom regularly gives me by tracking my progress. I find myself tweeting regularly about my success and being excited about the number of emails I’ve taken care of. Just this morning, I received a nice little email from Mailstrom, saying, “You removed 111 emails yesterday, more than 93% of other Mailstrom users!” Is it a little ridiculous to be proud of that? Probably. Does it still give me a little thrill? You bet.

mailstrom

The verdict:

So while I love Gmail’s inbox, and you can somewhat do the same things with filters, it’s time consuming to set up the filters. Gmail is still behind in terms of innovation for this area. What would be best to see is for Gmail or Mailstrom to truly innovate in this area and provide users the ability to create their own categories and sorting.
Of course, knowing Google, they’ll probably buy Mailstrom at some point and just integrate the process into Gmail. For my sake, I hope so.

I love Gmail and I’m by no means switching. For now I’ll just continue to use both, by using Mailstrom for cleaning and maintenance and Gmail for my actual email activities. That’s the best of both worlds for me.
What have your experiences been? Are you loving or hating Gmail’s new features?

Charity Kountz is an award-winning fiction and nonfiction author as well as a Realtor and certified Paralegal. Her writing has been featured in Coldwell Banker, iPhone Life, Strategy magazine, Duck Soup magazine, and more.

Tech News

This Zoom alternative offers a branded video meeting experience

(TECH NEWS) AirConnect is a conferencing portal that allows for company customization and automated onboarding so you can focus on other priorities.

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The concepts of company culture and branding are now more important than they’ve ever been. When we were first hearing these terms, they felt like buzzwords and ways to attract new talent and business without any actual execution.

Now that we have an understanding of what they are and how to use them, they are so much more practical and necessary – from big businesses to a one-person Etsy shop.

It’s been a little different in the last few months trying to figure out how to make company culture exude in the virtual world. For places that are hiring, it is also tricky to show how they differ from the rest over a video conference call.

The creators of AirConnect have taken this into account and have unleashed the virtual conference concept with an element of customization. As they say, “nothing beats a personal touch”.

Through use of this video conferencing tool, you can meet virtually with customers and clients in a brand video meeting portal. Customization options include headers, logo placement, and colors.

Additionally, the tool allows for customers to access their data via a customer portal, which allows for some automation when onboarding clients, assisting customers, or meeting with partners. AirConnect urges users to “say goodbye to Zoom links”.

“Let’s face it, nobody likes the where’s-the-link, what’s-the-password, can-you-hear-me-yet: and that includes your customers. Say hello to a single place where they can meet with you, as well as seeing all their account information, resources and anything else you like. Ah, that’s better, isn’t it?” explains the website.

The fully featured customer portal allows users to go beyond the simple zone of a place to talk. The ability to connect to sheets is where customers can access the aforementioned data.

The video call feature in the branded portal offers as many video touchpoints as the user would like; whether it’s used for on-boarding or standard consultations. The fact that customers can access their own data anytime allows users to put their time towards the high-value touchpoints.

On-boarding processes can also be automated by capturing customers’ information and documents in a single portal, making activation simple.

This certainly differentiates from Zoom or Skype as it has the customization option. What do you think – is it useful or flashy for the sake of flash?

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Google Messages adds features to catch up to iMessage

(TECH NEWS) Google Messages just added a bunch of features (including a web version) to make the chat service feel a lot more like iMessage. Better late than never!

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From the way people talk about iMessage, you’d think Apple has the market cornered on instant messaging–and, if you have an Android, you’re pretty much out of luck. With some new additions to Google Chat in the last week, this may no longer be the case.

According to CNET, Google added a slew of features to the RCS Messaging–typically referred to as Google Chat–app, all of which should now be available directly within your Android’s Messages app (technological limitations for older devices notwithstanding). Among these features are reactions to messages and the ability to text from your computer.

CNET notes that you’ll have to use the Google Messages app–not your phone’s built-in chat app if it’s different–in order to access these features, though they also point out that Samsung is in the process of adding the RCS Messaging suite to their proprietary messaging app as well.

You do have to jump through a couple of hoops to ensure that you’re able to use these features in Google Messages, starting with making sure you’ve updated your phone to the latest operating system version. That’s just good life advice anyway, so double-check your phone’s settings for updates before you proceed.

Obviously, you’ll also need Google Messages installed on your phone as well. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store, and it should be compatible with most devices.

Once your phone is updated and Google Messages is installed, you can set Messages as your default texting app from within settings. This process will differ slightly depending on the Android model you have, but the easiest way to do this is by opening Google Messages after installing it, and then following the on-screen prompts to set it as your default texting app.

If you’ve ignored these prompts in the past and you don’t want to redownload the app, you can search your Android’s settings for “chat” or “text” to narrow down the possibilities for where the default texting app setting is hiding.

There is one last step you’ll need to accomplish before you can actually use Google Messages’ chat features, and that’s enabling the features themselves. Google Messages will usually prompt you to upgrade to these features once you start a conversation (this typically takes the form of a message asking if you want to see when your friends are typing), but you can also navigate to Google Message settings, elect to “turn Chat on”, and follow the ensuing prompts.

From here, you’re free to use Messages, much like you would iMessage; you can react to messages by long-pressing them, check and respond to messages from Google Messages on your computer, organize and view message history, and so on. If you’re someone who feels like you missed out on the iMessage craze–or you’ve recently switched from an iPhone to an Android–Google Messages should feel right at home on your phone.

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“Mine” helps you find your digital footprint and DELETE it

(TECH NEWS) Most people value their online security, but don’t know to manage their data without abandoning the apps and websites that they love. Mine is trying to change that.

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I’m pretty concerned with keeping my personal data safe these days: I recently got a VPN and I try to use a privacy browser for everything I do on the internet. But it’s impossible to completely avoid sharing my personal information, especially if I want to watch, buy, say, or do anything at all online.

So when I first heard about Mine, a new machine-learning tool which claims to be “the future of data ownership”, it really piqued my interest. 

Using your email history, Mine identifies companies that are most likely to be storing your information based on the headers of the messages in your inbox. Its AI then independently locates the privacy policies for these companies to determine what kinds of information they’re storing, rather than looking through the actual contents of your emails.

Mine seems very mindful of the fact that they must be trustworthy in order to be successful. It’s free right now while they’re still new; Mine only got started in January. But they have plans to introduce a subscription service in the future.

To quote their FAQ: “Tech companies that are not interested in your money are interested in your data, your online behavior, or other personal assets they can monetize. In other words, if an app is free, they’re probably getting their money from somewhere else 🙂 Our goal is the opposite – we want to make data ownership accessible for all without monetizing our users’ data.”

Of course, when I saw the smiley face, I figured I’d give it a shot. Hey, if they help me get my information out of the hands of a less smiley entity, everything evens out, right?

After sifting through my emails, Mine spat out a list of the places that were allegedly storing my information. I was pretty shocked to see around 100 different companies pop up. Some of them were there for obvious reasons. Google, for example, was self-explanatory… but there were also names that I could swear I’ve never heard of.

I ended up submitting over 50 data deletion requests. The tool made it really easy to see who had my information, and streamlined the process of sending requests to these companies. With two taps, it was bombs away.

My inbox was suddenly buried in automated messages, mostly about how “support” would get back to me “as soon as possible.” I spent the next few days virtually waist deep in what was, for all intents and purposes, spam mail.

The select few that promptly, and properly, addressed my request produced mixed results: only three companies immediately confirmed that they had erased the data they were storing about me. The rest were going to make me do a bit more legwork, with each having their own rabbit holes for me to jump through before they would delete a dang thing. I won’t lie, this frustrated me, but the reasons for these extra steps are not necessarily sinister.

When I spoke to Gal Ringel, co-founder and CEO of Mine, he shared that often, companies do this because they need to be provided with more information than an email address in order to fully complete the request. He says that Mine will soon be incorporating “enriched” data erasure requests that should cut back on the need to inconvenience users with these outside processes.

In the meantime, he and his team have been working with businesses to develop policies that facilitate the process of data erasure. The majority of businesses, he says, consider it a good investment in building trust with the public. It’s also a prudent move to prevent identity theft, should others gain access to their records.

So, what’s my verdict on Mine? It really simplified the process of asking companies to delete my personal information. It is an important step on a long journey towards redefining the relationships that we have with our data, since the majority of people simply don’t have an accessible way to exercise control over it.

Mine is still in development, and I really look forward to seeing what it becomes in the future. (Hopefully, something that involves fewer emails!)

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