Please stop trying to kill email

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It boggles my mind that we still have the battle cry in the tech world around killing-off email. Various tech startups starting trumpeting the goal of killing-off the evils of email over a decade ago but email still endures. It might be tough for folks to fathom, but email is really a very effective tool if used properly.

I understand the needs of the various cloud software companies doing project management systems to try and carve-out a niche at the expense of email, but it is misguided effort. There are many challenging aspects of email and how people screw it up, but the threaded email chains we all continue to live with are not going away no matter who or what tries to destroy or “disrupt” it. Email is effective as an asynchronous tool to communicate with the world. Can we please just acknowledge this and move on?

The Generation Gap

Back in the 80s and 90s, the written letter was “The Man” and as a teenager and into my 20s, I had disdain for having to write letters and formally respond to others via the printed application, form, or letter. Using email to communicate asynchronously on bulletin board systems and later via the Internet was a breath of fresh air. No longer did I need to sit down and write a formal letter to others, get a postage stamp, mail it, and wait for a phone call or letter back many days later. Email gave us all something really close to instant gratification.

Nowadays, it’s email is the “The Man” for the younger generation. Forget about the written letter. The semi-instant gratification with email is usually not immediate enough for those under 30. The immediacy of messaging tools like Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and whatever the fad of the day happens to be is quite seductive. The farce that messages disappear or expire is also very attractive to kids and young adults as they become more aware of their digital footprint on the world. Email is thought of as structure and as a corporate tool. So, it makes sense tech startups wanting to entice new users play to the disdain of the apparent dinosaur that is email.

The truth is that the “free” and paid communication tools of the day have come and gone. Also, there really is a need for some decent accountability on what people write, how people respond to others, and what people commit to doing. Email hasn’t gone away in business for these reasons. Different generations might not love it, but it works well enough to displace all that was done decades ago with a lot more paper, pens, and typewriters.

The Common Straw Man Arguments

Just because many people misuse a tool, it doesn’t necessitate the displacement of the tool. The arguments against email are often rooted in a incorrect attribution of what it actually is useful for in the real world.

  • Your email inbox is a to-do list: Many people make this mistake and try to turn an inbox into a to-do list or something. You can “star” the heck out of things and/or flag what you want, but this is not really effective. You are much better off actually using a tool that was meant for individual collaborative task management. Wunderlist and other tools are much more effective. The better tools focus on tasks and can notify via multiple methods. Just because email is not a decent to-do task list, doesn’t mean it should be displaced. Use the proper tool.
  • Email is not IM: If you use email in the hope of instant communication with others, you are going to be frustrated. It’s not going to work. People have a wide range of understanding on acceptable response time on email. You need to deal with that. Just because someone doesn’t respond to you immediately on an email doesn’t mean email is broken and doesn’t work. It means that you probably have unrealistic expectations that haven’t been communicated to others prior to your request or you should use another form of communication that would be more effective for your instant need. Use the proper tools.
  • Email is not a replacement for human contact: I cannot tell you how many times I have had misunderstandings with others over email on sensitive subjects or issues because words and tone were taken the wrong way. It happens. Of course, we all need to remember that email is not going to provide the same level of empathy and understanding humans achieve when you able to talk with someone in-person or on the phone.

Email is not going away. Your startup is not going to kill it and you are much better off focusing on creating real value that people and organizations will want to use because it is more effective and innovative then the tools they have today.

Minimize the blur on Windows 8.1 scaled applications

If you have an ultrabook that can dish great resolution, Windows 8.1 does some interesting things around scaling in the UI. This has caused me some grief with my Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro that wants to dish 3200×1800 natively.

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro Display Settings

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro Display Settings

Windows 8.1 will try and do some scaling options for you and it feels like a bunch of adjustment areas that you just need to play with for a while to get what you like. You have scaling, screen resolution, magnifier, and other options in the various display settings to mess with. But, even if you do that, some apps can look a little blurry. This is along the lines of the issues Mac users have with their retina screens.

No matter what you do with the various display settings, you should also look at messing with the compatibiltity settings in Windows for the apps directly. If you have a shortcut pinned to your taskbar or on your desktop, you can right-click and go into properties.

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Once in the shortcuts properties, you can check a flag to disable the scaling Windows wants to do to to the application rendering under the compatibility tab. Check the disable scaling checkbox.

disablescaling2In my testing, this has helped tremendously on many different occasions. For example, on GoToMeeting it has been critical to kill the blur as Windows tries to offset the high DPI with scaling up or down. You can right-click the GoToMeeting icon when it is running to change the flag. It does require the application to be restarted to take effect.

This is not a silver bullet to fix blurred windows or fonts and it should be tried after you have done what you can inside the various display and fonts scaling areas in Windows Control panels.

Phishing emails are getting very good

I know what to look for and check and this took quite a while. Wow. Of course, the largest tip-off that this is a fraud is that someone at Wells Fargo (or any bank) is actually trying to proactively help you with anything. That never happens. But, digging deeper into the message source, you see stuff that I haven’t seen before. They are inserting more “Received:” headers to mask the real one from Taiwan.

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Most people will never even look at the message source at all, but even when you do and see this, it still takes a while because it can really look legit with all the bogus wellsfargo.com and postini references.

Man, it’s tough out there in email world nowadays. The payload was a .scr file for Windows by the way in a Zip file.

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This is going to levels I have never seen before. I don’t know how regular folks on Windows will be able to survive even with security if this continues to accelerate and get more and more sophisticated. I suppose just not allowing any files to be sent via email is going to be the eventual step that might curb this sort of malware infection path, but I’m sure there will be more and more doors opening for every one we close.

Anne Giovannoni Painting

We had this painting hanging in my house growing up for as long as I can remember. For the last 30 years, it was sitting in storage with more stuff from my father. My wife, Sarah, decided to try and clean it up a bit and remove the bad frame.

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The artist is Anne Giovannoni and I can’t find anything on her on the web, so I’m posting this in the hope of someone knowing something about her. The painting has had decades of neglect, but the cleaning really improved it.

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I have no idea where my father bought it or when. If you have any helpful information, please let me know. You can comment here. Thanks!

Evernote Web Clipper On iPad and iPhone via Safari On iOS 7

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I posted the original bookmarklet to bookmark hack a few years ago and have continued to maintain it. Apple changed their iOS GUI pretty dramatically with the release of iOS 7, so I thought it would make sense to update the quick guide specifically to show iOS 7 users how to clip webpages to their Evernote accounts with the javascript to bookmark hack.

[OPTIONAL] If you don’t like a bookmark bar on your browser, you can skip this. If you do want a button always around to quickly clip a page, go into Settings > Safari and flip the switch to “Show Favorites Bar” to have a persistent bar across the top of Safari. You will see the guide with this option enabled.

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1. In Safari on iOS 7.x, go to http://www.evernote.com and add the page to your favorites with the arrow box before the location field. Click the “Bookmark” box. You can do this on another tab in Safari if you want.

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2. Change the name of the new bookmark from the site title to “Evernote Clipper” or whatever name you prefer. I will refer to the bookmark as this title for this guide. Save it after you rename it.

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3. Now select the entire text below. I have it posted as code or you can click the link to the text file and Safari will open it and show the pure text. You need to click this link to open the code in a new text page to easily select all and copy to your iOS clipboard to paste in a later step.

iOSEvernoteClipperCode.txt

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Example of the copy text you will need to perform

4. Go to the favorities icon in Safari to the right of the url location field and open your favorities and edit the Evernote Clipper one.

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5. You are going to clear the address the bookmark you just made.

20140308-135602.jpgand paste the entire code you copied from step 3 into the address field. Save the changed bookmark. This is your clipper now.

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6.  With the clipper code now in the bookmark, you can to Evernote. Go to a different website now in Safari. The example below is Google. When the site is up, click the Evernote Clipper button on the bookmark bar, or use the favorites button to the right of the location bar to select the Evernote Clipper bookmark. Either method will work.

20140308-135621.jpg If all goes well, you will be prompted for the initial login to Evernote. Enter your Evernote username/password.

7. The Evernote dialogue will open and you will be able to add more details to the page you are clipping before you save.

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8. After you save the quicknote from the clipper, you will see it in your regular Evernote account on your devices.

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