Premium Spam

My spam filters seem to be having a tough time recently. I’m thinking more of email filters, rather than Akismet. That said, I wish that Akismet was a little less hospitable to certain Russian-writing agents. While I took a little Russian in high school, the main result was that I realized how bad at languages I am.

Three messages that gmail somehow let through (to andrew at changingway dot org) made me smile, though.

  • Healthier way to smoke.
  • Make happy the girlfriend! Present to the girlfriend unforgettable night!
  • hi! My neighbor died because his viral infection was mistaken for bacterial…

Each one pure spam comedy gold, but I have to give first place to the last on the list. The switch from the chirpy “hi!” to the details of death has a sort of brilliance.

If gmail is going to let spam through, then I’m not too unhappy that it picked these three.

Yahoo no longer delicious, interest Flickring

Yahoo has had a bad year. In a week or so, I’ll probably be able to update this post with a link to a timeline (I’m sure someone will do a Yahoo review for 2010).

The current month might be labelled the December of dumping Delicious, one of the hot social media properties when we used to call social media Web 2.0. A recent review at Mashable reminds us that Yahoo initially declared Declicious’ status to be “sunset,” then declared it to be for sale, but adds that a sale of Delicious might not be easy or even appropriate.

I use Yahoo for two things. One is email. I’d like to be able to get to my Ymail from the Android mail app, but since basic Yahoo mail doesn’t allow straightforward use of IMAP or SMTPs, I have to use the Android browser.

I also use Flickr. My Flickr Pro account is one of the few examples of my paying for a freemium service.

I’ve been very happy with Flickr, and have not been too annoyed since the Yahoo acquisition. So maybe my Flickr photo for this post about Yahoo is rather snide; or maybe Yahoo is like a precarious, storm-battered shack.

But my confidence is Yahoo has sunk below the point at which I can recommend Flickr. It has not yet sunk below the point at which I will use Flickr.

As we head into 2011, I’m regretting that each of the two Yahoo services I use is rather sticky. Perhaps it was silly to use an email address with a domain I don’t own (andrew at changingway dot org, now that makes more sense). I have thousands of photos at Flickr, some of which are linked to from this blog and from other sites.

Perhaps Yahoo will be the comeback kid of 2011. I don’t see that happening, though.

Social Networking > Email? Let’s Translate

Has social networking taken over from email as king of communication? Fred Wilson proclaims that it has, and adds: long live the king. (Fred draws on a Morgan Stanley report, available as a pdf.)

Fred focuses on one particular trend: social net overtakes email. I’d like to point out a couple of related trends. Neither is new, but each is interestingly related to the trend Fred emphasizes.

  • Facebook is the new AOL. Some people live inside Facebook, popping out onto the wider web when they have to. Sound familiar? It should to those old enough to remember when millions used AOL for email, chat, games, etc. Well, for Fred’s kids, and, I think, for millions of others, FB is the main inbox.
  • Connection trumps content. To quote Fred (although the emphasis is mine):

    Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or some other social networking service, I believe the lighter weight communication paradigm (say less, reach more) is superior to email for many things and I’m certainly moving more of my communications away from email.

I think that each of the above points is a reasonable translation of Fred’s proclamation that social networking has deposed email. Of course, there are other translations, and of course, I’d be delighted if you would provide more in comments. I’m not delighted with the points I make, in that neither is a particularly good thing: again, that seems like a good place to stop posting and start hoping for comments.

WordPress.com Domain Mapping, Email, and Android

Domain mapping is one of the paid upgrades available for WordPress.com. I use it: that’s why this blog shows up as changingway.org (it was born as changingway.wordpress.com, and will still answer to that uri). I also use the custom email feature of the domain mapping upgrade: that’s why you can email me as andrew at changingway.org.

I recently got an Android phone, and I want to use my changingway.org email on it. I could of course use the Android’s browser. But I’d prefer to use its Email application. Why? I’ll defer that question until the end of the post.

This post is mainly about how to use the Android Email app with the custom email feature of WordPress.com domain mapping. Usually, Email setup is pretty much a matter of giving the app an email address/password combination. For custom email, you need to do more than that.

Instead, you need to do some manual setup. You’ll need to tell the Email app about some things you’ll find on your custom email web site. Starting at the web page from which you manage your custom email, click on Settings (near the top right of the page) and then on Forwarding and POP/IMAP. You want IMAP (see here for why it’s preferable to POP).

Make sure IMAP is enabled, and click on Configuration Instructions. This will take you to a list of email clients and mobile devices: Android is of course a mobile device. Clicking on Android will take you to some incoming settings (e.g., IMAP server is imap.gmail.com) and outgoing settings (e.g., SMTP server is smtp.gmail.com).

Tell your Android’s Email app about these settings. It’ll ask you for them after you provide your custom email username and password. Note that your username includes your domain (e.g., andrew at changingway.org, not just andrew).

You have a few decisions to make, some of them arising from the fact that the Email app can manage multiple email addresses. You’ll need to give your custom email a name, and decide whether it’s the default address when you send from the email app. For example, the app on my Android knows andrew at changingway.org as CW, and uses it as the default address for outgoing mail.

If you are the target audience – people wanting to use the Android Email app with the email they got when they mapped a domain to their WordPress.com blog – then I hope that this how-to post was helpful.

Now, from how to why, and to three specific questions of why.

  • Why prefer the Email app to checking email from the Android browser? My main reason is that the Email app can display a new mail notification icon at the top of the Android screen.
  • Why use the Email app, rather than the Gmail app that also comes on Android phones? After all, the custom email account is a Gmail account. I haven’t tried the Gmail app. My wife actually bought the phone, and had it set up with her Gmail. So I’m not sure whether a custom email could be used for the Gmail app. If it can, I suspect that some of the above will be helpful.
  • Why use this phone in the first place? Some have said that the G1 isn’t built for email. Well, the G1 is the phone I have, and it works pretty well, for email and for other things. And there will be many more Android phones, each seeking to improve on the G1.

Forward Into the Future

IMG_2243Having a smarter phone, and hence a more mobile web, is making me rethink multiple aspects of the web and how I use it. For example, I thought of streamlining my use of email. Right now, I have three main email accounts, and am on more than a few distribution lists. I don’t know how many lists I’m on, which strongly suggests that I’m on too many.

It might make sense to choose one email, autoforward the others to that mailbox, and get off most or all of the distribution lists. That would give me manageable mobile email.

But one of the emails is andrew dot watson at yahoo.com. To autoforward from that mailbox would cost me $20 a year, every year for the forseeable future. In Yahoo’s helpful words: Yahoo! Mail allows you to forward messages that come to your Yahoo! Mail Plus account to another email address. I emphasize Plus because Plus includes forwarding and POP access, whereas basic Yahoo mail does not include these features, basic though they seem to me.

I shouldn’t be too hard on Yahoo (especially since I own some shares). It’s not the only site that charges for forwarding. The site that hosts this blog has a similar policy in place if you want to redirect yourblogname.wordpress.com (as well as all of your permalinks) to your new domain name. The WordPress policy is similar to the Yahoo policy, but it’s not identical. It costs $10, rather than $20, a year.

That leads me to the following recommendations.

  1. For service providers, such as Automattic (owners of WordPress.com) and Yahoo: consider offering a “forward forever” deal. I’d suggest pricing it at twice the cost of one year’s forwarding. That way, the user gets to pay and forget, rather than being reminded every year that they need to keep paying for a service they don’t really us. That would be good for reputation, goodwill, etc. – and for cash flow, in that you’d get money now, rather than in future year.
  2. For web service users, especially content creators, think about leaving a service before you think about using that service. This echoes the advice given to firefighters: don’t go into a building without knowing your way out.
  3. For web service users again: own your own domain. I’ve taken my own advice here, by owning changingway.org. On the other hand, I don’t own flickr.com, which is where I keep most of my photos (including the one used in this post).

But that brings me back to Yahoo, which owns Flickr, and forward to consideration of getting photos out of Flickr and other photo services…. which deserves a separate post.

Yahoo Email Application Platform

Even though its stock has plummeted, Yahoo still has a lot going for it. For example, there’s the more than 200 million Ymail users (including me, although andrew at changingway dot org is the best address for email related to this blog). Many have remarked that Yahoo should do more with and for that userbase (again including me).

How about Ymail as an application platform? That would be obvious, and perhaps late, given what Facebook, Google, and others have been up to. But better late than never, and Om reports that Y seem to be taking the better course.

The program is expected to launch in beta relatively soon with half a dozen small applications running in a sidebar inside the Yahoo mail client (Evite is one of the services that is said to be building a nano-app for this new Yahoo Mail-as-a-platform). Users’ address books would act as a social graph, essentially turning Yahoo Mail into the basis of a whole new social networking experience.

The main problem I see is that the good ship Yahoo seems to be sinking, and so application developers may not want to move resources on to it, and users may not want to keep their stuff on it. Perhaps it needs a new captain…

Email is Social!

Stop the presses at the NY Times! Or at least read the rather good post by Saul Hansell at the NYT’s BITS blog.

Google and Yahoo have come up with new and very similar plans to respond to the challenge from MySpace and Facebook: They hope to turn their e-mail systems and personalized home page services (iGoogle and MyYahoo) into social networks.

Web-based e-mail systems already contain much of what Facebook calls the social graph — the connections between people.

Let’s talk about Yahoo first. Fred Wilson estimates that Yahoo Mail, with 250 million users, is the largest social graph on the planet. But Yahoo’s plans to use this graph make Michael Arrington sad.

Yahoo’s Brad Garlinghouse is talking about creating yet-another-social-network around Yahoo mail… He says the project is called “Inbox 2.0″ internally… It makes me sad because it is absurd for Yahoo to keep launching new social networking products, almost monthly, without what appears to be any sort of high level strategic vision…

I mean, I follow these products for a living, and I can’t keep their strategies straight. Or even figure out if there is a strategy. If Inbox 2.0 is part of Yahoo’s big vision for the future, then tell us more than the bits about the news feed and profile pages. Tell us how it can change the entire company, as OpenSocial appears poised to do with Google.

I have to agree with Michael that a more coherent message is coming from Google. Recognizing Gmail as a social graph fits very well into OpenSocial. For much the same reason, I disagree with Saul when he opens his post with the advice that we ignore OpenSocial.

Other remarks from “usual suspect” blogs include: it’s about time that Yahoo and Google unlocked the social potential of their email user bases; what’s really at issue here are two concepts that Hansell… didn’t name explicitly… RSS and Attention Data; it would make more sense to focus on start pages than on email.

Then there are many good contributions to the conversation in the comments to Saul’s post, and to the other posts referenced above… But this post has gone on long enough already.