Tag Archives: igoogle

Solving the Communication Overload problem

Sometimes email seems like communication overload….
Last week was a quiet week for me, yet I still got over 500 real emails from real people and companies.
Certainly if I got this much post every week I’d physically struggle to deal with opening it all, let alone dealing with it and responding.
Actually the vast majority of my email isn’t stuff I need to do anything with – it’s “rich awareness information” – like Vistaprint reminding me they’ve got printed t-shirts sale on, ebookers telling they’ve got a new deal on flights to Panama or its my friends arranging and discussing a party that I’m looking forward to. It’s pretty much the same category as knowing someone else is online (“awareness”) but richer in detail.
The stuff I have to deal with is the “action information” – my domain name needs renewing, one of my applications has a bug that needs fixing or my mum reminding me to book the Christmas holiday…
Web 2 takes a crack at solving this information by putting the “rich awareness information” in a separate place from “action information.” Ideally we pass through the awareness information on our daily journey to get to the action information.
My facebook home page has an awareness news feed so I can see what my friends are up to, my Google desktop has feeds of various news channels. I pass by both every day on my way to email – still the killer application of webs 1 and 2.
This separation works really well but only if the awareness summary page is seen every day, on the way to something else – otherwise it fails – a dedicated RSS news feed reader where you go in especially to “check the news” each day is flawed for this reason.
The techology itself also gets smart – it only shows me what it thinks I am likely to be interested in kept aware about – Facebook news feed is the best example so far – first it makes a stab at putting the right news up then it lets me tweak it to say which I am most interested in – i.e. “give me more photos from my family and less information from that dull fellow Smith…” and so on.
This “rich awareness information” is a new communication tool – it’s not email, it’s not the web – it’s something else. The businesses that use it best can be the Web 2 winners.

Using a web dashboard

Originally uploaded by tobyberesford

The new suite of web 2.0 applications focused on personal dashboards – iGoogle, My Yahoo, Netvibes, Pageflakes,Vista Desktop and Mac Desktop are great but how do you use them best? What are they really for.

I interviewed a super user of dashboards, Az, CTO for an internet company. He has a bank of 5 monitors that he uses as a dashboard – a precursor solution to the online tools mentioned above. Based on what he does, I’ve come up with the following groupings for you to arrange your dashboard:

1. Monitoring – this is anything you are actively monitoring – these may be the Key Performance Indicators for your business, a news feed for critical keywords like your company name or product. Az keeps track of server room temperatures and watches the statistics on new domain registrants as they come in.

2. Quick Access Tools – these are the frequently used tools you need quick access to if something in your monitoring section causes it. Az is concerned primarily with domains and registrations so his tools include whois, and ways to quickly update the domain registry if requested. “Things I need to do quite often” says Az.

3. Inbox and IM – this is the catch all business communication inbox – you may have this as a separate window on your PC or as a widget on your dashboard. Its location doesn’t matter but “always on” email and its partner in communication “Instant Messaging” should be always on your desktop so people can interrupt your work to help with their work (think of the telephone that sits idly on your desk…)

4. Toolbox – these are the less frequently used tools such as settings, widgets for updating your online preferences, changing colours and themes, adding new widgets. You know the sort of stuff you might need once or twice a year. Think favourites list.

5. News – this is external news and information that might be broader – about your industry or the place you live, hobbies and interests. You won’t check this so often but may be useful to keep a tab of top stories every so often just to keep your news junkie status up to date….

I’m now writing a netvibes widget for .name in UWA (the Universal Widget Architecture) so it should work on every platform, except of course Vista, it’s designed to fit in the Toolbox part of any dashboard.


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