The Kawasaki Rules

Guy Kawasaki has a great post today about email etiquette. I agree with pretty much all of his rules, but there is one that should have a series of treatises written about it:

Use plain text. I hate HTML email. I tried it for a while, but it’s not worth the trouble of sending or receiving it. All those pretty colors and fancy type faces and styles make me want to puke. Cut to the chase: say what you have to say in as brief and plain manner as possible. If you can’t say it in plain text, you don’t have anything worth saying.

Amen. I could write 10,000 words and not begin to tell you how much I dislike html emails. I don’t get many html emails at home, since most of the people who email me at home fall on either end of the html email spectrum: they either don’t know how to send an html email or they know better.

But at the office- that’s a horse of another color. Typically a pastel color, with little cats or bears or yodas or something on them that is intended as stationary but ends up as rage inducing fluff. I would guess that around half the emails I get at the office are html email. The colorful text is bad enough, but the fancy, funky, indecipherable fonts on top of the wild colors and dancing yodas turn communication into frustration.

Outlook lets you force emails to display as plain text, and I use that feature some. But elaborate emails that contain something I need to read can get all jumbled up when transformed from foolishness to function.

I really, really, really don’t like html email.


Internet Email Face-Off

Months after I got invited to beta test Gmail and Windows Live Mail (the upcoming successor to Hotmail), I finally got my invitation to beta test the new version of Yahoo Mail the other day. Now that I’ve used all three, here are three things I like and three I don’t about each.

Was the wait for Yahoo Mail worth it? Maybe- it’s pretty cool. Let’s take a quick look at all three applications:


I Like:

1) The ads are unobtrusive. This is a huge advantage at the moment.

2) The Compose Mail window is the best of show. Lots of features, clean, uncluttered layout.

3) The Gmail Manager extension for Firefox makes it very easy to manage multiple Gmail accounts. A big advantage if you use multiple email addresses.

I Don’t Like:

1) No folders: I am still a folder guy when it comes to email storage.

2) If you’re used to Outlook, it’s a little hard to navigate.

3) Web Clips should be in addition to, not in lieu of, full RSS features.

Windows Live Mail

I Like:

1) If you use IE, the layout, look and feel are very similar to Outlook.

2) The multiple sort options in you inbox (by date, from, subject and size).

3) Great integration of email, calendar and contacts.

I Don’t Like:

1) Many features don’t work with Firefox. The Live Mail team is working on this and I suspect it will be a temporary problem.

2) I couldn’t figure out how to import calendar and contacts from Outlook. Hopefully this is coming. If I could synch between my home and office computers using Live Mail, that would be a huge advantage.

3) Needs RSS features.

Yahoo Mail

I Like:

1) It seems very well designed in general. The slight leader over Live Mail at the moment.

2) The calendar view and features are great.

3) RSS implementation is well done. I’ll never read the majority of my feeds in an email application (for these reasons), but some RSS feeds (like newspaper headlines, etc.) are perfect for reading in an email application.

I Don’t Like:

1) It crashes sometimes when I access it with Firefox.

2) Bad ad implementation- a great big ad at the top right. Again, use unobtrusive text ads.

3) I don’t like the contacts view nearly as much as I like the view in Outlook. Give us some display options here.


I have moved my RSS feed reading almost exclusively online. But because my primary email address is not a Gmail, Live Mail or Yahoo address, I still read most of my mail offline, via Outlook. Yahoo lets you retrieve your other email, which is handy if you want to access your email via someone else’s computer. But if you have your computer, it’s always going to be easier just to access your other email directly, via Outlook, etc.

All three applications have great features working in their favor. All three are still in beta, so the story isn’t over. But as of today, if I had to pick one to use as my primary email application, it would probably be Yahoo, because of the RSS implementation and the ability to access my primary email if I need to. If Live Mail gets Firefox friendly and adds RSS capability and POP mail retrieval, its Outlook-like features will give it the edge.

My prediction: Yahoo is ahead at the moment, but Live Mail will catch up. Gmail will be everyone’s “second” email address for a while until Google capitulates and makes a more traditional inbox structure an option.

Long term, all three will have significant market share, which is a win for the consumer.

Want to Read Newsome.Org Via Email?

While I believe the best way to read any blog, including mine, is by visiting this page or subscribing to my RSS Feed, I know I have quite a few readers who prefer to get their news the old-fashioned way- via email.

Now you can subscribe to Newsome.Org via email. See the Email Feed blank in the left column of this page (you may have to scroll down a little)? Simply fill in your email address and click Subscribe. You’ll be emailed a link to click on (to prove that it’s a real email address) and then you’re subscribed. You’ll get one email a day containing the stories that appear on this page that day.

You can unsubscribe any time.

Again, I prefer to visit a page or read the RSS feed, but if you prefer the email option, it’s an option that’s now available.

Windows Live Mail Update

I received an email invitation to join the beta test of Windows Live Mail (the pending overhaul of Microsoft’s Hotmail service) today. Having poked around a bit, it looks like my outside-looking-in impression may be correct- it looks like the easy winner in the three horse race for online email domination. Of course since, unlike Gmail and Windows Live Mail, I have not wrangled a Yahoo! Mail beta invitation, I can’t really compare all of them. Enough whining- here are my impressions.

1) It looks a lot like Outlook, which I and a zillion other people use for our email. This familiarity will give it a head start in getting people to use it over the other less familiar applications.

2) In addition to the usual email folders along the left side of the window, there are tabs for Calendar, Contact and Today at the top- again similar to Outlook (though in Outlook these tabs are at the bottom left of the window below the email folders). The Calendar tab doesn’t work in my account, but this is a beta version so that’s not unexpected. The Contacts tab works, though I could find no import feature to import my contacts from my desktop Outlook application. That may be a feature reserved for the paid upgrade version (Outlook Live)- I don’t know. The Today tab shows links to a tutorial and a feedback page. In sum, the look and feel is an improvement over Hotmail and more intuitive than Gmail’s conversational structure.

3) You can add topical folders to store mail by clicking a link at the bottom of the standard email folders. I didn’t see a way to create rules to direct email into chosen folders, but that may be coming.

The issue in my mind is how many features will be added to this free version and how many will be held back for the paid upgrade. Clearly, it’s a work in progress, but add some features (RSS functionality, perhaps) and Windows Live Mail will replace Hotmail, its predecessor, as my web based email of choice.

I’m going to use Live Mail and Gmail regularly over the next few weeks and I’ll report my impressions from time to time.

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PC World Looks at Web Based Email

PC World has an article on the upcoming improvements to Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail. While not my primary email application, I use both services for one thing or another and am looking forward to the upcoming improvements.

Along with Gmail, these are the most popular web based email services. I never managed an invitation to beta test either service so this is the best I can do for a report.

It’s a little hard to tell so far, but it looks like the new Hotmail (renamed Windows Live Mail) will strongly and naturally resemble Outlook. That will be convenient for those of us who use Outlook for email.

The main feature that I will be looking for is the ability to check email from the web based service via Outlook when I’m at home. Right now I do that with both Gmail and Hotmail. Currently, you have to pay for an upgrade to Yahoo! Mail in order to have Outlook access. I don’t know if that will change with the new version. If it doesn’t, that is a significant disadvantage.

While I like most things Google, including Gmail, its unusual (perhaps evolutionary, perhaps not) folder and inbox structure would make me hesitant to use it as my primary email application. Given all of the above, my money is on Hotmail to win this race.

The bottom line is that we have 3 major web-based email providers engaged in a feature and service war for our business. That is a very good thing for consumers.

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Reducing Spam – Opting Out?

I was planning to write a Tech Tips for Tweeners piece on spam, including when to try the “opt out” approach, but Ed Bott just did an excellent piece on it.

nospamOne thing I would add: with practice, you can tell which opt out links are more likely legitimate and which ones are totally bogus. As a general rule, an opt out link that merely sends an email to a free email address (Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) is totally bogus and, as Ed says, will get you nowhere. A form at some offshore web site will likely not reduce your spam and may increase it. A form at a .com web site, and particularly one that seems, upon a review of the web site, to be a legitimate mailing list server is the best (but not guaranteed) bet.

One of the head IT guys at my firm did an experiment. He tried to opt out of every piece of spam he received over an extended period of time. The result: he says he got less and less spam over time. The “never reply to spammers” approach should be canned in favor of the “judiciously respond to spammers” approach.

One final tip. The best thing to happen to spam prevention in a long time is the new version of Outlook (Outlook 2003). It has a very effective spam filter that will eliminate a lot of spam. Be sure to keep the spam filter updated, either automatically via Windows Update or via the Help/Check for Updates menu. There is a new service pack update that adds additional spam protection.

And as Ed reminds us: never, ever, ever buy anything from a spammer.

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The Ultimate Web Based Email?

When Gmail first came out, there was quite the buzz. People begged for and even bought beta invitations. I have used Gmail (though not as my default email program) for months and I think it is a very good email solution (2.5 gigabytes of storage can’t be a bad thing, right?). But it still looks looks like a web based email application. In other words, it looks like another, better version of Hotmail or the current Yahoo email. The search for the perfect web based email application continues.

Yahoo may be about to change that. Yahoo bought Oddpost, a well liked web based email application, last year. Now it seems that Yahoo is about to combine its existing email application with Oddpost technology into a revolutionary new version of Yahoo email.

I haven’t yet scored an invitation to beta test the new Yahoo mail, but based on the reviews and screenshots I have seen, it looks like a significant improvement over everything that’s out there currently.

TheUnofficialYahooWeblog has a good review of the application, along with some screenshots. Improvements in the new application include:

1) 3 pane view, with folders, inbox and message preview available on one screen. This makes Yahoo email look and feel more like Outlook and other traditional email programs than any other web based service. It works with Firefox as well as Internet Explorer.

2) A tabbed interface that lets you line up several messages for later review, reply, etc. This feature is similar to Firefox’s much heralded (including by me) tabbed browsing.

3) Lots of formatting options for email composition. I am very strictly a plain text email person, but lots of people aren’t and if you want to make your email pretty or annoying (depending on your perspective) the new Yahoo email will give you lots of ways to do so.

4) The new Yahoo email application doesn’t target advertising based on the content of your emails the way Gmail does. This is not a big deal to me, but it will make the privacy crowd happy.

As more people move towards web based applications, which allow you to access them from any computer, not just your own computer, web based email will almost certainly see wider acceptance. By making the experience similar to what people already use, Yahoo is positioning itself perfectly to take advantage of that growth.

If I can get a beta invitation, I’ll take the new application for a spin and post more notes and updates.

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