Thursday, November 17, 2011

What's a GMail?

A blog reader recently said to me, "I like your blog because I am learning quite a bit. You write a lot about GMail. I don't even know if I have a GMail, so I better go get one right away."

My lightbulb popped on...I often write about topics by jumping in mid-stream and assuming you have been privy to the thoughts in my head all along. So here I answer the question: "What's a GMail?"

GMail is a Internet-based email program, and in my opinion, one of the best. It is free, and allows you to send or receive email anywhere you have an Internet connection. It follows the SaaS model, or Software as a Service. Don't let that vocabulary startle you; SaaS essentially means there is nothing to install onto your computer. You find a computer, laptop, smart phone, iPad, etc and login.  That's it; end of story. No more CDs, disks and things to install onto your computer.

(Just think how brilliant you are know what SaaS is. Impress your friends this weekend by talking about how GMail is a SaaS service. So are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  They are all SaaS applications. No software to install; you just login.  That's SaaS.)

So remember, GMail is not something you buy off a shelf at the store. It is a service you login to from anywhere you have an Internet connection.

So, what makes GMail so special?

It is all searchable. If you have a message you want to look up, you do not necessarily have to spend have your day hunting through dozens of folders in search of where you placed that one elusive message. (It's probably with that lone sock you lost in last week's wash.)  Instead, just search for the message. Type any word in the message in the search box at the top of GMail and GMail automatically returns all messages with that word.

So if you are trying to find the message from Aunt Kathy with the funny story and photo about her trip to Orlando, just type Kathy Orlando in the search box and you will probably have it.

You get a lot of storage. Typically you do not have to delete any messages from your GMail. You can leave them in there forever and typically not run out of space (more on this in a future post.)

You get a conversation view of messages. Huh? What does that mean? GMail does something novel with your messages: GMail groups all replies together into one message that it calls a conversation. So if you send out a message to 10 people asking for help planning your dad's birthday party, all 10 replies will be grouped into the same conversation instead of coming back as individual messages.  This helps me organize my messages into conversations instead of each message being on its own.

Some folks do not like the conversation view of messages, and you might not either. It can be turned off.

And some folks have some some serious concerns about GMail, how it works, and some of the privacy (or lack thereof) afforded to people who use it. So stay tuned; I will cover some of the GMail turn-offs in my next post.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making Social Networks Social

With the tip of a hat to my friend Swaroop, I bring you a fantastic article about being engaged in social media.  Though aimed at a more business and commerce audience, the same principles apply to individuals too.

The quick highlights:

  1. Post links to outside resources. Show that you can provide some value by sharing resources you have found with your audience.
  2. Retweet worthy tweets. When you find a gem in the Twitt-o-sphere, share it. You bring value to your followers and honor the original tweeter.
  3. Have a conversation. When people leave comments on your Facebook wall, respond.
  4. Jump into conversations. Find a place to have make regular input, like a particular group in LinkedIn.
  5. Say something interesting. Don't be a me-former, who talks only about themselves.  Be an in-former, who elevates the conversation.

Read the entire article here.  It's a nice quick read.

Your thoughts? Throw a comment in here, and we will have a conversation (See Point #3).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Impact of Social Media

Just how powerful is social media.  Take less than 3 minutes to find out in this great YouTube video.

Then drop some social media factoids on friends over dinner and truly impress them.

Surprised? Impressed? Overwhelmed? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

GMap Pedometer

Back from a long is a site that has become one of my favorites: GMap Pedometer.  This one is awesome for the athletic crowd of walkers and runners and bikers who go out for a workout, and later wonder "Just how far did I go?"

Built on the Google Maps platform, the GMap Pedometer allows you to plot a route along roads or pedestrian trails.  The Pedometer automatically follows the contour of the road/trail for you and calculates the distance, inserting mile markers along the way.  This is great if you need to plan, for example, an 8 mile workout, like I did below in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  All you have to do is start double-clicking points along your route.

To try it:
  • Go to
  • In the upper left, fill in the Jump To field with your city and state.  (For example, Grand Rapids, MI).  Then click the Go button.
  • Use the Google Maps controls (along the right) to zoom in if needed.  Just like Google Maps, you can drag the map around too, if needed.
  • Click the Start Recording button to start a route.
  • Double-click all the points along your route.
  • As you double-click, the pedometer will automatically calculate the distance in the upper left.
  • If you are building an out-and-back route, you can even use the Complete there and back route link.  Once at the outermost point of your route, just click that button and the Pedometer automatically doubles-back the route to your starting point.
One other very cool feature is the Elevation options. In the leftmost box, look for the Elevation links.  Clicking them allows you to see the elevation changes along a route, particularly helpful if you have some hill workouts planned and want to brag about the terrain you just conquered.  

GMap Pedometer is a fun, free, easy-to-use, no-registration-required program which allows you to try some new courses without the hassle of driving your car along the same route to track the mileage.  Try it out, and let me know what you think.