A Google Life, Month 1

So it's been just around a month since I shifted my mail to Google Mail, turned on search history (or properly: stayed logged into Google Search) and switched from Bloglines to Google Reader for my web feed addiction. Here's some additional notes:

  • I get way too much mail. Since it's mail I've actually subscribed to (mailing lists, web site updates, etc) it's somewhere above spam but below mail that has any actual value to me. I sort of knew this before this experiment, but redirecting the mail to Google has lead to two things: First, I only check my existing client (Outlook) once a day now to catch stragglers that aren't being forwarded to Google. So I end up seeing the 75-100 "bulk" messages in one batch, whereas normally I end up deleting them over the course of the day. Also in Google Mail I've been archiving rather than deleting the mail so I also get a sense there of how much I'm getting.
  • There are some very nicely formatted email newsletters (Flavorpill being the archetype) which look so-so in Google Mail. Nice and crisp in Outlook or Thunderbird, but default font hell in Google Mail. I don't know what to do about that, it's just an observation.
  • I have too many email addresses. This was and may be in the future the starting point for a post on distractions, but in the interim: I alternate between trying to consolidate my email down to a couple of addresses, and trying to have an address for each specific purpose (partly to catch the bastards who resell addresses from their user accounts). I am using this problem as a design point for projects I am working on: Design point: separate email address for bulk mail from the email address for account issues. That is, let me specify epc+bulkmail@some.domain for the not-quite-junkmail from your site, and epc@some.domain for mail related solely to my account. If I could do that, I could eliminate many of the additional accounts and addresses I've set up. Too many sites require you to sign in with an email address, and then only allow updates, newsletters, etc to go to that email address.
  • I like Google Reader's speed and presentation, but I do not like the inconsistencies in tagging/folder naming (especially when compared to Google Mail), nor the default display of the summary of a feed item, even if there is a complete post in the feed. There is no indication that you're viewing just the summary (and depending on the feed, the summary may be 3 lines or may be a complete post). Another oddity I noticed: no search. There is no search option in Google Reader, I find that extremely odd coming from Google (it was the whole "anything you need can be found via search" mantra that got me into trying this in the first place).
  • I found that staying logged into Google Search hasn't really had that much value for me. I tend to kick off searches by creating a new tab in Firefox and then either Ctrl-L'ing to the URL field and tabbing over to the search field, or Ctrl-E'ing to get to the search field, and then searching from there. I rarely type in "google.com" to start off a search.
  • I like Google Calendar. They got one thing right which Yahoo! has never implemented: sending and receiving iCal/vCal meeting notices. It's such an obvious thing to do if you're supplying a calendar. Yahoo! calendar and Yahoo! mail seem to be from two separate entities. I can send notices between Outlook and Google Calendar and both sides can handle the notice fine (assuming Outlook is sending in ICS format).
  • I haven't tried some of the other technologies yet, like Google Desktop Search or Google Pages, but plan to.

I think that I will continue this for awhile, though I need to solve the real mail vs. bulk mail thing soon. Part of that problem lies with a long-held belief in separating work mail from personal mail. I'm not sure that's realistic or even necessary these days.

I'm having qualms about Google Reader, though I'm also not considering returning to Bloglines. I wish that it was easier to manipulate subscriptions and that folder names/tags were more like other Google labels. Search would be handy as well.

The one thing I'm truly interested in is keeping calendars in sync across Google Calendar and Outlook (and extending off Outlook, my cell phone) and will spend some time investigating that this weekend.

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