gmail – Stay N Alive

Huffington Post to Scare Users About Their Addresses, Phone Numbers

I decided I should prepare you for what is to come. You’re already seeing (hence my title – you can read more here), and will see over the coming weeks a hailstorm of critique, saying Facebook is sharing your phone numbers and addresses with third party sites and applications. Huffington Post’s (see the link above), and I predict many others to come, are, and will be absolutely incorrect. The truth is 1) we don’t know exactly what Facebook is going to do (and hence it’s too early to freak out anyway), and 2) we do know Facebook isn’t going to just share your phone numbers and addresses with 3rd party sites. Huffington Post makes this sound like they’re giving it away like candy.

Here’s what will likely happen:

  • Facebook will require 3rd party websites and applications to prompt users before they can access any information about you. This includes your phone number and address, and means websites and applications can’t just get this information WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION.
  • Facebook will prominently display a warning when an application or website is trying to get your address or phone number, and you will be completely aware your address or phone number could be used by the application. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO GIVE AWAY YOUR ADDRESS OR PHONE NUMBER, DON’T GIVE ACCESS TO THE APPLICATIONS THAT ASK FOR IT.
  • There is also rumor that Facebook will be preventing minors from being able to give away their phone numbers and addresses to 3rd party applications and addresses. This is something only Facebook can do, unless a minor is posing as an adult – unlikely.

Let’s set the record straight. FACEBOOK IS STILL THE MOST PRIVACY FOCUSED WEBSITE FOR CONSUMERS ON THE PLANET RIGHT NOW. They will be even more so after this feature. What’s the other option? Applications can ask you to manually type in your address and phone number each time you log in. If you’re okay with that experience, maybe you shouldn’t approve applications to have your phone number and address. Heck, maybe you shouldn’t be on Facebook in the first place – at least Facebook is trying to make that process easier.

In the case you choose not to be on Facebook, be especially careful – Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Google Contacts, and even financial services like Paypal don’t even offer this level of granularity. If you give them access, 3rd party websites get access to all your information, phone number, address, and all. In fact, for many of those services I listed, not only do you give your own address and phone number, but you give your friends’ addresses and phone numbers as well. Facebook doesn’t even allow that.

So I caution you over the next couple weeks – don’t believe the sensational headlines. Be prepared to stand up for your privacy. Facebook’s next move makes things more private, yet accessible, not less. At the same time fight that Gmail, Google Contacts, Yahoo, Paypal, and others all offer this level of granularity to 3rd party websites. At least Facebook is doing something about it.

For more background, be sure to read Facebook’s post where they phased this out in preparation for a better version here.

Facebook, Play the Higher Ground

I was wrong.

On Twitter, Buzz, and on Scoble’s blog I was insisting there was a way to retrieve Email addresses via Facebook‘s API.  That’s because I truly thought there was.  In fact, I had this scathing blog post ready criticizing Google on playing games with Facebook (which I think is wrong and evil, too) when all Google had to do is embrace Facebook’s API, something Gmail has been reluctant to do for some reason.  However, that aside, I’d like to put the Onus on Facebook this time.  It’s time for Facebook to stick to their guns, fix their API, and make this stuff a little more open than before.

By open, I don’t mean take away any privacy controls.  I don’t mean release any e-mail addresses or phone numbers that my friends are hiding from my view.  I don’t mean releasing any e-mail addresses or phone numbers that my friends haven’t approved 3rd party apps from taking.  I mean, respectful of privacy, let this data go!  It’s time.

Here’s what Facebook needs to do:

  • First, they need a global privacy control for each user, that is opt-out only if they’ve already opted into their friends seeing their e-mail address.  There should be a big message at the top when you log into Facebook giving users the option to opt out, with a user-friendly description telling what that means.  (part of the problem is many users won’t even understand this, for which I sympathize with Facebook)
  • Second, they need one more extended permission apps must be granted by users that authenticate through Facebook: “friends_emails” – if you want to also enable friend phone numbers (which I also recommend), add “friends_phones”.  This way, I, the user, get to decide and have to make the choice if I want that application to access my friends’, through the social contract I made with them, e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

Right now the only way to access e-mail address information is either through a special deal Facebook has with Yahoo, a special deal Facebook has with Microsoft, or the Facebook app on several mobile devices.  There is no way for an average developer to access this stuff.  It’s not in FQL.  It’s not in the old REST API.  It’s not in the new Graph API.  Technically, if I have each and every one of my friends come in and log into my application I could get them to all give me permission to get their e-mail address, but that to me seems like a really flawed way to allow me to share their e-mail addresses.  Facebook can do better than this – they’re much smarter than this.  They can make this work for everyone if they try.  Right now it just looks like you are hanging on for dear life to my data.  Maybe that’s the case, but it isn’t right.

I hope Facebook can play the higher ground on this.  I hope this is only a technical hurdle.  Facebook did make it possible to export all your data, including e-mail addresses, earlier, so I see this as an ongoing trend and I hope this is on the radar (although my request to download my data failed for some reason).  I see this as an opportunity where Facebook could be made out to be the good guy, and then afterwards no one would probably even notice the feature’s there.

Just do it.

Facebook Prepares to Compete With Gmail: Launches Messaging API

FacebookFacebook is moving too fast this week for me to keep up.  On the heels of the Acquisition of Gmail-creator-founded FriendFeed, along with the launch of their new search interface, Facebook just took it one step further today.  In an announcement on their blog along with associated documentation on their developers wiki, Facebook released a set of new APIs for developers to begin writing software that enables them to read and display a user’s inbox and messages from Facebook Platform.

While Facebook has offered a rich set of APIs since the launch of their developer platform in 2007, Facebook’s messaging system has remained stagnant and seemingly untouched during the entire period.  Developers have been itching to get into the messages of a user on their behalf to help fix this.  Not only is Facebook opening this up for developers, but they are also getting ready to launch an entirely new messaging system being tested by a small group of users currently, set to launch “in the coming weeks”.  Facebook also launched an interface into their notifications API enabling developers to read and notify users when they receive new notifications.  I expect this to be used in Desktop applications such as Seesmic.

While people are speculating the fate of FriendFeed after the new acquisition, there seems to be two things on the mind of Facebook recently: Messaging and Search.  With the creator of Gmail on their team and co-founder of one of the best real-time search engines on the internet (that just so happens to have a superior Direct Messaging system as well), you can bet Facebook is already putting him hard at work in helping them on such features.  I hope and expect to see this new API implemented into FriendFeed’s own messaging system, as well – hopefully enabling you to import your Facebook inbox into FriendFeed’s own DM box.  We’ll wait and see.

It’s no secret that E-mail is an old and out-dated technology.  It only goes to say that we’re in a race now for the fastest, most real-time, and responsive messaging system to replace e-mail.  While Google moves forward with Wave, you can bet Facebook will be doing the same with their own messaging.  With the ability to now truly identify individuals socially without need for an actual “address”, E-mail may actually be going by the wayside.

Gmail has yet to launch any sort of API into its own messaging (that I’m aware of) – this move by Facebook is unprecedented.  While Facebook will not allow developers to actually send messages on behalf of users (a wise and careful move, I’m sure), this makes Facebook even more “open” in my book.

Developers can sign up for the new messaging platform by signing up for the Inbox API whitelist.

How to Push Sync Calendars and Contacts to Your iPhone Using Gmail

iphone.jpgMy friend, Phil Burns, recently wrote a very rare blog post citing a discussion this morning at the monthly Utah CTO breakfast, hosted by another friend of mine, Phil Windley (former CTO of Utah).  Burns stated his concerns with the “anti-Microsoft people” (which I am not, nor am I anti-Apple or anti-Linux) and the fact that they were complaining about how hard it was to automatically sync all your contacts, calendar, and mail on their phones from services such as Gmail and other 3rd-party services.  Burns’ (I’ll call him by his last name here so as not to confuse him with Phil Windley) point was that he already gets this service on his Windows-based phone and laptop through Exchange.  Valid point.  However, I think those at the breakfast were uneducated on the matter that Gmail now supports Exchange sync and push services to the iPhone.  Push sync of all contacts and calendar events are completely possible using Google services on the iPhone.  I don’t blame those complaining though, since the documents explaining how to do it are extremely hard to find via Google’s own search.  I thought I’d explain how to set that up here:

What you’ll need

First of all, the only things you’ll need are a Gmail account, a Google Calendar account, and an iPhone.  That’s it.  You’ll also need to have the 2.2.1 or above iPhone firmware since that is when they started supporting Exchange (at least I believe that’s the reason).  For push e-mail, a Mobile Me account will be needed, but Google is set to enable that in the future as well.

Calendar and Contacts Set up

  1. To set up push sync of your Google contacts and calendar events to your phone, simply go to your iPhone settings, select “Mail, Contacts and Calendars”, and then select “Add Account”.  Here’s the trick though – instead of selecting “Gmail”, you’ll need to select “Exchange”.
  2. On the following screen you’ll be asked for several fields – enter your gmail e-mail address in the “e-mail” field.  Leave “domain” blank.  Your “username” is your gmail e-mail address – the full address with or, prefixed by your username.  Then enter your Google account password in the “password” field.
  3. On the following screen you’ll be asked to verify the certificate – choose “Accept”.
  4. Then, on the next screen you’ll see the same screen again, but there will be a “Server” field.  Enter “” for the domain and select “Next.
  5. On the following screen you’ll have the option to turn on mail, contacts, and/or calendars.  Turn contacts and calendars on, leave mail off.  As you select each option you’ll have the opportunity to delete your current iPhone contacts and just start fresh with your Google contacts and calendars or leave them there and add your Google contacts/calendar on top of it all.  Hit “Done” when you’re ready.
  6. You’re done!  Now when you go to your Calendar app you can update the calendar, it auto-updates Google calendars, and you get updates immediately as they come from Google calendar itself.  Your Gmail contacts work the same way.  Now you can sync all your contacts’ phone numbers, addresses, and other data from your computer to your iPhone, and have those immediately update Google with the new data, giving you a complete Google address book (and no need for Plaxo!).  Add to that Google Voice, which just started handing out invites to new users today, you’ve got a pretty powerful, real-time contact and calendaring system right on your phone!

What about e-mail?

E-mail currently does not work via push yet for Gmail and the iPhone.  However, I’ve found the IMAP-based setup that the Gmail options in the phone give are quite fast and pretty close to real-time.  Be sure to set that up, and turn off the contacts and calendar for Gmail on that particular setting when you do, since you’re already retrieving those through the Exchange connector.

One other option you could always do is to get a Mobile Me account just for the e-mail and iPhone location services (Apple will notify you where your iPhone is at all times, let you send a message to the phone, or even completely erase it if you tell them to).  Then you could forward all your Gmail mail to Mobile Me through your Gmail forward settings, and retrieve it that way.  With the proper set up and filters, your mail will continue to archive in Gmail while letting you get mail real-time via push through Mobile Me.  I think for mail IMAP is generally sufficient though.

So there you have it – push contacts and calendaring for your iPhone, through Gmail.  It’s completely possible, and 100% supported by Google and Microsoft (I’m told they purchased Exchange licenses just for this).  Soon I’ll have to share how I’m doing the same thing natively on my Mac.

Gmail is My FriendFeed Client

FriendFeedA couple days ago I showed you my own unique way of managing Twitter. This method utilizes my e-mail client, Gmail, to track and force Twitter messages to come to me instead of myself needing to constantly check the site or my preferred Twitter client for new messages about me, my brand, or other topics I like to monitor. I’ve also spoken recently about my hiatus from RSS and how I’ve significantly reduced the number of feeds I monitor and instead I “media-snack” (as Robert Scoble calls it) on FriendFeed where I am still able to get as much, if not more information about the latest and greatest tech news as I have always done before. But how do I manage FriendFeed? You may be surprised to hear that I do it in almost the exact same way I do Twitter – I use Gmail. Here’s how I do it:

Native FriendFeed Notifications

Let’s start with the fact that FriendFeed actually provides its own useful ways of monitoring your conversations so you don’t have to keep coming back to the site, something Twitter and various Twitter clients have not been very good at doing (PeopleBrowsr seems closest to providing the ideal solution to this). On any page (except saved searches – we’ll get to that later), you’ll notice a new feature in the upper-right that says “E-mail/IM”. If you click on that it will drop down some more options. You can select it to deliver just new posts on the given page, new posts and just your friends’ comments, or new posts and all comments. You can then select any option to deliver those to either your e-mail, IM client, or FriendFeed’s own native desktop popup client (which you can download and install here). FriendFeed then uses the e-mail and IM settings you have set in your settings to deliver this information to your desired location. The great thing about this is that you can use it for any of your friend lists, any room on FriendFeed, or even your own discussions page (“My Discussions” on the right).

FriendFeed E-mail/IM link

So here’s what I do: I simply went to my “My Discussions” page, selected the option to deliver all new posts and all comments to my e-mail client, and now anything I comment on, or like, or any likes or comments on the posts that I import into FriendFeed now get delivered to my e-mail account. I don’t miss any of the conversation this way .  I think everyone should do this, even if you don’t participate on FriendFeed because it ensures you know, immediately, when anyone comments on one of the things you’re already importing into FriendFeed. If you’re not actively using FriendFeed, you should do this out of respect to those that are.

Now here’s where Gmail is important: if you actively like or comment on other members’ posts, you’ll then get every single comment on that post afterwards. Usually, that’s not so bad, if you’ve ever participated in one of Robert Scoble’s threads, or any other hot topic on FriendFeed, you’ll quickly notice that the number of comments can go into the hundreds at times. This will very quickly fill up your inbox!

Gmail solves this problem easily. On the thread in Gmail you’re tired of hearing from, simply click the “m” button on your keyboard. Instantly, the thread gets moved to your Archive folder and you’ll never see it again unless you click your “All Messages” folder. You’ll notice in that folder it now has a “muted” label next to it. Go to the thread and click “m” again and it will un-mute itself. There’s no better client for managing this. And if you know me, I’m religious about reading all my e-mail. Gmail makes this possible.

In addition, FriendFeed also enables users to respond to the conversation, right in their e-mail client. I simply hit “reply” on any conversation I want to add to right in Gmail, and my comment immediately (yes, in real-time) gets added to the conversation. Not only that, but you can easily DM me on FriendFeed, yes, via your e-mail client. Simply send any message, including photos (works great from my iphone!) to (my – works the same for your username) and your message will go straight to my FriendFeed DM box. Or, send any message, or photos (again, works great from my iPhone!) to and your message and/or photos will go straight to your public stream on FriendFeed. You never have to leave your e-mail client.

Now, what if you want to track what others are saying about your brand, and don’t want to have to keep checking back in your saved searches links on the right in FriendFeed? (you are using saved-searches, aren’t you?) Yes, there’s an app for that.

Introducing BackType

We’ll cover this in the next post in this series more thoroughly, but BackType is a service that tracks and reports comments around the web. FriendFeed is one of the sites it tracks comments for. To get notifications when your name is mentioned on FriendFeed, simply go to BackType, set up a saved search for your name, brand, or whatever other terms you want to track, enable e-mail alerts for those saved searches, and now you’ll get mention of everything anyone says about you on FriendFeed. I don’t miss a thing anyone says about me – try and mention my name somewhere and see!

By enabling users to manage their brand and conversation via e-mail, FriendFeed has just become the most manageable micro-blogging client and service on the internet. Now I get to treat my news like a newspaper – pick it up at my own leisure, “media-snack”, read what I like, and put it down. I don’t have to worry about missing anything, and most importantly, I don’t waste time needing to constantly check the site to see if someone has said something I need to know about.

So thus far I’ve managed my online identity through:

  1. Significantly reducing my Google Reader and RSS subscriptions by unsubscribing and “media snacking” on FriendFeed subscriptions
  2. Managing my Twitter brand through TweetBeep and my e-mail client
  3. Managing my FriendFeed brand through IM/E-mail notifications, BackType, and Gmail

My next installment of this series will be about how I subscribe to your blogs through Gmail.  Sure, I’ve talked about how I use Google Reader to manage the subscriptions I absolutely can’t miss, but what about the stuff that slips through the cracks?  I’ll show you how to use BackType, Google Alerts, and other tools to ensure this doesn’t happen.

GMail is My Twitter Client

TweetBeepI’ve mentioned multiple times I’m a fan of multiple Twitter clients. I’m a big fan of TweetDeck due to its Twitter and Facebook support, the TwitScoop support, and groups and saved searches support. It’s also pretty stable and doesn’t kill my computer when I use it. I’m a big fan of Seesmic Desktop because it has group support and multiple Twitter account support (along with Facebook support). I love Tweetie because of its simplicity, lack of memory usage, native support for the Mac, and the iPhone version I like for the same reason.  I also love CoTweet for its easy management of Twitter from a business perspective.  However, I think you’ll be surprised to learn that I rarely use any of them any more. My new preferred Twitter (and even FriendFeed) client: Gmail.

Let’s face it, whether I follow all those that follow me and segment out my favorites into groups (in a client like TweetDeck or Seesmic), or if I only follow a select few, my responsibility is still the same. I need to know what is said about me, my brand(s), and any other interesting things people are saying that I need to know about. Frankly, I can’t do this effectively while only tracking the small numbers of people I follow using one of the traditional Twitter clients. There would still be people talking about me, or the topics I’m interested in elsewhere, whether I follow them or not. The whole follow/friend game is incredibly ineffective for this reason, regardless of the method you use – it’s one of the reasons I just auto-follow. At least you can DM me if I let those that follow me do so by following them back. I decided I needed a better solution.

As it turns out, Twitter search (when it works) is fairly effective at catching what I want to hear on Twitter. I can search for @mentions of my name, my old Twitter account, misspellings of my name, my company, topics I’m interested in hearing about, and more. It returns the data I want. The problem with that is that I have to keep checking back for it, and there’s no really good way to save searches. I could do it in TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop, but even with those I need to continue checking to be effective. I think that’s a waste of time. Why not make the Tweets come to me?

Yes, there’s an App for that. Michael Jensen (@mdjensen on Twitter), a Twitter, FriendFeed, and iPhone developer (and Perl developer!) is the author of a site called TweetBeep. Louis Gray turned me onto it, as this is also one of the ways he tracks mentions of his name. All that needs to be done is to sign up for an account on TweetBeep, provide your Twitter credentials, and specify search criteria you want it to search for on your behalf.  You can create as many alerts as you like, and it’s 100% free! Specify the frequency of the alert (hourly or daily), and now all mentions of the terms you want it to track, including mentions of your Twitter username, brand(s), name, and more will all be delivered to your e-mail inbox. It will also track domains, and automatically un-shorten various URL-shortening services so you can also track mentions of your domain name.

So now, with TweetBeep I am no longer regularly checking my Twitter client of choice to see if anyone else has said something I might be interested in. I have those delivered to me, in batch, via e-mail, and I have saved myself a ton of time doing so! Because of my use of Gmail and TweetBeep to manage Twitter for me I am very rarely needing to check Twitter any more. Now, if I could just break the habit of checking it anyway!  I guess you could say I now truly follow, and listen, to millions of people – I just now have a way to sift through the noise.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing how Gmail is also my FriendFeed Client – you’ll like this one so stay tuned…

Apple, Safari is Worthless to Me at the Moment!

Okay, I know no one at Apple reads my blog, but this is wishful thinking on my part. I’m getting really desperate, and so are what seems to be hundreds of others who have recently upgraded to the 10.5.6 update on the various Mac and Apple forums on the internet. The issue lies around Safari, and Facebook, and Gmail, and sessions. When I use Safari, no matter what I do, after about 30 seconds, Facebook logs me out. I can’t use Facebook in Safari. After 30 minutes or so on Gmail, it becomes unresponsive, and refreshing returns a 400 Bad Request error.

The only way I’ve found to fix this is to reset Safari, reboot, or clear all my cookies, but then, another 30 minutes later or so, all the other problems resurface again. I tried downloading the latest Webkit build, still no go. I tried reinstalling Leopard, still no go. I tried installing the full package from for 10.5.6 and it still gives me the same issue. Each time I think it gets fixed, but a few minutes to hours later the problem comes right back.

It would appear that I’m not alone on this issue, either. Just doing a google search for “10.5.6 safari cookies session” or “safari gmail 400 bad request” returns page after page of users having issues. Threads like this one and this one prove there’s a serious issue here, with no response at all from Apple.

I’ve switched to Firefox, which actually I prefer, but Firefox is extremely slow for me on my Mac when compared to Safari for some reason. I want my Safari back! Apple, please, if anyone is listening, we need a fix soon! I am powerless without this update, and I’m really, really close to just getting a PC.