Xobni: First Impression Feedback

October 31, 2007

I spend a ton of time everyday in front of a computer. As an analyst in Durham, NC supporting two bankers who live and work in the New York Metro region, my daily lifeblood is heavily rooted in email.
So when I came across a company called Xobni which launched at TechCrunch40 and vows to make one’s inbox simpler and more efficient, I had to try.

By placing a little Xobni badge in my blogroll, I was able to secure a private beta version. I’ve been testing it out for about a week and love a lot of the functionality.

Below I’ve copied some thoughts I sent to the Xobni folks as feedback. I’ll let these comments do the talking for now. I’ve showed it to a couple colleagues here at the Bank and the response has been the same from everyone – “That’s awesome. How can I get that?” If that’s not a stamp of approval for a consumer facing tech company, I don’t know what is.

Pros (aka “things I love”):
– The search functionality that allows me to see the most recent history with a particular contact. I was using Google desktop search to find similar information before, but have found in a very short time that I’m changing my behavior and beginning to rely on Xobni. That’s such a key part of any consumer facing tech company, and I was amazed at how quickly I have become attached to Xobni Insight.
– The fact that when I highlight a contact, it gives me a list of documents that we’ve exchanged. Sort of a tangentially related part of the above point, but I think it’s such a huge value that it deserves its own bullet point.
– Email contact rankings – they’re just cool.
– The analytics – it’s been really insightful for me to see my email consumption and outflow patterns. I haven’t even scraped the surface of ways to use this data to create efficiencies – at this point it’s in the “wow, that’s cool…cool enough that I need to figure out how to make the most of this” stage, but will be a big part of how I hope to use Xobni Insight in the future.

Cons (aka “things I don’t love as much”)
– during the first couple days I noticed a bit of slowdown in Outlook performance and Outlook froze up 2-3 times; the freeze ups may or may not be related to Xobni, but seemed to correlate to when I installed. Haven’t had as much of a problem yet, and it’s more of a headache than a huge deal in my eyes. I’m sure this stability will only improve (likely exponentially) over time.
– The analytics – as much as I like seeing the numbers, I find myself hungering for more. More specifically, how do I take this data and somehow make sense of it all? Surely, the bulk of this falls on me as the user, but to the extent that the analytics can be beefed up – not necessarily with data, but with functionality (i.e. how do I make my Outlook life even better) – the stickier the solution becomes for everyone. This is not a complaint at all, more of a suggestion for where to throw some development work.

I’ll keep thinking and using – great stuff. Keep up the good work…

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I’m Tumblin’

October 24, 2007

Signed up for the Tumblr service.  Basically it’s blogging lite, with an emphasis on ease of use.  They make it super easy to post short thoughts, links, videos, photos, etc.  And you can add feeds from your other web “properties” – i.e. this blog, your videos, your pictures, etc.

Testing it out to see how I like it.


Jason Ray: Life Lived to the Full

October 16, 2007

Many Carolina fans remember the Tar Heels loss to Georgetown in last year’s NCAA basketball Elite 8.
Yet true Tar Heel fans also know that the loss paled in comparison to the tragedy of a few days prior, when Jason Ray was hit by a car and lost his life.  Ray was the “man behind the mask”, serving as UNC’s fabled mascot Ramses.

As news spread of the accident, there were numerous accounts of Ray which all painted him in the same light – as a giant of a man who had a unique air about him.

ESPN has composed an incredible look at Ray and the many lives that were changed forever through his death.  The piece is excellent, and worth the 20-30 minutes it will take to read the whole thing.

As I read the article yesterday, I was overcome with a deluge of emotions.  I never knew Jason Ray personally, though I found out soon after the accident that we attend the same church in Durham and that one of his roommates is an acquaintance of mine from UNC.  The article is incredible, though, because by reading it you get such a powerful look at Ray and who he really was.  He was a man who lived life to the full, compelled by his faith, and was committed to sharing this life with others.  In the end, that’s exactly what he did.


Thoughts from LaGuardia

October 11, 2007

I’m stuck in LaGuardia airport right now, the victim of two different delays in attempting to get back to RDU. It’s still raining now, and I see an ominously large amount of flights on the big board with the unfortunate red letters “CANCELLED” next to them. Hoping that I won’t be the next victim…

I was somehow able to find a hit-and-miss wireless network in the food court area, which is the only thing that’s keeping me sane. I was able to get online and do a bit of work while waiting, but now my network connection to the Bank is down. So I tried catching up on last week’s episode of the Office. I had heard that NBC is allowing free full episodes on its website for a lot of its shows. Sure enough, I was able to fire up last week’s episode.

My connection is pretty spotty, which makes for several delays per minute – which can actually be kind of funny. See the screen shot below – it turned kind of pop-artsy, but still pretty cool.

office.GIF

Alas, I think my connection’s giving out on me 6 minutes into the episode…i’ll be working to get it back, and hoping even more to see RDU before midnight!


Facebook/Microsoft and “Truth Happens”

October 3, 2007

Apparently Steve Ballmer of Microsoft thinks that Facebook is a fad. And he’s not alone in this thinking.

While there’s certainly a lot about Facebook that is inherently faddy, the driving force behind Facebook (relationships…aka the social graph) is about as un-faddy as you can get.

Love Marc Andreesen’s thoughts on Ballmer’s view.

“I think these things [talking motion pictures] are going to have some legs, and yet there’s a faddishness, a faddish nature about anything that basically appeals to younger people.”

“I think these things [televisions] are going to have some legs, and yet there’s a faddishness, a faddish nature about anything that basically appeals to younger people.”

Reminds me of this great Red Hat video – indeed, Truth does Happen.


Greg Oden: World’s Friendliest 7 Foot 19/45 year old

September 28, 2007

I’ll be honest, I was hot and cold on Greg Oden last year. Oden came in with LeBron-esque hype, and when his injured wrist threw another variable into the equation, I didn’t know what to think. Was he the greatest center prospect of the last 50 years. Or was he simply an overblown caricature who had been puffed up by our media-saturated/shoe-contract/superlative culture. Or, most importantly, was he 45 years old.

Oden sold me in the national championship game. On the biggest stage, against a better team, Oden was a man among boys. He showcased all of his potential talents, making me excited to watch what’s next.

Unfortunately, what’s next ended up being microfracture surgery. A gloomy fate for sure.

Yet after watching the video below, I can undoubtedly say that I’m a bigger Oden fan than ever before. The guy seems genuine (his biggest worry before the knee injury was “my tonsils”) and unaffected by the fame and fortune he’s already racked up.

Microfracture surgery is no walk in the park, and it’s not clear how it will affect Oden’s long term career. But one thing’s certain – we can all feel good about rooting for a healthy return.

Link to Video


Women’s World Cup: US-England Goal Celebrations

September 24, 2007

A bunch of us got together to root for the US Women’s National Team (and good friend Cat Whitehill) in their Women’s World Cup game vs. England. In this epic battle of freedom against tyranny, the US came out again on top.

Below is a video which shows two goal celebrations – one after Shannon Boxx hit a screamer past the English keeper to make it 2-0; and the final goal, which saw Cat deliver a deep ball that skidded over the goalie’s head and which Kristine Lilly tapped in. It was really shocking goalkeeping on the third, which led to the epic quote, “you may be pretty, but you’re not good.”

See our viewing party celebration here