Monthly Archives: July 2009

Apple Mail – Is there a better way?

I like to give all things Apple a try, but I must admit, Apple Mail has been very disappointing.  Yes, it can aggregate different mail accounts (still haven’t figured out how to get work Outlook in there), and it has a cool sound effect with a paper airplane graphic when mail gets sent out, but it seems to lack basic WP functionality that I would expect of any mail editor (like hypertext linking?).  Maybe I am doing something wrong, or maybe there are a lot features I haven’t used and just need to give it another fair evaluation, but my Google searches lately have been “Outlook for Apple” or “Apple Mail Substitute.”  The thing that keeps coming up is Thunderbird by the folks who brought you Firefox (the open source browser I stopped using after getting back into the cleanness of the Safari browser).  Does anyone have feedback on Thunderbird?

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A Social Media Family Reunion

A funny thing happened on the way to the webinar (the one I moderated for Matindale Hubbell Connected last week; my first time doing that by the way). We scheduled a webinar as part of our “Social Media Solutions” theme about creating social media policies. VP of Legal from Chiney Capital, James Wong, was our first scheduled speaker. I spent the weeks before the webinar emailing with James and on the phone, while looking for two other panelists to accompany him. We got Melanie Green, CMO from Baker Daniels (a large law firm in Indianapolis). She brought a working knowledge of Twitter and how she had gone from social media skeptic to promoter after seeing how well the tool worked for her firm. To round out the panel we wanted a non-lawyer perspective. My colleague Alin Wagner-Lahmy enthusiastically suggested a new Connected member named Howard Greenstein, who was a recognized expert in social media.

With our panel firmly in place we turned towards having a group call with everybody the week before the webinar to coordinate roles and subject matter. The call went well. Everyone seemed to hit it off, and at the end of the call agreed that our presentation would be fine if we just did what we did on the call.

I thought nothing more about our presenters outside of the bounds of what we neededto do for the webinar. On Monday (or maybe it was Tuesday), Howard Greenstein called me to talk about the slides he had forwarded me for the presentation I was putting together. The idea was we’d put the power point and playback of the webinar in the Connected community for those who couldn’t make the Thursday event. About five minutes into the call, Howard says, “I’ve got to ask you something, unrelated to this.”

“Okay,” I said wondering what it could be.

“Do you have an Uncle Arthur,” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said (one of those longer yeahs that is almost a question itself: why do you ask).

“And cousins,” he said, “Ally and Rebecca?” I told him I did. “And your father’s name is Marc?”  What did this guy do a people search on me?

“Yeah,” I said, “why do you ask?”

“I’m your cousin,” he said, “your cousin Howard Greenstein. I thought your name sounded familiar when we first connected, but I didn’t put it together until this weekend.”

Wow: Howard Greenstein, social media guru was my cousin through marriage. I had known him practically whole life, but hadn’t seen him since my grandmother’s funeral twelve years ago.  And here we were, working on a webinar panel together, and it took a few exchanges to realize who we were to each other.  Such is the power of this thing we call “social media,” (by the way, I am getting sick of that term – we need to find a better thing to call this).  In any case, the webinar went well, I rediscovered a family tie that is closer now because of common interests, and proved that the web really has the power to do more than just collect chatter.

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How the iPhone Saved My Marital Bed

My wife, Wonder Woman, and I have been married for over four years now. When we registered for bedding at Bed Bath and Beyond in that spring of ’05, neither of us envisioned the bi-yearly pilgramge we would be making to the household goods temple to exchange our old, used duvet covers and bedding for brand spanking new sets every two years (that’s gramatically correct then to call this “bi-annual,” right?). Yet there we were again, the summer of ’09, four weeks before our move to Israel, holding a garbage bag full of used bedding and a duvet cover ready for an upgrade.

Our sales clerk, Beth (not her real name), was pleasant, helpful, and friendly (I find this true of most B3 workers, must be something in the soap). Anyway, I approached with a smile, taking care to read her name tag and doing my best Dale Carnegie (my favorite book of the minute is How to Win Friends and Influence People) said, “hello Beth. How are you today?” (Carnegie says, and my experience confirms, that a person’s name is one of their favorite words).  It worked; the bond between me and Beth had been established. I could read in her face that she liked us and wanted to help, and not just because of her professional duty.  She smiled at our two kids (6 months and 2 years old). “We got these sheets for a gift,” I said, “but they won’t fit our new beds.”  This was true, because the beds in Israel are very small, and these sheets would not fit on them.

“Sure thing,” Beth said unbagging the bedding from the garbage bag. She went to the computer to find our sheets in the system. “You don’t have any of the packaging?” she asked apologetically. We did not, but Wonder Woman and her super powered memory recalled that they were from “the Savannah Collection” or something like that. Beth tried the computer again, but came up empty. Eventually a manager came over and tried to help, but he could not find it without an item code or some other distinguishing factor (apparently B3 had changed distributors, etc.). “I’m sorry,” he said, but I can’t do anything without that code.”

Wonder Woman looked defeated, but I had an idea.  You see after many months of hinting and pleading and mentioning, she had caved and agreed to us getting a pair of iPhones.  It was this tool that would help us keep tradition and swap our bedding. “Let me do some ‘research’ while we shop,” I said.  And with that we began to pick up the various other items walking around the large store.  I went straight to Google, still the search engine of choice.  Entering the terms “Savannah + bedding + 2005” I got thousands of text results and started to click through.  This soon proved arduous as we moved from picking up shower hooks to walking past the bedding isles.  Especially on the 3G connection, links were slow loading and my search seemed to be less than optimal.

Then it hit me: why sift through terms, words and websites?  I switched to an image search for the same terms (we were looking for a pattern right?).  The thumbnails that loaded didn’t really match b/c it seems “Savannah” is a popular term for bedding.  By adding “floral pattern” the exact bedding came up in the next set of thumbs as the fifth result.  “I found it,” I said.

“What!” Wonder Woman couldn’t believe it.  “Let me see,” she said.  I showed her the thumbnail.  “That’s it!” she said, “how did you do that?”

“Because I’m awesome,” I said doing my best impression of McLovin’ from Super  Bad.  At the bottom of the screen I found an item code, and it was with this information that we went to the front desk.  Beth was happy that we were able to find the code and with those numbers issued us store credit for over $300.  Wonder Woman found less expensive, new sheets and we all walked away happy.

The moral of this story, or rather, the reason it is being told in a technology blog is the turn around in Wonder Woman’s attitude at seeing the iPhone in action, or if you want to put it more broadly: mobile tech in action.  For a long time we used crappy $10 Go Phones after our Motorolla Razors broke for the second time.  Refusing upgrades and contract extensions, we slogged it out with these simple devices for almost 2-years.  When Apple dropped the price of the 3G with the release of 3GS, I found an “in” to convince her on the benefits of getting these phones.  Seeing a practical problem that she cared about solved with the device she said, “I’m glad we got you that iPhone.”  It was like music to my ears.

PS – One caveat to other over enthusiastic husbands out there.  It isn’t all new bed sheets and roses with the iPhone.  There is an addictiveness to having that much mobile computing power at your fingertips.  Still learning to balance effectiveness against affection by paying the appropriate amount of attention to Wonder Woman and the kids (especially when the lure to blog on the go hits me; in fact over 3/4 of this post was written on the iPhone).

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Dropbox to Release iPhone App

My favorite web utility Dropbox is at it again. The masters of the fileshare are releasing an app for iPhone in the very near future. It will allow you to access your cloud files anywhere, even on my favorite mobile device. This is like peanut butter meeting jelly, Abbot first asking “who’s on first” to Costello, and Al Gore inventing the Internet; you get the drift. It’s good.

Here’s the press release from Dropbox: ” iPhone App Almost Here!
In addition to this change to undo history, in the near future we’ll be releasing our free iPhone app that will allow you to access your Dropbox on the go, view your files, save them to your phone, and even take photos that sync instantly to your Dropbox!”

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Office 2010: The Movie

Okay: so all of my posts lately have been about my favoriate fruit company, but this one is dedicated to Uncle MS. With viral marketing like this you are starting off on the right foot. Did I mention that I really do like Windows XP 2007 at work?

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Addicted to iPhone Apps

Two weeks into my iPhone oddessey and I’m already hooked on apps. The ability to choose from over 100,000 add ons for my phone was so overwhelming at first that I didn’t download anything for the first week. Rather I sat back, did some research, and tried to choose useful apps that I would actually use.

Deciding that the most important thing to me was productivity, I searched out the best apps in this category and found many to close from. Another criteria was cost: I didn’t want my foray into Apple’s app world to drive up my mobile bills either, so most of what I ultimately decided on were free apps.

Here is what is on my phone currently and my reasons for putting them there:

  1. Toodledo – I tried many different list makers, being married to a productivity maven, including plain old Apple notes, Done, Reqall and Evernote (useful for brainstorming and writing, but not GTD lists), but none of them compared to Toodledo. This paid app ($3.99) allows flexible list making, synching with email and online, foldering, and more. To me, what makes the app great is it doesn’t waste functionality on gimmicky features you don’t need.
  2. Siddur (Ashkenaz) – this is your basic Jewish prayer book in Heberew, but on your iPhone.  Very dumbed down version with not a lot of features.  The navigation is clunky and I sometimes loose my place completely while in the middle of afternoon or evening prayers (not recommended for the longer morning prayers unless absolutely necessary).  Despite it’s flaws, you can’t beat the price: cheap as free, and I use it every day.
  3. Evernote – as I said above, the Evernote app is great for note taking that doesn’t involve to do lists.  The voice notes work well and the synching is okay.  Don’t use the app all that much, but can see where it is useful.
  4. TweetDeck – love this on my desktop and laptop.  Not crazy about it on the iPhone though.  Something about working with all the columns and trying to manage the rich features of this program on the iPhone does not translate.  Still, another free app so what the heck (if you don’t like it you can always just delete it).
  5. Done – this was my GTD app of choice until I shelled the $3.99 for Toodledo.  It makes simple lists and has some fun features like shaking the iPhone to reorder the list based on priorities, and tilting the phone to it’s side, hitting the check mark, and hearing a laser beam zap sound effect wipe checked off items off of your list.
  6. WordPress – if you blog on WP and have an iPhone I don’t know how this app is not on it.  You can type local drafts (slowly … if you are like me and still stumble through the soft keyboard) and then upload them to the real WP as drafts or published posts (this post started on the iPhone).  Also free.
  7. Honorable mentions (still on the phone, free apps, but not really being used much): Multiconvert (see how any measurement lines up against the same measurement in a different scale – will be helpful in Israel), Keeper (password keeper; still don’t know how this works; having to type in all my passwords may be worth it if I ever get to it), RulePhone (this is supposed to be able to give you an accurate measurement for anything you take a photo of; sounded cool, downloaded to measure some furniture, told me a 5 and half foot buffet was only 3 and half feet, and now I want my $2.99 back), Israel Money (cool way to track how the shekel is keeping up with the dollar, but I am not sure how accurately this refreshes from day to day – the dollar to the shekel has been 3.90 for the past 6-days), and ContactSynch (works well, downloaded for free, puts all Gmail, Outlook, and phone contacts in your phone address book)

What apps are you downloading?

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Why Apple Gets the Best Net Promoter Scores (50th Post!)

For my 50th post on Mintz’s Words, I wanted to talk about net promoter scores and my experience with Apple.

That one simple question drives business today. It is the reason for the proliferation of social networking among companies and has MBA toting business leaders obsessed with landing in the 9-10 point range. At that point the customer practically sells your product for you. The companies with the highest NPS are likely some of the best. These are your Googles, your VWs, your Snapples and Kashis. These are more than jus companies: they are cultures.

Whether you belong to the PC society or the Nike new world order, you brand loyalty says something about you. There us a lingo, a logo, and a love for these products, which that one simple question, (would you recommend our product to a friend?) reveals. Will you promote that company’s product and in essence, do their marketing work for them?

This is how I feel about Apple: despite the high price point, close systemness ( anti- Linux), and Starbuckian trendiness of their products, I love this company. They are my business influencer (what would apple do or wwad?).

These are the reasons I promote Apple:

1. Innovation – whenever I think about doing something new in business simply to be the first one in the pool, I remember that to be a game changer doesn’t always mean being the first one to suit up. There were plenty of MP3 players on the market before Apple changed the world forever with a little thing called the iPod.

2. Simplicity – when I bought my first Macbook, Wonder Woman was still PC user and worried that the switch would confuse her.  Nearly three years later when it became time to buy our next computer we didn’t even consider looking at anything that didn’t come from our favorite “fruit company.”

3. Attention to Detail – there are just little things that make Apple products superior.  For example, in the default PDF viewing program, there is a little feature called “Quartz Fileter,” which allows you to compress the PDF to minimal file size without losing much quality (I recently reduced a 15MB file needed to complete my application for the August 18th Nefesh B’Nefesh Charter Flight to 216KB using this method).  This obviates the need for $30 PDF compression programs that many in the legal field are so fond of like PDF Shrink.  Also, many of these features are intuitive, fill a user-need (not just extraneous add-ons), and like #2 are simple to use.

4. Product Design – the iPhone just feels right in my hand.  Even when I’m walking the dog, with a double stroller packed with my two kids, I can use one hand to scroll through email.  Reading on this compact device has changed my world (as the name of this blog implies, I am a word junky and read at every opportunity).  Now, I don’t have to lug multiple books around on trips, I just download to the iPhone and enjoy holding my little e-reader (why anyone would want a Kindle is beyond me).

5. Relavance – Apple is never content to just sit around and wait for the next thing to happen.  While the record and movie industry battled Napster they built iTunes.  As court battles raged on over whether cable providers could store content in a cloud accessible to subscribers at anytime via their cable service, they came out with Apple TV.  There is always something cooking in the Apple labs and it ain’t strudel or turnover.

All-in-all you can say we are a happy Apple family.  Our latest acquisitions, a 24-inch iMac and an Airport extreme are just the latest in our ongoing relationship with this company.  The iMac we got as a certified refurbish from the Apple Store, was cheaper than anywhere else I have looked, and came with a 1-year warranty.  The Airport extreme wireless router we got from an EXCELLENT site for Apple products: MacMall.com for almost 40% off the retail price, brand new (sealed in box).  While the high price point of Apple products can be off putting for the uninitiated, those of us loyal customers who put Apple in the 9 to 10 NPS range will always tell you, it is worth the extra money.  I’d rather save for another year and buy an older Apple product than rush out to get the latest PC, (although I must admit that Windows XP 2007 on my work computer is a fantastic step up from previous MS attempts).

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