Simplifying Email

atsignAs web workers, we are often asked to help friends and relatives fix computer problems. For me, the majority of these problems seem to be related to email. It’s ironic, as email is now less popular than social networks.

So why is email such a hassle?

  • It’s more than 30 years old. Email has come a long way, but its underlying protocols haven’t changed much since the 1970s.
  • It’s really three different systems. Sending (SMTP) and receiving (POP or IMAP) are totally separate functions, and are often handled on different servers. That’s why I often hear comments like “I can receive, but I can’t send” from clients.
  • It’s being used for a lot of things it was never designed to do, like send images and attachments, highly formatted messages, signatures and calendar entries.
  • It’s been overrun by spam, and even well-designed spam filters aren’t perfect, and cause unwanted side effects, like messages that get misidentified as spam, or just go away.
  • Email software is too complex. These programs that were originally built for offline use; that is, they were set up so that users could read and write messages without being connected to the internet. Sending and receiving would happen in batches. That made sense when internet connections were slow, expensive and charged by the minute. Now that most people have always-on connections like cable or DSL, that process is less necessary. Desktop email client software is a pain to set up and use; as someone who helps many people with email, Outlook is the bane of my existence.
  • Many of us connect to the Internet in more than one place — at work, at home, and on cell phones. It can be very frustrating to realize that we’ve left the message we needed to reply to at the office.
  • Many of us have more than one email address. I try to keep my work and personal email separate, plus I have a series of email addresses that I use when registering on websites that might try to send spam. And I have several email addresses that were given to me, such as the ones that are automatically created when signing up for instant-messaging services like Yahoo, AIM and Windows Live/MSN.

What can be done to overcome these problems? Here are some tips that might help you and your clients and friends be more productive. Read More about Simplifying Email

FileShareHQ Now Offering Paid Accounts and Branding

FileShareHQ, the file-sharing and sending app for creative professionals that I covered last month, has begun offering paid plans with more storage space. Accounts range from $5/month for 2 GB of space with five users to $49/month for 100 GB of space with 100 users.

The most expensive “Business” plan also offers the ability to rebrand the service, giving you the option of creating a professional-looking client files area that matches the look and feel of your existing web site.

Free accounts with 1 GB space and two users are still available.

Have you used FileShareHQ? Let us know what you think in the the comments.

FileShareHQ: Easy File Sending and Sharing for Pros

header-logoFileshareHQ, a new file-sharing and sending service that was launched today by UK design agency Slipstream Studio, joins a very crowded space, one currently occupied by the likes of Dropbox, box.net and YouSendIt. But FileshareHQ differentiates itself by targeting “pro users” — designers, web developers, photographers, video editors and the like — and offering FTP access to files, in addition to the usual web interface. Read More about FileShareHQ: Easy File Sending and Sharing for Pros

Comcast’s Kinder, Gentler Network Management

After getting lambasted on blogs and dragged before the FCC for its former network management practices, which included surreptitiously throttling P2P video traffic, Comcast this week will make good on its announced plans to change the way it keeps its tubes from clogging.

Instead of throttling specific applications, the cable giant will throttle heavy users. According to the company’s FAQs it will “focus its management efforts on those individuals who are using a disproportionate amount of Internet resources for a specific period of time and are contributing to congestion that degrades the online experience for other users.”

Trials begin tomorrow in Chambersburg, Pa., and Warrenton, Va., followed later this summer by one in Colorado Springs, Colo. ‘Trials’ is the operative word here. This punish-the-evildoer strategy is clearly a better marketing position for Comcast with both its users and the FCC, but it’s also wrong.

Heavy user’s aren’t necessarily criminals operating illegal filesharing rings or managing botnets; they very well may be people like you and I. Given the rise in all kinds of content (video) and services (VoIP) delivered via the Internet, it’s only a matter of time before we all become heavy users. The solution is to upgrade the tubes — not to watch ever-increasing loads of data to trickle through them or cap usage altogether.