sync blackberry contacts with gmail: Problem Solved!

Update (February 10, 2009): See Sync Google Calendar and Gmail Contacts with Your BlackBerry for a recent How To guide to the Google Sync for the BlackBerry solution.

In just over fourteen months, one of my posts has received almost 19% of the views for my entire blog.

There is no other post that even comes close.
And to make matters more interesting, the post was written in response to my blog’s search stats. People consistently entered strings along the lines “sync blackberry contacts with gmail” and arrived here.
Frankly, all of this attention made me uneasy.
Why?
Because I really didn’t have much to offer on the topic.
But please don’t think that I didn’t give this information (not data!) some thought.
Honestly, dear reader, I confess I even pondered how I might arrive at a solution that might monetize this 19% for personal gain. Let’s face it, 19% of more than 60K hits translates potentially to more than 11K customers. Ka-ching! I am in disgrace.
Luckily I didn’t waste my time.
Waste, you gasp. Yes, waste.
You see, the fine folks at Google have delivered a solution.
It’s all in the GMail contact manager. This new addition to the GMail client for the BlackBerry solves the problem.
How?
If you have a contact for which you’ve entered phone numbers, these numbers appear when you click on the contact name to view their details. But that’s just the beginning. The phone numbers appear as clickable links. When you click on one of them, you automagically invoke the BlackBerry’s phone capability. (You may have forgotten that your BlackBerry actually allows you to call people as well.) Note that the first time you do this, you’ll need to approve some new settings.
Of course, you can email contacts as well.
Problem solved.
Please read my other posts!
If truth be told, this should be regarded as a great beginning.
Here’s why:
  • Read-only access – You can’t enter contact information from the GMail client on the BlackBerry. In time, we’ll want this. Like tomorrow!
  • Online-access only – You need your contacts when you’re off line? Like when you’re on an airplane? Until this client includes Google Gears functionality or equivalent, you’re out of luck here. I think I can live with that. For now. Because ultimately I would appreciate the ability to compose email when I’m off line. I do that frequently with the BlackBerry’s built-in mail client.
  • Contacts in too many places – Fragmenting contacts between your Google ‘verse and enterprise messaging platform (e.g., Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes, etc.) has some disadvantages. However, as I’ve learned directly on the heels of personal experience, there are times when it’s wise to have some separation between our personal and corporate selves …

This gives me a lot of what I was looking for.

How about you?

Injury Time: Remembrance of Things Just Passed …

What happened?

I strained my lower back. Badly. It was the result of two careless acts: 
  1. Lifting a heavy prop awkwardly at our annual Mardi Gras event. I felt a twinge of pain, and suspect that this predisposed my back towards injury.
  2. Attempting to leave a leg-press machine before completely releasing the 220 lbs of weight that I, back included, was still supporting. 
The pivotal incident (involving the leg-press machine) happened last Wednesday at the University’s athletic complex. Of course, I finished my hamstring curls and rowed for 20 minutes before calling it a day. Doh! 
And yes, I knew then that I was in deep trouble. 
Contrary to my spouse’s advice, I hauled my sorry self off to the University the next day, because I had things that must be done. Doh! With a notable, curvaceous list (upwards to the left), and walking speed 10-20% my normal, I can honestly state that I got a deeper appreciation of what it means to be differently abled. People rushing past me, icy walkways, plus doors stiff to open, were all-of-a-sudden on my radar. 
I barely made it through that Thursday.
I started my formal convalescence (aka. sensible acknowledgement of my predicament) on Friday morning. 

What did I do?
I convalesced. At this point, I had no choice! I took muscle relaxant and installed myself upon a heating pad. Save for attending to primal bodily functions, and attempting to do a few exercises I learned in physio that last time I strained my lower back, I remained in a sub-horizontal state through the entire weekend. I had to pass on a friend’s birthday party and a ski day 😦  
But, I:

I fretted. About work – not being there, work piling up, etc. And about my exercise routine – that picked me up, and then knocked me down! I communed with my family – when they weren’t making up for my shortfalls – and with our pets (three cats and an obnoxiously vocal husky).


What did I learn?
How good people are to me. From walking the dog to driving Miss Daisy (our teenage princess to/from dance/work/friends/etc.) to countless other things I normally do, my family filled the gaps and still had some energy left over for me in my supine state. When I did hobble into the office, I received all kinds of moral and physical support from my co-workers.
In addition to valuing my health, which I’ve been consistently better at for about the past seven months, I need to be careful – especially during acts of weekend heroism (aka. attempts at being handy) and/or exercise (technique and form do matter – ouch!).
I need to allocate more time for reading. All kinds of reading. Because I really don’t watch TV, except for NFL football, there’s nothing I can do there. Reducing the amount of time I spend handling email is about the only place I believe I can claw back from. In the 4-Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss presents some provocative suggestions on this front; I’d better re-read that! 
The BlackBerry is a wonderfully powerful platform that suits me when I am highly mobile, but also when I’m highly immobile – like flat on my back, literally! It’s also the only device my back can actually handle me moving around with at the moment – my laptop in an over-the-shoulder case is a non-starter for me in my current condition.

Why did I share this?
So that I have something to refer back to (sorry), when I’m getting careless!  

Google Blogging 2007: From Legitimizing Blogs to Wikipedia-Competitor Google Knol

There’s a recent, year-in-review entry by the Google blogging team.Not only does this entry highlight another wonderful year for Google, it also quantitatively places blogging in perspective. If you ever had any doubts as to the legitimacy of blogging, just read this post.Amongst the highlights I found the announcement of the Knol test project to be of interest. Although I’m a huge fan of knowledge representation and management, especially in the context of the Semantic Web, I must confess to being confused by Knol. At the most-basic level, Knol seems to be about knowledge sharing. And more-specifically, providing jumping off points (from search-engine hits) for those seeking to understand some topic.Therefore, I can’t help but ask, is there more to Knol than it’s Google’s competitive answer to Wikipedia?If you happen to drop by my blog, and this post, please feel free to share your take on Knol.What am I missing?

The Long Tail’s Hidden Majority

I think I first ran across Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail last Summer while blogging on blogging as a writer’s tool.

I’ve finally gotten around to reading Anderson’s book.

Anderson ends his first chapter with the following paragraph:

When you can dramatically lower the costs of connecting supply and demand, it changes not just the numbers, but the entire nature of the market. This is not just a quantitative change, but a qualitative one, too. Bringing niches within reach reveals latent demand for non-commercial content. Then, as demand shifts towards the niches, the economics of providing them improve further, and so on, creating a positive feedback loop that will transform entire industries – and the culture – for decades to come.

I’m still internalizing this, so I’ll reflect more before adding my $0.02. At this point, I just thought it was a quote worth sharing.

DICtabrain: “Voice Powered Ideas”

In a recent post, I blogged:

… Jott goes a lot farther than my low-tech solution:

  • You call their toll-free number
  • You leave a message – your reminder, to-do, idea, etc.
  • Jott transcribes your message, and delivers the corresponding text to your phone and email

“Obscenely simple … incredibly clever” (Christopher Null, Yahoo! Tech). I couldn’t agree more!

Unfortunately, I cannot attest to how well this actually works.

I live in Canada, and the public beta only supports US-based cell phones -(

Fortunately, there’s great news for us Canucks as DICtabrain is developing a similar solution 🙂

Although I expect to have more to blog about soon, it’s worth noting that DICtabrain:

  • Makes an explicit connection to blogging
  • Is looking for alpha-trial participants
  • Has their own blog

Some may be nonplussed by services like DICtabrain’s or Jott’s.

As DICtabrain’s James Woods blogs:

Some people will never understand the benefits of voice powered writing while others seem to be waiting for it with baited breath.

I think the reason for this disconnect is the creative process itself.

Some people need to internalize their creative process by working things through inside their heads.

Others need to externalize it. And its for the externalizers that frameworks like GTD and solutions like DICtabrain’s make complete and total sense. In DICtabrain’s words: “Good ideas are only valuable if they can be remember[ed] and then actioned.

With Jott and DICtabrain appearing on the scene with similar solutions within the past 3-4 months, it’s clear that there’s something interesting happening.

Perhaps Jott and DICtabrain have glommed onto a disruptive innovation.

What are they disrupting?

How about the dictaphone + analog/digital voice recorders + voicemail + technology for action management methods.

Collectively!

That’s an impressive disruption, and one of the reasons why companies like DICtabrain and Jott are likely to draw attention from the likes of:

  • Traditional dictaphone companies – ??
  • Consumer electronics companies – Apple, Sony, etc.
  • Telcos/Networking companies – Cisco, Nortel, Skype, etc.
  • Software companies – Google, Microsoft, Nuance, etc.
  • And others

With unified messaging a key deliverable of enterprise-class traditional PBX and VoIP solutions, injecting the DICtabrain or Jott solution into the mix could be quite interesting. For example when you have robust IP connectivity, you have the networked equivalent of Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking in Skype + (DICtabrain or Jott) … and potentially more!

To re-quote Christopher Null, Yahoo! Tech: “Obscenely simple … incredibly clever”.

Let me close (again) with a small dose of realism:

I haven’t been particularly impressed by speech-to-text conversion in the past. This will be the gating factor for me.

Blogging as a Writer’s Tool

I recently had an article published in an online journal. The published version is a completely revised and expanded version of a blog entry. In fact, I used the blog entry to present the storyline to the editor of the online journal. Since publication, I have used my blog to discuss the article. Based on this experience, I feel that blogging can be useful during many phases of the writing process.

  • Blogging captures a story and/or storyline as it is still germinating – This is very important for those in a stimuli-rich world, as one’s attention span is at best fleeting. Blogging allows one to capture and then refine. (Here I use refine to imply both the process of editing and elaborating.) My blog-to-article example above illustrates refinement. Even comments on blogs provide a form of refinement. In fact, comments on blogs might be regarded as a method of stepwise refinement.
  • Blogging shares stories and/or storylines with others – Blogging offers just the right degree of formality. It encourages the author to use simple language and to be informal, while also to be clear and concise.
  • Blogging enables feedback on a story and/or storyline while it is still germinating and even after it’s published – This is also very valuable, as it allows the writer to retain a degree of attachment with the writing. By keeping a fraction of the writing lodged in the writer’s cache, possibilities for additional refinement are present. Eventually, this can develop into promotion of one’s writing.

Though not necessarily a consequence of the experience described above, here are some other thoughts on blogging as a writer’s tool:

  • Blogging creates writing opportunities – I’ve had numerous articles published on science and technology. This is the first time I’ve ever written about writing as a process. Prior to this blog entry, such introspection would’ve been limited to informal dialogue with a colleague in person, over the phone or via email. Perhaps this is why blogging is so enabling. Like email, in many ways it’s closer to being more of an oral rather than written form of communication.
  • Blogging creates IP challenges – One of the gravest challenges with blogs is intellectual property or IP. The IP spectrum spans from personal IP (not wanting to publically scoop yourself) to corporate IP (not wanting to publically scoop your employer). Both have the potential to present challenges. However, as others have written elsewhere, the benefits (as above) typically outweigh the downside.
  • Blogging enables exploration of the breadth and depth of my interests – In the past, every time something became interesting, I’d set up a mailing list. However, over time, my interest typically focuses then defocuses in a nondeterministic progression. Blogs and blogging allows my time-dependent interests to be handled with ease.

I spent a few minutes Googling for keyword combinations on this topic. In all honesty, I didn’t come up with very much too quickly. There was, however, one notable exception that even Writer’s Write has glommed on to. That exception is the following quote from Chris Anderson, the author of The Long Tail:

IWM: You’re writing a blog for “The Long Tail” book. What has it taught you?

Anderson: I think it’s a fantastic aid, especially under circumstances like mine. It had three advantages for me, as I was writing a non-fiction, research-heavy book that was based on an article already published.

By feeding the conversation, it allowed me to keep the momentum of the article going during the 22-month dead time between the publication of the article and the book. I gave away some of my research results and ideas, but got back many times that in comments, other people’s blog posts and emails.

Hundreds of people applied The Long Tail to their own industries and experience and revealed resonances I never would have thought of, from The Long Tail of beer to travel to warfare. I tossed out half-baked ideas and phrasing, and my smart readers helped me bake them. Those thousands of readers have great word-of-mouth influence, which I imagine will help market the book when it comes out.

I’m sure that more-exhaustive searches will be revealing.

The marketing value of blogs remains underrated

The marketing value of blogs is underrated.

How many Web sites include blogs?

More importantly, since the topic is marketing, how many commercial Web sites include blogs?

As blog-marketing guru Robert Scoble writes:

Now, what is the Web these companies are gearing up for? Yes, you’d be right if you guessed a bloggy Web. A Web with real people talking about real stuff on it. Not a manufactured site that has no life. No soul.

This is very refreshing. It’s been my experience that companies are incredibly uncomfortable letting their real people talk about real stuff and actually engage in dialogue with real people who might be their customers or partners or prospects!

The first thesis of the Cluetrain Manifesto states that “Markets are conversations”. Blogs are a phenomenal vehicle to facilitate such conversations.

Almost any Open Source project provides evidence of the compelling effect of such conversations oriented around a community. Today, many of these conversations make use of blogs and wikis to supplement mailing lists.

It’s really a shame that corporate marketing hasn’t glommed onto blogs to facilitate their conversations.

Rediscovering the `net effect

Even though I’ve been on the `net long enough to recall when Gopher was cool, I must confess that blogging recently made me feel like an Internet newbie all over again. Why? I once again become intoxicated by the `net effect.

It’s simple: I write a post and publish it. Within seconds, minutes, hours, days, I qualitatively and quantitatively experience the `net effect:

  • People view my blog entry via a reference from some other Web page
  • People view my blog entry via a search engine
  • People view my blog entry via a feed

And the WordPress software magically captures all of this ‘view data’, and makes it readily available to me. I find it intriguing to learn which posts generated the most traffic, or which search-engine terms caused someone to arrive at my blog entry. Very intoxicating indeed!

Of course, this `net effect is a well known phenomena that is quantified by Metcalfe’s Law and its successors. (Complex networks are even more intriguing!)

Network theory aside, there’s nothing like a little personal experience, a little personal validation, to remind one of the `net effect.

One more observation: The very first thesis of The Cluetrain Manifesto states that “Markets are conversations”. Reflect on the Open Source movement for a few femtoseconds and you’ll totally ‘get’ this thesis. Because I completely agree with this thesis, I have to ask: Why aren’t marketers everywhere adopting blogging like white on rice? (I’m not suggesting that this isn’t already happening, just that I’m surprised it hasn’t reached exponential proportions!)