Jott: An Enabler for Working Moments

During his keynote address at yesterday’s Cisco Networkers event, Rick Moran (Vice President, Market Management) referred to the concept of working moments.

In other words, rather than blocks of time, for many the reality is that they have matters of minutes to get things done.

While listening to Mr. Moran speak, it occurred to me that Jott is a wonderful enabler for those having to survive on working moments.

As a case in point …

While driving to the Cisco event yesterday morning, I thought about an email message that I needed to write and send. Once I had some clarity on the content, I Jott’ed myself. Then when I arrived at the event, I edited my Jott on my BlackBerry, and emailed the completed message.

Once done, my mental self caught up with my physical self – which was already at the event πŸ˜‰

Jott’s a great enabler for working moments!

The Top Ten Reasons You’ll Want GMail on Your Blackberry

I’ve blogged a lot about the GMail client for the Blackberry over the past few weeks.

There’s been enough interest to warrant a Top Ten list – something along the lines of “The Top Ten Reasons You’ll Want GMail on Your Blackberry”.

Before I release my Top Ten, I thought I’d consult the collective wisdom of those who happen by my blog.

Please share a comment to this post, or drop me an email (ian DOT lumb AT gmail DOT com), and let me know what you think should be on this Top Ten list.

I’ll summarize and share in about a week.

With thanks in advance.

Google Office for the Blackberry: Coming Soon?

In a recent post, I blogged:

Now picture this: A J2ME client application for Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

This is interesting on a number of levels:

  • It’s feasible! Google Docs & Spreadsheets is likely written in
    some variant of Java (J2*E) already, so paring it down to J2ME is (in
    principle) possible.

Alas, Google Docs & Spreadsheets (GD&S) isn’t based on some variant of J2*E.

It’s based on JavaScript. To see this, open a document or spreadsheet in GD&S and then look at the document source (“View \ Page Source” in Firefox) and/or the DOM (“Tools DOM Inspector” in Firefox). Or, try to open a document or spreadsheet in GD&S on your Blackberry. You’ll soon find out about the dependence on JavaScript.

More precisely, GD&S is based on AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML). AJAX is behind the wonderful user experience afforded by most of Google’s offerings. (There’s an outstanding explanation of how AJAX achieves this experience available from Adaptive Path president and founder J. J. Garrett .) AJAX is a multi-tier platform or framework for developing and delivering Web-centric applications. (And many refer to it in the same breath as Web Services.)

In striking contrast, the GMail client for the Blackberry is a stand-alone Java application that executes within a J2ME container under the Blackberry operating environment.

gmail_berry.png

Clearly AJAX and J2ME are completely different environments/platforms.

Thus it would seem that Google has the options summarized by a two-dimensional platform versus motivity grid.

platform_motivity.png

On the vertical axis, platform ranges from self-contained to service-oriented.

Motivity is a bona fide word that is synonymous with locomotion (the power or ability to move). I intend here to coin a slightly different meaning, a juxtaposition of mobility and connectivity. More precisely, I propose to use motivity as a semi-quantitative measure of the degree of mobility relative to the degree of connectivity. As mobility increases, connectivity decreases, and motivity therefore increases. This is illustrated by the horizontal axis of the two-dimensional grid. It is also important to note that connectivity is itself a proxy for bandwidth and latency. More precisely, high connectivity is taken to imply high bandwidth, low latency connectivity.

Thus the options in taking GD&S to the Blackberry are:

  • Port GD&S to the Blackberry operating environment (i.e., develop a native J2ME client version of GD&S) – the lower-right quadrant of the 2D-grid

or

  • Port the client-side aspects of AJAX to the Blackberry operating environment (JavaScript and the AJAX engine) and interface this in real time with the server-side components – the upper-right quadrant of the 2D-grid

There is one other possibility that originates in the lower-left quadrant. GD&S could be written as a Java application. A pared down version could be relatively easily be made available for the J2ME-based Blackberry operating environment. (This was my naive suggestion that’s been revisited in this post.) In parallel, through use of the Google Web Toolkit (GWT), the same Java version of GD&S could be converted to AJAX as “… the GWT compiler converts your Java classes to browser-compliant JavaScript and HTML.”

Thus a revised two-dimensional grid of the possibilities is shown below.

platform_motivity_gwt.png

Either way, it may be some time before Google Docs & Spreadsheets makes it to the Blackberry.

GMail on My Blackberry Revisited (Again)

Three new discoveries. One good, one bad, and one inbetween.

First the good one. You can follow a link. Suppose you’re reading a message, and there’s a link in the message. You can use the thumbwheel to highlight the link, and then depress the thumbwheel to open the link via “Get link”. When you close the link, via the ESC button (below the thumbwheel), you’re returned to your GMail session. Nice!

Now the bad one. The GMail client for the Blackberry doesn’t understand GMail Groups. (This is a collection of individual GMail contacts.) It’d be nice to have this functionality in a future version.

And finally, the inbetween one. Your contacts are only as current as your last log in. I had to log out of the GMail client on my Blackberry, and then log in again, so that I could see contacts that I’d added. I suppose this is what’s required to repopulate the contacts cached on the Blackberry. Selecting “Refresh” did not have the effect of repopulating the contacts cache. It’d be nice to have an option that addresses this in a future version …

This is one of several posts regarding the GMail client for the Blackberry. The others are:

Jott: “Think it. Jott it. Do it.”

Have you ever left yourself voicemail?

I have. I’ve left myself reminders, to-dos, tried to capture ideas, etc.

Most often, I’ve done this when I’m driving somewhere. I use my cell phone to make a call to my voicemail because I can’t (easily) write or use my Blackberry.

That’s the basic premise behind Jott.

However, there is one significant difference. Jott closes the loop. In their words: “Think it. Jott it. Do it.”

The loop-closing “Do it.” is one of the reasons why Jott is currying favor with the GTD crowd.

And of course, 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 😦

To be more precise:

I’m outside of the United States, can I use Jott.com?

You can if you are using your cell phone, and the Caller-ID comes through to our systems. However, significant charges may apply to this phone call, so check your Carrier’s Terms and Conditions. Jott.com is not responsible for charges associated with phone calls, internet access, text messages, and the like.

That’s from the Jott FAQ. Regardless, it didn’t work for me 😦

I haven’t been particularly impressed by speech-to-text conversion in the past. This will be the gating factor for me. Because I can’t do my own assessment, I was interested in Jott’s FAQ on this:

Why are my jotts not transcribed perfectly?

We use a combination of machine and human transcription to convert your voice to text. The quality of this transcription is affected by many factors, including recording quality, noise, accents, pronunciation, etc. At times, the quality of the recording will be so bad that we will simply label it inaudible. You are free to click on the speaker icon at our web site to easily listen to your recording.

We encourage you when leaving jotts to speak clearly and normally, understanding that the quality of the recording will affect the quality of the transcription.

Given that personal transcription programs (like Dragon NaturallySpeaking) require substantial training to be effective, this entry in Jott’s FAQ is certainly a reasonable one.

Jott has more to offer. For example, there is Jottcasting. One scenario they describe is simultaneous delivery of a message to a recipient’s phone and email.

What I really like about Jott is its elegant simplicity.

I expect Jott to be an excellent acquisition target for the likes of Google …

And for those who like to have everything integrated, Jott would have much more value if it was a part of some existing solution like Google Office (GMail + Google Docs & Spreasheets).

I look forward to seeing Jott develop (e.g., by tracking their Web site and blog) – and especially to Canadian service πŸ™‚

sync blackberry contacts with gmail

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

Update (November 18, 2008): Google has provided a solution! (Thanks to Matt S. for pointing this out.)

Update (March 6, 2008): We may have a solution!

I’ve noticed a few search-engine terms with variations of the string “sync blackberry contacts with gmail”. Since this is clearly of interest to some, I thought I’d share the good news, and the, well, less-good news.

First the good news: Your GMail contacts are automagically available to you when you are composing a message. In other words, there’s no need to do any syncing. It looks like the J2ME-based GMail client for the Blackberry downloads contacts on demand, and also does some nifty caching.

Now the less-good news: If you were hoping that your GMail contacts were going to magically appear in the “Address Book” application on your Blackberry, well, you will be disappointed.

There may be some indirect way of keeping your Blackberry Address Book in sync with your GMail contacts.

For example, you may be able to sync the desktop software that manages your contacts (e.g., Apple’s Address Book, Lotus Notes, Microsoft Outlook, etc.) with GMail contacts. I haven’t spent much effort looking into this, but Intellisync has offered services along these lines, and there’s at least one solution for syncing GMail contacts with Apple’s Address Book

GMail on my Blackberry Revisited

It’s been almost a week since I installed the GMail
client on my Blackberry
.

I neglected to notice then that:

  • You can view attachments with this client. This is a very useful
    functionality that works with PDFs, images, and office documents. In
    reality, I expect that the GMail client is merely leveraging the
    Blackberry’s built-in ability to do the same. In other words, you
    can view PDFs, images and office docs with the Blackberry’s built-in
    mail client.
  • There are shortcut-keys available. These shortcuts are detailed
    in the online Help area.

On a less-positive note, I’ve failed to notice any support for
GMail’s Drafts capabilities. This means that there is no option to
save a partially composed message as a draft, or to even have the
Drafts folder evident. Taken in isolation, this is a minor
inconvenience. However, taken in the broader context of GMail Drive, this
is a more-serious concern. I’m sure we can expect GMail Drafts support
in a future version of the client.

After a week of being continuously logged in, I am impressed by the
stability of the client. It’s stable, in addition to being
feature/functionality rich and highly efficient!

GMail on my Blackberry

I recently added a GMail client to my Blackberry.

This client is a stand-alone Java application that you download and install. Once installed, the client:

  • Keeps you signed in to GMail
  • Checks for and preloads GMail messages

All of this happens in the background. You can go ahead and use other applications on your `berry, and then return to the GMail client. After all, it’s a proper client, not a client running in a browser on your `berry.

The GMail client for the Blackberry is quite rich in terms of features and functionalities. You can:

  • Compose mail – and even use your GMail Contacts
  • Search mail – the client retains recent searches for you
  • Read mail – and this includes manipulating GMail Conversations
  • Work with Starred mail
  • Force a check for mail
  • View collections of mail – e.g., folders, labels, etc.
  • Archive conversations – and when you do, the archiving is sync’d with your browser-based access to GMail(!)

The GMail client for the Blackberry appears to be very lightweight. It works efficiently with the rest of the GMail infrastructure to process your requests (e.g., retrieve a certain mesage, execute a search, etc.). This has always been a capability that impressed me about the Blackberry’s built-in email application. It’s rich in features and functionalities, and yet exceedingly efficient. (There a many providers of desktop email clients that could learn a lot from RIM and Google! RIM and Google grok the online, mobile world so well is scary!)

All of this is great, but here’s the real win for me personally: I now have a fully functional GMail client that is completely independent of my employer. I work for a University these days, so that isn’t a huge concern for me. However, there are times when it’s beneficial to keep one’s employment and private lives separate. With the GMail client on my Blackberry now, I no longer need to forward my GMail to my employer’s email service so that I can see it on my Blackberry.

My only complaint is that I have to actually open the GMail client to see if there’s any mail. There’s is no notification icon 😦

One last thing … You definitely need the unlimited usage plan for data to be exploiting the GMail client on your Blackberry to the degree that I’ve described here!

Email from Outer Space

One of the astronauts on space-shuttle Atlantis is Steve MacLean. Steve received both his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from York University. Given my long-term affiliation with York, it’s difficult not to feel some sense of pride. As Atlantis’ mission draws to a close, MacLean wrote in his second email message to York president and vice-chancellor Lorna R. Marsden:

I would like to pass a message to the York community.

The entire experience of preparing for launch, launching, reaching orbit, executing a very difficult mission and then…preparing to return allows one in such a short time to feel the full range of human emotions. I find it astounding that it is possible to live so much in such a short time. I look forward to sharing this story with you all on my return.

But more important I would like to thank the many members of the York community for my experience at York. Those years were excellent for me and I realize now that they served to shape the balanced approach that makes each and every day meaningful. York University was wonderful for me and I thank you.

You all should see the stars right now…their penetrating warm glow soothes the soul.

From Outer Space
Steve MacLean.

Email from outer space. Now that’s cool!