Group messaging is the next big thing

Download Squad suggests that group messaging is going to be the next big thing in mobile communications:

The next big thing in mobile communications seems to be group messaging, and that’s no real surprise. If we take a look at the currently entrenched communication platforms, not many of them do more than messaging one-to-one or one-to-a-few well. Sure you can have group chats using traditional IM protocols, but they are inherently transitory.

I have to agree with them somewhat.  I don’t know if that’s necessarily going to be the next big thing or if it will be big at all, but it is something that is needed. Today.  By many people.

Living in Cyprus, a rather small country with not many ties to technology, I am often much behind the needs of my friends from more populated areas.  There is usually a three to five year gap between the time when my American and English friends form a new communication need, and the time when I do so.  And more often than not, this gap is enough for a good solution to the problem exist before I even have the actual problem.

With group messaging it is different.  At least in the last part.  I need it now.  Yesterday even.  And there is nothing uniform, free, and convenient.  Email and Skype are the two tools I use for those purposes the most right now.  But neither of them, no together, they solve the problem.   They are good enough for when I am (as well as other group members) are online and at their computers.  But more and more often we really need a solution that bridges mobiles and desktops.

Features that I personally need are:

  • cross-platform client (Linux/Windows/Apple desktop, Android/iPhone/Blackberry mobiles, and also web)
  • server-side history with synchronization
  • offline messages (if the participant is offline, you should still be able to send the message and he should receive it when he comes online)
  • persistent groups (I don’t want to redefine same groups over and over by adding individual members to chat)
  • persistent chats (same chat can continue for days or weeks, while there can be more than one chat in progress with the same group, so archiving has to be smart)
  • UTF-8 and multilingual support
  • attachments and web friendliness (thumbnails for pictures and videos, highlighted URLs and email addresses, etc)
  • basic styling (mostly for quotes and code snippets)
  • ideally, integration with Google/Facebook/Twitter/Oauth or something else that would save me the trouble of yet another registration, pair of credentials, and all the hard work for contact/group building.

A better world with multiple inboxes in Gmail

Google has recently added a super mega cool feature to Gmail – multiple inboxes.  For me, it was an instant boost in productivity and huge improvement in the way I handle email. However, while I was sharing my excitement with friends and co-workers, I’ve received quite a few cold looks and “so what?”s.

Multiple inboxes in Gmail

So, what’s so cool about multiple inboxes?  Here is how I enjoy them so far.

I’ve setup forwarding on all my email accounts so that all messages end up in the single Gmail account of mine.  This means that I have the same mailbox for personal emails, work emails, blog related emails, spam, and so on and so forth.  All that email is handled with a multitude of labels and filters.  And overall it works pretty well.

However, there was a little annoyance in my daily routine.  As part of my job I have to review and monitor Subversion commits from several programmers that work in our office.  Commit notifications come to me in the form of emails, and since they are rather high priority, they are labeled automatically, but not archived.  They stay in the main inbox until I read and archive them manually.  Also, as part of my consulting work for another company, I have to go through their commits as well.  These too are labeled separately, but end up in the main inbox.  And, additionally, I am using Gmail as a task manager for things that should be done eventually.  For that I have emails with tasks, labeled separately, and starred.   Not a huge mess, but not the ideal solution, especially when it mixes up with direct messages from work and friends.

Once Gmail got the multiple inboxes feature, I modified my filters to archive commit messages from both companies automatically (but not mark them as read).  Then I created three additional inboxes – one for tasks, and two for commit messages.  The tasks inbox lists all starred messages with a certain label.  Commit inboxes list messages with labels for each company.  Now I have my main inbox for direct messages from friends and work, and the rest of the things that I need to keep an eye on are right there, in front of me, but re-organized a bit to give me some breathing room.
With this new feature I can keep my main inbox message count much closer to zero, while still have some lose ends in case I need to argue over a commit or keep a few more things on the task list.  Excellento!

Big thanks to Gmail team – well done.

Gmail gets Tasks/TODO

Many of us, Gmail users, have been waiting a really long time for this, but now the wait is over.  Gmail blog announced task manager / todo list in Gmail via Labs extension.

We put your tasks in the same kind of window as chats, so they’re visible while you’re scanning your inbox, reading mail, or searching (and in Settings, too!). Just pop your list out into a new window to use Tasks outside of Gmail.

To enable Tasks, go to Settings, click the Labs tab (or just click here if you’re signed in). Select “Enable” next to “Tasks” and then click “Save Changes” at the bottom. Then, after Gmail refreshes, on the left under the “Contacts” link, you’ll see a “Tasks” link. Just click it to get started.

Excellent news for this morning.