Greplin: Search Your Own Personal Cloud

If you have an iPhone, you are familiar with Spotlight Search. If you have a presence in the cloud, then the cloud-counterpart to Spotlight might be Greplin (link here). Akin to Spotlight’s ability to search  your entire hard-wired iDevice memory and across applications for the keyword you specify, Greplin let’s you search through all of your public and private content across the cloud-based services you hook up to your Greplin account.

News of Greplin first broke back in March, 2010. Now Greplin is available in private beta. Submit your registration at the link above and select the on-line haunts you wish to connect: Facebook; Gmail; Twitter; DropBox; LinkedIn; Google Calendar; and Google Docs. A pro account, for the measly sum of $45 per year, allows you to also connect to Salesforce, Evernote, Box, Basecamp, and Google Voice transcripts. How totally awesome is that?

If you have been working at all in the cloud, participating in the soc nets, and curating and sharing content, how can Greplin NOT be a winner? I repeatedly find myself searching within the various sites I use for old links or content that I had forgotten to star or favorite or otherwise file in an easy to find place. Not all sites archive. Not all search functions are up to my standards. No more – now all I will need to do is remember that the information had something to do with semantic search or the conference I am supposed to attend in six months and, with Greplin, I’m off to the races.

This is yet another piece in the puzzle-theme I am pressing here in the Studio today: you have to streamline and organize your on-line life. With Priority Inbox, you can take control of the important Gmail tasks first. With relevance filters, you can cut right to the newest information on the Web about your preferred topics. And now, with Greplin, you can quickly put your finger on the fruits of your on-line research and networking efforts – giving you that much power over the most treasured commodity of our time – relevant data.

Tech Addiction & Information Overload

I was compelled to open and read an article in my Google Reader from Lifehacker’s Adam Dachis entitled Why Technology is So Addictive and How You Can Avoid It (link here). I know, I know. To the casual observer, I probably fall squarely within the dopamine-addled masses who reach for their smartphone or iPad whenever there is a break in the level of external, non-tech stimulation. But I have grappled with this concept over the past several months. Not so much because I fear addiction, but more because I really don’t want to spend any more time on technology than I really must to reach the end I want to achieve.

O.k., English please. What I am saying is that technology, like your average hammer or pencil, is simply a tool. A means to an end. That end differs for different users (and I really don’t mean users in the druggie sense). Technology affords a compelling precision implement, a surgical scalpel, that can lessen the weight of otherwise heavy tasks. Such as staying on top of your area of expertise. Or staying in meaningful contact with people who are important to you, whether for business or personal reasons, and sharing relevant information.

Because of technology, we can now send greater quantity of higher quality communications and information to a larger audience. In turn, we (arguably) can absorb a greater quantity of higher quality and more timely information that might help us make important decisions across the spectrum of our needs. That is why the tech explosion of late has pulled along so many mainstream users – look, Auntie M, I can now get my daily updates on Cousin Lulu without having to pick up a phone, or even write an email.

I am not going to touch Mr. Dachis’ points on tech-etiquette here. I would like to assume that Studio Readers already know how to prioritize human interaction and tech interaction. But I do wish to point out Mr. Dachis’ cause for such addiction and overload issues and suggested remedy.:

One effective way of dealing with information overload is actually organizing information. This may be an obvious one, but most of us think more about organization than actually doing it. You’re going to get organized at some point, so you might as well start now (if you haven’t, that is). Email is one of the toughest things to get under control and there are more solutions out there than you could ever really try. Google’s new Priority Inbox is a great new way to focus on the important messages in your inbox. A Chrome and Firefox extension called Boomerang lets you schedule when you send and receive emails. Communicating through speed appropriate channels rather than funneling everything through email can help, too. You can even offload distractions to an iPad, or another device you have, so you can focus on specific things on specific devices. However you organize your information, just be sure to evolve your system to fit changes in the way your information flows.

Really, so much of the handling of our technology depends on implementing efficiencies so that the tech is a helpful passenger rather than the driver of the vehicle. For example, just last night, I spent about a half hour reorganizing my iPad feed readers. I have determined from the past few months that I can cut through my feeds faster if I can read them in an uncluttered, visual format on the iPad. So, I now have two text-based and two magazine-layout-based readers on my iPad, with different feeds in each app. Why? Because I can blow right through the most important feeds on the visual readers in record time. If I have additional time, I can always go to the text-based readers to hit more detail.

The future of the web is relevancy. To me, it is far more important to be relevant than it is to be fast. Along with my post this morning about Google’s new Priority Inbox that will automatically sort your email for you, the list of applications that cater to relevancy while improving delivery speed are growing. Filters like Google Reader’s “magic” setting and apps like Feedly, my6sense, Zite and Lazyfeed are making it easer to spend less time researching and more time creating. My admonition to lawyers, professionals or, really, anyone on the Web is to get to know these filtering systems and use them to avoid overload and the addiction necessary to stay on top of the overload. At first it will require spending more time getting up to speed and implementing your chosen method. But ultimately, you might even end up with enough time to start a new hobby. Like stamp collecting. Or gardening.

Get Ready for More Organized Gmail

Google’s at it again. This time, the object of its affections is Gmail. Today, Google will be rolling out Priority Inbox (link here). In a nutshell, application of this feature will automatically sift to the top of your email pile the messages deemed of greatest importance to you. When enabled, all of your messages will be sorted into three groups – “important and unread”, “starred” and “everything else” – and will be slotted in your inbox accordingly.

Look for the “New! Priority Inbox” message on the top right of your screen (it should be there within the next week or so). Then, simply set it up in your account and click yes when it asks you whether you want to enable the system. There are a few set-up options, such as manual selection of priority contacts and order of inboxes, but most of the magic comes from Google’s ability to read how you read your email. Google looks at how the mail is addressed (whether just you or to a group), which emails you open and respond to (and how frequently you do so) with respect to a particular sender and keywords in the emails you most frequently read. As you use the filter, you can instruct Google when it makes a mistake, such as starring messages that Google thought were unimportant and demoting those Google wrongly pushed to the top. Over time, it will learn your preferences.

Reports from people who have been using this service before the public roll-out indicate that the service is very good, but not perfect. But perhaps they haven’t spent enough time yet teaching the algorithm the ropes.

Obviously, from the email sender point of view, it will be important to consider how to phrase your message so that someone else’s Priority Inbox doesn’t demote your missive to the bottom of the heap. In other words, consider when and how to use group email addressing and what keywords to include in your message to ensure it will rise to the top. Sort of like search engine optimization for email.

Looking forward to trying this out – I get a lot of dreck along with the diamonds in my Gmail inboxes – interested in seeing just how effective Priority Inbox can be.

On a humorous note, I learned that Google considers email that is a cut above “spam” but lower on the priority totem pole to be “bologna” or “bacn“, the latter being email that a person has subscribed to, but isn’t regularly read or responded to. I thought people on the internet thought bacon was a good thing. There I go, learning something new every day again.