Over the weekend it struck me how different (i.e. frictionless & efficient) my information work-flow has become because of all the Google services I use. It’s part of my “cloud-first” mindset when thinking about creating and sharing content. And I use the term “content” in the broadest meaning; email is content, a document is content, this blog post is content, even a “tweet” I consider content.
Here is how I got started with “cloud-first” thinking:
April Fools Day 2004, almost nine years ago, I made a dramatic email paradigm shift. I left Outlook and jumped whole heart into Gmail. With Outlook I obsessively organized incoming email into byzantine folder structures. Projects, customers, personal, business. For some reason whiling away the hours organizing my email made me feel good, but that was in reality a ”false high.” And to top it off a wasted effort; the folder structure became stale over time.
Gmail, with it’s folder-free, conversation-centric, fast search approach to email management was the complete opposite user experience and it just “clicked” for me.
“How could I have not seen this before?” It took thinking outside the (in)box to transform email. No more dragging to folders. Simple tagging works better. Conversations threaded automatically. Woot!
2. Google Apps
In 2007 I started using Google Apps for content creation. A similar eureka moment occurred. Just like moving from Outlook to Gmail, moving from Word + Excel to GApps Docs + Spreadsheets was a fresh, modern approach to collaborative content creation. There was so much friction in the old world. Working on a shared document required emailing the file around or keeping track of versions on a file share. With GDocs the editing was in place, versions maintained, and collaboration speed increased. Now I get hives when someone sends me a Word file looking for comments and edits.
We’re fast approaching the era where the “file,” residing on a file system, will not be the default work product unit. It will be a shared document in a collaboration space designed for multi-user editing.
It took some patience with Google as they incrementally improved Gapps. But today it’s pretty good and getting better faster.
3. Chrome + Sync
I started using Google’s Chrome browser in mid-2009. It had many rough edges for OS X, but today it’s a great integrated usage experience. With Chrome, my bookmarks, history, apps + extensions PLUS open tabs are all sync’d across my various computers and devices. For example I can start writing a document on the shared Mac in kitchen and then pickup my iPad to continue editing. Or from my Macbook Air at the office I can view open tabs at home.
Chrome brings a “fluidity” to my work-flow by allowing me to start and finish tasks on whatever device is most convenient to me “in the moment.”
4. Google Voice
A couple years ago I added Google Voice to my personal Gmail account. I created a new “shadow” telephone number, made it my central voicemail, and now use the Google Voice app and Chrome extension to read (or listen) to my voice messages, whether my smart-phone is near me or not. Sometimes the speech to text translations are so hilarious I forward the text to my caller for a mutual chuckle.
5. Google+ and Circles
I have a love/hate relationship with Google Plus. The various user interfaces for managing profiles seems confusing and not intuitive. I am never quite sure what content is shared to “the world” or private. But I do like the Circles concepts and have gradually warmed up to spending more time in the Google+ UI.
I didn’t fully appreciate the benefit of categorizing most of my Google Contacts into Circles. But because of that time investment I now get an “auto-inbox” organizing feature simply by clicking on a named Circle. If I want to see only emails from colleagues, click “Sonian”. If I want to read only messages from family, click “Family.” This is the power of Google being able to connect the dots for me behind the scenes.
6. Separating work accounts from personal: still a *work in progress*
A popular grievance among the Google user community is the “multi-account” management debacle. Google is slowly making all their services multi-account aware, but it’s still not perfect. My Chrome browser and sessions are configured almost perfectly to allow switching between my personal @gmail.com account and work account, but occasionally something goes awry and the browser has to be restarted to get the logins working correctly. These days, restarting a browser is nearly as painful as restarting a PC.
7. Recent Optimizations
- Enabled multifactor authentication for all my Google accounts/services. Do this for data privacy and security peace of mind. At first configuring MFA was a hassle and I almost decided not worth it. But stuck it out and now I don’t mind the occasional need to enter a numeric code SMS’d to my mobile.
- iOS Gmail app. Love it. Better then accessing Gmail via Safari or using the native iOS Mail app.
Slowly the legacy habits for creating and sharing enterprise content will shift from file centric to document centric. I can’t wait for “cloud-first” thinking to become default behavior.