Posts Tagged ‘email’

Tips from Paul English on work & management

Via The Way I Work: Paul English of Kayak.

I get about 400 to 500 e-mails a day, and I probably send about 120. At any given moment, I’ll have only 10 items in my inbox. When an e-mail comes in, I read it and decide immediately: Delete, reply, or delegate?

Customer emails? Let everyone see them. Because when an engineer sees the same query coming in a few times, they’ll stop and fix the code. This makes a lot of sense – which is why in traditional organisations, the support organisation needs to be tightly coupled to the engineering organisation. I’ll throw in the sales engineering organisation to this too.

Diversity of success, style, thinking and language – hire for that. 

A lot of companies have the “no assholes” rule. So if the greatest programmer ever is also a jerk, he’s fired. Our rule is “no neutrals.” So when the new guy walks down the hall, is my team drawn to him? Or do they divert their glance? If they divert their glance, we fire that person. I call it the hallway test, but it’s more of a conceptual thing. The idea is when you put superstars together, you can ask, “What did you do today that excited the people around you and made them better at their jobs?” If you can’t give examples, I don’t want you here.

Favourite metric? Revenue per employee.

Google Apps (free) on a new mobile device via CardDAV

I’ve had many accounts on Google Apps for Domains. I guess its kind of a blow that the free option is gone now, and the cheapest is now USD$50/year. One thing Google recently killed in their winter cleaning of 2012 was Google Sync.

Now when you setup a new device, say an iPhone, you will have to “fetch” Mail (push email has stopped working). If you want push email, you will have to use the GMail app.

Calendars seem to sync just fine.

Contacts need you to use CardDAV. Google has useful instructions.

How easy was it to ditch a BlackBerry? Dead easy. Setup email, allow it to sync calendar, allow it to sync contacts and the new phone “just works”.

I did for sometime think of using Rackspace hosted webmail, which is USD$2/user/month, with $1/user/month for push, but wasn’t really certain that paying them $3/month/user made sense when Google was really only $4.17 (you get all the other stuff with google apps too).

In the future I’m guessing I will be paying Google for services. But for today, I live to see another (free) day.

thoughts on e-mail backlog

I had the pleasure to chat with my former CEO, Marten Mickos, at LinuxCon Barcelona on his birthday. Marten is prolific on Twitter (@martenmickos). I’ve always encouraged him to blog, so I’m glad that he now has two blogs: CEO blog at Eucalyptus, as well as another on Wired’s Innovation Insights.

We spoke about many things, but one of them was email. Marten always replies to emails very quickly and it has always impressed me. He told me he felt bad that now he might take up to a week to reply to an email. He jokingly blamed it on age catching up.

It got me thinking about my email backlog. Across all accounts, I am embarrassed to say I have 3,821 messages that I have to process. I’m sure quite a number of those will require replying (even at 10%, that is quite a number).

There is no better time than now to take over my INBOX. I have the next couple of weeks to be home and a little more relaxed, so I’m going to tackle this email backlog. Once I’ve paid off this debt, I plan to answer emails fashionably quick. I mean if Marten, CEO of Eucalyptus, board member at several firms, can do it, so can I.

Thanks Marten for continuing to inspire me to be better.

For additional inspiration, I plan to listen to Believe in Something Bigger Than Yourself. I’m sure it is one of Marten’s better inspirational talks!

The 1Malaysia E-mail Project Revisited

Since I last wrote about The 1Malaysia E-mail Project, Tricubes the company pushing it has come up with a FAQ. It has confirmed some of my thoughts and made me wonder even further how some things are going to work. I’m sitting on a plane now, with not much else to do, so why not write further thoughts…

What’s Possible (and some confirmed with the FAQ)

I initially put forward that I see this as more than just an e-mail project, and believe it to be related to being an ID-based project for one to use government services. I also posited that it would have an API similar to Facebook Connect.

With an ID that is tied to your IC number, you’re going to get single sign on (SSO) across all government services. It only makes sense, considering today to file your taxes, you have one login, to do stuff with the road transport department, you have another and so on. This is now confirmed in the FAQ.

And rather than have an email account that you will probably not use, you will see a floating toolbar, like the Google Friend Connect social bar (that ran on this site before, and was later disabled). When you login to perform your online banking (which may connect via the API), you will see these messages.

Let’s go even further. All Malaysians carry an IC, and its called a MyKad. This MyKad has a smart chip (it is essentially a smart card). Why not give out smart card readers to everyone with a 1Malaysia e-mail account, so that you get two-factor authentication automatically? I have seen smart card readers with fingerprint scanners sell for pretty cheap in bulk, so I doubt this is far-fetched as an idea. This is now generally confirmed in the FAQ.

Will citizens become more civic-minded now that they have easy access to contacting the government? If I see a pothole, am I more likely to send an email now? Will it then go into the correct queue in the customer relationship management (CRM) system that the government is running, and will my problem get fixed? Can I file police reports about break-in’s, and other crimes without spending an hour at the police station? This could be a good thing in a way ;)

Above, I did not address things like: terms of service, privacy policy, and even an ethics policy. If your bank had SSO with the same systems that the tax department had, it could do wonders for revenue collection, but at the same time, is not something people would want. Another thing I have not addressed if this whole two-factor authentication with the smart card reader+MyKad working with all operating systems — this is likely Microsoft technology, and Mac OS X and Linux users might be left out (which would be a step back if this happens).

Remember, all this has to happen by 2020, so Tricubes and their partners have a pretty long future ahead of them.

So while these accounts are not compulsory, the key performance indicators are such that every adult above the age of 18 get on this service by 2015, is quite achievable. If you want to deal with the government, you get an account. Plain and simple. And while you may not be paying taxes yet, you will very likely have an EPF account, and that alone is enough to give you this ID.

Just remember, no one is forcing you to use this for your own personal email.

Its called myemail

I’m glad it’s not called 1Malaysia email and you’re not You really are using the service called myemail, and you are basically That’s not too bad for an address, no?

There is a “What’s myemail” page which is well worth reading (when the site is up). It claims a lot of storage – 25GB for every user. You also get access to Microsoft Office Live as I initially speculated.

Some pickings from the FAQ

It’s a long read, but here are some quick thoughts:

  1. “Malaysian Email” means the service is operated and hosted by a Malaysian company. Tricubes is Malaysian, but their partnership with Microsoft means that they’re getting lots of tech from them. Email, ID, possibly the API and more all seem to come from Microsoft, with maybe only the MyKad reader coming from Tricubes. Does this qualify that its operated and hosted by a Malaysian company? Currently its hosted overseas, but will we see data centers here in Malaysia by then?
  2. Revenues seem to be generated by eating away the pie of POS Malaysia. I cannot imagine the postal service being too happy about this. But we are moving forward, and will this also mean that scanned receipts and documents are now going to be accepted by the government?
  3. More revenues from advertising it seems. I presume this will be very much like how webmail like Gmail works — comb through your contents and habits and show you the most interesting ads.
  4. Revenue from creating an online marketplace could be interesting. Today, eBay, Lelong, Mudah and others have no way to say you’re you. eBay has ratings but that doesn’t mean you’re you. Imagine if the API is extended so that your trading ID had a link to your national ID? No more back-out buyers! Again, we come back to security, privacy, ethics though… Elsewhere, imagine social purchasing — your neighbour just installed a water filter
  5. On security… entire session works via data encryption, which basically is HTTPS/SSL. The end points, access to the server, etc. by administrators is of course possible, but I’m sure there will be checks and balances here (all large services do). Again, no one said you needed to use this for all communication, and let’s give them a chance to come up with a good policy first.

Concluding thoughts for the moment

No mention of how the API will work. Will they allow any agency or even GLC access to the API. Will they charge for access (this is quite likely)? How much data will be exposed? Will the user get to choose what is exposed (Facebook Apps ask you this today for example — users probably blindly click “accept”, but know there’s a choice available)?

I’d advise Tricubes to start getting into using social media a little more. People are liking their Facebook page just so that they could write hate comments on it. Plenty of social media consultants around who can help rehabilitate their image. Also, skip calling it an “email project” and call it an “ID project”. Or a “single-sign-on with two-factor authentication project”.

I’m still wondering where MyEG fits into all of this. There’s a story waiting there. An acquisition? ;-)

The 1Malaysia E-mail Project

There was great furor yesterday on Twitter with the #1malaysiaemail hashtag. I’m happy to say I did not participate :) However, I’ve been thinking a lot about it, especially since I’ve heard about this for a while, and heard about Tricubes being awarded the project. If you don’t want to read everything, scroll down for “What’s definitely possible”.

First, the facts:

  1. This is a private sector funded project. The RM50 million is the investment Tricubes is making, as part of the ETP. And the period of investment? Till 2020.
  2. There is collaboration with Microsoft to provide these services.
  3. The purpose? Stated below:

The 1Malaysia Email project is a government initiative in providing a unique and official email account and ID for the citizens of Malaysia.

This initiative will serve to allow direct and secure communications between citizens and the Government, as well as enhance the delivery of Government services to consumers and businesses alike.

What’s definitely possible

I see this as an ID-based project that helps you log on and use government services. We’re moving into a digital era, and I see us eventually receiving our quit rent notices, and more all via e-services. I think the providing of email is just a by-product. I’m banking on the fact that we’re all going to have MSN Live ID’s for all Malaysians above age 18 to access all kinds of services that helps with e-gov stuff. There will be messaging, but this isn’t entirely email as we’re used to.

We can probably draw parallels with the National Strategy on Trusted Identities in Cyberspace that the United Stats is proposing.

I see the API as something like Facebook Connect.

Update (20/04/2011 – 16:12): I just had another thought. Malaysia is a hub for software piracy. Maybe there will be a tie in with Microsoft Office Live, and then SkyDrive will provide cloud storage services, all with the 1Malaysia ID. The potential for this is huge (and can make people rock up to the portal…).

Random thoughts/questions

Do we need another email account? A lot of people have their own Hotmail, Yahoo! as well as Gmail accounts. These accounts also usually tie in with some form of instant messenger like MSN, Yahoo! Chat, and Google Talk.

However the purpose of this 1Malaysia Email project is for direct & secure communications between citizens and the Government. Phishing is becoming a real problem, and banks are facing this, for example. Maybank has a new authentication method with a picture+passphrase, while HSBC does two-factor authentication with a hardware device. As the government starts sending out emails, the phishers will start conning people. However, email is easily receivable, and phishers in theory can just email you the moment they have your email account details (it doesn’t help unless your email address is private, no?) So maybe the phishing argument goes away…

But maybe it is not email. Maybe its receive only from the government, and everything else from the Internet is denied. Or its like how Facebook Messages used to be — only members can send you email (it’s not like that now, more people have email addresses). And if someone tries phishing, well, we’ll know who they are, since their accounts are tied to their IC numbers!

And since its all web based, we have it all over SSL (HTTPS). Bypass the need for PGP/GPG encryption ;)

The claim is that this is a web portal. So it is webmail. Will there be IMAP? People are getting mobile these days, and are reading emails on their Blackberries, mobile phones, tablets, etc. If the service is webmail only, I wonder what the uptake will be like. Remember, if its yet another INBOX to check, there is less chances of people using it. And if you do not engage or use the service, you’ll miss government emails.

How is everyone getting an ID? Do you choose a username? Is it based on your identity card (IC) number? Is it based on your name as per IC? Signing up will of course be something that happens against your IC number — thats a given.

Who reads your email? I for one will not be promoting my 1Malaysia email address. I don’t see people printing business cards with their email address I do not know if administrators will read my emails, though I highly doubt this, as all large services have checks and balances for this. But I should be allowed my paranoia ;)

What about continuity? 1Malaysia is Najib’s thing. Before him, Badawi had his own mantra (which I don’t recollect). And before him, Mahathir had Vision 2020. Will this email account be around forever, I don’t know. But I’ve had the same email address since the 90’s, and I’m unlikely to ever give that up.

I’ve seen rumours that this is meant to be a portal, which includes: email, social networking, online bill checking and payment, plus there are claims that there will be an API to extend this so others can build applications. Immediately I think MyEG, and for me MyEG is a stock to buy (surprisingly, remains unchanged today on the KLSE). The claim though is that it isn’t like MyEG: “Khairun said the portal was different from the MyEG website, which focused on the payment of bills and summonses, as it would allow interaction between people and the Government.”.

Do we need another social network? Can we keep up with more than 3 social networks, to begin with? Do we only want to be friends with other Malaysians or be friends with people globally? There are so many ex-Malaysians I’d like to keep in contact with, and I’m sure TalentCorp would like to contact them too, but if its tied to an IC number, you lose it the moment you give up your citizenship (as an aside, average time I’ve seen for people that go to Australia? 3-5 years).

Malaysiakini reports: “We will focus on delivery of notices and bills, MYEG is about online payment,” CEO Khairun Zainal Mokhtar told a press conference after the announcement. If you are not compelled to login, will you see the notices and bills? I don’t think so!

Have they thought about storage and quotas, assuming that people actually somehow decide to use this actively?

This is not compulsory for Malaysians. So what is the unique selling point? Opt-in emails from the government? I have a MyEG account because I want to renew my road tax. Or settle summonses. I rather have my notices and bills sent to my personal email account, which I read. I’m unlikely to want to see bills and notices sent to a portal that I have to login separately.Will they then send me an email saying I have a message waiting for me? That’s highly possible :)

I have lots of questions. This system will be rolled out sometime in July this year. I’m disappointed that its all Microsoft based, since there are some amazing opensource ID management systems around, but c’est la vie. Go with the provider that fits the bill!

If anyone from Tricubes/Microsoft wants to share more technical information, I’d be curious to hear about it.

P/S: Many told me about Tricubes being a dodgy firm, having issues on the stock exchange, etc. I don’t know anything about Tricubes besides what I’ve read in the media. So that’s not relevant to the technology discussion I’d hope to have here (if at all there will be discussion)., making email easier to manage

I learned about, from Fred Wilson’s recent post about how he works towards achieving Inbox Zero. I don’t use GMail as my main client, preferring to currently use Apple Mail after I ditched Thunderbird earlier this year. However, most of my email accounts are now based on GMail, thanks to the wonders of Google Apps for Domains.

Unsubscribe is exactly what I’ve been after. I get subscribed to a lot of mailing lists and instead of marking things as spam (sometimes in my MUA, sometimes on GMail), I’d rather just get off the mailing list so it does not clog up Google’s servers. Another problem is that my oldest email account is now fifteen years old, so it tends to get clogged up with quite a lot of crap.

Signing up was easy. Installing the plugin for Firefox was also easy. Hitting the limit of five email unsubscribes per month was dead easy! I had to quickly grab my credit card and get the limit lifted (if only they offered Paypal as an option).

I ended up using it in a mixed-mode environment. I tried to use it in the browser for some of my various Google Apps for Domains accounts. It worked a charm. Then I moved back to my MUA, and started forwarding emails to That too, worked a charm. One click (and one forward) unsubscribe is just too easy.

Considering I have too many email accounts and not all of them have GMail access, I had to write their support line a quick email. Within a few hours, they fixed my problem – they whitelisted all my email addresses, and if I need more, they’ll gladly whitelist more. They also told me that they’re working on an interface to allow users to add their own email addresses.

Service within a few hours. Absolutely love it. Can smell that they are a great startup to watch. Well worth the USD$19/year fee.

Update: In the 2 days that I’ve been using it, on day 1 I got off 78 mailing lists, and on day 2 another 51.