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5 posts from February 2009

The Great Gmail Fail - and the collective panic/meltdown on Twitter...

In case you weren't watching your Twitter stream this morning (US Eastern time), Google's Gmail has been down. You can read about it on Mashable, TechCrunch, VentureBeat and probably a zillion other blog sites by now. It's probably back up by now.

But if you were on Twitter this morning, you would have DEFINITELY known that Gmail was down. Here's the state of after I left the tab open for a bit:


Yes, that's 22,057 messages since I opened the window - all mentioning "gmail". In the time it's taken me to write these few paragraphs, the count has now climbed to 22,601.

gmaildown-twitter-1.jpgThe Twittersphere is experiencing a gigantic collective spasm of worry/panic/meltdown, along with a healthy dose of amusement thrown in at all of the worry/panic/meltdown.

Many of us have spoken or written about Twitter as an "attention lens" where it helps point you to what others find important at the moment. This morning it wasn't so much a "lens" as it was a giant screaming sledgehammer!

It was, in many ways, absolutely fascinating.

Kind of like standing on the side of the highway watching a giant wreck/collision. Or watching similar scenes on TV. It was mesmerizing to a certain degree. I also learned of the site via the page to watch 'gmail' tweets:


It was admittedly interesting to have on my screen in my hotel room as I did an early round of email checking. With the sheer volume, though, I did have to bump up the speed from the default to "4 per second".

The reality is, of course, that the collective focus probably did absolutely nothing to help Google bring the service back online. Instead, you had 7 zillion people repeatedly checking their browsers - or rushing to configure IMAP because IMAP access to GMail was working, albeit with slow spots. The amount of traffic heading into GMail's servers must have been rather massive.

Scattered amongst the plaintive wails of anguish were naturally those pointing to problems with so many people relying on Google's services... and pointing out the problems of pushing services into the "cloud"... etc.

All of which are valid concerns, of course, but I suspect the reality is that in a few hours or a day or two this will long be forgotten. Google's Gmail was down for a few hours. Next topic....

Google just makes Gmail so seductively easy to use. I imagine people will just keep on going (although one hopes people will look into either IMAP or Google Gears so that they do have a local copy).

gmaildown-twitter-2.jpgMeanwhile, the tweets continue... (as now everyone needs to tweet that the service is back up for them, of course!)

P.S. And I should say that I am as guilty as anyone as tweeting about Gmail being down.

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The Firefox Add-on/Extension that I want - saving all tabs across all windows

There's a Firefox Add-on/Extension out there that I want... badly. Here's what I want it to do:
  1. Bookmark all my tabs across all my windows into a bookmark folder that I can name.
  2. Let me go back through those bookmarked tabs to find individual ones I want.

That's all I want... take a snapshot of all the tabs in the all the windows... and then let me get back to that data easily.

The add-on Tab Mix Plus almost gets me there. It does my #1 above in that it will capture all my tabs across all my windows. But unless I'm missing something it doesn't let me do my #2... it treats the capture of all my windows and tabs as a "session" and lets me save "sessions". But I can't (that I can see) easily access individual pages that I had opened. I can reload the session... but that's it. All or nothing. If I want to just get to one page that I had open, I'm out of luck.

There is, of course, the built-in "Bookmark All Tabs..." option in Firefox's Bookmarks menu, but this only works for a single window. I have to do it for each of my various windows... which can take a while.

Now why do I want this? Largely it's the way I work... a large part of my work involves researching various emerging new technologies. When I'm in a deep dive, I may open up several windows each with a whole bunch of tabs. Sometimes explorations lead on to other explorations.... sometimes my current thread of research is interrupted by some other thread, which spawns its own windows.... and then there may be yet another thread of research I'm interested in based on something I saw in my Twitter or RSS feed.

It's fairly routine for me to have 8, 9 or 10 Firefox windows open, each with some number of tabs. A recent save with Tab Mix Plus was of 9 windows and 53 tabs.

Now it's unfortunately also fairly routine that some tab somewhere will have some bad code in the page that will cause Firefox to start eating up my CPU. At which point I have to try to figure out which tab it is - or living with a slower (and HOT) MacBook Pro. And at some point I'll want to restart Firefox so that I can have my computer back.

Ergo... my interest in this Add-on/Extension. I'd like to just take a snapshot of where all my research is, restart Firefox, and then be able to go back to parts of the windows that I had open before.

Seen anything like this?

P.S. And yes, this is one reason I'm looking forward to Google Chrome coming out on Mac OS X... it has that "Task Manager"-like view that lets you identify (and kill) whichever tab it is that is going rogue. (And yes, I know there's a proof-of-concept browser on the Mac that is similar, but given some feedback I've heard I've been wary of trying it out.)

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Social media, attention, distraction and overload...

One of the themes of my writing here and in my thinking in general is that we still don't understand the changes that are happening to our society with all the new media and communication methods all around us. For instance, I wonder a great deal about whether our "multi-tasking" is truly a good thing for us in the long run. Even as the latest "Millenial" generation emerges that is used to living in a "perpetual state of partial attention"... is that a good thing? As we increasingly divide our attention and our focus among many different tasks, will that help us get more things done? Or fewer? (Because, in fact, we are losing focus?)

I have my views... but I don't know... and I don't know that we will know for quite some time.

On that subject, though, Wired came out recently with an article "Digital Overload Is Frying Our Brains" that is really an interview with author Maggie Jackson who is writing a book "Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age". I know very little about Jackson, although her blog does have some interesting posts (albeit very infrequently posted) but the topic is obviously one of interest to me. The title, in particular "the Coming Dark Age" part, seems a bit over the top... but I also realize that there is a marketing exercise involved with titling books - and this one certainly does draw attention.

The book isn't due out until September 2009, apparently, but it will be interesting to learn more about it as that date draws closer.

In the meantime, I have 37 other books to read, a bunch of blog posts to write, some podcasts to listen to... some updates to tweet... and I should put out some status reports in here somewhere... oh, yes, and the email and IM conversations to attend to...

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Times when you your online ad placement does NOT work for you...

When I heard the news last night of the horrible tragedy of the plane crash in upstate New York, I jumped to CNN's web page to find out the latest news. Somehow I'm thinking this wasn't exactly the kind of ad placement Continental was looking for (not that they had any control of it):

My thoughts are certainly with the families of all those affected by this horrid tragedy. I'm flying home to NH from Orlando tonight and I do have to admit that this event will definitely be in my thoughts.

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Congrats to Neville Hobson on IABC "Chairman's Award"

A huge congratulations to my good friend Neville Hobson on his receiving the 2009 IABC "Chairman's Award". As the announcement says:
Each year the IABC Chairman honors one or more members of the association who have made selfless contributions and worked hard behind the scenes to enhance the association’s image, facilitate member development and benefit the communication profession. The award recognizes members who have demonstrated initiative and leadership at the international level through serving on committees, speaking at seminars, working with students, assisting with conferences, or writing articles for professional journals. Any current IABC member who has belonged to the association for at least five years is eligible for the award.

Gibson said, “In thinking about who I wanted to honor with the Chairman’s Award, I looked to my ‘Four I’s of IABC’ (international, influence, inspiration & individual). I wanted to select someone who was helping the association be more international, who had influenced and inspired me personally, as well as other members, the profession and beyond, and who took individual initiative to make things happen, rather than sitting back and waiting for others to make a difference. Neville Hobson, ABC, embodies all those things.”

The award statement goes on at some length. It's great to see Neville get this recognition and I'd say he definitely deserves it.

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