I came across this new service called texts.com over the weekend that looks promising. If it does what it says, I may not have to hate text messaging anymore.
Text Messaging is such a needy piece of software. I don’t mean the people sending the messages. I mean the actual messaging apps. Stupid notifications that pop up irrespective of what you’re doing. No way to star messages or mark them for a response later, which feeds that underlying demand for an immediate response lest you read the message now and forget to respond altogether.
Text messaging apps literally want all of your attention and they want it right now. So needy.
Hopefully, this new service texts.com can help. They’re building an all-in-one inbox for various messaging apps (text messaging, iMessage, Signal, etc.), and also including features that I’ve been wanting for a long time in a messaging app.
I’ve always thought it’s crazy that there hasn’t been a way to mark a message as “Unread” or “Reply Later”. Who knows how many messages I’ve forgotten to reply to over the years because I’ll read a message and then don’t remember to get back to it… 🤦♂️.
I also love the fact that their 2nd listed feature is…
“Messages never touch our servers. They’re sent directly to the platforms preserving end-to-end encryption. We make money by charging you a monthly subscription.”
Features include the ability to Archive, Snooze, and Mark messages as unread. Although, I think they need to directly address the Reply later situation and add in a “Reply Later” button. They’re probably just including the more common email-type functionality but I can’t be the only one who doesn’t want to respond to messages as soon as they come in so I think a dedicated Reply Later button would get a lot of use.
I use a service called HEY Email for my personal and work email and I like how they implemented their Reply Later feature. It’s not perfect but it’s better than the alternative, which is the hacky-type solution of marking a message as Unread (or Starring it). The problem with marking a message as unread in that situation is that the message is not unread like you’re marking it, because you literally just read it. What you’re really wanting to do is flag the message in a way that you’ll know and remember that you need to reply to it later. So a dedicated Reply Later button seems to make a lot of sense.
Anyway, I haven’t had the chance to try it out yet because it’s in an invite-only beta, but I signed up for an invite so I’m looking forward to when that comes. Let’s hope it can solve my text messaging woes and I’ll gladly kick my current needy messaging apps to the curbs.
I started working on a new personal project a few weekends ago that I am referring to as Alfred. The general concept of Alfred at this stage is that Alfred is a custom Household Assistant that is able to help keep track of various useful data points for around the house and provide useful automations for repetitive tasks.
One of Alfred’s starting features is the ability to log the heights of my kids as my wife and I record them over time. As of right now, it’ll act as a simple log, but further down the road, I plan to add the ability to review growth by year, as well as graphs for easy readability.
Each member of the family now has their own account and will be able to access functionality based upon the role I have assigned to them. I’ll be able to change my kid’s access privileges as they get older in order to give them access to more features that they currently have no need for.
One of the most used features so far is Alfred’s tea timer. I built the tea timer itself a year or two ago but have now added it as a feature to Alfred. The tea timer integrates with Siri and allows for phrases like “Hey Siri, just made tea”, to trigger a timer on Alfred to inform us with the tea is done steeping (I drink a lot of tea).
Additional tea commands for Alfred’s tea timer are “I took the teabags out” and “Check tea”. “Check tea” returns a message, depending on the status of the timer, that says, “Tea was ready 10 minutes ago. Teabags have not been taken out,” or, “You’ll want to make a fresh pot. Tea was ready over 2 hours ago.”
After drinking tea for basically my entire life and often trying to remember when I made the last pot in order to determine if the tea is still good or if I’ll need to make a new pot, this feature has been quite useful and eliminates the wondering. I also appreciate the precision of knowing exactly when to take the teabags out of the pot.
Another feature I added to Alfred is Net Worth tracking. Net Worth tracking calculates and records our net worth based upon the various accounts and items entered into Alfred. At this time, account balances have to be manually entered which is easy enough, but I’m currently building the integration with a service called Plaid which will allow Alfred to connect to our bank and investment accounts directly and pull the balances on its own. Once done, the net worth tracking should be on autopilot since account balances will automatically be updated as Alfred is able to fetch the latest balances on its own – at least until the bank connection is disconnected and has to be re-authenticated because banks are well… banks.
In the months and years to come, I plan for Alfred to evolve in usefulness and functionality as different ideas and use-cases come up.
I also want it to be a place where 20 years from now our kids can log in and be able to access their own historical information and other fun details that have been logged.
Alfred may also be a great project to work on with my kids as they learn to code in the years to come.
Besides the fact that I’m building functionality that I want, one of the major plus points about Alfred is that my family are the only ones using it – and I’m the one who built it. That means that I know exactly how the application is built and I know how the data is being used (well… except for the data that travels through Plaid 🤦♂️).
When it comes down to it, unless you build something yourself, you never know how your data will be used. It’s impossible (and far from efficient) to try to build everything, so it’s important to be able to trust the companies behind the products we use in our personal and work lives. There aren’t a whole lot of companies that I feel this way about but there a few. And I’m more than happy to use their products and do business with them as a result of that.
That’s my hope for my team as well – that we can be that to our customers.
As for Alfred – I’m just trying to figure out if it’s weird to refer to Alfred as a he and a him rather than an “it”? He’s not a person…
It’s none of my business if you opened my email. And it’s none of your business if I opened yours.
Email tracking software may enable us to snoop on each other, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay. Just because I may find the information useful, that doesn’t mean it’s my business.
It’s interesting how easy we can compromise on basic ideas when it all of a sudden becomes convenient or beneficial to us. Or when it becomes the normal way of doing business.
Technology has made it far too normal to track our colleagues, prospects, and customers.
If I send you an email from an email app that tracks opens and clicks, I can see if you’re really interested in what I have to say. The app will tell me how many times you open the email and it will tell me how many times you clicked on links that I included in my email. If you’re really interested in what I had to say and happen to open it and then return to it 4 or 5 times as you go throughout your day – I can be privy to all of this. I can even enable notifications when you read my email so that I can turn my stalking up to level 9 and email you while you’re reading my email.
I can also tell if you read my email and you’re just ignoring me.
How is that acceptable? What makes us think that because we sent the email that we’re somehow entitled to know what someone does with it?
Imagine saying to someone, “I bought you a new shirt for Christmas and I also included a tracking bug that tells me how many times you wear it so that I know if you actually liked it because it’s really important to me that you like it. I was the one who gave it to you so it’s my right to know if you liked it.”
Yeah, that’s insane.
So why is it okay to snoop on how many times someone opens my email just because I sent it to them?
Well, it’s not. But it’s normal. So businesses just do it.
You send an email to a client or a prospect and you see that they read it five times – would you want them to know that they read it five times? Not really. They would feel awkward if they knew their behaviour is being watched. And, unless you’ve already gotten used it yourself, there’s even a certain level of awkwardness being on the end of watching someone’s behaviour without them knowing it – particularly if they do something outside the norm. Those are the biggest giveaways that there is some sort of invisible line that is being crossed.
Can this type of tracking information be useful? Yeah sure, to a point. But are you really going to be that person that emails them again saying, “I know you read my email – why didn’t you respond?”
I mean, if it’s in you to do that, then maybe it’s good that your prospects and customers get to see that side of you so they can run for the hills.
Sure, tracking allows you to see whether subscribers to your mailing list are opening your emails and you can tweak your email subjects to try to improve open rates. But is Open Rate really the metric that matters? There are ways to track email effectiveness without personally identifying who did and who didn’t open our emails. Isn’t the goal for signups or conversions anyway?
Just because it’s the way something is done, does not mean it’s the way it ought to be done.
That’s why our team stopped using email trackers a while ago. If a service we use (like Help Scout or Mailchimp) provides tracking, we turn it off.
We weren’t always tracker-free. Nowadays most business email tools come with tracking built-in and enabled by default and it’s easy to just get used to it. But we realized that it just isn’t any of our business what our customers do with the emails we send them. We don’t want to be tracked, so why should we be tracking others?
And honestly, it hasn’t hurt our business. More than that, we’re respecting people’s privacy the way we want our privacy respected, and that’s more important to me than knowing if they opened my email.
As you may have heard, Apple just released a new update for iPhone and iPad, iOS 14.5. What makes this release more notable than most is that it includes a new feature called App Tracking Transparency.
App Tracking Transparency requires an app to request permission from you in order to track your activity on your device. This results in two significant changes: 1) It gives power back to the individual to actually have a choice about their privacy. 2) It exposes how much tracking is taking place.
This deals a direct blow to companies like Facebook and Google whose entire businesses are built around targeted advertising. For these companies, the more data they can collect on you, the more accurate their ad targeting becomes. And they really don’t want you knowing how much data they collect.
Facebook has unsurprisingly been opposed to this feature, stating that it’s bad for small businesses. But let’s be honest here – do we really believe that Facebook all of sudden cares about small businesses and the individuals who run them? We’re talking about the company that pioneered the technological mass manipulation of billions of humans and the company that engineers their products with no regard for how it affects individuals or society as long as it improves the bottom line. The company that knowingly inflated video analytics data, causing small businesses to think their ads were doing better than they actually were.
Yeah, I don’t buy it and I’m sure neither do you.
They don’t like this new privacy-protecting feature because they’re in the business of infringing on your privacy. They don’t like it because it’s bad for Facebook.
It’s evident that Facebook knows that, if given the choice, people will always choose not to be tracked. They know that people simply don’t want big tech (or anyone for that matter) spying on them. But they don’t care.
Facebook relies on being able to track people without having a choice. Some may say, “Well, Facebook users make their choice when they use the app.” True – and many people are leaving Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram because of that. But the deeper reality is that most people are not aware of what really is going on behind the scenes and in the code. They’re not aware of the extent of the tracking, nor are they aware of how it can be used against them. At the very minimum, all this data sitting in the hands of one company is an online security nightmare. It’s easy to forget about the times Facebook’s security was breached – like when the personal information of 50 million users was accessed by attackers.
More than all that – what about just simple principle? I know that may not sound extraordinarily compelling or what pleases the VCs, but surely at some level, there’s something in each of us that has got to care about the principle of the matter. The fact that it is not okay for practices like this to operate in the shadows. For me, that’s enough to gladly not do business with them. These companies are not trustworthy and the reality is that Facebook (among others) used the Trojan horse of their social network apps to sneak their way into our lives in order to wrestle our personal privacy from us.
Apple is far from perfect. But it’s great to see at least one of these giants-in-tech taking a stand on the side of personal privacy. I’ll gladly get behind that.
It’s been a long time coming now that I’ve wanted to have a dedicated company blog. For some reason, putting the blog on the company website just didn’t feel like the right place for it. Maybe because I innately wanted the blog to have the power to live on its own with the purity of just being a blog. A blog whose posts are written by members of our team rather than a company blog.
That sounds like a good thing to me and I prefer it this way. If you want to read the blog and are interested in the things we write – great! – visit the blog, comment, and subscribe. I’d love to have you be a part of this. And if things resonate with you and you’d like to do business with us – we’re here to help.
I have a pretty good idea of what I want this blog to be. At this point, it will just be me writing. But down the road, I would like to have some other members of our team begin writing, and maybe some other guests as well.
I also have a good idea of what I don’t want this blog to be. Maybe even a better idea than what I want it to be.
What this blog won’t be is a calculated SEO or marketing campaign. There’s a place for that, but I don’t want it here. I simply want a place where we can put our ideas out for others to see and for ourselves to see. There’s something about writing that causes you to think a bit differently. It seems to cause you to solidify ideas or organize them in a way where you can step back and understand the picture a bit better. Or at least to understand your thoughts about the picture a bit better. It slows things down, and in our day, that’s a good thing.
And so here we go. Launching was not planned for today, but considering it’s May the 4th, I’m alright with how this worked out.
May the Fourth be with you.