Harry's List Architect the future

gmail labs - the freshbox

If you’re like me, you live inside of Gmail and deal with a neverending stream of information.  Having your Gmail properly set up with labs can greatly improve the efficiency of dealing with, categorizing, and prioritizing the emails in your inbox.  I have figured out a system that works for me, and I would like to share it with you.

First of all, this guide requires that you have a few labs enabled.  To manage your Gmail labs, click here and read along with my guide.

These are the labs that I have turned on, in the order they appear on the labs page.  I recommend you turn on all the labs I have list, those bolded will be detailed below. Please don’t be alarmed at the size of this list. Just about everything on it is quite useful.

  1. YouTube previews in mail
  2. Picasa previews in mail
  3. Flickr previews in mail
  4. Yelp previews in mail
  5. Google Voice player in mail
  6. Google Docs previews in mail
  7. Message translation
  8. Quick Links
  9. Superstars
  10. Pictures in chat
  11. Fixed width font
  12. Custom keyboard shortcuts
  13. Advanced IMAP Controls
  14. Default 'Reply to all'
  15. Quote selected text
  16. Navbar drag and drop
  17. Forgotten Attachment Detector
  18. Mark as Read Button
  19. Go to label
  20. Inbox preview
  21. Multiple Inboxes
  22. Google Search
  23. Create a Document
  24. Filter import/export
  25. Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat
  26. Authentication icon for verified senders
  27. Send & Archive
  28. Undo Send
  29. Title Tweaks
  30. Don't forget Bob
  31. Got the wrong Bob?
  32. Green Robot!
  33. Hide read labels.
  34. Mark Unread From Here
  35. Google Calendar gadget
  36. Google Docs gadget
  37. Add any gadget by URL

My favorites are the Superstars and Multiple Inboxes, the interaction of which is beautiful.  The Superstars allow you to apply different types of stars to your emails and Multiple Inboxes give you quick access to information that is likely to be referenced, such as emails you have recently starred. My favorite additional inbox is what I call the Freshbox, it simply displays my unread emails.  Also of great usage are the Quick Links, which provide easy access to saved searches.  I will explain how I’ve set up these labs, starting with the Superstars.

You can manage which stars are enabled and in which order on the General Gmail Settings page. Simply drag and drop them.  I use:

Blue square for emails with INFORMATION that I may want to refer to in the future.
Red exclamation point or BANG for emails that I need to act on ASAP
Red star for emails with DATES like meetings, appointments, parties
Purple star for SPECIAL emails that I want to want to save for a rainy day
and Orange » for delegated emails, stuff I’ve sent out that needs to be returned to me

These stars allow me to quickly prioritize what flows through my inbox.  Not a replacement for labels whatsoever, these stars work in conjunction.  For instance, I can click on my work label and see which emails are set with a red bang.  Similarly in the work label I can quickly spot emails with important documents by the info tag.

Now, the grandaddy lab: Multiple Inboxes.  What this lab does is allow you to create additional inboxes. These inboxes can be placed on top of, which I prefer, or to the right of or below the regular inbox. These additional inboxes show the results of a search query that you specify in your Multiple Inboxes settings.  These search queries could be anything you like.  I have mine set to show the Freshbox, Superstars and Chats.  The parameters I used to set up are as follows:

Pane 0: Query: is:unread in:inbox -in:buzz Title: Freshbox
Pane 1: Query: l:^ss_cr Title: ASAP
Panel 2: Query: l:^ss_sr Title: Dates
Panel 3: Query: l:^ss_cb Title: Reference
Panel 4: Query: label:chat Title: Chatbox

Have the maximum page size set to show 10 conversations per page for the new inbox panes and have them set above the inbox.

One last important thing left to set up are the Quick Links.  Once you’ve enabled this lab a widget will appear on the left-side of your Gmail.  After performing any search in Gmail, clicking ‘Add Quick Link’ will save the current search in a handy link with a name of your choosing.  So, do a search for l:^ss_sp and create a quick link for your special, rainy-day emails.  Likewise make a search for l:^ss_co and create a quick link for the emails you’re waiting on.  Here’s a quick link to all the files you’ve emailed from:me;has:attachment.  For a complete list of the search terms for superstars, see this lifehacker article on Gmail GTD that initially inspired me.

facebook privacy and you

If you haven’t heard all the buzz about facebook the past couple weeks, listen up.  Facebook just changed the way they handle privacy.  There are no more regional networks.  Unless you restrict specific things, they will be indexed by Google.  In this post you can learn how to  setup your facebook for max visibility while retaining a necessary amount of privacy.

The levels of limitation are: Friends, Friends of Friends, Friend lists, or Everyone.

I’ve organized my settings by section, which you can access by clicking on the links.

About me -> Education {Only Friends}
Photos and videos {Dudes}
Posts {only friends}

Dudes is a friend list excluding certain family members and people from work that I’d rather not see my pictures.

IM -> Current Address {Only Friends}
Website -> Add me as a friend {Everyone}
Send me a message {Only Friends}

Status Updates, Online Presence, Website, Education and work, My birthday, My hometown {checked}

I allow anyone to search for me.  But, if you want you can turn this off and be hidden.  Lastly, to block people go here.

what makes google voice special?

There are many benefits to using google voice as an a personal digital operator.   First and foremost, screening calls. Your personal operator is going to ask everyone with a restricted number to state their name. If you want, this can happen to anyone that calls who isn’t one of your Google Contacts.

Your personal operator can also serve certain people to specific phones and present custom voicemail greetings. These voicemails will be transcribed and sent to your phone as a text message and emailed to you.

The history of your phone calls and voicemails will be archived at http://google.com/voice. Having GvoiceMail is handy. This personal operator is so good at handling calls that you can switch the phone you are using in the middle of a call.  Say you walk home while on a business call: tell the person on the other end to hold, then you press press * and hang up, your home phone rings and you answer it. Sounds too good to be true.

Want in?  One doesn’t ask for an invite to google voice, he signs up.   I should also mention that this service is free and Google provides you with a free number.

google audio indexing

Update 8-29-2013 – Google GAudi appears to have been retired and the google group along with it has been expunged!

Google is using speech recognition to index political videos on youtube. With a search, one can easily find what a politician has to say about a particular subject. http://labs.google.com/gaudi/

Google wants to unleash this powerful tool to index all of youtube’s shenanigans, after they’ve tested it on politics. I think it will make a major impact on how we access information.

What google says about the technology:

Google Audio Indexing uses speech technology to transform spoken words into text and leverages the Google indexing technology to return the best results to the user.

The returned videos are ranked based -- among other things -- on the spoken content, the metadata, the freshness.

We periodically crawl the YouTube political channels for new content. As soon as a new video is uploaded to YouTube, it is processed by our system and made available in our index for people to search.

I did some research into what they are actually using to detect the speech patterns. It is called Hidden Markov Modelling. Here is a pdf explaining some of the mathematics behind it.

I would like to share some other documents I came across that I thought were interesting:

This is a 7-part report on how to get Saudi Speech Recognition to differentiate and understand the different accents of their language.

How To: Use HTK Hidden Markov modelling toolkit with SFS

The Google Group for Google Audio Indexing

the holy grail of iTunes smart playlists

Update 8-29-2013 – When creating this post 4 years ago, it did not occur to me that I might someday be left with a text-only backup of my blog. Unfortunately, this is the case and therefore I have lost the most vital information of this post… perhaps some day I will set-up my iTunes the way I used to have it and share some smart-playlists again. Until then, use your imagination!

After meticulously organizing my iTunes Music Library, I have found playlists to be extremely handy—static playlists as well as something relatively new, smart playlists.  For those that are unfamiliar, smart playlists build their contents based on variables and are live updating.  What this means is that you are going to have amazing playlists.

Let me show you how to import your favorite songs you haven’t heard in the last week, month, or how to aggregate your holiday music, tracks with missing tags and your most listened to tracks with the least number of skips.

iTunes organizes playlists in the left-hand column, which is a prominent location for accessing collections of your music.

The first playlist we should make is a base music playlist to build our other playlists off of, filtering out any non-music.  To create a new smart playlist go to the File menu and select New Smart Playlist.  The Mac shortcut to creating a smart playlist is option+command+N or you can hold option while pressing the new playlist button.

This ‘music only’ playlist will collect everything in iTunes except movies, podcasts, audiobooks and radio streams. I keep my audiobook playlists in a playlist folder named audiobooks and that’s what I’m signaling the playlist to avoid. Likewise, I keep my radio streams in a playlist named radio.  Adjust yours according to how you organize your music.  We will use this playlist as a variable in subsequent playlists to filter out non-music.

Let’s start aggregating some awesome music! This playlist collects good tunes that haven’t been listened to in the past week. If you are attentive to rating your music, this playlist will serve you very well.

It’s easy to tailor this to the size of your music library by selecting months, year(s)..

If you have been adding music to your library for years, this next playlist will organize your most listened-to tracks chronologically.

This ‘best of 2008’ playlist has my most played party tunes and favorite sleeping tracks. Along with those one hitters. Just make sure to adjust the playcount variable according to your listening habits.

Have a lot of holiday music? Here’s a smart playlist for you.

By filtering this holiday playlist out of other playlists, you can keep Olde St. Nick out of your everyday servings.

Next we have some really useful smart playlists for organizing your music library. The first is for music you listen to a lot but have not had the chance to rate.

Ratings are extremely handy for isolating tracks you don’t like on albums and you can avoid these tracks in the future by setting a playlist’s rating filter from 4 to 5 stars, like the second playlist above.

The second organization playlist is for missing metadata, for example track and album names. All those songs you imported without an internet connection without tags that are labeled track01, track02 etc..

From this playlist you can easily locate and fix the metadata-less tracks.

The following ‘no skippies’ playlist quickly removes tracks you usually do not want to hear.

And lastly, listen to your music! The following playlist grabs all of your neglected music.