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Merlin Mann | Aug 1 2007
To know me today, you'd never imagine how many hundreds of pages a week I read in college. Surprises me, anyhow. While I've devolved into an accomplished skimmer of Harper's and the The New York Times Magazine, I rarely find (or, make) the time to finish a whole book about anything that's not related to "work." That's why I'm intrigued by DailyLit, a service that leverages rather than battles the tendency to hang out online.
The idea is simple enough: select a "free" book that appeals to you, then, every day or two, via either email or RSS, the DailyLit robot sends you a section that's readable in about five minutes. If you want more at any time -- the digital equivalent of turning the page -- just click to have the next installment sent, then keep on a'reading.
The variety of available selections is handsome, including favorites like Tristram Shandy, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Devil's Dictionary and over 400 more. Feeling ambitious? Try War and Peace (675 5-minute parts), The Count of Monte Cristo (581 parts), or Don Quixote (448 parts). Want something a little lighter? You can't go wrong with Candide (42 parts) or A Modest Proposal (4 [still hilarious] parts).read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 30 2007
Inbox Zero Tech Talk
During the Q&A portion of my Inbox Zero presentation at Google the other day, an audience member stumped me with a question about how to manage action around mailing list distributions (the question starts at about 48:22).
He said he frequently receives email requests and questions that are also distributed to the other 20 people on his team. He describes a "waiting game" in which team members hang back to see if other people will respond first -- at least partly out of not wanting to duplicate effort or flood the sender. I thought it was a really intriguing question, although I said (and still believe) that distributed email would not personally be my first choice to handle this kind of communication.
Well, based on the reaction in the room that day, I gathered that this is a common dilemma for Googlers. Funny thing is that, since the video went up, I've received a lot of email from people outside the Googleplex who share the same problem -- a few of whom were aghast that I wasn't aware what a huge pain this is for knowledge workers. And to an extent, I'll admit those folks were mostly right.read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 25 2007
Merlin Mann | Jul 16 2007
My pal, Colleen, has written up a short, designer's take on handling email. She suggests you treat messages the way you'd handle Photoshop PSDs; streamline, automate, and fear not the rule nor template:
Merlin Mann | Jul 13 2007
David Shipley, author of Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home, did an ATC commentary on NJ Gov. Jon Corzine's saying he's swearing off email. Shipley thinks it's a teachable moment that shouldn't be missed:
By the way, how we doing on that Richard Scarry Book of the Future?
Merlin Mann | Jul 12 2007
I'm intrigued by this bit of advice from Guy Kawasaki on the stuff you don't learn in school (but should):
While exaggerated for effect, this strikes me as sound advice. And, in the context of a discussion about education, I'm reminded of the "hamburger essays" we used to have to write in school. Yeah, sure, there aren't many times in life where you have to sit down and write an actual 5-paragraph essay, but they sure did encourage you to think about structure, rhetoric, and arc. As ever, that bit of constraint gives you the focus needed to improve the quality of your presentation.
Man, in retrospect, I've sent a lot of emails that could and should have been whittled down to five sentences (if that). Emailarrhea.
Merlin Mann | Jul 10 2007
Good tips, and my only (seemingly omnipresent) comment is to underscore that need to empty all your baskets regularly. Hence, one benefit of keeping your email storage and action structure light is that you won't have to dash around to multiple places to see what's on your plate.
Merlin Mann | May 30 2007
"Email bankruptcy" was a term I first heard in the context of Lawrence Lessig deciding to throw in the towel by telling everyone to whom he owed email that he was starting over (and that important stuff should be sent again).
Last week, the Washington Post had an article on the practice that traces its origin (or at least its naming) to the end of the last decade:
The wonderful access to one another that email gives (or, put differently: that it causes us to cede) can be a great thing. But I have to admit that bankruptcy alone may not even be enough to save me (or you).read more »
Merlin Mann | Apr 23 2007
It took me a while, but ever since I've gotten my head around Smart Folders (and Smart Playlists and Smart Groups, etc.), I've started to think about the way I use my Mac a bit differently.
Clearly iTunes is the winner in this regard (watch for an upcoming multi-part series about Smart Playlists on The Merlin Show), but the Finder, and Address Book, and Mail.app also have an amazing amount of power rumbling under the hood. So, in the interest of spreading the love, here's four Mail.app Smart Mailboxes that have been rocking my world over the last months.read more »
Merlin Mann | Apr 23 2007
An article in yesterday's New York Times suggests that the upshot of last week's BlackBerry outage may be about more than just an annoying communication outage -- for some, it was a flop-sweat-inducing night of cold turkey.
Sure, I kid the BlackBerry addicts, but I do sympathize. Left to my own devices, I'd check email a hundred times a day and can still half-ruin a vacation with the constant need to "just check in." Electronic fiddling is a lot like tobacco addiction and a lot easier to get away with nowadays.
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