Monday, June 21, 2004

And when the living's not easy, it's my own damn fault

I wonder sometimes if procrastination is a character flaw that I'll ever manage to rid myself of, but any attempts to do so are, by definition, unsuccessful, because I'd really rather move on to something that really needs doing, like finally seeing Better Off Dead. Anyway, I've managed to complete that necessary task and have moved on to reacquainting myself with the internet, because now that I'm not in class for four hours a day, I find I'm not keeping up with the news as well as I used to. All of this is to avoid a task that's been hanging over my head since last week (this is the flip side of all that free time I said I loved: I tend to waste it); namely, analyzing lead sources for the company I'm working for this summer. That sounds about as compelling as the actual work is: it's mostly data entry into Excel and then pulling all the percentages I can think of, meaningful or no (pie charts optional).

In my rather extended attempt to get started on this project, I added a couple more links to my 'Web Advertising' section (one came from Adrants, which I spent a bit of time reading), checked up on all my friends' blogs, and took an ill-advised walk by the lake (post-downpour air quality is decidedly unpleasant). And even now I find myself compelled to write about the latest developments in Gmail's making waves, because I'm that much of a dork.

Tuesday of last week I logged into my Yahoo! mail account and found they'd finally implemented the overhaul that was announced a month or two back in response to Gmail. Users with free accounts get 100 MB of space, which is really more than ample (though Yahoo! is definitely a johnny-come-lately here and offering 100 MB free just doesn't have the same cache as offering 1 GB does), but the best part is that I'm not a free user. I buckled under the constant warnings that I was running out of space (in big, scary letters at the top of the page with a red graphic indicator) and paid ten bucks for a whopping 10 MB. Hey, it made the warnings go away. Anyway, Yahoo!'s new system isn't the tiered thing it had before (where you could pay more to make the ads go away too, and get even more memory), but is split into free and paid. And paying customers get 2 GB of storage space, plus no advertising. And while this normally costs double what I'm paying now, because I took that leap of faith (caving in, whatever) early on, I'm just paying less for the same thing. And that's a really nice feeling.

The new Yahoo! mail has a whole bunch of new features that I haven't yet taken the time to explore (though Yahoo! sent about 16 emails--yeah, there were a few duplicates--telling me about all of them and how the change affected my account), but I think I saw something about a feature called AddressGuard, which allows you to give out alias addresses to sites that look sketch and then you can block everything from them if it all turns out to be junk mail. That's a handy little feature right there, which I'll have to figure out how to use at some point. POP Access is nice too, if and when I achieve that level of Outlook sophistication. Most of the other stuff (SpamGuard, stationary, address blocking) is less notable, but I think they're features Gmail has yet to implement, if they ever do. I still like the Gmail interface better than any other webmail service's, and the speed it operates at, but now I have no reason to ever leave my Yahoo! account: the only thing that would cause me to do so--being overwhelmed by spam--has been pretty effectively dealt with. The SpamGuard works pretty well, and I can eliminate the risk of getting it by giving out my email address in the future.

One notable thing about the marketing of Gmail: they're really doing a brilliant job with this. It's being done entirely virally, and leveraging the company's assets in a remarkable way. It got the attention of journalists and bloggers by using the good company name, held it by coming up with a compelling offer (1 GB free), and now buzz is constantly being generated through this system of sending out invites to sign up (you know you've got a hit when it's being auctioned off on Ebay). Another smart move was to offer it to everyone with an account on Blogger (which Google purchased a couple years back), people who are by definition talking about shit (yes, that's technical). It's doubtful many of them pay as much attention to this as I do, but Blogger hosts some popular sites, and word gets out.

I love Chicago, but I have to admit, I'd probably leave it for Silicon Valley in a heartbeat.

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