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Prioritising email

I’ve recently been trying to clean up my inbox and make it more efficient and less full of interesting but none-the-less not high priority newsletters. This has meant a process of unsubscribing and analysing what’s really useful. So today I read with joy via Jemima Kiss over on the Guadian’s PDA blog a new development from Google: Gmail Priority Inbox.

“‘Priority inbox’ learns from your email usage patterns and begins to prioritise messages that it thinks you’ll be most likely to read. Your inbox is divided into three sections: important and unread, starred and everything else.”

Here’s the explanatory video:

It’s not reached my inbox yet, but I will be testing it out as soon as it does.

The final internet screen – television

Whilst being one of the oldest screens in our lives the television set has remained for most of us a fairly passive medium, one where we sit back and watch in true, cool Marshall McLuhan style. But not for much longer if Google and Project Canvas have their way.

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=television+lounge&iid=179263″ src=”0175/8c2b58cd-c048-49e3-900e-7acb6ec78918.jpg?adImageId=12958177&imageId=179263″ width=”413″ height=”413″ /]
There have been a few attempts to change how televisions can be used. Back in the late 70s and 80s we had Ceefax and Teletext – some of you may even remember pressing the “Reveal” button to gain answers to quiz questions. When digital television came along such services developed into the “Red Button”, where text data and additional programme channels could be found. None of which is/was internet enabled, by the way.

There have been attempts to integrate the internet with the television for but for the most part the interactive benefits of the web have yet to really come to a lounge near you.

The reasons for this are numerous, but one of the big challenges (or even battles) has been over standards – in particular how broadcasters pipe data to ‘televisions’ and set-top boxes.

In parallel to these developments, games console manufacturers (significant as they are plugged into the television set) have successfully developed web-enabled boxes, which have now been in use for several years. This has meant not only that games can be played across the web in real-time with players across the world, but also that YouTube videos and the BBC’s iPlayer can be viewed via the television screen. Sky has taken the logical next step and partnered with Microsoft to create an online television service for XBox owners.

Yet, these services are still quite niche and rather limited. Enter Google and the BBC.

This week Google launched Google TV. A service they describe as, “a new experience made for television that combines the TV you know and love with the freedom and power of the Internet.” Here’s a video that explains more:

But before you get too excited… it needs to be made clear that Google TV is a platform. Its an answer to the standards problem mentioned above, so the purchase of either a new television or set-top-box will be required. Google has worked with Sony (TV manufactures), Logitech (set-top-box makers) and Intel (someone has to make the microchip for all this stuff to work efficiently).

“So hurrah, Google has sorted the standards problem out, go them!”
Not so fast. Also this week the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) announced that the BBC’s Project Canvas fell outside it’s ‘merger control jusitiction’.

Ok, so, ummm, what does that mean in reality?

Project Canvas is a proposed joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, BT, Talk Talk and Arqiva in creating “an open internet-connected television platform with common technical standards”.

For those unfamiliar with Arqiva, they are a “communications infrastructure and media services company”, who provide the infrastructure behind digital tv and radio in the UK and Ireland as well as other European countries.

The reason that the OFT had got involved is due to complaints by BSkyB and Virgin media on grounds that it created unfair advantage, explained here by the Guardian:

BSkyB has argued that Project Canvas, and particularly its backing by the licence fee-funded BBC, amounts to giving its rivals an unfair leg up in the nascent UK VoD market. Virgin Media has argued that despite its protestations to the contrary Project Canvas, which will bring VoD content to TV viewers with Freeview and Freesat receivers, is an unfair closed platform.

The intent of Project Canvas is that:

a consumer brand (not canvas) will be created, and licensed to device manufacturers, and internet service providers owners who meet the specifications.
‘Canvas compliant’ devices (eg set-top boxes), built to a common technical standard, would provide seamless access to a range of third-party services through a common, simple, user experience. [more here].

Project Canvas now awaits final approval by the BBC Trust, but it is now very likely it will get the go-ahead. Project Canvas will be like the BBC’s previous free-to-air brands such as Freeview and Freesat, which transformed take-up of digital television in the UK. What will be interesting to watch is if the same happens again or whether the likes of Google TV (or others) will win through on existing brand familiarity. To do so Google, in the UK at least, will very likely have it’s work cut out, should Project Canvas get the go-ahead.

Either way, TV as we know it is changing.

UPDATE [18.49]: And in related news today…
BBC iPlayer is going social with version 3.0 Beta.
The Times gives a few more details reporting that:

THE BBC will forge closer links with social networking firms this week when it unveils a new version of its catch-up television service iPlayer that integrates with Facebook and Twitter.

Important changes to Google docs to be aware of

This may be slightly old news, as I received this information from Google five days ago but only got around to reading it today, but it is definitely worth being aware of.

In a few weeks (no specific date given) Google search bots will start crawling Google docs that “have been explicitly published outside your organization and are linked to from a public website… which means they can appear in search results you see on and other search engines.”

Whilst Google are excited by this change, it’s worth noting that documents you may have thought private, or at least vaguely so, will be findable if you, or someone unbeknownst to you, has put a link on the web to a Google doc/spreadsheet/presentation you’ve created or contributed to. So it’s worth checking the settings of any document where this might cause problems.

Here’s the email with more:

Hello Google Apps admin,

We wanted to let you know about some important changes around published documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.

In a few weeks, documents, spreadsheets and presentations that have been explicitly published outside your organization and are linked to from a public website will be crawled and indexed, which means they can appear in search results you see on and other search engines. There is no change for documents published inside your organization or shared privately.

If you wish to prevent users from publishing documents to the public internet, we now offer an admin control in the Google Apps Control Panel that allows users to continue to ‘share documents outside the domain’ without allowing them to publish the files to the public Internet. To change this setting, follow these steps:

– Login to your admin control panel
– Select Service Settings > Docs
– Un-check the option ‘Users can publish documents to the public internet’

If a user does not want their published Docs to be crawled, then the user must unpublish them by doing the following:

– Go to the ‘Share tab’
– For documents and spreadsheets, choose ‘Publish as web page’. For presentations choose ‘Publish/embed’
– Click on the button that says ‘Stop publishing’

For more details, please see this Help Center article:

This is a very exciting change as your published docs linked to from public websites will reach a much wider audience of people!


The Google Apps Team

Email preferences: You have received this mandatory email service announcement to update you about important changes to your Google Enterprise product or account.

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

Note: The reason for copying and pasting the email here it here is that the link given doesn’t repeat the information or explain things as explicitly.

Up coming event: Seriously Social – How to Beat Google

Hatip: Steve Moore.

Seriously Social – How to Beat Google

Hosted by Techlightenment
6.30pm, 29th January 2009
The Hub, Kings Cross, London, UK

Google don’t have a monopoly on groundbreaking approaches to online advertising. Indeed new techniques being pioneered by London based social media agency techlightenment are trumping Google in terms of cost per click (CPC), conversion rates and early stage reach.

If you would like to find out more about this pioneering social networking advertising join us at Seriously Social – How to Beat Google on the 29th January from 6.30pm at London swankiest new chalet The Hub at Kings Cross.

Techlightenment founders Gi Fernando and Ankur Shah and will make short presentations and take questions and if you will have an opportunity to meet the full techlightenment team over drinks and food.

We really hope you can join us!

The techlightenment team

To register: