Working Tools 40. HEY for Work

I’m a paid up subscriber to the new email service that I wrote about last week. I’m on the lists for custom domains and work accounts.

My personal mail has gone from needy and demanding, to chilled and supportive. I have no notifications switched on, and when I check for new mail, HEY mostly, tells me “Nothing new for you”. Even though I’ve received 30 messages, they have all slipped into the Feed or The Paper Trail. Similar to many other users, I’ve found that I’m reading more newsletters. I read, in the feed, when it suits me, rather than hurriedly scanning and archiving, in a rush to hit inbox zero.

Reply Later works really well for me – at one point in the day, I can focus and reply, and get all those mails responded to in a non-disruptive flash.

Much of this functionality was available to me elsewhere, if I chose to think it through and set it up, but HEY has spelt out to me workflows, and the rationale behind them. I’m settling in, and now, using other clients feels unwieldy and awkward.

Tweaks and bug-fixes are coming thick and fast across all platforms. An altogether delightful experience so far.

My manifesto for HEY for Work

Well, if HEY can have a manifesto, so can I.

Separation.

For too long, all manner of communication has been piling up in my e-mail client. A thread about a golf trip sitting side by side with a Nero’s Notes customer support issue, and a detailed investigation of money laundering for Lime. I want all of those mails – but on my terms. I don’t want to triage all of them in the same visit. So – I worry, when I read about unified inboxes.

It may be that separation can be achieved with a funky account switching function. I’m betting those clever folk at Basecamp will work it out, and on the evidence so far, I imagine their solution will be better than mine.

I would like the accounts to be separate and visibly so. A visual cue as to what mode I’m in (Formal Corporate / Friendly webshop / Personal) is incredibly helpful.

Signatures

These are a legal requirement for UK entities, of which I have two. I’m all for reducing the clutter, but not to the extent that I’m breaking the law.

Timed Send

Sometimes I schedule an hour at the weekend to clear email. HEY has the excellent Focus and Reply feature for that. But…I don’t want my replies to go out on a Sunday afternoon. I want to schedule them.

Now, assuming they deliver all this, how am I going to tell Clare that her Nero’s e-mail is going to be radically different?

Working Tools 39. Hey! Yay! Nay?

Today, I’m writing about the dance craze sweeping the nation.

Only kidding. I’m still blethering on about e-mail.

I have been trialing Hey for more than a week. I’ve read the manifesto (seriously, there is one), watched the 37 minute walk-through, and a ninety minute “Q & Hey” on Twitter. I do like a good pun, so that’s a definite plus.

Day one

“What? I can’t archive? Ridiculous.” My palms were sweaty. Not knowing exactly where every e-mail was, made me anxious. I have forwarded my legion of accounts into Hey, but still have them downloading to other clients as a control.

Day three

“Where’s that email gone? WHERE IS IT? This is nonsense.” (It was in the “already seen” section.)

Day five

“Right. I’m going to watch the Q and HEY.” Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp talked of the “toughest period of launch”; the first few weeks after release. He explained how feedback pours in from early adopters, users like me, attempting to make the new thing more like the old thing. Everyone tries to mould the new app to their existing workflow. Apparently, the trick is to nod, empathise, and ignore this feedback. The whole point is to change the workflow. “Pah!” I sipped my coffee dismissively.

Day seven

“You know, that Fried fellow might have a point. Perhaps for personal e-mail, Hey and its backward workflow is just the ticket. Impossible for work though.”

Day eight

Isn’t e-mail fun? Work would be fine in this, once they enable signatures.

Day nine

Today. They’re on to something. They have turned how I think about email on it’s head. There are things that can be improved, and one or two of them already have been. All the signs are that the service will go from strength to strength. Hey for Work, custom domains etc, are all in the works.

Conclusion

Will it be for me? At the current rate of evolution, my opinion by Day 14, may have moved all of my accounts irrevocably to Hey.

There are a load of really interesting features on Hey. Too many for me to go through (read about it here)– but the the key change for me – is the reset of the default.

My inbox-zero driven workflow is all about decisive action. Open a mail and deal with it, kill it, file it. Never do nothing.

With Hey, the default is…let it go. Do nothing. Unless you need to. It’s all a bit zen.

Nevertheless – right now, my issues are…

  1. Custom Domain. “Look – you can have firstname@hey.com, isn’t that cool?” Well, it’s OK, but I can also have anything@stuartlennon.com which ain’t bad either. Besides, my first name, and its diminutive, were gone by the time I arrived. If I sign up now, my outbound mail will come from a hey.com address, that ultimately I will dump, in favour of my own domain. Wouldn’t it be better to wait until custom domains are available?
  2. Split apps. I really like having my work / personal mail split. I don’t want a unified inbox. Nor do I want several inboxes (or even imboxes) in one app. I’d like to have three instances of the app on my phone, each with a different coloured icon. Why? Because sometimes, I’m not at work.

So, where am I?

I will subscribe for personal mail. My custom domain will forward to it until there is an offering from Hey, at which point, I’ll have another decision to make. You can email me at stuart.lennon@hey.com

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Working Tools 38. E-mail Revisited

A huge attraction of going iOS-only, or iOS-first, is simplicity and focus. iPad can do all sorts of multi-tasking, but for me, works best as a single-focus device.

Accepting that my corporate work is easier done on macOS than iOS, has redirected my thinking on workflows.

E-mail

I have three groups of e-mail addresses.

  1. Lime Consulting (Lime). A family of addresses and domains that all come to me.
  2. Nero’s Notes (Nero’s). As the above, but with some traffic directed to Clare.
  3. stuartlennon.com (SL). My own domain, and several older personal email addresses. G-mail and iCloud, for example.

The Lime addresses were aliases of SL. Nero’s forward to SL. That way, I had a unified inbox. Sent mails all came from SL. (Unless I remembered to select the Lime alias.) It was uncomfortable.

Corporate clients expect e-mail to come from a corporate domain, with a corporate signature. This runs contrary to modern thinking. The fashion amongst the “Techeratti” is to have no signature, or a minimal one. This overlooks the inconvenient fact, that for a UK entity at least, it is a legal requirement to include the registered address and company registration number on all correspondence.

Nero’s customers are less picky. Nevertheless, some wise souls like to have an email chat before sending money to a website, new to them. A reply from a different domain is hardly reassuring.

These issues are easily resolved. I split Lime from SL and then set up all three accounts on Mail. Three inboxes in one. Hmmm….now, I have folders and labels, all over the place. On iPad Pro its a mess. On iPhone, it’s horrible.

I am experimenting with having each group of mails in their own app.

iOS

Nero’s are G-suite addresses – so are a natural fit with the G-mail app.

Lime fits nicely with Fastmail, which feels solid and secure.

SL – these are more personal, less constrained, so I’m trying a variety of apps. Favourite right now, is Edison.

Keeping them separate allows me to segregate my duties. If I’m checking my personal mail, I’m not deluged with corporate stuff. If I’m working on one company, I’m not distracted by the other. There’s work to do on notifications per device, but thus far, I’m enjoying it.

Mac

All accounts into Mail. I use “Mail Steward” to back up messages. Old habits die hard, I guess. It plays nicely with Mail. There’s enough real estate and control to manage the multiple inboxes, folders and labels. Largely, I’m only on the Mac to do the Lime stuff anyway.

HEY

Then, my invite for HEY arrived. New, shiny and different. Will this fit in to my system? Where?

I’ll let you know, once I’ve finished testing it.

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Members 77. Routines

To borrow from gender: (What could possibly go wrong with this analogy?) I present as an extrovert, but identify as an introvert. For months, I have been secure in the mountain hideaway, sallying forth weekly to the supermarket and pharmacy. Sure, I’ve had a lot to do, but my destiny has been in my own hands. I have been responsible for everything in my world, my authority absolute.

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Working Tools 37. HEY

Heard of Basecamp? It’s a collaboration tool for remote teams.

Well, the guys behind it have been working on re-imagining e-mail. The aim is to put the user in charge. Privacy-driven, workflow-oriented, with some additional clever elements. It’s called HEY. If you have a half hour, go check out this video by the CEO.

I was seduced. Back in February, the company advised interested parties that they were opening a list for early access in June. I missed that, but eventually caught up and got my request sent in May. I believe, at launch (June 15th) there were 40 to 50 thousand people awaiting their invite.

Basecamp have been dripping out the invitations. The idea is that you use your code to sign up online and get your new e-mail address, and then download the relevant apps for your platform and get going. You have 14 days to try the service. If happy, you can sign up, for £99 per year.

If the service works, and does what it says it does, I will happily pay £99 per annum. That’s not to say that the service is perfect, or without missing features, but the pros outweigh the cons, – for me.

I kept checking my inbox for my code. I’d like to secure my favoured user name. FOMO anyone?

Then, Twitter blew up. Apple is threatening to pull the app – because the subscription element is outside the App Store. Ie: Apple doesn’t get a cut. That’s a no-no.

Unless it’s not a no-no.

There are plenty of examples of apps that already do this with no trouble – one of them being Basecamp. Other e-mail services do it too, Fastmail, Protonmail and Gmail, for example. I’m no expert on this sort of thing – go read John Gruber’s take, here.

I’m not a developer, nor an Apple shareholder. I’m not even a European regulator. (Look out Apple.) I’m a consumer.

I understand the debate – should Apple get a slice of everything that touches their platform or should other parties be allowed to profit from their own innovation atop IOS? There are good arguments on both sides, and I look forward to learning.

However – from a consumer point of view, I’m just annoyed.

Apple is the biggest company in the world. How in God’s name did they create a system that is inconsistent, opaque and so difficult to navigate? They approved the application and then changed their mind? OK on Friday, no good on Monday? Really? That’s the Quality system?

I feel for Basecamp, I’m sure this is not what they want to see. Some are suggesting this is a superbly engineered PR stunt. I imagine the same people think the Earth is flat and Covid-19 a hoax. Without IOS, Hey is crippled, headlines or no headlines.

The promise of the service is fantastic, the marketing clever, and the hype exciting. Bravo Basecamp – a rising tide lifts everyone.

Now, the tide’s out. Apple looks like a greedy monopolistic behemoth, stifling innovation.

Smart Apple would acquire Basecamp. Ruthless Apple would load the development team for its own mail applications, sherlock and supersede Hey.

Rotten Apple, in full view of its customer base, crushes an exciting initiative on the basis that, it hasn’t been cut in on the action.

I have no problem with Apple making money – but it takes a special kind of stupid to make yourself look this bad.

Legal counsel are telling Tim Cook that they can beat the anti-trust investigations in the US and the EU. Maybe they can. Regulators will never bring Apple down.

Greed and complacency might though.

My writing is supported by people like you. Patronage costs £5 per month. For this, you will get access to subscriber only posts in writing and audio, direct access to a patrons chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a Patron