Optimization time again


Random Observation/Comment #233: As a part of Project-Wean-Back-Into-Working, I needed a small side project to help me multitask with my larger project.  This happened to be writing a blog entry.  Unfortunately, this entry got out of control and became the focus of my attention, since it was fresh with my erect passion and fire.  It took a full day, but I fully suggest this “house-cleaning” to others because it will make the rest of your life online more efficient and convenient.

Twitter lists vs Google Reader vs Email subscriptions

We really shouldn’t be revisiting every website to get updated information anymore – that takes way too long and we’re way too advanced to be wasting our time doing more than scrolling through headlines.  If the technology is out there, why not use it?

I fixed my main feeds of information, and I actually couldn’t choose between emails, RSS feeds, and Twitter. Basically, I skim through emails for shopping, use Google Reader as a techmeme, and then check for random friends’ updates and links through Twitter.  However, in all cases, I’ve revamped the subscriptions and separated everything into their perspective organizational methods.  For emails, I used gmail labels.  For Google Reader, I’ve placed each subscription into subscription folders. And for Twitter, I made separate lists and cleaned the people that were just posting annoying things. Optimized.

Gmail labels

It’s pretty obvious that I’m a big Google fan.  I mean, who isn’t (besides the paranoid people that think they’re going to take over the world)?  I’ve found their services spread across almost anything I would do online.  Although I didn’t go far enough as to completely switch to Google for everything, I am still in awe at how advanced their email system is compared to others.

One of my favorite things to have is labels.  As an organizational freak-of-nature, I must make sure things are separated so they can be easily found later on (plus, my email inbox is always so colorful with all those pretty labels).  It started with labeling for each university class so I could easily search through, for example, humanities reading assignments. After the class was completed, I’d add a “ZZ” before the label so it wouldn’t come up at the top when I’m trying to apply labels (since they show alphabetically).  But later on, this organization evolved into labeling as if it was a list or RSS feed. Even quick subscriptions are all categorized into Work, Cooper stuff, Traveling, Just FB (so I could filter by this label, select all, and then delete all of those notifications quickly), Social networks, food events, Shopping, Others, and a few other less important ones.  It doesn’t take any time to continuously update this because of Gmail filters.

Gmail filters

Gmail filters are immensely useful to automate the organization process.  In the top of Gmail, next to the search bar, there’s a “create a filter” button. Here, you could enter information for filtering from/to, subject, has words, and doesn’t have words. (Hint: The search feature will also recognize “@blah.com” and return all emails from that server.)  Once you filter the emails with these criteria, you can basically do all the email actions to them (skip inbox, mark as read, star, apply labels, forward to email, delete, or never send to spam).  I specifically use this for applying labels and starring, but I can see where “never sending to spam” action for certain addresses would be useful.

Gmail contacts condensed

Every email address you type in is saved as an “Other Contacts” so you can retrieve this email address as an auto-complete suggestion.  When I looked at my contacts list, I found that I only had less than 50 “My Contacts” compared to the 600+ “Other Contacts.”  Blasphemy! I spent about an hour doing it, but now all the contacts are perfect and also include phone numbers.  Since the iPhone syncs with the contacts list in Gmail, it only makes sense to keep one continuously updated.  Most importantly, I won’t need to post Facebook requests to resend numbers if/when I change phones.

Google Calendar

This Calendar is genius. The only downfall with the iPhone is the inability to connect with it and send Notifications and alerts the same way it does with the normal calendar.  This is actually one of the main reasons I want to switch to the Android mobile OS – it will help fuse everything into the mobile device.  Screw you, Apple, and your proprietary shit. What if I don’t want to use your Apple-only USB charger?!?

Anyway, the Calendar syncs with tasks easily and it gives me a nice platform to share the calendar with friends and family.  I don’t know if bands do this, but they should: post your tour dates on a Google Calendar so I could just follow it.  I mean, there’s a way to search for the public Calendars, right? Yes: Holidays, Sports, and More. Fantastic. They should probably also sync this with Facebook birthdays (even though they have it with My Contact’s birthdays).  Actually, they should probably sync Facebook profiles to Gmail contacts already (which would have made that hour a complete waste, but whatever).

The most interesting use of Google Calendar was something I heard from my work colleague. He said that him and his wife would update the calendar with their children’s extracurricular events, and then mark on the calendar who would “Own” the task (ie. do the driving/babysitting).  Yay for IT people and our innovative usage of technology!

Google Tasks

Crossing things off of this task list make me so happy.  Sometimes I write little things there so I could just cross them off and feel productive. “Make reservations to dinner with friends” – Check! “Eat dinner with friends” – Check! “Chew food before swallowing” – Check!  Anyway, the task list is available in Chrome as an extension, viewable from the Calendar page, and viewable as a widget from Gmail and iGoogle.

Facebook application blocking

The Facebook news feed is getting out of control.  Too many people play stupid FarmVille, MafiaWars, or whatever Facebook applications that update their status with accomplishments.  Hide >> Block Application. Win.

Chrome bookmark syncs

As a Google user, I, of course, use the Chrome web browser.  Although it isn’t as advanced as Firefox with extensions, it is making its headway and I find it much cleaner.  Plus, it’s Google. I personally like the bookmark syncing feature, which saves the bookmarks into Google Docs as a separate folder. If I’m using a different computer, I could easily log into my Google account and retrieve my bookmarks from the documents.


I’ve only started using this site recently, but I’ve found it tremendously useful for its Global Status update feature and the combination of IM clients. There are plenty of other services similar to this, which consolidates multiple social networks, but this one seems to be working well.  All it needs now is Facebook chat and Skype, and it will replace much of my browser functionality.

It’s obvious that I’m just being anal about certain things, but I find that these little improvements will overall save time.  Does this count as being a neat freak?  Can’t you just call me an engineer?

~See Lemons Revamped