Jifflenow - Another appointment scheduler

Following on from my look at Presdo here, I also took at look at Jifflenow which was renamed from iPolipo and is not to be confused with the Jiffle [a Norfolk term apparently].

This service is much more in line with my aspirations for a scheduling service, albeit its' functionality is designed for one-to-one meetings rather than those involving many people.

Hence, you mark up your free/busy times and assign these as being available to selected contact groups that you create e.g. clients, vendors, consultants. You assign individuals to these groups and send them an email notification that you have given them access to your calendar and can select times to meet with you. Permission to view your can be time boxed with a start date and duration that they can have access.

Once a contact requests a meeting slot from your available times, it is immediately removed from the slots that others can see, thereby avoiding double booking problems. If you are happy to accept the appointment, Jifflenow both updates your actual Outlook or Google calendar and sends an email confirmation to the other party.

Your privacy is protected because contacts only see Available/Free timeslots, not scheduled meetings. However, entries in your Outlook or Google calendar made independently of Jifflenow do not update your available slots and so you will need to make manual updates.

A very neat feature is that the calendar view for your contacts includes automatic time zone translation, allowing them to see their local times once they have selected their timezone on the calendar screen.

Jiffle is free for up to 10 meeting confirmations per month, after which you either have to upgrade or stop using the service! Importantly contacts don't have to subscribe to Jifflenow or install any software to schedule meetings with you.

I do have four gripes about the offering

- To send one-off meeting ad-hoc invitees is overly complex and should be simplified. Presently you need to highlight times you wish to show as available and nominate which pre-defined groups you are wishing to share this calendar information with. Hence, it appears that to arrange a one-off meeting, you either need to direct the invitees to your public version of your calendar [assuming you've made one available], or create a one-time use group for the meeting.

- Invitees can't propose alternate times via the service e.g. the following week or different times. Whilst this may encourage you to put all your free times on show, some professionals may not like to show a calendar with lots of free time, as it looks bad e.g. similar impression to seeing an empty restaurant.

- I'm not sure how easy it will be to maintain the permission "windows" if you have a large number of clients, unless you simply give them all permanent access to the calendar rather than say a month ahead. It will be too easy to exclude certain people simply because you forgot to renew/extend their access period.

- The integration with Google calendar only extends to your main calendar. Hence if your Google calendar consolidates multiple calendar subscriptions in one view, these other entries will be missing within Jifflenow. It may not affect many people, but I am one of the few!

Other than that, I like the service and can see it being very valuable to a number of professionals who offer one-on-one consultations.

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Palbee - Free video conferencing without an install

PalBee is an online collaboration service that includes video conferencing for up 4 people. Whilst it doesn't presently offer desktop sharing, it does include the "mandatory" whiteboard, slideshow presentation and photo/graphics sharing.

More people can be added but at a cost, up to a total of 9. Similarly, meetings are free for up to an hour, thereafter you will need to buy points [both of these elements are free for now, albeit they make clear that this will be chargeable in the future, with extra points purchased via Paypal].

The meeting sessions come with a facility to make a recording of the session for free, although that feature presently comes with a health warning that it may not work.

You don't have to register for the service, and there is no installation.

The meeting host/moderator controls who can speak or control the whiteboard in sessions, normally in response to requests from attendees. Additionally the session have chat windows, albeit I failed to determine whether you can conduct a private chat with other individuals - obviously you can revert to other IM solutions if not.

I'm aware that many people find video conferencing uncomfortable and are much happier with the telephone conference call. Maybe that's because the latter gives them the opportunity to more easily tune out and do other things, or they don't like being in view during a discussion despite this being a factor of physical meetings. I confess to being a fan of them partly because body language is a key element in assessing the reaction of others. Until recent years they were the preserve of large corporates, but cheap webcams + plentiful broadband + free apps like Palbee makes them universally accessible. If only more corporates would open up to the idea......

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Remember the Milk's gone sour

For too long I've fallen into the trap of keeping emails in my inbox and re-reading them on different occasions to jog my memory on what I needed to do with them. A couple of months ago I installed the GTDInbox Firefox extension for Gmail, which is a productivity assistant designed to help you focus on reading and dealing with email at the first attempt i.e. action it or archive the email. Like many others, I found its' presence encourages you to be more disciplined by categorising the item on opening.

Last week I read an article about Remember the Milk ("RTM"), a simple online task manager service that had released a Blackberry companion, the attraction being that it wirelessly synchronised with the online service. I confess that the last time I'd looked at the offering, admittedly some time ago, it was a simple standalone online task manager. Since then, they've evidently invested considerable effort in linking it to numerous services, most notably Gmail.

My immediate reaction was that GTD Inbox and RTM would be excellent stable mates inside Gmail, performing complementary functions to enhance my productivity. I was therefore dismayed and astonished to find that these two Firefox add-ins are seemingly incompatible each other. After installing RTM for Gmail, whilst GTD Inbox continued to work, the RTM add-in continually kept logging itself out mere seconds after being refreshed/logged in.

Looking for a solution to what I presumed must be "my user error", I managed to contact ProductiveFirefox, creators of GTD Inbox to report the problem. Andy Mitchell, its' founder, responded quickly and said he knew of the issue, but would need to work with RTM to resolve it as evidently the two applications were competing for the same Gmail resources. Sadly without chatting the code through with RTM [which they don't publish] he couldn't easily resolve it. Positively, he indicated that he'd be delighted to collaborate with RTM to fix this as he too realises these applications are perfect complements for each other and not competitors.

Sadly, I've had less luck speaking with RTM but I do hope that they will be as open to resolving the issue, as I'm sure many people would like to use both and evidently there are some 80,000 users of GTD Inbox currently denied the chance to use RTM. Come on RTM, please freshen the milk.

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Presdo - a disappointing way to schedule appointments

As someone who arranges countless meetings, I'm well aware of the disproportionate amount of time they can take to arrange. It's for this reason that I am always on the lookout for tools that make the process more efficient.

Timetomeet has been my favourite for sometime, albeit services from Timebridge and Whenisgood amongst others have much going for them. This week, I came across Presdo.

Whilst it's simple to use and has a stylish UI, I was disappointed with the service.

First the positives
- the ease of entering proposed times to meet is reminiscent of Google Calendar's quick entry and it successfully interprets different ways of entering dates/times.
- the invites to proposed attendees are quick to send and there is no requirement for invitees to sign-up for the service
- Presdo does offer integration into Google Calendar in the sense that it will put the appointment into your calendar

Drawbacks
- you can only propose one time to meet, which the invitees accept/reject or propose alternate arrangements. This is no better than email, other than the fact that it keeps track of acceptances and much worse when you consider that for a one-to-one meeting, you would typically offer a selection of times to the other person
- If there are multiple alternate suggestions from different invitees, the service doesn't help identify an optimum time
- the invites have to be sent from within the service and can't be sent from within your own email. This is understandable since the service sends a unique link to each invitee which is created "on the fly"

Overall, this one scores a "miss" for me.

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Free windows configuration utility for the less techy

The Windows logo used since 2006.Image via WikipediaI'm always a little nervous about messing with Windows registry entries, mindful that errors can easily screw up your PC and result in hours/days/weeks of misery trying to repair matters.

That said, I'm equally aware that numerous tweaks exist to improve how a PC operates, but access to modify them tends to be spread over many locations. Hence, Lifehacker's tip here on RegToy looks most useful.

Windows only: Free PC tweaking utility RegToy exposes all sorts of Windows settings that you'd normally have to dig into the registry to get to. Change the way Windows looks and behaves with RegToy, which is similar to the TweakUI PowerToy. It offers dozens of system-wide to user-specific settings

Lifehacker's report provides lots of screen shots to highlight its' capabilities.

I've just downloaded and installed it from here. I can also recommend "Glary Utilities", another free windows desktop application, for a number of worthwhile maintenance routines that it makes simple.

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Ikea - A shopping hell, especially when their stock system collapses

IKEA International GroupImage via WikipediaCompletely off-topic but I went through an extended version of male hell last week that I felt worth recounting to highlight corporate ineptness, courtesy of a trip to an Ikea store.

Normally a painful experience, it was doubly bad because unbeknown to us, Ikea was celebrating 21 years in the UK and so had reduced all stock by 21% for one day only. As a consequence, the enormous store at Wembley was heaving with people when we arrived, with huge traffic jams for several miles around the store.

However, my gripe with Ikea is not that shopping there is unpleasant because their stores are heaving but simply that their front of house experience is completely let down by their woeful fulfilment and logistics.

Walking around the showrooms on the upper floor, you are met with well designed products at reasonable prices. There was also an abundance of store assistants, supplemented by an army of people dedicated to signing you up to their free "family" card. Despite the crowds, it was still tolerable.

But then after noting down the details of the items you wish to purchase and making your way through the store maze, by which time an hour has elapsed, the horror kicks in.

The "self service" area, where you pick up your chosen goods from pallet racks, is devoid of all but a couple of stressed out staff. These people are besieged by many customers needing assistance, typically with queries about stock locations. In our case, having chosen several items, which their online web site reported were in stock in large quantities e.g. 92, none could be found on the shop floor.

After waiting 20 minutes in a queue to speak to an assistant we are told that whilst their system reports that there is a large quantity of stock in the store for both items, they are probably high up on the pallet shelves and hence inaccessible, since they only replenish customer accessible locations out of store hours.

Ok, so could we pay for the goods today given the discount on offer and have them delivered? NO.

How about pay today and then collect when they are available? NO

How about we pay full price to get them delivered? NO

Well , can we ring up and reserve them with a credit card when they become available, so as not to make a fruitless journey to the store only to find them gone when we arrive? NO.

Can we pay you money?????????????? NO.

Only option volunteered was to ring the store and ask for a physical location check, given that the sales volumes had rendered the stock inventory system unreliable. And this experience was limited to Wembley, as our telephone enquiries to other stores made clear.

Time spent = 2 hour round trip to store thanks to heavy traffic jams + 1 hour around store + 2 mins queuing + 30 mins checkout.

Sadly, on the three occasions we've been to Ikea, we've had similar experiences. Moreover, recounting the story at the school gate, my wife learnt of numerous similar experiences from other mums, including one from the previous day when a lady had spent 3 hours queuing in the returns section.

Since our trip to the store six days ago, we've called daily and been amazed to find that they still haven't replenished the store, citing the huge backlog resulting from the one-off sale. Added to which, they mentioned all stock in the store is having to be recounted because the computerised inventory records are so unreliable.

If you were the Managing Director, CFO or Operations Director, leaving aside congratulating yourselves for the success of the one-off sale, surely you would be both seriously concerned by the reputational harm done to your brand by such chaos, but also motivated to address deficiencies that resulted in lost sales/cash due to inventory sitting idly in inaccessible locations within stores. At the same time, to have your stock system collapse has to be worrying, even if it occurred only as a consequence of a "special" event.

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How to synchronise your calendar across devices

My calendar "infrastructure" is probably over-engineered as a consequence of being added to over time. Undoubtedly, recent offerings from Google could dramatically simplify it, which I will cover later on in this post.

Nonetheless, my system works as follows and has done so trouble-free for over 2 years.

1. Blackberry. My calendar on my blackberry is one of my entry points for appointments when I am out and about. This gets synchronised almost every night with an old version of Outlook on my old desktop at home.
2. Outlook synchronises with Airset, which acts as my online corporate and personal calendar, via a desktop application provided by Airset. Both are available at no charge.
3. Airset is my primary calendar when I am in the office, and all of my calendar entries are entered into Airset directly.

So this set-up provides a 3 way synch with Outlook. It also allows my wife to enter "family commitments" into the desktop at home, confident in the knowledge that it will be automatically included in my schedule. Similarly, she can check on my whereabouts when planning things.

In addition, I operate a 2 way synchronisation between Airset and Google Calendar. This serves three purposes.
- If Airset went offline for any reason, I can revert to Google Calendar, notwithstanding the other calendar instances I operate
- If I haven't synchronised my blackberry recently, I can check google calendar whilst on the move using my blackberry browser knowing that it will be up-to-date. Sadly Airset deem mobile access to be a premium chargeable service, but don't charge for the access to the calendar via ical and so this simply gets round their tariff [they detect you are trying to connect from a mobile device, which decent web services/sites should in order to render content appropriately, and so block access]
- Many more online services have been built to integrate with Google calendar than link to Airset.

This configuration has the disadvantage that the calendar versions can be out-of-synch for hours at a time, especially from the blackberry to the other calendar instances.

Calendar spaghetti or robust backup? Both is the honest answer. But if I were starting again, what would I do?
- Use Google calendar rather than Airset and synchronise it with Outlook using the free synchronisation application from Google
- Synchronise my blackberry with Google calendar using the free synchronisation application from Google

I would still need to link my blackberry to Outlook for my contacts information, because there is no similar facility via Google as yet................

The only thing holding me back from changing is that I prefer Airset's interface and features. But perhaps one day.

Of course, if you aren't a blackberry user but have internet access on your phone, then using Google calendar is even more compelling.

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User heaven on a Blackberry

I confess to being a blackberry fan and have used one for about 5 years, finding it indispensable. For the last few years, I've also been free of the shackles of a large corporate IT department and hence able to determine what gets installed on my device [8820].

However, I've found relatively few applications worthy of installing other than
- the superb Google maps for mobile, which integrates well with the device's GPS capability, notwithstanding Google maps inherent capability to provide approximate location data via mobile phone cell information
- Gmail for blackberry which offers me a backup in case problems arise with the T-mobile blackberry email as well as to access old emails

Whilst I added Opera mini browser, I almost never have cause to use it, finding the native browser being adequate in most cases. This allows me access to all of my internet services when I'm on the move.

As for the Facebook blackberry application, it was installed and quickly uninstalled, matching my waning interest in that social network.

Lately, it has been great to see an increasing number of applications being developed for data synchronisation with the blackberry to the "cloud". The consequences of losing the device and related data has always been a concern to me.

For instance, Google recently released a free blackberry calendar synch application, allowing your device calendar to be directly synchronised with Google calendar. I'm not using it because I'm happy with my alternate configuration that I described here. Obviously, many corporate users will have real-time synch of their calendar over the air with their Exchange server, but very handy for SMEs.

Yesterday, I read about a blackberry synchronisation application for Remember the Milk, which is a task manager that also integrates with Gmail via a Firefox extension. Sadly this is a paid for application.

I was also excited to come across TellMe's offering. A Microsoft subsidiary, and only operating in the USA at present, its' blackberry application provides a voice interface to a location based search service e.g. find local services. My interest related to a start-up I dealt with a few years ago who were focussed on exactly this space but whose ambitions were inhibited by the widespread absence of GPS enabled devices and cell data. Right idea, but ahead of its time in infrastructure terms.

The sad thing, as ever, is that many corporate blackberry users are denied access to many of these superb offerings because of IT department inertia or paranoia. If you don't have google maps as a minimum on your blackberry you should definitely complain.

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How long does it take for the 10 penny to drop with Labour MPs

Gordon Brown Budget speech to the House of Commons in March 2007 headlined on the reduction of income tax from 22p to 20p. At the despatch box, he explicitly failed to mention the withdrawal of the 10p rate, for obvious reasons. However, the text of the Finance Bill, which was published at the same time, laid out these plans and the change made newspaper headlines in subsequent days for the apparent sleight of hand. Indeed, today's Daily Telegraph has a "I told you so article" here

The introduction of these changes has only recently taken place, prompting a backbench uprising amongst Labour MPs who are expressing concern about the disproportionate effect on low paid workers.

So here's my question [which many others are also asking] - why has it taken so long for these MPs to spot the impact of this change when it was clearly outlined 12 months ago and widely reported?

Were they negligent in scrutinising the contents of the Finance Bill and hence failed to spot it? If so, do they have similar problems with other legislation that they nod through? Or were they previously too concerned about raising the issue for fear of Ministerial reprisals? Or is it only when constituents start kicking their MP that they begin to care?

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"Am I worth $250m+ ? I think so."

Greg Coffey is leaving approximately $250m in stock options behind as a consequence of resigning from GLG to set up his own firm. He currently manages about US$7bn of GLG's US$24bn of funds under management, reportedly generating about 60 per cent of its performance fees last year.

Mr Coffey, a 36-year-old Australian, took home $300m (£150m) in pay last year but was reportedly unable to agree a new compensation package. Many articles on the matter can be found here.

The news of his departure initially knocked about $375m off the value of GLG, but the share price has since rebounded.

When I chat with folks outside of capital markets they often challenge me about the spectacular sums paid to individuals in the City. In this case, it's relatively easy to point to the worth the market attached to his value at GLG. Moreover, as a major contributor to the bottom line, his abilities were evidently a major appeal to GLG clients and validated by the performance of his funds.

As for the headline of this piece it was unrelated to me [unsurprisingly] but to Greg who obviously thinks he is, otherwise he wouldn't be leaving behind $250m of stock and a probable $300m of compensation per year to run his own firm. Will his bosses be bitter - perhaps initially but a) they left their employers to set up GLG and b) will probably seed his new fund and thereby continue to benefit from his skills.

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Picking a saucy brand name has its risks

If you ever been involved in starting a company or even a project, you'll know the fun (and effort) that can be had from choosing a brand name.

Inevitably, when you come to check if the domain name is available, most of the ones you first dream up have already been snapped up by domain trolls. Consequently, one alternate is to start misspelling the word [big favourite amongst web companies ala Flickr etc] but of course this presents the challenge of communicating the correct spelling to your market.

I've often found that many of the ideas suggested when brainstorming often have humorous slant, or perhaps it's the company I keep. However, these names can be a double edged sword and so easily impair perceptions of your company if adopted. Hey, if I can be poorly perceived for holding a beer in my blog photo [comment received today - "Your face isn't the problem, but I guess that the photo that you have chosen as your public persona, (given you tend talk about venture capital rather than your personal life) might benefit from a rethink. To us over stateside, it kinda says, hey, beer is the most important thing to me."] then........

So I had to do a double-take when I read about a company on Springwise, called "Blow Me", which opened its review with:

Event organizers can hire Blow Me to attend any party or other happening where alcohol will be served.


they went onto say

With the same equipment used by police forces throughout the UK, Blow Me's trained team conducts unlimited alcohol breath tests for event guests in a non-threatening and professional manner.

For reasons that I am sure will be obvious, I can imagine our US compatriots taking offence to the brand name.

To paraphrase an old UK Govt campaign - "Think before you drink; before you drive; before you blow"

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Which form of Bye do you want?

If you happen to work in capital markets, this was a very scary headline.

Mumbai, Dubai, Shanghai - or goodbye,' executives are told.

Yikes.

Electronic markets may operate globally and enable you to trade from anywhere, but people always follow the money. Right now, most banks are focussing considerable efforts and energy on positioning themselves in these markets. This reflects where wealth is being generated but also their desire to lessen their dependency on traditional US & European markets, which are expected to be flat for the next two years.

As a consequence, the choice is becoming stark - move or move on.

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Xobni - a follow up

Little did I realise that a commentary on my experiences of a web-app like Xobni could prompt such personal insults. Evidently to express a contrary opinion on the usefulness of an application or add-in is to commit heresy to some folks.

The sad thing is that these more "enlightened" folks elected not to highlight what they found invaluable about the add-in, but respond with comments such as "your photo sucks" - a fault of my face, rather than the photographer I think.

Yet one other theme is reflected in the anonymous comment left via meebo which I've copied below

meeboguest251865: UK venture capital sucks. Your attitude re xobni is exactly why some of us relocate.

Ok, so this one has me confused - I don't find an add-in useful and this is taken to be reflective of UK venture capital? I confess that this isn't a venture I would have put money into for various reasons, not that the opportunity arose. That the venture is apparently valued by Microsoft at over $20m does indeed come as a surprise to me but if one did a quick survey round the investor community on any application/venture you are guaranteed to find a variety of views expressed. Hence, I'm sure you would have found investors in the UK who would have spotted opportunities for it and thus backed Xobni at the time.

Different investors have their own "sweet spots", regardless of country. I acknowledge that geographic factors may play a part in influencing attitudes/sentiment towards making an investment, but investors are not homogeneous in any location. Hence, I'm sure there will be plenty of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who can recount their own rejection stories.

If you've got compelling applications/ventures I remain convinced you can find funding in the UK. Meantime, will someone please educate me on the compelling features of Xobni that I evidently missed.

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Q:Who ate all the pies A; Prescott, but then was sick

John Prescott in May 2007Image via WikipediaYou just know that the political and current affairs comedy writers are going to have a field day with the news that John Prescott, ex Deputy PM in the UK, had an eating disorder. Admitting to gorging on MacDonalds after Government Banquets and then making himself sick, he acknowledged it hadn't resulted in him having a slim figure.

Daftest press question asked on the matter was whether Tony Blair was aware he had left someone with an eating disorder in charge of the country! Obviously they were citing the concern that someone couldn't launch nuclear missiles or greet George Clooney if they were in the loo vomiting.

My own contribution to the topic is "when asked why he ate so much, Prescott replied he had a lot on his plate".

Actually, that's a line the boxer Ricky Hatton used in a press conference, but apt anyway.

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Xobni - what a waste of money

Xobni [Inbox spelt backwards] is a company that offers an outlook plugin that supposedly uncovers relationships from your inbox. With Bill Gates apparently as a fan it was perhaps inevitable that Microsoft would be trying to buy them and perhaps it was quicker than trying to replicate what they did.

However, having tried the add-in during beta, on a version of Outlook running on the family PC into which I downloaded my business email from our webmail server [I use a webmail client rather than Outlook and Xobni only works in Outlook], I confess I found it pointless. Looking at stats which ranked contacts by email volume exchanged or their "connections" based on who else was included on emails had no on-going value and hardly passed the curiosity test.

Unsurprisingly, the add-in also slowed Outlook down and consumed valuable screen space.

After persevering for 2 weeks, it simply got uninstalled and hasn't been missed.

I've found services like GTD Inbox, which is a gmail add-in for helping managing your inbox to be immensely more useful than Xobni was. Throw in a LinkedIn add-in for connecting and keeping tabs with your contacts and Xobni looks like a solution looking for a problem.

Could it be some Microsoft underling thinks that they will make the old boss happy by interpreting his admiration to mean they should spend over $20m on this "feature". It's also a sad reflection of Microsoft that they couldn't either internally innovate and create such "solutions", nor create a similar add-in themselves given the enormous resources at their disposal - or is it that internal bureaucracy means they can't develop anything cheaply?

UPDATE
Please excuse my sloppy spelling errors earlier, which I've corrected. Apparently, such errors undermine any opinion you may venture in the minds of the groupies that hangout in the Y Combinator hallways. To correct some of the misunderstandings and prejudices of other contributors to the Hacker News thread though
- I was testing the add-in using BUSINESS email and sadly have too many attachments on incoming emails from people who don't use online collaboration services.
- I've never tended to use an email inbox to store documents, preferring windows file folders instead. Hence the attachments get saved off on receipt. Personally I always found Outlook quite flaky as a file storage system and would also hate to rely on remembering who sent which document.
- I had to test Xobni on a family desktop as I've migrated away from Outlook for all my work activities and Xobni only works in Outlook. Why pay licence fees when you can use identical services online for free and access them from anywhere? Hence, I simply downloaded business emails onto the home machine to test over a couple of weeks.
- Google desktop search is what I use to find anything on a PC, albeit most of my docs get stored in the "cloud" these days. Hence, Xobni "search", which is restricted to Outlook content, was superfluous.
- As for the photo comments, sadly it's the face I was born with and the photo was taken by Ian Forrestor of BBC Backstage fame at the London BBC Backstage & Geek party in 2006. That my opinion is diminished coz you don't like my picture...........wow, tough crowd
- Oddly enough, I was writing as a past Xobni user and of my experience of the product - my comments had nothing to do with being an investor.
- I'm delighted that some people could derive use from this product. Evidently we have considerably different needs or have settled on alternate solutions.

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Harriet Harman photographed on her way to take Prime Minister Questions


Photo Source : BBC News

Apparently Harriet Harman, Deputy Labour Leader, had heard Prime Minister's could get roughed up during Question Time in the House of Commons and so was taking no chances.

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LinkedIn - RSS feeds and more

LinkedIn recently added a number of new features which I'm quite thankful for.

When they recently added a Facebook style "river of news" feature for network updates, it was very information but either you had to log in regularly to inspect updates or they passed you by. The subsequent RSS feed addition has removed the hit/miss nature of seeing updates. For instance, it alerted me to several people having moved jobs that I may otherwise have missed and allowed me to drop a "congrats" note to renew the acquaintance/conversation.

The network updates feature has also slipped in alerts when someone joins LinkedIn who is a contacts you've previously imported but not connected to. Given that I choose to connect only to existing LinkedIn users, rather than trying to invite/recruit new members to the service, these are a convenient prompt.

One feature that was introduced but I'm convinced isn't working or if it is, then it's only on a weekly update cycle is the Profiles View box. The purported statistics on how often your own profile has been viewed or featured in searches rarely changes e.g. mine said 57 views in last 5 days and 432 times in searches for 10 days running. No matter.

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Doodle - lets vote on when to meet

I came across Doodle this week, which offers a variant on meeting time planning. You nominate a series of dates/times and then invite participants to vote yes/no on the various times. The online service, which is free, highlights the most popular time amongst respondents.

Creating the meeting slots for people to choose from is very easy and entirely text based, thereby avoiding concerns about java or flash incompatibility problems that you can experience with some services.

The organiser emails invitees a link to the schedule from within their own email client, rather than from within the service, and invitees submit their votes for the meeting times shown.

Pros
- very simple to use for the organiser and invitee alike
- free

Cons
- I couldn't edit the times of the poll once released, even if it was prior to anyone participating in the vote
- it wasn't possible to hide the votes submitted from others. Whilst this isn't always necessary it might be required in some situations
- participants had to fill their name in when adding their vote, rather than receiving a personal link that would track who had voted and not. Obviously this would have added complexity to this very simple app, but saved much time for the organiser.
- allowing free format names to be entered by participants on submission opens up the possibility of confusing the organiser e.g. multiple John's invited who only enter their first name when voting

As such I will stick with Timetomeet, but Doodle represents the simplest solution I have seen to the problem.

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We now know what planet Branson is on.

Techcrunch is reporting that Sir Richard Branson has announced on the Google Blog Virgle, a joint Google/ Virgin project to establish permanent human settlement on Mars.

Branson declares that

Larry Page, Sergey Brin and I feel strongly that contemporary technology is sufficiently advanced to make such an effort both successful and economical, and that it’s high time that humanity moved beyond Earth and began our great, long journey to explore the stars and establish our first lasting foothold on another world…In the years to come, we’ll be sending up a series of spaceships carrying (along with the supplies and tools needed to build the new colony) what eventually will be hundreds of Mars colonists, or Virgle Pioneers — myself among them.

Given the experiences of the Virgin train services, expect delays to the service and a poor inflight buffet.

As Branson is a tax exile in Switzerland these days, perhaps he is preparing ahead in case these tax privileges ever come under threat.

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posted by John Wilson @ 8:36 AM Permanent Link ,

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