Read books via RSS and email

DailyLitI’ve tried to read Moby Dick several times but I’ve always been interrupted. I start off strong by reading a little every night but then I skip one night. From there it goes down hill and I never finish.

That’s why I was happy to find DailyLit. Here’s how they describe their service:

DailyLit sends books in installments via e-mail or RSS feed. We currently offer over 750 classic and contemporary books available entirely for free or on a Pay-Per-Read basis (with sample installments available for free). You can read your installments wherever you receive e-mail/RSS feeds, including on your Blackberry and iPhone. Installments arrive in your Inbox according to the schedule you set (e.g. 7:00am every weekday).

With DailyLit, a short installment of Moby Dick shows up each day in my Google Reader. Each installment is short enough to read in under five minutes.

Organize your Outlook inbox with colors

Like almost everyone these days, I get lots of email. My work inbox is overstuffed with internal memos, notes from parents and spam.

I like to sort my messages by color coding them based on a few parameters. For example, I make all messages that are sent only to me green. Messages from the principal are colored red.

Color your inbox

We have one teacher in my build who is a traveling teacher. She sets her inbox to display messages in the color that represents the school from which they were sent. So all messages from East High are red and all messages from West High are orange.

To set this up in Outlook go to the Tools menu choose Organize and then select the “Using Colors” section, hit the “Turn on” button next to “Show messages sent only to me in Red.”

Below is a step-by-step video to help you get started:

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For more flexibility, click “Automatic Formatting” in the upper right corner.

Reasons NOT to send that next e-mail

email closedIn an effort to cut back on all the e-mail we receive, Dan Costa at PC Magazine wrote an article listing 29 reasons not to send an e-mail message. This list is funny, yet many of the reasons are painfully true.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • You spent 15 minutes on the e-mail, and the recipients will spend 0.15 seconds before hitting Delete.
  • Everyone got that joke, saw that video, and sent money to that dying kid two years ago.
  • You’re slow. By the time you finish typing your message, one of the 20 other people on the list has already responded and made your response outdated.

Missing from the list was– Today is Friday. I think we should all take a break from e-mail on Fridays. I’m not alone on this.

Bot or Not: Are you human?

Okay, here’s the problem— bots. Bots are little programs created to crawl all over the Internet looking for ways to cause trouble. Often they’re made to help spammers do their dirty work. Bots will create accounts and pretend that they are real people. They might signup for online email accounts or leave comments on a blog.

Because of bots, websites need a way to verify that only humans are signing up for their services. They need to ask a question that humans can answer but computers cannot. Enter the CAPTCHA. CAPTCHAs are those squiggly letters you’re asked to enter when you signup for things online. Here is an example:


A recent estimate suggests that 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans each day— that’s a lot of reading and typing! The folks at reCAPTCHA have decided to put all that human power to work. Using their service, you enter words taken from books that have been scanned in but couldn’t be converted by a computer. The system turns both words into CAPTCHAs for you to solve. It knows the answer for one of the words but not the other. Since humans can read better than computers, you’re actually helping to digitize books and preventing spam.


You can help the book digitizing effort by adding reCAPTCHA to your site. You can use it to protect your email or your blog’s comments section; reCAPTCHA makes implementation easy.

Hear more about reCAPTCHA on a podcast from the Museum of Science in Boston.

Hear an in-depth discussion about CAPTCHAs on Security Now—a podcast by security expert Steve Gibson. (Episode 101- the discussion starts at 33:47)

A book about email

emailbook Recently I heard an interview on Wisconsin Public Radio about email. The guest was David Shipley, coauthor of “SEND: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home.”

Shipley gives tips to help avoid email pitfalls and discusses how to write the perfect message.
I encourage everyone to give it a listen; it was a fun interview.

The authors also have a website where you can read examples of bad emails.

We all have our horror stories, here’s what bugs me the most:

  • No meaningful subject line—Imaging if the newspaper quit using headlines or changed them all to “read this” or “FYI”.
  • Email for the masses—Chain letters, rants, persuasion pieces…why did you send this to me? I barely know you. (This website provides a solution.)
  • Forward of a forward of a forward— I don’t always need to see who sent you the message. And maybe they don’t want you to spread their email address all over the world either.
  • Pretty email—Just because you can make your default font Comic Sans in purple doesn’t mean you should. And there’s nothing wrong with a white background.

Aaaah that felt good. Now post your pet peeves in the comments section below.

Use Rules to prune your Outlook inbox

With all the messages that get sent around at work, we need to prune our email inboxes every once and a while.

Outlook lets you move (or even delete) messages that meet certain criteria. For example, you can delete all messages that are from or you can move all messages that contain the word homecoming into a “Homecoming” folder.


Outlook makes this easy with its Rules Wizard. You can find a quick step-by-step tutorial to get started.

What’s so bad about email?

After writing his article, The Good in Email, Isaac Garcia has written a follow-up article— The Bad in Email. The article explains why email is not the best tool for collaboration.

Below are the reasons. Read the full article to see an explanation of each.

  • Email is Silo’ed
  • Email *Perpetuates* Many Walled Gardens
  • Email is NOT Secure (Part 1)
  • Email is NOT Secure (Part 2)
  • Group Email is Really Complicated
  • Email is Not a Document Manager
  • Email Communications Do Not Correspond Priority
  • Email is inconsistent
  • Email is not permission based
  • Spam Filtering is better, but still not good enough
  • Email does not work well for multi-users
  • Email is Prone to Viruses
  • Email makes us lazy