Now, I’m not using some super-duper spying technology or anything, but I know a couple of things about you.
Not everything – we’re not the kind of company that tries to spy on you. I don’t know your inside leg measurement, hair colour or anything like that!
But I do know that you’re reading this. And that tells me that you use email. (Bear with me if you’re reading this on the blog – pretty much everyone sees it in an email first.)
Email has changed a lot over the last few years. And one of the ways the people who design it have tried to make it more helpful is by getting it sorting your email for you.
To some extent, this has been going on for ages. Nearly everyone’s email system automatically tries to spot the spam or junk emails and get rid of them for you. Some put them in a folder called junk or spam that you can check later, just in case it thought something was junk that was actually a genuine email from someone you know.
Others simply delete the emails they’re sure are spam – though they don’t always get it right, so some genuine emails get deleted.
It’s worth checking your spam or junk folder every so often – especially if you’re waiting for an important email.
But I wanted to mention something Google and Microsoft are doing to try to be even more “helpful”.
Google started it – if you use Gmail, you’ll have not one inbox, not two, but three (or more if you want). This is to make it simpler.
I know, I know… how does having more inboxes make it simpler? The people at Google are very clever but don’t always have their feet on the ground. But it makes some kind of sense. Sort of.
The idea is that Gmail automatically sorts your emails into three types – normal ones from people, ones that are “promotions” – not spam or junk, but promotions from companies that you’ve signed up to hear from and lastly emails from social media sites you’re signed up to (eg one from Facebook saying have you seen Aunt Gertrude’s latest photo).
It can be helpful, although important emails can end up in “promotions” even if they’re not really a promotion if they’re from a company rather than an individual. (If you use Gmail, a lot of these emails will go in there – and even if you’re an Inner Circle member, the passwords we send you).
So if you use Gmail, it is important to look in the promotions tab, which just means you now have more things to do when you check your email.
With Gmail, though, it seems to sort emails fairly predictably and you can right click on a particular email, choose “move to tab – primary” and it’ll go into the normal inbox tab – and it’ll start to learn to put those emails in the normal inbox to start with.
But a while back, Microsoft (who run the Outlook and hotmail email systems) got in on the act.
They started putting emails they thought were important into an inbox they called “Focused” and other emails into one called “Other”.
Again the idea is that you don’t need to look at the “Other” ones as often.
But the problem is, they’re terrible at it. Honestly, I strongly suspect they’re using a chimp to flip a coin each time an email comes in to decide where to put it.
OK, maybe I’m being unfair – a lot of the emails I don’t want do go into the “Other” inbox. But so do some crucial ones. For example, recently I’ve been having some work done on the boiler at home, and I’ve been emailing with the plumber to get it sorted. Then he sent me a bill via email.
But some of his emails go into the Focused inbox, some into Other, with no obvious rhyme or reason as to which are which. Then the bill went into Other – luckily I do check it regularly, but if I didn’t, I might not have realised he’d sent it and not paid.
I suppose the moral is, if you use one of these types of email, where it splits emails into different inboxes (like Gmail or an Outlook or hotmail one), then do click on the other tabs (Social and promotions in Gmail or Focused and Other in Outlook or hotmail) to make sure there aren’t important emails in there.
Google is out of this world
On the other hand, technology can be simply mind-blowingly amazing. Here’s an example: you’ve probably seen Google maps, where you can see maps and satellite photos of pretty much anywhere in the world on your computer, tablet or phone. (It does look like they’re still working on this, though, and you might find it doesn’t work on some mobile devices.)
Well, it now includes some pretty amazing parts of space. You can access it here and you’ll see the earth from space. You can click/tap on the screen and drag it round to look from other sides but you should also get a menu on the left, listing Mars, the Moon, Jupiter and so on.
Click on one of them and you’re taken to it. You can zoom in for a close look or move around it to see different parts.
My favourite is the international space station – pretty staggering to be able to see inside it.