Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Category: Productivity

Goodbye, Feed My Inbox

{UPDATE} see the comment on this article from Feed My Inbox co-founder Nick Francis – in which he explains a lot more about the service (many thanks Nick).

Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.

I was a customer of Feed My Inbox. It did (and for a few weeks more, still does) a useful but unglamourous service, which is take an RSS feed and turn it into email. This was great for sites that either publish now and then, like this blog, or for daily summaries of news. I even had a sign up box on this blog, recommending it.

But the service is closing down. On the homepage, the company says:

After much consideration, we have made the difficult decision to shut down Feed My Inbox over the course of the next couple of months.

Long story short, we failed to generate enough revenue to sustain the business long-term and justify the time necessary for ongoing support, maintenance and feature development.

We wish it turned out differently, but our team learned a great deal over the last 4+ years. Thank you for being a customer.

I don’t know much about the company, but I do know that it was a small outfit – perhaps just four people. I learned this from digging around on Brightwurks, which is the site owner. The company was private, so there aren’t any numbers to digest, but in one blog post the company mentioned 175,000 customers.

What isn’t clear is whether these are paying customers or not. It operated on a freemuim model – the basic service of 5 feeds was free, and then you paid for additional premium features and more feeds, starting at $5 per month.

As far as I can see it, the problem with Feed My Inbox was three-fold.

1a) Freemium doesn’t work unless you have massive scale. Because, unless you provide a killer app, most people will just stick to the free version. And then if someone offers a similar service, you are stuck – it’s hard to change the barriers between services without annoying paying customers, or attracting new ones.

1b) Freemium is a bad model for development. Paying customers fund the growth in non-paying free-riders, with the hope that some of them eventually turn into payers too. Very little of the revenues from paying customers is ploughed back into improving their service.

2) Email is a cluttered mess. There are too many newsletters, bills, updates etc, nevermind all the crap emails that people actually write, nevermind the spam. So adding to all that isn’t particularly appealing to lots of people who are already swamped.

3) Hello social media. Facebook and Twitter are far better places to follow or like stuff you are interested in, making email seem a quaint, antiquated way of getting updates. That’s without considering RSS readers like netvibes or Google Reader.

So that’s it. But you can bow out gracefully, which is the case here.

The Feed My Inbox team have put together a very helpful page of tips on other services and ways to migrate, which I think is above and beyond. Can you imagine a bank doing that? But thanks to them, I am now using, and have a sign up form on the blog for that service, and the whole service seems very good.

I just hope it lasts. It’s free.

The 6 productivity tips you need to know

Today, after several years of drowning in email, I got my inbox to zero. Yup. There’s nothing in there. Gmail is clear.

That doesn’t mean I have no email – I have used 11 per cent of my allocated 10.1 GB. There’s just nothing sitting in the inbox.

This is the most liberated feeling I’ve had in a long long time. It should be a prescribed remedy for stress. But I digress. Having read most of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and Oliver Burkeman‘s Help, and lots of other Lifehacker-type things, I think these are the six essential things you need to know. (I’ve been bloody terrible at sticking to it, but it’s the only way to go.)

  1. Your inbox is not a good list. Why? Other people can write on it. So get a separate list you control. I love Remember The Milk, but there are tons out there. Find something that works, and stick to it. This, not email, should be your guide. Email becomes a tool, rather than the master.
  2. Get good folders / labels for your email. Use characters like “@” or “.” or numbers in front of label names to prioritise.
  3. The 4 Ds are a useful thing to remember: with every email (or bit of paper for that matter) you can (and should) do one of: do it; delegate it; defer it; delete it.
  4. If you aren’t sure whether something is important, just archive it. If it is, you’ll get some reminder along the way.
  5. If you are swamped with too much email, make it a game. It really helps. You are fooling your brain into making it fun, but so what? Get a timer, set a target, and see how much you can get rid of.
  6. Put fun things on your to-do list. It shouldn’t all be grind.

That’s it. Don’t you feel better already?

The great to-do

I think I’ve road tested every to-do system on the web. It’s not an exciting topic, but it’s an important one. Remembering stuff is a nightmare. As David Allen says, “capture, process, do” or something like that. A good to-do list system can change your life.

Anyway, the one I’ve settled on and used for a couple of years now is remember the milk. The name is different from all the other todoist, toodledo, teuxduex variants out there. But forget the name. There are a few features that make it fantastic.

  • You can sync it with your BlackBerry, Android, iPhone / iPod touch. I have all three, and it works a treat.
  • You can tag stuff really easily. And then create lists from a combination of tags and, say, due date, or priority.
  • It’s ridiculously easy to use – other systems fall down on adding tasks, or tags, or other simple things
  • It looks good without being flashy
  • It integrates with google calendar, and loads of other clever things like that

It’s so ingrained now, I don’t think about using it anymore, I just automatically go to it. Downside – it’s subscription – $25 per year. But it’s money well-spent. Other to-do systems have some nice features too, but across the board this is the best.

Now to actually do the things in my list, that’s another matter.

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