Bankruptcy

My friends, please let it be known that today, I am declaring Email Bankruptcy.

I first heard about this concept when Lawrence Lessig declared email bankruptcy in 2004. Fast forward to today, and I find myself in a similar predicament… As of this writing, I have more than 900 unread emails, and I do not have enough hours in a day to process all my incoming emails and my backlog… and so, I’ve junked my entire backlog of emails.

I am very sorry, but if you’ve sent me an email and never gotten a response back, chances are I never actually even had a chance to read it and a reply is not forthcoming. If it is very important, please resend it to me again and I should be in a better position to respond.

A Fresh Start

As Standout Jobs heads into its next stage of development, it becomes very important for me to have a clear plate and a clear mind. This also applies to Cat’s Corner, which is moving to a new location as of Friday August 1st.

Taking this drastic step will give me the fresh start that I need.

It remains to be seen whether I will be successful. I could easily spend all my working hours reading and writing email. But if I did that I wouldn’t be able to get any real work done; which, for a techie, requires long hours of concentration without distraction. So the logical conclusion is that any overflow email will continue to accumulate until I have to declare email bankruptcy again.

Email by its nature has its limits. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. If I could get away with it, I wouldn’t use email at all!

How to Contact Me

Again, my apologies if you’ve emailed me and never gotten a response. But now, knowing my non-preference for email, let me give you the secret to contacting me and actually getting a response… If you’d like to contact me, please try the following channels first:

  • Phone
  • Instant Messenger: I’m on Skype, MSN, gTalk, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and ICQ. (Protip: Use Adium to not go crazy with multiple chat clients)

And if you still absolutely must send email, please send them to the appropriate application-specific email addresses for a higher rate of response:

  • Standout Jobs Stuff: fred at standoutjobs dot com
  • Cat’s Corner Stuff: fred at catscorner dot ca
  • Social Life Stuff: Facebook messaging (Be warned that I will ignore anything business-y on Facebook.)
  • Anything else: fredngo at gmail dot com

Today’s TechCrunch article, Think Before You Voicemail, struck a nerve with me. I’ve very often felt the same way for the exact same reasons Michael outlined:

It takes much longer to listen to a message than read it. And voicemail is usually outside of our typical workflow, making it hard to forward or reply to easily.

The big problem with voicemail is that it takes a context switch out of your normal workflow in order to dial into the system, figure out how to fast-forward/delete messages, transcribe messages, etc. This might sound minor but it really takes its toll when you’ve already got a ton of things on your plate to deal with on a daily basis.

Other minor problems with voicemail include long distance charges to dial into my voicemail when I’m traveling, and the delay caused by my tendency to not notice that I have a voicemail until the next time I make a telephone call.

So today I’ve taken a big step toward escaping voicemail. I’ve set up my cell phone such that voicemails are transcribed automatically into text messages and sent to my email (and optionally SMS’d to me). How did I do this? It was not straightforward so I am repeating the steps here for anyone who’d like to do the same.

Without further ado, here’s how I set up PhoneTag with my iPhone running on the Fido network.

Step 1

PhoneTag

The first step is to subscribe to a voicemail transcribing service. The service I ended up subscribing to is PhoneTag. There are several other services, including YouMail and SpinVox, but nearly all suffer from one big flaw — they do not work with Canadian numbers. (Don’t even get me started on how we always get shafted on technology in Canada…)

Fortunately PhoneTag does work in Canada, so they get my dollars. (Not much actually, only 35 cents per transcribed message; other plans available too.)

Step 2

Once you’ve set up your PhoneTag account, you have to instruct your carrier to use PhoneTag’s voicemail box when you don’t answer your phone. This is accomplished via Conditional Call Forwarding. In layman’s terms, you have to ask your carrier to forward a caller to voicemail when you 1) don’t answer, 2) are unreachable, or 3) already on the phone.

When you get a phone from Fido, it’s already pre-programmed to forward calls to the Fido voicemail. In this case, we want to switch to PhoneTag’s voicemail. Here’s where things get complicated a bit; I am using an unlocked iPhone on the Fido network, and unfortunately, I could not find a way to set Conditional Call Forwarding inside the iPhone’s interface. However, we can get around this by directly programming appropriate GSM Commands into the phone!

The GSM Commands I used were the following:

  1. Call Forwarding if No Answer: *61*[dest]#
  2. Call Forwarding if Unreachable: *62*[dest]#
  3. Call Forwarding if Busy: *67*[dest]#

where [dest] is the destination of the call forwarding, i.e. the phone number of PhoneTag’s mailbox. So as an example, if your mailbox’s number is 514-123-4567, then the appropriate sequence to program Call Forwarding if No Answer would be *61*5141234567#.

So, I opened up Keypad of the iPhone, typed in and called each one of the above mentioned codes, and voila; my callers are now directed to PhoneTag’s voicemail. (You’ll know you did it right if you see some status messages.)

Now voicemails are automatically transcribed into text and sent to my email, where I will see it the next time I return to my workstation.

Step 3

For completeness’ sake, rewire the Voicemail button on the iPhone to point to your new mailbox by issuing the following command:

*5005*86*yourvoicemailphonenumber#

In PhoneTag’s case, yourvoicemailphonenumber is 18007840457.

But of course we’ll never use that button again, right?

Step 4

Finally call Fido Customer Service at 611, and cancel your voicemail option, saving you a few bucks per month.

There you have it, escape from voicemail.

Now if only I could escape from email too, then life would be heaven!

DEMO Button

I’m here in Sunny California, at the beautiful Marriott Desert Springs Resort where the DEMO conference is being held this year. Yup, Standout Jobs was selected to present at DEMO!

It’s been a long journey for Standout Jobs, and this week marks a major milestone–Standout Jobs has launched our first product, Reception, at DEMO 08. We waited till exactly 7am EST on Monday January 28th, which is when the embargo is lifted according to DEMO rules, to launch the product. The reception (pun intended) has been amazing, we were covered by TechCrunch, GigaOM and Mashable, among the major news sites, as well as local sites such as A frog in the valley, I never nu, Web1979, MontrealTechWatch, TechCFO, Mikel.org, Guillaume Thoreau, and Quebec Valley.

(If you’re interested in all the details, you can of course consult the
Standout Jobs Blog.)

Most of my readers probably also read the likes of my cofounders Ben Yoskovitz and Austin Hill, so all this news is no surprise to you… But I do want to remind you that we will be presenting at 12:44PM EST LIVE on the web at demo.com, and this is where you’ll be able to finally see just exactly why I’ve been so reclusive over the last year! ;-) But to be completely serious for a second, we’d love to have your virtual moral support.

I’d like to also give big props to the Standout Jobs A-Team that made this happen–In alphabetical order:

Thank you for your hard work everyone. We’ll celebrate when I get back!

Montreal's Sexiest Geeks of 2007

Wow! This is an absolute riot. I’ve been nominated by the Montreal Gazette as one of Montreal’s Sexiest Geeks of 2007!

The competition is pretty stiff, including my good friend Casey McKinnon who has included me in the fun that is Galacticast, and the admittedly uber-sexy Jade Raymond.

Still, I’m for certain the alpha-geek on the roster, since I’m probably the only person who codes on that list!

(OK, OK, Jade is a coder too: she has a Bachlor’s degree in Computer Science from McGill. But she probably doesn’t code anymore these days since she’s now a “game producer”. ;-) )

So vote for me! I’ll reduce taxes! ;-)

I’ve been ridiculously remiss in blogging and tech-activity organization these days. I have no defense other than to say that at this moment, the best contribution I can make to the Montreal tech community is to ensure that Standout Jobs becomes a success; so all of my energies (and more) are going there.

However, compared to just one year ago, the community has come very far indeed. Just take a look at all the tech events that are happening this week in Montreal:

This reminds me of all the activity that goes on in Silicon Valley, where there are events like this every day of the week. This tells me that Montreal is really approaching Silicon Island every day.

Now, the only thing left is for a few of the most promising startups in Montreal to make big splashes, and we’ll be there!

And so, gentlemen, as they say in my native tongue, 加油!

(To keep up with upcoming Tech Events, be sure to check the events list posted on Montreal Tech Watch)

Standout Jobs is hiring again! This time, in addition to Ruby Gurus, we’re also accepting applications for mid-level Ruby Devotees.

To give you a better feel for working with us, our resident Ruby Guru, Marc-André Cournoyer, wrote a great blog post detailing a day in the life of a Standout Jobs hacker. A must-read before you apply!

And no, we didn’t make a video this time around :) but we did put together a nice collage of our photos and people… Check it out!

Standout Jobs Collage

Fred at the Standout Jobs Office

Actually I’m just in today’s Gazette, on the front page of the business section. Not quite as viral as an Apple Commercial but close. ;-)

The subject is online recruiting (of course), specifically recruiting using social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and online classifieds like Craigslist.

Montreal entrepreneur Fred Ngo, co-founder and chief technical officer of Standout Jobs, doesn’t profess the same enthusiasm for Facebook, preferring LinkedIn, a social network made for professional contacts.

But for his hiring needs, the free classified site Craigslist has proven much more effective.

“We put up a job ad on Craigslist and got applications within an hour. We have several resumés now,” Ngo said.

He’s still waiting for someone to respond to the ad he placed on Facebook, but he’s not ready to disavow it just yet. He still sees the benefit of announcing a job though his network of friends in a way that’s easy to pass on.

“Your friends know someone who knows someone who’s looking for a job,” he said.

And going directly to a candidate addresses a major shortcoming of job boards like Craigslist and Monster.com: The most skilled people are usually not looking for work. They’re already hired somewhere.

“And for the candidate, it feels better when someone reaches out to you rather than through some ad,” he said.

Click through to read the whole article.