Google Gmail Is a Double-Edged Sword

In recent months, I've found myself relying on Google Gmail for all kinds of tasks that have nothing to do with e-mail.

For example, I post to my personal blog, to Twitter and to Facebook via Gmail. I receive Facebook Wall posts and Messages via Gmail, and reply from e-mail as well. I receive RSS links, Web page updates and Google Alert notifications via Gmail. My most recent abuse is that I have stopped using Web-based to-do list managers (most recently Teux Deux), and am now simply using Gmail to manage and prioritize my daily tasks and projects (the use of Hit Me Later makes that possible). I also use Gmail for e-mail.

The benefit of all this is obvious. Using the powerful Getting Things Done concept of maintaining one single "inbox" for all incoming tasks enables you to maintain clarity about what you're doing and what's next. Plus, it also means I can do everything from anywhere -- my cell phone, my iPad, my laptop -- or even somebody else's computer.

The other obvious benefit is that by doing more in Gmail, everything I do is searchable using Gmail's incredible search feature.

However, I've recently noticed some minor downsides to doing it all via Gmail.

Whoops! Wrong Address!

It's easy to mis-address outgoing e-mail. With so many destinations, the probability of error increases.

For example, I use one address to send myself to-do reminders, and another to post on Twitter. Two times (that I'm aware of), I've tweeted personal reminders. I'm sure my Twitter followers were baffled when I tweeted, "pick up dry cleaning on Thursday." I noticed another major blogger do the same thing this morning (he sent a second tweet to apologize). It's vaguely comforting to know that I'm not alone.

I've also tweeted on the wrong account. I wear many hats, and have several Twitter feeds. I also post on my blog, which automatically posts a tweet. One Twitter feed is food and health related, and the rest are mostly tech related. Let's face it: My geeky tech audience doesn't want to hear about olive oil.

Doing everything via Gmail is great, but I live in fear that I'll post something personal publicly.

Middlemen Can Slow You Down!

I learned another lesson this morning, which is that posting via Gmail involves an additional potential bottleneck that can really slow things down.

Posterous is a powerful and appealing service that I recommend to everyone. Once you've set up a Posterous blog, they give you an e-mail address. When you post via e-mail, they post the item -- pictures and all -- and send a tweet to alert Twitter followers if you like. And I'm not even certain they're at fault here. Let me tell you what happened.

This morning, all the news outlets were reporting on comments made by General Stanley McChrystal, who is the US top commander in Afghanistan.

Those comments were reported in a Rolling Stone article that hadn't been published yet.

I write about technology, web publishing and media on my personal blog, The Raw Feed. I learned that Rolling Stone was finished with their story, but weren't posting it on their web site, presumably to force people to buy the paper version. I'm guessing that they ordered an especially large print run based on that decision.

I wrote my blog post and sent it off via Gmail.

Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, there was an unusual lag today between sending and posting -- probably 30 or 40 minutes (it normally takes less than one minute).

By the time my blog post made it to my blog, the story was no longer true.

Some other media outlet got ahold of the Rolling Stone story and published it before Rolling Stone did. Not wanting to be scooped on their own scoop, Rolling Stone published the expose on their Web site. 15 minutes after that, my own blog post hit reporting erroneously that Rolling Stone didn't publish their story on their Web site, making me look like even more of an idiot than usual.

Had I posted the "normal" way, directly on the Posterous site, my post would have been accurate for about 25 minutes.

There are probably other potential pitfalls to doing everything via Gmail that I haven't discovered. Yet.

Will I wise up and do things in a more conventional fashion? The answer is no. I believe the benefits, which are constant, outweigh the risks and problems, which are merely occasional.

What about you? What weird things do you via Gmail?

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