The Context.IO App Challenge

I recently agreed to be a judge for the Context.IO App Challenge. It is a long-format online hackathon. Developers and entrepreneurs have until September 1 to build and submit consumer applications that use the Context.IO API, with a chance to win over $50k ($125k cash prizes in total).

Context.IO is a product of Return Path, where I’ve been on the board since 2000.

Context.IO is an API that allows you to easily build applications on top of the data from your user’s email accounts. It removes the complexity of working with email servers and the nuances across different email providers (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.) to greatly reduce development time.

The email inbox is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs because so much of what happens in today’s world (commerce transactions, communications, content sharing) flows through email and there are over a billion active email inboxes.

The judges are Brad Feld, David Cohen and Matt Blumberg. This is our judging criteria:

  • Quality of Idea: Is the idea creative, original and innovative?
  • Implementation of Idea: Was the idea well executed?
  • Potential Impact: Is the app providing sufficient value to it’s users?
  • Market Readiness: Is the app market ready? Is it available in a public, online store? Has it been localized for international markets?

Anyone interested in participating should register for the challenge on the Challengepost website and get started with Context.IO by signing up for an API key on their website.

#email hacks

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    I like. A lot.Email and list management is weirdly still a giant mess.Companies like Shopify, successful as a marketing platform, are in the Pleistocene age when it comes to list management. I hope they and others are paying attention.

    1. panterosa,

      Don’t even get me started on managing email lists and tagging! I am a very database type thinker and still have issues patching existing formats, and just pray for someone to make what I want.Mailchimp often goes to spam, our CRM Insightly is no better, Sendicate was not a slice of heaven due to their templates. So I’ve been looking at just doing in Google contacts. Didn’t like Brewster, don’t want to pay for Full Contact as I don’t see what they have which I want to justify expense.

      1. pointsnfigures


      2. awaldstein

        Email marketing as the superset of list management is a unique skill with a lot of tech pieces to it.Find a mentor or hire an expert is my advice if this is critical to your biz. To much of a time suck otherwise.

        1. panterosa,

          We feel as a new company that this time is well spent clearly defining which type of communication people receive. Do you have a definition of how much time is a time suck? Just curious.Timing -wise this is also critical since we will do a pre-order campaign shortly.

          1. awaldstein

            I break this world into two pieces–managing my lists that happen organically through transactions and the like, and email marketing.The former everyone has to do and we all hack it together. Everyone with ‘marketing’ on their resume should be able to mash a solution together till the complexity is too much.The later, different deal completely. This is both a rigorous science with some art at its fringes. I struggle to think of any early stage venture that will use this or even keywords as anything other than the most minor part of customer acquisition. Certainly not in the top 10 things I think about for any company sub a few million in revenue (cornercases notwithstanding).

  2. Twain Twain

    Thanks for sharing. We’re going to play with this.

  3. Robert

    That sounds exciting. I have been tinkering with emails for a while now. I can imagine we are up for some new and interesting innovations in this old part of the internet (@litmusapp created a lot of buzz a few weeks back when they integrated live Twitter feeds into email).I wil play with the API. Thanks for sharing!

  4. William Mougayar

    That segment is ripe for innovation and tinkering. It can use a few good hackers to shake it up a bit.I like especially the consumer angle.

    1. Twain Twain

      V. easy to innovate.(1) Machine Intelligence — obtain most frequently occurring word in last hour. Do text to voice and apply to Apple Watch SDK and SIRI: “You got 3 emails in the last hour with the word “diet”. Would you like me to book your next gym session? Or to reserve a table at your favorite restaurant?”(2) Data Viz & User Experience — instead of boring text in nested folders, write JavaScript browser-addon that converts select words like “be at my office at noon” into reversible cards. On front is an animated graphic of an office with two Cowboys drawing their guns (fun reference to the movie ‘High Noon’ ). On the back is the Google Map of where the office is.(3) Tinderify emails so instead of current situation where we have to click on a box to select the email and then press/click the trash can, we can just flick them away with a “whoosh!”

        1. Twain Twain

          Haha, that’s hilarious (noodle soup all over my keyboard now) but should be gender-reversed.

          1. panterosa,

            Exactly!!!Can we please Tinderify the Tim Hunts too?

      1. JamesHRH

        I need to find a web community with interesting, creative people who generate great ideas at the drop of a hat………1) has a very high ‘throw phone out of window of train / car’ co-efficient, as Jimmy Kimmel pointed out on his monologue last night (which, apparently, is not on the web…..)

        1. Twain Twain

          Lol, James! I have this vision of a random sheep being hit by your flying phone!People don’t give enough credit to ideas. Yes, execution attracts investors but without a great idea in the first place lots of perfectly talented engineers build the most nerdy but non-consumer friendly stuff.I don’t believe in the 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration philosophy.I believe ideas and execution are about 50:50 in symbiosis and, done well, they generate revenue more efficiently and effectively.

          1. JamesHRH

            I hope that one day it is the King James rule of marketing:- positioning (idea well communicated) 40%- product 40%- communication 20%.Distribution is not part of my equation, but is the other half of the yin/yang of success. You could argue it is part of positioning if you wanted.

          2. Twain Twain

            Noted, King James, :*).Hey so in b-school they start off with the 4P’s: product, price, place and promotion.Then they added another 3: people, process and proof (ergo Quantified Self and AB testing).Naturellement, there’s a missing P: Perceptions.After all, what did Da Vinci write? “All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”Genius if not quite a King, lol.

          3. JamesHRH

            The 4Ps – no MBA here FYI – are basically mature market based. Coke & Pepsi stuff.Positioning is pure strategy, ‘the battle for the mind’ & perception based.My favourite framework: state a claim that is objective like first or biggest. Then, every time anyone interacts with your brand (in any fashion) that perception either adds a carbon fibre neural thread between your brand and that position……or pulls one off.And there you go: marketing = strategy + tactical.Anecdotes abound.Here is the bible –…Its based on von Clausewitz military principles, about whom @JLM:disqus can snap off 4000 words in < 15 mins, I bet.

      2. sigmaalgebra

        “You got 3 emails in the lasthour with the word “diet”. Would you likeme to book your next gym session? Or toreserve a table at your favoriterestaurant?” No. I want to get a fire ax and a metalshredder and reduce the brain-dead,juvenile, irrelevant, intrusive,interrupting, insulting, infuriating,patronizing, domineering computer to tinypieces small enough to scatter to thewinds and blow away.Computer, when I want something from you,I will ask. Do this again, and I’m goingback to my Windows desktop. Capiche?

        1. Twain Twain

          Haha, I know but it’s where technology is heading.If we look at the R&D in all the major techcos, they’re all building systems that can “give us the answers before we even ask them”.

  5. JimHirshfield

    This is a cool space. Reminds me of the startup I forget the name of. (Is that irony?)They’re a competitor to LinkedIn and automatically know who you know and who the people you know know (double knegative?) thru everyone’s email correspondence.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      That’s a pretty valuable use case, it’s not under their suggested Use Cases though – and probably should be.

    2. Joe Cardillo

      Not sure if it’s who you were thinking of, but Conspire out here in Boulder does that really well.

      1. ShanaC

        damn, I was just in boulder

        1. Joe Cardillo

          Oh no way, that would have been cool – I actually just moved up here a month ago & getting my bearings

      2. JimHirshfield


    3. JamesHRH


      1. JimHirshfield


        1. JamesHRH

          I thought you might like the WayBack Machine being turned on.

  6. falicon

    API sounds cool (I will check it out for sure)…judges panel is all-star…and I like the clear outline you provide.But I’m going to go on a tangent mini-rant anyway (so bear with me)…#START_MINI_RANTCan anyone please name me the successful companies and/or products that have been built out of a hackathon? I’ll give you GroupMe (as a maybe since they got acquired before they ever *really* got traction)…are there any others? It *sure* feels like it’s more lottery than process to me.On the flip side, how many of these companies that host or sponsor hackathons actually see any real, sustained, increase in business or use of their API as a result? I would *love* to see some validation data/analysis here.Listen, I *LOVE* hacking and I spend way too much of my free time building worthless stuff out of nothing just for the sake of “because I can”…and I appreciate that companies want to foster an environment for innovation…but the older I get (and perhaps more grumpy I get) I seriously question if “hackathon” is/has ever been a successful approach…to anything.If you need an event and/or a competition before you try to build something interesting, fun, or useful…#END_MINI_RANT

    1. Sebastian Wain

      > Can anyone please name me the successful companies and/or products that have been built out of a hackathon?I think you are asking the wrong question! You have almost three months to build something (instead of a few days or hours), so can you name a successful product that have been built in three months?

      1. falicon

        I’m not specifically ranting about *this* challenge (because it’s an extended period, and online based – I actually like it *way* more than the usual hackathon format)I was just saying in general, what things built for these sorts of reasons/motivations have turned out?

        1. Sebastian Wain

          Searching for: started at a hackathon (@google and @twitter) I found some examples like: Awesome TechCrunch article about @shopinterest, a company that started at a #hackathon! Great things come from hacking, OMG Transit: It started at a hackathon, and What are some startups that started out of a hackathon project?.

          1. falicon

            I’m likely just being especially grumpy today (so take my thoughts with a grain of salt).I’m sure there are one or two exceptions that you can find…but it sure feels like the rule is that very little (product) value comes out of hackathons.

          2. pointsnfigures

            I think it’s good to be grumpy once in awhile. The contest Fred is judging seems pretty good to me-but not all ideas are winners and grumpiness can help you sort. I know of a company in Chicago, which came out of a hackathon. I invested in a company that came out of one, but it failed. Often the ideas are good, but the people don’t know each other well enough to form a cohesive team that can execute.

          3. falicon

            Such an awesome point – I think they are often full of *great* ideas…but a great idea alone does not ensure success.A history between founders is a crucial ingredient that I think *a lot* of people continue to discount.A non-stop irritation of a specific problem and a driving passion for an innovative solution around a specific area of focus is another I think people *really* discount (you can’t build sustained passion for the email space just because there’s a cool hackathon event coming up; but you *can* fake it for a good while)At the end of the day, I want more people hacking on interesting things…and I want more companies supporting, fueling, and benefiting from that activity…I just feel like hackathons have become the reality tv of my world…and that *really* urks me…

          4. Twain Twain

            +1,000,000,000 THIS: “Often the ideas are good, but the people don’t know each other well enough to form a cohesive team that can execute.”Being a founder can be like herding cats.Being a founder and working with people who don’t know each other well is like wrestling 100 octopi.

        2. Brandon Kessler

          [Disclosure: I run ChallengePost and we power most of the online and in-person hackathons globally, including this one.] We have many hundreds of examples of success that come from both in-person and online hackathons. That includes new companies being formed, which is not how one should only judge hackathons. It also includes developers meeting each other, later forming teams and companies, developers learning from each other and improving their craft, getting new jobs, bringing new technologies they learn about into their workplace, making things that get used to have an impact, being curious and scratching a technical or business itch, and much more. Hackathons are about learning and all of the above for developers. And for the organizations they’re about marketing to developers in a both respectful and effective way.

          1. Twain Twain

            Hi Brandon,You should change your Disqus photo to the one I took of you at Launch, :*).The FLIR guys will be in London next month so I’ll show them how my original idea with #karatechop and automatically sharing it to Twitter has progressed.There’s now a #Jedi gesture.

          2. ShanaC

            what did he look like?

          3. Twain Twain

            @brandonk:disqus is a good-looking guy.He kindly championed and provided us with a testimonial for our hack too!I have what people call “the creative’s eye”. Fort Mason buildings have lots of shadows and I took this just with an iPhone 5s — no filters or Photoshop — in one shot.There’s something about how light and people’s expressions “switch” so the photographer has to time the photo shot just so.One pixel out, one fraction of expression change, one split-second in light+shadow variation and we end up with a less perfect photo.Align everything with care and… voilà! Photos that show people at their best.

          4. falicon

            All exceptional points that I’ve heard more than a few times.The only counter I would have is that in my, *very* limited circle, this is not what I hear from the majority of actual developers. It’s always the ‘non developers’ that tout these points.I think it’s all a personal opinion/experience/thing though…I guess I’m just not a “hackathon” guy…and more often than not I’m “outside the norm”…so this could all just be an un-justified/validated rant and I accept that. 🙂

          5. Brandon Kessler

            You’re definitely right that not all developers enjoy in-person hackathons. Staying up for 48 hours isn’t something one wants to do every weekend (although many do). The online hackathons provide a more realistic opportunity to work on polished applications, and for businesses to participate. Also, with online hackathons, the apps are by no means just new. Often those are about improving existing apps by incorporating new technologies (such as

          6. Todd Bernhard

            I’ve started two businesses after winning two Startup Weekend events… http://AllAccess.US (April 2012) and (April 2014) and FlixAcademy went on to win one of the ChallengePost contests, too! Both startups are going strong.

    2. Matt Zagaja

      After organizing my first “hackathon” this year I’ll say that it’s a fun social experience, and for the work it is pretty focused but definitely not optimal. For better or worse I’ve realized I do my best work alone in a room. However it’s nice to have other programmers to bounce ideas and questions off of. Because software development is not my primary work and I don’t work with developers, it’s often hard to know what the standard practices are along with benchmarks for what is a quality product. Instead of a hackathon we decided to call it a “hack day” and the goals were less defined. It was more of a co-working environment. where people got to socialize and congregate in teams.The flip side is we don’t have prizes and don’t always have finished products. But we did manage to ship a couple things.

      1. falicon

        I like that approach (and motivation) a lot more.My experience/concern with traditional hackathons is that the *real* builders are too busy/focused on their project and the time constraints to get any networking value out of what’s going on around them…and I think too many hackathons sell a false dream of quick/easy fame and fortune.If you go into it with the intention of networking and learning…you’ll prob. have a good and interesting experience (but won’t really hack anything of value).If you got into with the intention of building something useful…you *might* get that accomplished, but it will likely be no better (and possibly worse) than if you just did that on your own and within your own constraints (it’s potentially worse because you run the risk of burning yourself out on the idea/hack because of the pressure, time, and resource constraints of the event).If you got into it with the intention of demo’ing (and free PR)…you might get the most out of it all…but then you are completely going against the spirit of the idea (IMHO).There is def. value that people can get depending on their initial expectations going into it all…but at the end of the day, I’m less and less a fan of the general approach…and more and more a fan of the ‘hack day’/’co-working’ approach you mention…at least from the *builder* side of the coin 🙂

    3. Twain Twain

      Hackathons are like everything else: pot luck.Sometimes, we meet people we can build a startup with post-hackathon. Sometimes, people can tolerate each other for 48 hours and maybe even win a prize before parting ways. Sometimes, the experience is simply not worth the sleep deprivation.Often, teams just build what’s expedient given time and team-size constraints.It’s unlikely the next Google will be invented at a hackathon.I’ve had 2 great hackathon experiences where the team built my product vision exactly as I’d hoped. One of those ideas I continue to work on; it’s about signal >>> noise using gestures rather than mouse or screen swipes and signal >>> noise is something I’m passionate about.The other 90% of the projects… I led my team to win one or other of the prizes but it’s not something that will be worked on afterwards because everyone has their own careers and lives to focus on.The worst hackathons can be by the big Old Economy companies who are trying to tap into the innovation of hackers. The post-hackathon process of getting those companies to adopt the winning hacks is laborious and inefficient.So, for me, cash prizes are best.

      1. falicon

        All fair and valid points.I love that you’ve had some positive experiences around hackathons and I hope that is more common than I’m lead to believe.Honestly I’ve met good people and had fun at some in the past too — but I find a lot more value in other things I guess.Just curious – for the projects that lived on for you…is the whole team still involved and do they feel equally rewarded by it all?

        1. Twain Twain

          Ah the equity & “build your passion” question. People feel rewarded for different reasons we discover.So…in 2014 I led a hackathon team at Angelhack SF to win 3 months incubation by in Santa Monica. It was a great hack: mobile app to recognize car VIN that then matches against Edmunds API to pull the car’s details — the USP being that I got my devs to pull the car’s color, not just the standard price, make, number of doors, mileage.Color because, with a view to incubation, I thought it would be cool to create a social network for car owners and color was a way to socially profile them. I branded it “Autosphere”.Anyway, one of the devs then decided he just wanted to work on pulling the standard vanilla info which was a proposition I knew that two Harvard MBAs were already doing and had already launched 18 months prior. So I didn’t feel there was anything innovative about that.He wanted his reward to be a status & ego gain by pivoting our winning hack into vanilla territory.I wanted our reward to be building something innovative for car owners.In the end, we didn’t go to Santa Monica.I’ve yet to meet a team where everyone at the hackathon stayed on and shared the same motivations, values and rewards.I have, though, met some fantastically talented and fun people and it’s a more stimulating way to spend our brain cells and busy hands than sitting and watching grass grow!

          1. falicon

            Have you caught the show “Halt and Catch Fire” on AMC (season one now available on Netflix too)?Based on this story – I think you would really enjoy it.There is always a push-pull between engineering, design, and sales…at the end of the day, I’m in the camp with you though that it should be about building something people can “love”…anything short of that really has no shot in today’s world.

          2. Twain Twain

            Thanks for recommend and I HATE push-pull. Double Dutch’s way more fun:*…When people love a product it usually taps into something the code alone can’t.

        2. LE

          Honestly I’ve met good people and had fun at some in the past too — but I find a lot more value in other things I guess.I find it truly entrepreneurial to be able to jump to conclusions based on a few data inputs that you then triangulate into an behavior rule and a decision.It reminds me (everything reminds me of something) of when I was in my first business and I went to a Chamber of Commerce meeting thinking I would end up making tons of contacts and picking up loads of business. What I found was that it seemed that everyone else there was either selling insurance, accounting or some kind of service and looking to do exactly the same. One woman was dragging her husband around in a frantic attempt to make as many connections as possible. Going in I thought it would be a bunch of small business owners who would be good targets for what I was selling. Not the case nobody was buying, everyone was selling.Of course according to my “rule of 100” if I had the time to go to 100 Chamber “meetups” perhaps I would have found value. But not going to 1 and not going to 3.What does this mean? It means that to get value in the end (whether a hackathon or a meetup) you have to enjoy the activity and have no expectations of any quick or easy payback. So if you can tolerate or enjoy you do it for another reason (say with the Chamber meetings you like socializing) and the benefit, if any, is found money.

          1. falicon

            I remember being recruited to Amex in ’97 and thinking “They are going to teach me so much about *real* programming”…accepted the position, moved to N.C., and showed up for my first day all excited…they greeted me with a “teach us all about this internet stuff you are a guru at”…that’s the real moment my unending self-confidence in my ‘dev’ skills was born (and that I realized there really are no experts, there are just people who’ve basically spent more time “in the weeds” than others).To quote the famous around here… “I agree with you more than you agree with yourself.” 🙂

      2. Richard

        building a product in 48 hours is hard, keeping the team together to build a bussiness for even 48 days is hard ^3

        1. Twain Twain

          Haha, Rich, you have no idea how prescient this comment is.That’s why there’s such a premium for top CEOs. They cultivate enough latitude and autonomy for different teams to feel they own their freedom to solve the collective problem how they want………Yet enough constraints so everyone ends up at the same milestone at the same time.Not just today…tomorrow…but maybe for the next 100 years of the company’s life.

          1. Joe Cardillo

            May sound a bit hyperbolic, but I interpret that as: the CEO’s product is the people that work for her. The best ones don’t try to solve product problems, they tune the company so that everyone is empowered to do so.

          2. Twain Twain

            Not hyperbolic but well said: the CEO’s product is the people who work for them.I’m going to borrow that, thanks Joe!

    4. LE

      I will give you the AAA Five Diamond Award for this comment [1]But there is a value to hackathons I am sure (never have been to one) that isn’t the obvious benefit to those looking in. Where some of those people looking in (you for example) simply know to much already or are a self starter as you said “Listen, I *LOVE* hacking and I spend way too much of my free time” already. The equivalent of this would be me with respect to business ideas or business in general. I already have to many ideas (for me and for others as well). And I don’t have the time to do any of them. Frustrating to say the least. I don’t need to sit in a room with people wet behind the ears to get motivated or to get creative it’s a built it. I don’t need to hear examples of others outlier successes. I am not interesting in sitting with people who are just starting out and, as you might say “the type that would attend something like this”.But there is no question that as a marketing and or educational tool a hackathon must and is of value to the participants. Might be in a quick motivational way (that wears off) or might allow people to make connections or to find out one significant fact that ends up being “the thing that leads to the thing”. Rock climb, skateboard or play wiffleball on Saturday? Or attended a hackathon? What do you think has better value for one’s future?[1] And I didn’t take off because you did #START and #END either even thought I don’t think it’s ever necessary to add qualifiers like that. You know as the gays say “we’re here we’re queer get used to it”…

      1. falicon

        I’m old school enough to remember when a hashtag was a pound sign… 🙂

    5. LE

      If you need an event and/or a competition before you try to build something interesting, fun, or useful…Well like you said you are older and grumpier but keep in mind that the younger generation does not have end to end knowledge that “we” do. [1] So they learn or know what they know but not necessarily, all of the parts of the puzzle, can they do. (Trying to sound poetic..) You could roll something start to finish no doubt because you learned back in the day when you had to have abilities in all areas. There is no part of what I do that I don’t know since I have done everything and all parts. Computer or otherwise. And I do mean everything.[1] Because you don’t really need that as much anymore as answers and help are everywhere. I remember when I started on the Internet in 1996 and someone gave me help on some things. I asked him how much I owed him and he didn’t reply. So I sent him a check and he never cashed it. That was something that simply never happened prior to the Internet in business that I had ever experienced.

    6. Dave Pinsen

      An interesting thought experiment is to swap hardware for software and see how the idea looks. I picture a hardware hackathon looking like one of those A-Team episodes where the bad guys lock the team in some sort of industrial workshop or garage and the guys build an armored car or something. But they never get traction selling the armored car…

      1. falicon

        I’ve heard good things about some of the hardware hackathons around NYC…but they are usually really small events, much more casual than the software things, and generally the intent/focus is much more about the community…I wish software hackathons were like that 😉

        1. Brandon Kessler

          We power over 100 hardware hackathons annually. They’re awesome. There’s nothing like seeing over 1,000 developers in a room hacking on both software and hardware.

  7. karen_e

    I trialled RelateIQ recently and watched it comb through and parse my correspondence. Would we consider this product part of the space you describe here?

  8. Matt Zagaja

    Hrmm, seems like some interesting potential could exist to do things with this. Ok Fred, I think you have me convinced I may give this a try.

  9. BillMcNeely

    I love the guys at Context.IO. They used their API to help go through my gmail account to build my first mail list before they buy from Return Path

  10. pointsnfigures

    They passed a bill in the House yesterday that will be passed by the Senate. Hopefully it will be signed by the President. It states that no government entity can levy a tax on email, ever. Email is the original social media.

    1. falicon

      It’s still early for this one…but it’s the type of story I would like to see more of coming out of hackathons for sure…really good stuff.

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      That’s cool!

  11. Drew Meyers

    Can we add this API to an existing consumer application that does not currently use the email inbox at all? (and still qualify for the hackathon)

  12. sigmaalgebra

    Many people will like IMAP, doing a lot ofimportant computing on mobile devices, andusing an e-mail app; I won’t. There is nolaw or rule that says that, because somepeople like such things, I have to, and Idon’t.I regard e-mail as very important butregard IMAP, doing a lot of importantcomputing on mobile devices, and usingapps for e-mail as mistakes and wantnothing to do with them.Why?IMAP: It keeps, stores, likely for a longtime, e-mail on a server, say, run by anISP, Google, etc., and I don’t want that.Instead, I want my e-mail stored on my owncomputer and deleted ASAP from my ISP’sserver.Moreover, IMAP wants me to do searches ofmy e-mail as that e-mail is stored on theISPs e-mail server, and I regard that’architecture’ as absurd. If I want tosearch my old e-mail, then I want to dothat using the copies I have, not copieson a remote server. And I want any e-mailsearch software I write to have directaccess to the actual SMTP e-mail textstream, not just some API.For me, my computing is important, and Idon’t want to use small, mobile devicesfor any of that computing. I spend far,far too much time managing a desktopWindows system, and no way do I want totake on also managing a mobile device usedfor important computing.A mobile device? Maybe carry one in acar, powered off, i.e., batteries removed,no signals sent or received, to call foremergency road service. Otherwise, foranything important, f’get about it. Nojoke. I want very much not to makeany important use of a mobile device.For e-mail, early on, I tried somesoftware, some nonsense that wanted to putan icon on my screen for each e-mailmessage sent or received. Grand exampleof brain-dead Xerox PARC icon-ism.I screamed at the idiocy, got the RFCs forPOP3, wrote a little code in the simpleinterpretive language Rexx, which doeshave a TCP/IP API, and wrote my own e-mailclient. Used it for years. It workedgreat.Then MIME got to be popular, and I didn’twant to handle that so started using anold version of Microsoft’s Outlook.Mostly Outlook won’t let me see the actualSMTP e-mail text stream — really bigbummer. But, otherwise, I am makingOutlook work for me.To search e-mail? I have nearly notrouble finding e-mail sent or received,and, when I do, the simplest generalpurpose tools, Microsoft’s FINDSTR and myfavorite text editor and scriptinglanguage, work fine.I don’t use Outlook for search andessentially ignore its storage of mye-mail. Instead, I organize e-mail like Iorganize everything else — in ataxonomic hierarchy based on thewonderful (it really is — very nice work)Microsoft NTFS. That hierarchy is basedheavily on projects; so, given aproject, I know where to look for email.So, sure, for e-mail, projects, and muchmore, there are some things I have toremember. Well, I have a way to do that,for lots of little things, currently 3136of them going back to 15:49:36 on Friday,September 2nd, 2005. Works great. It’sall in one file, simple text, with asimple syntax, and 1,791,979 bytes and58,498 lines. For today’s computing, thatfile is tiny.For an example of how I can process e-maileasily, gee, let me count the e-mailmessages I’ve sent or received:Sure, as of today, with a few keystrokeswith results before I could get my fingeroff my enter key, 3166.A histogram of the dates, say, to keep theoutput simple, by years:Year Count2005 1552006 3722007 5072008 4762009 3582010 2952011 3412012 1312013 1812014 1932015 157So, this little distribution is courtesy ofmy little editor macro DIST01.KEX. Dirtsimple. General purpose — has nothing todo with e-mail. Right — writing thatmacro was easier that even using Excel forsuch a thing even once.Gee, could pull this little distributioninto Excel and draw a graph!So, these results are all from justroutine use of simple, general purposetext processing computing utilitysoftware.Old Lesson 1: We want people to “learn tocode”. Okay, but first they should learnto make routine use of standard, generalpurpose computer software.The three best tools: (1) A goodhierarchical file system. (2) A good,general purpose, programmable text editor(I use KEDIT). (3) A scripting language(I use Rexx but on Windows PowerShellmight be better).Then, for searching, processing,manipulating e-mail, can do quite wellwith just routine, ad hoc use of suchtools.Or for a little more for some specialpurpose, just write a few lines of code insome nice interpretive language.Old Lesson 2: Have some good, generalpurpose tools. Works in a kitchen, ahouse basement repair shop, a wood workingshop, a metal working shop, etc.Doing such processing of e-mail on amobile device, using a special purpose’app’, with my data on a ‘server’, behindan ‘API’? Not a chance! Example of abad tool.That would be like having in my kitchen aspecial cooker, $99.95, 10 pounds, 1.5square feet of counter top space, just forbun-length, turkey franks. No thanks. Ican use a pot and boil water, use a fryingpan and brown in olive oil, or use acharcoal grill and brown and smoke.Like having a special frying pan foromelets. No thanks. I do omelets justfine with a standard Teflon skillet.Like having a battery powered egg beaterjust for omelets. No thanks. I beateggs, and much more, with a good, 20+ yearold collection of well designed, generalpurpose, stainless steel French wirewhisks.A special onion chopper? Nope, not achance. I have a terrific, beautifullydesigned, made in Brazil, two for $15 fromSam’s Club, French chef’s knife,apparently quite good metallurgy, no doubta high Rockwell C value, and a plasticcutting board. With that pair right away,in a big hurry, I can make small pieces offruits, vegetables, meats, etc. — noproblem.A few good tools.An e-mail app? Worse than an onionchopper. No way.Mostly process e-mail along witheverything else using mostly just good,general purpose tools with an occasional,new macro.

  13. bill hie;

    As predicted by me before…

    1. Twain Twain

      Fred is right: “Being the CEO of a highly public company (whether it is traded privately or publicly) is particularly hard. You are constantly getting criticized and talked about in the press/blogs/communities. I respect the people who take these jobs. And I root for them to succeed. It’s about the hardest job you can have.”

      1. bill hiel

        Dick Costolo didn’t have it. why talk about the nature of the job

        1. Twain Twain

          From TechCrunch: “Costolo will be remembered for many things, including a wildly successful time for Twitter’s monetization.”So Dick Costolo did have it, let’s be fair.

          1. Bill Hiel

            Techcrunch :-)They say. the same about every outgoing CEO.. Hear me say it again..Costolo is darn too lucky to have stayed this long. His incompetent attitude helped other rival companies, esp snapchat, grow leaps and bounds

  14. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Guess I was right about that hug…

  15. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I dig it. I like it when sort of forgotten stuff like email and rss get a new lease on life.

  16. ShanaC

    That pitch confuses me. And I have worked with emails:/After reading the docs, this makes so much more sense 🙂

  17. Ed B

    I question if we have already passed “peak email”.