Blackberry just got 3x better!

Last week my brother asked me whether he could check his Gmail account through my Blackberry. Being a heavy BB user and having been bit many many times in the past by its built-in web browser (which is second in quality only to the awesome IE 2…), I authoritatively told him – ‘Naaah. Impossible. No can do. LOL…’

But then I gave it a shot, and OMG – was I wrong!! So here are the 3 cool Google hacks I just found about while digging into the Gmail question for my brother:

  1. Gmail works! – I guess that was subtly implied from the previous paragraph, huh?… Open the BB browser and go to . Google has done a great job adapting Gmail to the lame BB browser and it all works like a charm.
  2. Gtalk – Google has made available their IM client software for BB. You can download by pointing your BB browser to
    While only the text messaging part of Gtalk is available (I can see why the voice piece was left out…), it is wonderful to have IM capabilities in BB. The software is pretty sluggish, etc but for a v.1 this is great.
  3. And keeping best for last – a BB version of Google Local is available! I can’t start describing how awesome this is:
    My dream feature for my PDA/cell phone has long been a built-in GPS and mapping system. A NeverLost for my PDA. Up until now, before any trip I made, I would work my laptop and try to conceive every possibly routing permutation I may take during the trip. I’d tediously type all those combos into MapQuest[1] and then email the resulting routes to my BlackBerry, which I would use while driving.
    The nightmare start when: a) I decide to take a route which was not one of the 100’s of permutations I had thought about while working MapQuest on my laptop, and b) any time I’d make the slightest driving mistake I’d be practically lost for good.

So Google Local on my BB ain’t the real thing yet, but it’s one giant
leap for, er, me at least. It has a decent map (even if sluggish on the
BB), it has very nice and simple directioning (easily shows next and
previous turns… great for using while driving), and has very nice
integration with Google’s Local search which allows for quick finding
of local restaurants, attractions, etc. And best of all of course, is that it allows me to quickly re-route my directions based on new addresses I type while in the car and not back at home[2].

My only question about these 3 gems, is – why are they practically hidden by Google? I understand the whole ‘we’re not a portal and therefore we’ll only you show you our search box’ thing, but come on… throw us a bone or two when you finally get terrific services like this put together! (or in other words – don’t waste our attention on crap like this!… 😉


[1] I know, I know… MapQuest is probably the least cool mapping option out there today… But their email option is the only one to send the actual driving instructions in the body of the email (not a link, like in Google Map’s mailing option), and in a very clear and legible format. So for my setup, MapQuest definitely beats all the others hands down.

[2] It would be awesome of course to have an option in the directions address form to "fill my current location" and automatically do that based on triangulation of the T-Mobile cells my BB is using. As far as I know, the technology is trivial and it’s only a matter of privacy issues ([x] I accept ASAP!…)

That would save me the need to actually figure out my current address when I prompt for new directions. I guess if they did that, then, well, the search box can be completely skipped, and just have the triangulated data constantly feed to the map and update it dynamically. Which I guess at that point would just be like the NeverLost I’ve been wishing for to begin with… So back to waiting for my real dream feature to come true while thanking the Google genius who came up with this baby!

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Applying the wisdom of crowds to employee evaluations

What if companies passed around the following mini-survey to all their employees every quarter?:

  1. If the company were to give a bonus to only one employee (the one who contributed most to the company’s success) – who should that be?
  2. If the company were to promote only one employee (the one who could contribute to the company significantly more as a manager or in a position other than the one s/he’s holding onto today) – who should that be?
  3. If the company were to fire one employee – who should it be?

In so many cases, employees are evaluated, compensated, bonused and promoted based exclusively on management’s perception of their performance. This has merit to some extent, but it throws into the evaluation formula an inevitable factor – the ‘upwards communication skill’ factor. A mediocre performer with excellent upwards communication skills will almost always get more management recognition than a great employee with crappy upward communication skills. This factor is almost impossible for management to discount[1], while at the same time being extremely easy for a broad peer survey to completely ignore.

BTW – this is not to say that upwards communications is necessarily a bad thing. When combined with great performance, an employee that can properly communicate upwards is a great asset to the company. However, these two factors rarely appear together. The reason being that for a mediocre performer, upwards communication skills become a necessary survival mechanism. Similarly, great performers many times feel like tooting their own horn is a waste of time and effort.

So the question is – can the wisdom of crowds be applied to internal employee evaluations as a means for identifying and retaining those employees that really contribute most to the organization?

[1] Most managers (myself included… 😉 will deceive themselves to believe that they can actually ignore the upwards communication skill factor while considering only the ‘real’ factors. That, in fact, is bullshit.

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