A Premium Version of Gmail Meter

Thanks to all for your support of our new Gmail Meter since our relaunch a year ago. We have been closely listening to your feedback and are now excited to announce the next step in our email analytics tool – the premium version of Gmail Meter!

By building this new version of Gmail Meter, we plan to tackle a problem in the workplace that our users have been routinely notifying us of. Both managers and team members alike report that there is no simple way to monitor workload when that work exists primarily within Gmail or G Suite. While there are some options when a support ticketing solution or a CRM is used, many emails fall through the cracks when sent directly to an individual. Currently, there doesn’t exist a reliable way to keep track of even just the total number of emails sent to or from a team member’s actual email address.

This creates several problems on both the individual team member and the manager’s sides. The individual team member is not able to accurately report issues with overwork or explain when hours of their time are held up in their email inbox. Conversely, managers aren’t able to preemptively plan for email volume to mitigate the above problems nor are they able to ensure that key clients are responded to in a timely fashion.

Initial Features

 

With this in mind, we are focusing on two major features for the initial version of premium Gmail Meter.  We’ve listened and we know these first two features will help our users solve the above issues:

  • The ability to generate reports for their team members, which includes both receiving data for individual team members and data for an entire team. We are prioritizing this feature for release as it is mostly directly addresses the problems we see.
  • Designating a custom date range for report generation, allowing both end users and managers better track improvement or changes over time. While this provides an obvious value to managers, we aim for this feature to help individual users as well.

 

How to get access

 

We’ll continue to support our individual account-based Gmail Meter and it will remain free for all to use, but we’re also offering early access to the premium Gmail Meter to select loyal customers who can help with beta-testing the application.

To find out more about how your team can get early access to premium Gmail Meter, please email us via hello@gmailmeter.com.

Yet another Gmail Meter redesign (with a couple extras!)

GmailMeter-Snapshot

Last June, we moved the legacy Gmail Meter off of the Google Apps Script platform which required a complete rework of our tool. We decided to coincide this with a complete redesign of the interface.

Today, we will be releasing another major update to the Gmail Meter interface. While our plans initially were to simply get the interface more in line with Google’s material design principles, we realized this was also a great opportunity to incorporate a couple of features for which we’ve received feedback over the years.

Access to previous reports

GmailMeter-Snapshot-II

All Gmail Meter reports are stored for your continued access. But up until now we haven’t provided a visual interface for our users to access them. Previously, the only way to access previous reports was for you to retrieve the old email notification that had the link or alternatively, if the email had since been lost, contact our support line.

Now with today’s release, all reports that have been generated for your account will be accessible through the icon found in the top left of the interface.

User controlled generation of failed reports

Previously if a report fails to generate for whatever reason, users would have to contact our support line for assistance. With this new release, the UI will not indicate when a report has been failed (as shown below).

GmailMeter-Snapshot-III

Clicking on the caution icon will allow users to attempt to regenerate the failed report. If additional reauthorization is needed, the tool will prompt you to take the necessary steps.

While this new feature gives an added degree of control to our users, we are still ready to answer and address any issues you may run into. As always, please feel free to reach out to us via hello@gmailmeter.com or through our Twitter at any time!

Thanks for reading, we’re excited to hear your feedback on these new features!

New Yorkers tend to work through lunch

East coast people like to work through lunch

It’s been a few months since we’ve launched our new Gmail Meter platform and we’re very thankful for your support and feedback during our critical early stages. In the last couple of months, we have stabilized the platform and optimized our implementation of Google APIs. Finally, we are now ready to start sharing with you some of what we’re learning about email usage.

Introductory disclaimer

Before doing so, we want to be clear about the nature of the data and metrics that we will be presenting you today. We understand that email is an important communication vehicle that needs to remain secure. As the company that provides some of the world’s largest email providers with the most scalable email and contacts data import system available, we really do know how vital email is and rest assured in our utmost commitment to securing your data.

With that said, the following statistics are aggregations of the data used to generate your Gmail Meter reports. In the process of aggregating the data for the following analysis, we exclude the authentication information and thereby completely disassociating the data from the account.

During data aggegation, we have also isolated users who have a @gmail.com and @googlemail.com and excluded their data from the following numbers. This done under the assumption that any other domain name would be a custom domain name, which are used for business purposes and provide a better look at how our users email for work.

In addition, we do not store any of the end user data used to generate the reports and all such end user data is processed entirely in memory. We only store our generated calculations, primarily to be able to provide continued access to previous reports but also for potential future product changes that may require such data.

The following insights are merely guidelines and standards to compare oneself by. Because we try our best to keep the minimum amount of data on our users, we cannot define them any further than by general timezones. All geographic locations are suggested and approximated from the locale setting of the Google account. We currently do not have any plans to collect any data based on roles of our users and therefore cannot analyze to that granularity.

A few overall numbers and general trends

In this first of our series, we wanted to focus primarily on some of our largest populations – namely our users from the Central, Pacific, and Eastern timezones. And since there is just so much data to cover, today we’ll only be looking at habits regarding sending emails.

First, several general trends appear to apply to most of our population across all three timezones:

While there is a definite and significant decline in outgoing emails overnight, outgoing emails are sent out at every hour of the day for every timezone. Whether this is driven by the general population or by a small subset of outliers will have to wait until we can implement additional calculations into our analysis. Even so, this trend does speak to the general effect of globalization.

Of particular note for each timezone are the average hours of operation. While users from all timezones typically start their day around 6 or 7 AM, timezones can vary substantially in the ways that emails are sent throughout the day. Please also keep in mind that this data is the daily average for each month since July averaged again across months. We understand that these averages can fluctuate over different times of the year.

Below are overall statistics for each timezone, numbers are rounded for the simplicity’s sake.

Data on Gmail usage

US Central Timezone

We definitely wanted to take a look first at our own home timezone here in Chicago, which also has the smallest sample size of the three populations we’re looking at today.

  • While our users in the Central timezone send out the fewest number of emails compared to either coast, they still send out slightly more emails than the global average.
  • In addition, users from the Central timezone on send more emails per each recipient.
  • And Central users mostly send emails internally, implying that Central timezone users may rely on email for having longer conversations, potentially primarily with fellow team members.

US Central hourly sent emails

A look at the hourly histogram shows that the number of outgoing emails drops off dramatically after 4 PM, in accordance with the typical 8 hour work day. This is contrary to users from either coast as they appear to work longer days.

US Pacific Timezone

The second largest of our three user populations, our users from the Pacific timezone send out the most emails out of the three. This should come at no one’s surprise as adoption of technology is more prevalent on the west coast than anywhere else in the US. Our Pacific timezone users should also be commended for minimizing the amount of emails sent internally, potentially relying on other methods for internal communication (Slack being the obvious possibility).

US Pacific timezone sent emails by hour

Similar to Central timezone users, users in Pacific timezone have two separate peak times for sending out emails with the second peak being the larger of the two. A big difference, besides sending more emails overall, is that our Pacific timezone users email more regularly outside of the typical work hours. The overnight peak between the hours of midnight and 1 AM likely coincides with the beginning of the business day for GMT/UTC, implying that users on the west coast are more likely to collaborate internationally.

US Eastern Timezone

Our Eastern timezone users sit in the middle in terms of number of emails sent out and perform almost exactly according as the global average when it comes to emails sent internally versus externally. Interestingly, they also send on average the fewest numbers of emails per recipient.

US Eastern timezone sent emails by hour

To be perfectly clear, our title should actually refer to all users from the Eastern timezone instead of specifically New Yorkers. The above histogram looks a bit different from the two that we’ve already looked at. While the rate does slow down around lunchtime, there doesn’t appear to be a lunch break! In fact, there’s a steady and gradual increase in the number of emails through lunch – a phenomenon we have yet to find in any other timezone of users.

US Mountain Timezone

We didn’t want to spend too much time discussing our Mountain timezone users simply because we currently have very few of them. But the preliminary data appears to show that our users living the Rockies are some of the most prolific email users, and may actually send more emails than any other timezone.

US Mountain timezone sent emails by hour

But without more users, we won’t know how significant any of the data – and especially chart above – we’ve presented today is. As with most of statistics, early data can be very volatile and trends will stabilize as new data is collected. If you’re not currently a Gmail Meter user, please try our Gmail analytics tool to see how you compare to the users we’ve discussed today.

We’ll be publishing more interesting observations and trends in the future, with the hopes of getting a better understanding of how we all manage our emails and if there really is a better way to do so.

As always, we would love to hear your feedback. Please never hesitate to reach out to us via hello@gmailmeter.com or by tweeting us @GmailMeter. We also look forward to bringing you more news on some improvements we have in the works for Gmail Meter, please keep an eye out for updates!

Thanks for reading.

Gmail Meter now supports send-as aliases

It has been some time since our last blog post – our apologies for the delay, but we wanted to take the time now to share some great news!

First though, I wanted to start off with a bit of a history lesson on Gmail Meter. The legacy Gmail Meter was originally built off of the Google Apps Script platform (our personal thoughts on it here). The Apps Script platform was intended as a scripting language, maintained by Google, that allowed for easy automation and integration between Google Apps. Google also supported their Script Gallery which served as an internal marketplace where users could find different Apps Scripts. Gmail Meter was one such script that was built to integrate with a Google Sheet for a variety of features, including support for send-as aliases.

Send-as aliases are alternative email addresses associated with a primary Google Apps or Gmail account. They can either be domain-level aliases or user-level aliases, and are controlled accordingly. User aliases can be found and managed by accessing the Accounts and Import tab within your Gmail Settings. Within this tab, there a section labeled Send mail as: which provides a comprehensive list of aliases associated with the account. Please note that while you are free to remove any user aliases, domain aliases do not have that option and can only be managed by Google Apps administrators.

In the original iteration of Gmail Meter, the end user was able to edit the associated Google Sheet file to set a series of custom parameters. One of these parameters was a list of send-as aliases to be accounted for in analysis. Once Google deprecated their Script Gallery, the legacy Gmail Meter was no longer able to easily extract data from a Google Sheet and lost support for both send-as aliases and custom date ranges. From that point onwards, our legacy Gmail Meter excluded any email received by an alias from analysis. And any emails sent by an alias were actually counted as emails received to the primary account.

We recently had a soft launch of our new Gmail Meter back in June. We’ve been quite quiet because this new version, while a definite improvement, is still very much an early release. We did so with the previous failure of our legacy report in mind. We knew we had to put out an early product, and that many aspects still needed to be polished.

In addition to spending the last couple of months focusing on optimizing and stabilizing our new platform, we’re happy to announce that we did also implement support for send-as aliases. While this is admittedly a long-overdue improvement, we are excited because this represents our first significant step in bringing you a better Gmail Meter.

As always, thanks for the read and please don’t hesitate to reach out via email or Twitter.

Sneak Peek at our New Gmail Meter

The immediate feedback in the two weeks since we released our new email report is, “Where are the rest of the statistics? What happened to the detailed report, the one with graphs and charts?”

Please rest assured that while we’re not quite ready yet, the new web interface with detailed metrics will be coming very shortly.

Instead of just taking our word for it, we thought everyone might enjoy a preview of what we’ve been working on (in addition to the email report!) This comes with the disclaimer that since we’re still working on it, there is a significant chance that the actual report may look a bit different once we have something ready for release. And that’s why we’ve opted to use the word beta to refer to this initial version of our new Gmail Meter.

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The New Gmail Meter

As promised and without further ado, here’s a preview of the web interface we’re building:

A preview of the Gmail Meter web interface

While many of these charts should appear familiar, we have made quite a few subtle and some not-so-subtle changes to them. The first set of graphs displays the total number of emails received and sent, first by hour and second by the day of the week. Both reflect an accumulation of messages over the course of the month.

Based on user feedback, we found that messages based on hour and weekday were much more valued and therefore decided to prioritize these two charts over a breakdown of email traffic by days of the month.

Internal and External Messages Treemap

New Internal vs. External Messages Chart

One new feature is this breakdown of internal and external messages. This metric is a Google Apps-exclusive as internal and external messages are calculated based on the primary domain name on the Google Apps account. We reformatted the presentation of this data, opting to go with a treemap instead of the pie charts as in the legacy Gmail Meter.

Top Senders and Recipients Replaced by Top Interactions

Top Interactions replaces Top Senders and Recipients

Quite a few of our users have specifically inquired about the Top Senders and Top Recipients charts, and we’re happy to announce that the data makes a return in our new web interface. The major change we made here was to combine the two charts into a single one to minimize the amount of duplicate data.

We’ve also received a lot of feedback about mailing lists and irrelevant email addresses appearing in Top Senders. While this initial release will not have a way to exclude these addresses, we are both researching ways to do so programmatically and designing ways for our end users to manually exclude them.

Details on Received and Sent Messages

Since this is one of the areas of the web interface that we’re still working on, I won’t be able to show you any screenshots at the moment. Still, we plan to provide many more details on the trends in your received and sent messages.

For Received Messages, this includes metrics on:

  • Messages that were addressed directly to you
  • Messages where you were CC’d or BCC’d
  • And your response rate for each

For Sent Messages, this includes metrics on:

  • Email communication you have started
  • Emails you have responded to
  • And your recipient’s response rate for each

Get Early Access

Sign up to our waitlist above or email us at hello@gmailmeter.com, and we’ll send you an invitation to test the new Gmail Meter web interface whenever we have it ready. We’re closing in on the final stretch before we start our beta testing period, so stay tuned to our Twitter and this blog for more updates!

Uninstalling the Legacy Gmail Meter Script

Starting this week, we are officially ramping down support for the legacy Gmail Meter. Our most loyal readers should be quite familiar with our experience wrestling with the Apps Script version of our tool. This past Monday, we rolled out our new email report, marking the first release of the new Gmail Meter.

For many users on the legacy platform, their recent experience with Gmail Meter has been less than optimal. While our landing page has been changed to reflect the new Gmail Meter, we still want to provide the detailed instructions on uninstalling the legacy script to our users on that platform.

Legacy Gmail Meter Uninstall Instructions

There are three main steps to uninstalling the legacy Apps Script.

Revoking Gmail Meter access to your account

The first being revoking permissions for Gmail Meter by visiting your Google account page here, selecting Connected apps & sites underneath the Sign-in & security section on the left. On next page, clicking Manage apps in order to view the authorized applications.

From this list you will be able to find the authorization for Gmail Meter to access your account. To revoke access, simply click on the Remove button.

Deleting Gmail Meter file from your Drive

Once authorization for the legacy Gmail Meter has been revoked, the next step is to delete the file called “Gmail Meter Data – Do not delete” stored within the root folder of your Google Drive. This file is where the raw data for your account is stored prior to analysis. Also make sure to empty the Trash within your Drive to ensure complete uninstall.

Deactivating script triggers from your account

Finally, you will then need to delete the script triggers still active within your Google account. Script triggers are essential to Apps Script and determine when scripts are run. The original signup email is helpful as it contains a button to delete these script triggers.

The alternative is to follow the instructions below and manually delete all script triggers that are associated with activityReport. In order to do so, please do the following:

  1. Open your browser in incognito mode (CTRL+SHIFT+N for Chrome).
  2. Go to https://script.google.com and login to your Google account.
  3. Click on Edit and then select All your triggers from the menu.
  4. Google will prompt you to Edit Project Name, any name will do and feel free to simply click OK.
  5. Give the system a moment to save the new project.
  6. Then you should see a list of all triggers active within your Google account. Remove all triggers labeled activityReport.

For those of you who are interested, please feel to take a look at our new Gmail Meter.

Prioritizing the Gmail Meter web interface

Yesterday, we quietly released our new email report for Gmail Meter.

The new Gmail Meter email report

Pardon our lack of fanfare, but as you can see we decided to simplify the email report a bit. We narrowed it down to the four metrics that our users found most important, specifically sent and received emails, total number of Conversations, and response time. While this does limit the functionality of our email report, it was important for us to deliver an error-resilient product to our users as soon as possible.

As we’ve discussed a couple times in the past, the legacy Google Apps Script version of Gmail Meter will simply continue to fail. Beyond that, many new users attempting to sign up for the legacy version were reporting that they never received their report. For this reason alone, we knew that we had to deploy a working product sooner rather than later.

Shifting focus to a web interface for Gmail Meter

The decision to simplify the email report represents a major shift in our development direction for Gmail Meter. In our previous version of the tool, we focused on delivering an extensive email report to our users every month. For several reasons, we realized that we would ultimately be able to bring our users – yourself included – much more value by developing a robust web interface for Gmail Meter. With this decision, we have much more time and are able to dedicate ourselves to this new interface.

There are numerous reasons why we decided to proceed down this path. Through user feedback, we found that a number of our metrics were not providing the right insights. A few of these metrics will be removed outright and others we realized were just better suited for a web application.

While (or maybe because) we are big proponents of email, we understand just how limited email can be. Having only an email report means that a user is unable change any settings or customize the report at all.

This leads us to the primary reason for our development shift: emails are meant to be static. There are really no ways to interact or engage with an email-only analytics report, besides receiving it. This means that at the end of the day, without the ability for our end users to engage with and finesse their statistics, they were not receiving actionable metrics that allowed them to make improvements in their habits.

Features for the upcoming web interface

There are a number of possibilities that are open to us now that we are focusing on building the new Gmail Meter web interface. For example, one of the most common pieces of feedback we get is that the legacy script did not account for email aliases in data analysis. With a web interface, we will finally be able to allow end users to set email aliases to be analyzed. This is especially important for our users on business email accounts, who may manage several email addresses all from within the same Gmail account.

Similarly, we also understand the need to allow our users to exclude certain types of emails or email addresses from analysis. Many, if not all, of us receive a number of automatic email notifications that are not relevant to the data we intend to present. Custom date ranges for analysis and being able to compare against previous time periods are two additional features now possible after we build a web interface.

In short, although we did simplify our email report significantly, this is because we have been developing both the email report and a web interface concurrently. Our goals are rather ambitious, and there are a number of features that we will be working on once this new interface is released and ready for our users.

In the meantime, we are still planning for a closed beta testing period for the Gmail Meter web interface. If you’re interested in participating, please click to signup for beta access for our new Gmail Meter here.

As always, feel free to follow us on Twitter or stay tuned to our blog for future updates. And never hesitate to send us an email at hello@gmailmeter.com.

RE: The New Gmail Meter

We recently added a new notification to our signup flow. In fact, many of you reading may have even been directed here straight from that very page. If so, then you know that we are keenly aware of the current state of our Gmail Meter report.

With some embarrassment, and a fair share of humility, we admit that our Gmail Meter script currently just does not work as intended. (If you’re curious of the reasons, we’ve previously written about our ongoing Apps Script problems.) Essentially, Gmail Meter has outgrown its existing Apps Script platform and will continue to fail as long as it remains on this platform.

Two months ago, back at the end of February, we announced that we had begun the substantial undertaking of building an entirely new Gmail Meter from the ground up. As typical with software development, we grossly underestimated just how much time this task would take. And for full disclosure, besides Gmail Meter, we here at ShuttleCloud have several projects with a couple large enterprises that take up much of our time.

I know that software development can sometimes seem like a bit of a black box, but this does not mean that the process can’t be readily understandable. With that said, we would like to update everyone on what we’ve been doing.

Lessons learned in software development

First though, let’s recap and take a retrospective on some of the lessons we’ve learned in 2016. Starting in December, we began receiving an increasing number of emails reporting a series of error messages. While looking into the cause of these messages, we vastly improved our internal error reporting system. Doing so made us realize that the error messages themselves were being sent by Google, and that we had absolutely no control over the content or the sending of these messages.

Furthermore, our improved reporting revealed that there were way more scripts failing than errors reported. There was no way at the time to explain what exactly was going on, so we just went ahead and added even more reporting. This time from a broader level, on how scripts were running and/or failing.

Upon analyzing this new data, we discovered that the legacy script was programmed to run every instance of Gmail Meter worldwide within the same 30 minute interval, every day. We immediately thought that this was the problem and implemented an algorithm that schedules all script instances to run evenly spread throughout the day.

That’s what we had originally thought, but the actual result? We ended up experiencing a drastic and dramatic increase in the number of error messages and number of scripts failing.

Sometimes pivoting means a fresh start

At our wit’s end, it was sometime around then that we started the conversation with Google representatives. These conversations only solidified our growing suspicion that in order to make any improvements to Gmail Meter at all, we actually had to rebuild the tool from the ground up. While this endeavor can be considered costly and risky, it can also be viewed as a bit of a blessing in disguise by allowing us the chance to fix a few of the problems with the legacy script that we never got right.

Chief among our concerns is – no surprises – the issue of scaling. The legacy Gmail Meter script has continued to fail at a very regular rate since the start of this year. Unfortunately, no amount of optimization will prevent this from occurring and would only result in more errors and/or script failures. With the new platform no longer on the Google Apps Script infrastructure, we will actually have control over how data is managed in the backend. This means that not only is the new report much more stable and error resilient, it is already much faster than the legacy script.

Additionally, we opted to remove several process heavy metrics, specifically the word cloud and subject line analysis sections of the legacy report. We made this decision after reviewing feedback you have provided us, ultimately realizing that these metrics were both costly and needed serious revision before they could bring actual value to our end users. For example, the word cloud for the legacy script did not exclude words from signatures and would thus consistently provide biased data.

This decision was also made in part because we are understanding of the sensitive nature of the data we have access to. We are committed to giving our users valuable data and insights while reducing the amount of identifying data that we need to process. If we have to prioritize other features first and are not able to do the analysis well, we would rather not do that analysis for the time being. Privacy and security is one of our main priorities for this new Gmail Meter.

New Gmail Meter design to look forward to

So what are some of the new features that we are prioritizing instead? Well, besides the focus on resilience and security, another one of our priorities is data accuracy. This refers to both validating the accuracy of the data and ensuring that the data is presented in an easily understandable manner. We’ve broken down just about every metric found in the legacy Gmail Meter and for the ones we’re keeping, we’ve also reevaluated how to display these metrics.

To give a bit more background on the legacy Gmail Meter script, Google Charts was used to generate all graphs within the report. While Google Apps Script is not directly compatible with Google Charts, Google maintained an App Script library that allows a script to create charts. The stipulation is that most of the Charts features available to Apps Script are within the UI service, which was deprecated in December 2014.

While the charts in the legacy Gmail Meter worked well enough, a major overhaul was bound to happen. We felt right now was the best time to fit in a redesign (and facelift) of both the email report and the web interface. Now that we’ll be using the full functionality of Google Charts, we’re considering other kinds of graphs – ones that can better represent the data accurately and understandably.

A redesign isn’t the only thing that we’ve been working on. There have been a few core features that have been coming up regularly in conversation with our users and with this new platform for Gmail Meter, we will be able to address some these long standing requests.

More information will be available next week, stay tuned for upcoming updates or tweet at us. (And do please forgive me for the recent lack of updates, promise it won’t happen again.)

Collaborating Internationally through Google Apps

A peak behind the scenes at ShuttleCloud

Something that you’re probably not aware of about our company ShuttleCloud is that we have offices in both Madrid, Spain and Chicago, IL. Now for the record, this amounts to a seven hour time difference which we have to work around every day.

While it should be no surprise that we are completely reliant on Google Apps for working together – yes, we do check in daily using Google Hangouts and yes, everything is saved to the Google’s cloud – the real key for why we can successfully work while separated by thousands of miles is our overall approach to work.

Decentralizing the office

First, we have to recognize that business is trending towards a more decentralized workplace. More and more companies are outsourcing, hiring contractors or freelancers, or leveraging new virtual office assistant solutions like Zirtual or FancyHands for a variety of reasons. Our ability to hire and work without the limits of physical borders has never been better, and both employers and employees are enjoying the benefits.

I mentioned earlier that as a basic practice we save everything we work on straight to Google Drive. This means that as long as we have an internet connection and device that can connect, all of our vital files will be accessible from anywhere in the world. Another benefit is the ability to easily share these files with colleagues or supervisors. By default, we set all non-sensitive Drive documents to be searchable and discoverable by anyone within our Google Apps domain. This means that it does not matter which project we’re working on, whom we’re working with, or where we’ll be specifically working from – we’ll always have the right files at our fingertips.

With that said, we generally hold ourselves to a unique, or maybe not so unique, policy that coming into the office is not always necessary and working remote is actually a part of any job.

Yes, this applies to all levels within our company – members of our senior management regularly work weeks, if not months or even years, from remote locations. So, how is this possible and how does one manage a team from thousands of miles away?

Employee agency and self-motivation

It’s actually incredibly simple to manage people who are driven by their own motivations to succeed. The crux of our approach to work is to hire good people – we’ll be talking more about this later – and to engender a solid sense of self agency in every single hire. If it becomes clear that characteristic is lacking, well, then something about the situation has to change.

While this approach is definitely not suggested for every company, it is also not a novel solution to employee management. If you’re a manager or a team leader of any kind, please consider taking some time to read Dan Pink’s Drive (available on Amazon for less than $10!). Admittedly, unless you’re a complete psychology nerd, it may be a bit of a dryer reading. Still, Dan presents a clear and concise picture, backed by contemporary academic research, of the scenarios that best allow employees to be self-driven instead of manager-driven.

By encouraging everyone to take responsibility for their work, management spends a lot less time micro-managing or worrying about what everyone else is doing. We’ll discuss more of Dan’s ideas and suggestions later, but right now let me share some insights specifically for meeting virtually across a 7 hour time difference.

Check in regularly using Google Hangouts

Every company has meetings, departmental meetings, team meetings, meetings dedicated to specific projects, ad nauseum. While one of the benefits of the physical office is the ability to meet with anyone at anytime, research has also shown that maybe some of us spend a bit too much time in meetings to actually be productive.

We split our meetings into two types – one is a “standup” that serves as a daily check in with the rest of the team and the other is a full fledged “meeting” with a set agenda planned ahead of time. Each person who joins an full meeting should have all the documents and talking points ready prior to the start, whereas daily standups are for informal updates and are capped at a maximum of fifteen minutes.

Regardless of whether we’re getting together for a meeting or just a standup, we prefer using Google Hangouts. It’s remarkable how much smoother these go and how much more enjoyable they are when we can see each other’s faces. While it can’t replace face-to-face interactions, it’s the next best thing for a company separated by thousands of miles.

The time for meetings or standups is allocated weeks if not months in advance, so habits are ingrained early on and, at the very least, everyone should expect to check in with the rest of their team during the daily standup. While much more informal, expectations for the daily standups are also set ahead of time. We check in with what we accomplished yesterday, what we plan to accomplish today, and any immediate blocking points for today.

In conclusion, we plan both the time and the agenda for meetings and standups far in advance so that everyone knows what to expect. We do meet on a daily basis, but for the vast majority of people, it’s only 15 minutes per day. And we can trust that everyone is getting the necessary work done during the rest of their day, because we make sure to hire good people and encourage these good people to care about what their doing while feeling supported doing their tasks.

As always, thanks so much for the read! Please let us know if you have any feedback on our process or if you just want to talk more about managerial or operational tactics by emailing info@gmailmeter.com. Subscribe below or follow us on Twitter for updates!

Why we’re Moving off Apps Script

If you’re a current user of Gmail Meter, you are might know that this month we got a bit more practice apologizing than we anticipated.

And if you’ve contacted us about the error messages, you’ll know that these messages that a good portion of you have received are almost completely out of our control. That may not seem like the best response to these inquiries, so I wanted to take some extra time to explain what exactly is going on here.

Google Apps Script and Gmail Meter

The current version of Gmail Meter is built off of the Apps Script platform, which is a scripting language maintained by Google designed to let a user to integrate different Google Apps services together. Basically, it lets the various Google services talk to each other much better, which is obviously helpful for the end user.

With Gmail Meter, a user’s Gmail usage data is collected and compiled within that user’s Drive storage, making Google Apps Script the ideal language to build the initial version of our tool. Beyond being hosted within Google’s App Script architecture, which requires very little in terms of setup from our end, another added benefit is the simplicity of moving a user’s data from one Google service to another.

This platform has served us well for a number of years, but we have realized a few limitations in the last couple of months. Instead of going into detail about every minor limitation, I want to focus only on the major problem, which is that Apps Script is hosted on proprietary Google Apps Script machines as opposed to the standard Google Compute Engine machines.

While this simplifies many maintenance and backend operational needs, this also sacrifices a lot of fine grain control. Without that control, we are unable to provide you with the best user experience possible.

So what does this have to do with the error messages?

Over the course of the last few of months, we noticed a significant increase in the number of users who reported receiving some kind of timeout error. Typically, the email would include a message along the lines of “Exceeded maximum execution,” which in layman’s terms means that the Gmail Meter script took so long to run that the server killed the script.

Unsure of the reason for the sudden jump in these error messages, we spent some time investigating what could be causing our script to timeout.

After review, we realized that there was a major flaw in how we had programmed the script to be run. The Gmail Meter script is programmed to turn on once a day for each user, but due to an oversight, every user’s script was set to run within the same 30 minute period every day. Obviously with thousands – tens of thousands, actually – of scripts running simultaneously, some timeout errors are to be expected.

The decision to optimize was made quickly. We created an algorithm that spaces out the running of the script for our users throughout a 24 hour period. Instead of having a maximum of fifteen thousand scripts running at the same time, all users were spaced out evenly throughout the day, with only a maximum 200 or so scripts running simultaneously within the same minute.

After implementing this load balance, of course we saw way more support tickets reporting this error message than ever before because this is how software development works.

Having no clue what we did wrong and after spending another countless number of hours investigating, we finally came across this known Google Apps Script issue. It’s difficult to explain the strange combination of emotions we felt when we first saw this. There’s the relief knowing that we hadn’t done anything wrong coupled with the helplessness knowing that there’s a systemic issue within the platform that we’ve built our product out of.

We’re not the only company that has experienced this issue, nor is Gmail Meter the only application that is currently affected. We’ve reported our experiences within that open ticket, and have also exchanged emails directly with Google employees about the specifics of the issue.

Unfortunately, even though there have been many reports of the same error, the only definitive answer we’ve received from Google is that they are still unable to replicate this issue.

Looking forward to a new Gmail Meter

With that said, we did ultimately implement a workaround to prevent these error messages from being triggered. Unfortunately, the only way to do so was to slow down the script and severely limit how fast it processes through emails. To be clear, we’re talking about reducing the speed by a factor of a quarter of what it was a couple months ago.

It should be no surprise to anyone then that we have since made the decision to move Gmail Meter off of its current Apps Script platform. While this unfortunately means that we will provide less technical support for this legacy version of our tool, this does mean that we will be bringing you a much better version of our Gmail analytics tool much quicker than previously planned.

As always, please feel free to subscribe below or follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on our development progress. And please don’t be shy about emailing us with questions or concerns using our info@gmailmeter.com address.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to the next update!