Using HEY for email – 10 days in

It’s been 10 days since I decided to pay for my hey.com email account and I’ve been using it full-time now for several weeks (including the trial) and I thought I’d share my initial impressions of the service.

There is no doubt that HEY is opinionated about how to handle email. It is not a standard email service so part of the challenge for me was coming from a standard email service (Fastmail) where I had built up a very defined workflow that was working for well for me to trying the “HEY way”. When I came to HEY to really give it a try I wanted to do it their way, not try to shoehorn in some workflow that just doesn’t fit how they designed the system.

My own workflow was basically the following:

  1. Everything comes into the inbox so I can see it.
  2. File the email into the proper set of labels (Fastmail supports multiple like Gmail) and archive.
  3. Snooze where appropriate.

Over the years I’ve developed a pretty refined set of labels that I am very consistent about and help me find things quickly. Fastmail search is also very good so between my labeling system and search I’ve never had a problem finding important emails.

HEY turns that all on it’s head. Now I’ve got three spots to store stuff along with a single label for a given email. So far it’s working out fine even with the workflow I had set up before. Just following their recommendations only important stuff is in the Imbox. Items like banking notices, receipts, or any other kind of “notice” is going into the Paper Trail. Newsletters, sales flyers, etc. are going into The Feed. I’ve also redefined what is important enough to be labeled to a very small list of items from what I had on Fastmail.

I have to say so far so good. I have had no issues adapting to HEY nor have I had a problem finding anything yet. I have heard complaints online about their search, which so far hasn’t affected me at all. In fact none of the complaints I’ve read about have come up for me. Granted for some of those people they’ve been using the service for a year and I’ve only been doing it for 10 days but some of what seems to be a “problem” isn’t so much a problem with HEY vs. expectations. Some people just seem to think it should work a certain way and don’t seem to be trying to adapt themselves to what it is.

There are two things I’ve noticed that people have problems with that have easy solutions. The first is what to do with things that have a limited shelf life, like sales flyers. I put that stuff in The Feed for right now because I’ve been actively maintaining that list. I could also see just using the “set aside” feature for those because that list of items by definition requires routine maintenance so old sales flyers, etc. that aren’t relevant anymore can easily be found and deleted. The second is that people complain about having long lists of stuff in the Imbox, etc. Don’t be afraid to delete stuff! There is no reason to keep everything. This applies to HEY just like any other email system. I noted above that I maintain The Feed and that means I’m going in there and deleting things on a regular basis.

I am considering two changes to my workflow. The first is that most items that are being filed automatically into the Paper Trail I might just have hit the Imbox first and then file them manually in the Paper Trail. Most of the items that get auto-filed there I’d prefer to see in the Imbox first as I find them important enough. In a way I think this kind of goes against the design intent of the Imbox and Paper Trail but it’s a nice compromise for me between the design and my old workflow. The second change is to use Set Aside for stuff like sales flyers as I mentioned above. I do find that I’m spending more time than should be necessary maintaining that list when it’s really designed to be a place for stuff to read when you’ve got a spare moment.

So far I am enjoying HEY. To be honest I paid because of HEY World but if I was going to pay $99 for a year of service I decided that I was going to give using HEY full time for email a good chance as well. It has been easy enough to set up forwarding into HEY and keep using my main custom domain to send email out of HEY using SMTP. Are there things I’d like to change? Of course but I’m finding that list pretty small. The key here is expect to give up some control, control which you probably don’t need in the first place.

HEY World isn’t about “interoperability”

I was listening to the Core Intuition podcast and Daniel and Manton were discussing HEY World. As developers involved in the blogging space, Manton because of Micro.blog and Daniel as the developer behind the blogging tool MarsEdit, they were sharing their thoughts about it and interoperability with their own tools. Lots of discussion around things that don’t matter and aren’t the point.

The main point of HEY World is making the friction of writing online as low as possible. Yes other blogging systems have had blog-by-email for years. But none of them have been simply about getting words online. HEY World is and that’s the beauty of it. No choices of theme. Very limited choices for typography. No categories, tags, or anything else. No comments. No choices of posting tool. Just type in your thoughts and hit send. Done. It has nothing to do with cross-posting or choosing an editor. For some people that simply won’t be enough and HEY World isn’t for them.

I hope Basecamp doesn’t open it up any more than they have now and keep it limited to whatever features are there for regular emails. The beauty is in the simplicity of it all, making putting thoughts longer than a tweet online as friction-free as sending an email. For some of us too many choices kill our ability to put words online. HEY World is for us and I hope it stays that way.

A Sad Anniversary

Today is the 1-year anniversary of the World Health Org. announcing that we were then in a full global pandemic due to COVID-19. So much death, hardship, and anxiety since then in the world. Finally a year later we’re definitely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and I have to note that I have been very fortunate in the last year as everyone in my family has stayed healthy and I am still employed. But wow what a year it’s been.

On Feb 9th, 2020 I sat in a seat at Symphony Center in Chicago watching a Jordi Savall concert. Wonderful show and he played to a packed house. Little did I realize then that this would be the last real concert I’d attend for over a year (and counting).

On Feb 25th, Nancy Messonnier from the CDC did a press briefing in which she noted that there was already community spread in various countries and we were close to meeting the criteria for a global pandemic. She also noted that she was preparing her family for what was coming. That scared me, a lot, and that’s the point I started preparing my family as well by starting some trips to Costco for supplies before everything started to get crazy and boy did things start to get crazy.

March 9th was the last time I was in the office. I was scheduled to work from home already on the 10th and by that point things were starting to get scary, and everything started to shut down. March 11th the WHO declared the global pandemic and here we are today.

What upsets me the most is the completely bungled response by the Trump administration here in the US. There is no reason there had to be half a million people dead because of this. The thought of so many lives lost, so many families impacted in terrible ways, is almost too much to bear. The constant lies, the politicization of masks, the whole lot of it.

But at the very least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccines are working well and are going out in ever-increasing numbers. We’ve got a government full of competent, empathetic people again. We will be getting back to normal sooner rather than later. And when we do I’ll be looking forward to sitting in Symphony Center again watching a live concert surrounded by people in a packed house.

Some notes on using HEY with Fastmail

So you’re interested in trying HEY, you’re a Fastmail user, and you want to forward some domains into HEY. Maybe you want to be able to send email from HEY using one of those domains. I’m that guy too and ran into a couple of issues so I’ll share here on my first post on HEY World. Just to be clear: this only applies to using Fastmail with HEY. It only applies when you are using Fastmail to control your domains for email.

When you set up your forwarding in HEY you need to set up forwarding for your actual Fastmail account (the one you login with, like testuser@fastmail.com) into HEY. You don’t actually have to forward emails from that address but something in the way Fastmail forwards emails requires you to set up that address as a forwarding address inside of HEY.

If you want to send email as a different address from HEY it looks like you can make one choice of email address to use. That address needs to be the one set as the default sending identity in Fastmail. An example probably will make this clearer.

Lets say you have three domains set up in Fastmail with one address each:

mail@testdomain1.com

mail@thebestdomain.com

mail@heykicksass.com

And, lets say that your actual Fastmail login is testuser@fastmail.com.

If you go into Fastmail’s settings there is an option for Sending Identities. That screen has a dropdown to select the default that will be used when you’re composing an email in the Fastmail web UI. More importantly to this discussion: it also controls the email address that a user will see when you send emails through the Fastmail SMTP server, as you do when you set up HEY to send email using another address.

So in this example we want to send email from HEY using mail@heykicksass.com and it’s been set up already on the HEY side with the proper SMTP setup. If you don’t select that address as the default in Sending Identities in Fastmail the email will show up at it’s destination as coming from testuser@fastmail.com and not mail@heykicksass.com. This is the behavior I witnessed when sending to multiple different email services from HEY using one of my domains.

This certainly isn’t ideal behavior but it seems to be the limitation that anyone using the combination of Fastmail and HEY needs to live with until custom domain support is available in HEY in the coming months.

Hey World

In the first post I wrote on this incarnation of this blog I talked about why I had stopped blogging before: because the inertia of other blogging systems made it too hard for me. Then I came upon blot.im (where this blog is hosted) and I found it was as easy as dropping a text file in a folder in Dropbox. Apparently I wasn’t the only one thinking about this (shocking I know).

The guys at Basecamp came up with a very simple way to blog as part of their Hey email service. It’s called Hey World and it’s as simple as sending an email to world@hey.com from the email composer. Needless to say it’s not full-fledged blogging like many would think of but boy is it a ridiculously simple way to remove friction from writing online. If you want to throw out some ideas it can’t get any easier than that.

Software Development Interviewing in the 21st Century

I came across this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BG1UVrWrpo&t while looking at videos about French Bulldogs. Turns out Tony is a software developer and while he has some videos about his Frenchie he also covers tech topics. This particular video is about finding (or not finding as it were) software jobs in 2020 but his rant near the start about how tech interviews go really made me laugh but he’s right, it’s really gotten out of control.

For most people looking for jobs you’re not going to remember (if you ever learned in the first place) how to write data structures or analyze algorithms using “Big O notation”. Yet these types of questions are happening during many interviews. This leads to many people “learning” just enough to answer the question vs. really knowing what they’re talking about.

Here is a perfect example:

It is a pretty abstract and very esoteric concept that the vast majority of people will never hear about, or care about. BUT it is known as being a common coding interview question, and therefore it’s one of the things I have spent some time learning all about.

The author is correct, it is pretty abstract and it is very esoteric. It’s taught in computer science programs as part of a “proper education” but the reality is most people won’t need to do this type of analysis in the majority of programming jobs (just as those same people won’t be writing their own data structures from scratch). So why is it such a common coding interview question? No idea, it’s just one of the many terrible ways companies attempt to do interviews these days.

Don’t get me wrong. If the job requires this type work then find qualified candidates by asking these questions. But if you’re conducting interviews for coding e-commerce sites? You’re going to be better off asking more appropriate questions to that vs. trying to trick people. You’re also going to find better candidates because you’re going to (hopefully) ask questions appropriate to the job vs. some Ivory Tower ideal of computer science.

I remember one interview I did for a company in Chicago that is an SAP Hybris consultancy. I was expected to sit and code in real-time with two guys sitting staring at me. What did they want me to code? Code to generate the Fibonacci sequence. This was a company writing Java code for e-commerce sites using Hybris and these guys were asking someone with decades of programming experience to do a college assignment, while staring at me, expecting me to use an IDE I had no experience with. It was ridiculous. This is not how you conduct interviews. Ask me how I would solve a performance problem. Ask me how I would design an object hierarchy for some new feature. Don’t ask me to sit in front of you doing a college assignment.

In my own experience I’ve found it much more useful to ask pretty easy questions with a few harder ones to make sure you’re not bullshitting me. Then I concentrate on character questions to see how you’ll fit in the organization and I find out more about you and how you would solve various types of problems. Interviews are tough for everyone. Don’t make them harder and lose good candidates by doing stupid interviews.

Socializing in the COVID era

Came across a couple of quotes from this article that I found very interesting in regards to how we’re expected to socialize in the COVID era. The article is about college life but this extends all the same to “adult life” where so many are working from home now and all interaction is done remotely. Zoom and its friends are fine for a lot but when it comes to doing social things with them I’m not a fan.

There’s also the lack of spontaneity — chatting over Zoom requires setting aside time, which is already in short supply for many students. Grabbing a quick coffee on the way to class or running into an acquaintance in the library is off the table. “At school, I could see someone, and even if we talk for five minutes walking from one place to another, it fits better into your schedule,” Marszalek says. “Now, if I want to talk to someone I have to text them, which is effort, and then schedule a time when we FaceTime.”

and

For one, when you’re spending a full day on Zoom, socializing on Zoom doesn’t always feel like a break — it feels like yet another thing you have to do on Zoom. Emma Marszalek, a junior at George Washington University who spent the semester at home in New Jersey, hasn’t attended the movie screenings, trivia nights, guest performances, and other virtual events that her school has put on. “As cute as it is… I can’t bring myself to go onto another Zoom meeting,” she says.

We’ve tried to have virtual happy hours and such at work but it just doesn’t work. It feels forced and taking in part in something like that just feels plastic and fake. Looking forward to the day when we can gather in person again. It’s hard to believe we’re a year into this. Feels much, much longer.

New Years Eve

It’s finally the last day of 2020, a year none of us will be sorry to see go. Much to look forward to in the new year. And honestly what is there to say that hasn’t been said already? This year was just a major kick in the ass. Earlier today I was watching MSNBC and wrote this in a note:

Wow. MSNBC just had one of those “in memoriam” segments of all of the celebrities, etc. that passed during 2020. The list was huge. Seemed bigger than normal. Maybe just because of the year but wow. Got a bit teary.

Not sure if we lost more of these folks than normal but it certainly does seem that way.

But, on the 20th we’ve finally got Trump leaving office. That in itself will be huge. I can’t even think of how huge. How much of a relief it will be to not have a complete and utter moron with his hand on the tiller of the country. How much of a relief it will be to not have to worry about what Biden will tweet next. If we’re lucky Twitter will shut Trump down. If we’re lucky. I won’t expect it but once he’s not President what he writes there isn’t automatically newsworthy. Another thing I hope happens in 2021: that Twitter gets a set of balls.

We’ve also got the COVID vaccine which will be huge in the new year. God help us to get moving a lot faster than we are right now in getting it into people’s arms. With more candidates on the way that should be easier.

So Happy New Year to anyone who might read this. So hopeful for a better year for everyone, especially all of those who have lost loved ones to COVID this year. Hang on everyone, we can see that light at the end of the tunnel.