Why I Recommend Using Spike for Email, Instant Messaging, and Video Chat (Fan Review)

Background

I care deeply about the people in my life. I value my relationships with them. I cherish in-person, face-to-face conversations. In my personal and professional life, I rely on video conferences, email, and instant messaging. In some cases, I might communicate with you frequently, in others once in a while. Like it is for many of you, written communication is a fundamental method of correspondence integral to my life. Email, text chat, and video calls help me stay connected with people, especially during this pandemic.

Email

I’ve been using email since I was a kid. Back then, a university Unix computer I had access to used to send and receive emails in daily batches using technologies some of which are now obsolete: a UUCP to SMTP gateway. SMTP, or the Simple Mail Transport Protocol somehow not only still survives but thrives as the mechanism underlying email delivery worldwide. What’s great about email is that it is an open standard in the public domain. The system of email isn’t owned by any company, government, or other organization or person. You can switch and transfer your emails from one service provider to another, be it Gmail, Outlook.com, even AOL! Yes, somehow @aol.com as an email service still survives too.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging, or chat, on the other hand is almost always a proprietary service on closed networks. It has been so since ancient days when people used AOL Instant Messenger. These days, people send instant messages on iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Slack, and other services that are not interoperable. They lock you in to their platforms and make it impractical to move your past messages to another chat service.

You can use your email from almost any Internet connected communications device you have access to, including someone else’s computer or phone that they let you use. Unfortunately, your instant messaging services are typically limited to only one phone at a time. In other cases, IMs are still limited to some of your devices.

Video Chat

Video chat apps like FaceTime, Zoom, Google Meet, Google Duo, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Skype are also proprietary and not interoperable, even when they are owned by the same company. For example, Google’s own Duo and Meet do not interoperate. Microsoft’s Teams and Skype have limited interoperability.

Lack of Interoperability

While Slack offers some integrations with other types of communications platforms, and some instant messaging platforms now enable video calls, generally almost everyone has to deal with email, instant messaging, and video chat on separate services that provide none to insufficient interoperability.

Why do I have to use one set of apps for email, another incompatible set of apps for instant messaging, and yet another incompatible set of apps for video chats?

Shortcomings of Email Clients

Documenting the shortcomings of email clients would fill a book. I won’t repeat them here.

What if email could be made easier? Sleeker, more intuitive, and more innovative? What if it could be redesigned to be more user-friendly? What if email could help boost your productivity instead of constraining it? What if you could use the same service and the same user interface for email, instant messaging, and video calls?

You can!

Enter Spike

For the past year and a half, I’ve been using an email app called Spike, and I find it to be the greatest innovation in email since Google launched Gmail 16 years ago. I know that’s a bold statement but there’s a good reason why. Spike helped me rediscover my appreciation for email. Staying in touch with friends, family, colleagues and coworkers via email has never been easier, and if you take my advice, you might rediscover your fondness for email too. Here’s why.

A Single Inbox and Repository for Email and Chat

Spike makes email easier with features similar to those in Slack, WhatsApp, Telegram, and other instant messaging apps. It even has real time response typing indicators when both sides are using Spike. This means that I can choose to use conventional email when I need to go into detail or rely on chat functionality when I need an instant answer.

Spike chats get saved in the same place as email which makes it easier to find information in my messages. Having everything in the same inbox is ideal since I get tired of constantly switching between multiple apps on my iPhone, Android phone, iPad and iMac. With Spike, everything is laid out in a single place, so I can send my friend a quick message about dinner and then compose that mission critical email to my colleagues at work. However, the more people onboard the better it works—which is why I encourage everyone I know to use Spike.

Messages Organized by People

The biggest benefit of using Spike is the intuitive organizational feature of having my emails organized by people (instead of by conversations as Gmail does).

Thanks to the default mode of viewing messages by people (just like your favorite chat app), I’ve found a raft of past emails from people that I had missed. This can happen for a number of reasons (so sorry if I missed your mail!), and whether it’s due to information overload, travel, vacation, or just lack of time, Spike keeps me better connected with you by organizing your messages intuitively!

Unlike other email apps I’ve used in the past, Spike doesn’t rely on clunky folders or labels to organize messages, so I no longer lose important information. In fact, it simply splits messages into “priority” or “other” inboxes, meaning all my important communications are front and centre and a single click takes me to less important messages.

This is such a useful feature that it’s difficult to express how much of a difference it makes in my day-to-day, however, compared to other email clients that either have only one inbox or too many inboxes to check it’s like night and day! Just two inboxes: “priority” and “other” work optimally for me.

Sleek Interface and Integrated Calendar

Every day I use it, I’m impressed by how Spike makes email so much better, faster, and easier to use. In fact, Spike is exactly what email needs at the moment, representing the most necessary innovation since email was invented. This is true for Spike’s most basic elements, and the beautifully designed interface makes email management slick and streamlined, whereas most email clients are overly complicated and difficult to use.

One of the biggest surprises for me was having the calendar as part of my inbox. Most email clients overlook this addition, but it’s saved me so much time. Now, I can manage my digital communications and real-world commitments from the same place, and it’s just one click away from my inbox. It’s such a simple integration that I’m surprised more apps aren’t doing it.

And More

Spike has video chats.

Spike also has a built-in document collaboration. I wrote this blog post in the Spike word processor, instead of Google Docs, MS Word, or Apple Pages.

It even has tasks and to do lists built in.

This blog post is a fan review

The screenshots I used in this blog post were supplied by the Spike team because I didn’t want to post screenshots of my own emails. I wrote this with the Spike team’s involvement. As a happy and vocal user of their product, I’ve gotten to know them and become a friend of the company.

I don’t have any financial interest here. I’m not an investor in Spike. Spike has not paid me any money, not given me any gift, nor any discount. Spike has not offered nor given me any other special benefits. I’m a fan, power user and an informal advocate of Spike in my personal capacity. I do not even have an affiliate program in place with Spike. If someday in future I have any financial connection with Spike (neither I nor the Spike folks have any such plans at this time), I will update this blog post to mention that.

In case you are wondering why I wrote this blog post, it is because I like Spike so much that I want my family, friends, and coworkers to use it. The network effect will make all our personal and work lives better and less stressful. You should give it a try today by downloading the Spike app here. It is free for personal email accounts.

William Lewis, Former CEO of Dow Jones & Publisher of The Wall Street Journal

William Lewis shared this recommendation for Rajiv on June 04, 2020.


Rajiv is an inspirational digital leader, who combines technical expertise with strategic direction, and a deeply authentic and ethical approach to leadership. He came into the Wall Street Journal newsroom at a critical moment and was transformative. I hope to work again with him one day.


William Lewis served as Chief Executive Officer of Dow Jones & Company and Publisher of The Wall Street Journal from 2014 to 2020.

Make Exercise Your Daily Habit

Introduction

Some of the kettlebells that I use: 29 kg (63 lb) Odin, 16 kg (35 lb) Wolf, and 12 kg (26 lb) Panther. Made by Zoobells.

My family, friends, and fellow humans: I share with you some of my workout videos here to encourage you to exercise daily and take good care of your health.

Ever since I was a child, I have been spending most of my waking hours working sitting in front of computers or in meeting rooms. I have never been known for being an athlete nor for my fitness (to put it mildly). I still spend more time staring at screens on computers and phones than is good for me. I am working on fixing that.

If I can exercise daily, so can you. Prioritize your health and that of your close ones. Even if you do a daily 7 minute workout or just do 10 push-ups and 10 squats each morning (links to all of these at the end of this post), it will help you live a better life.

Physical Exercises Improves Success in Other Aspects of Life and Work

There are many successful CEOs and leaders who work out multiple times a week. I have witnessed some of them working out with dedication. Will Lewis, the highly respected and accomplished former CEO of Dow Jones & Publisher of The Wall Street Journal not only works out regularly, he often reminds his colleagues of the importance of working out and taking good care of health. I saw him invite a personal trainer to speak during one of his executive leadership meetings, which I found as relevant and productive for work as the discussions about business. I was inspired by Will working out early mornings at gyms during business trips.

Exercise is Useful (and Necessary) at Every Age

According to Business Insider, the 62-year old high-powered CEO Strauss Zelnick “is in insane shape for any age, let alone his own. He works out between seven and 12 times a week, and he founded a group fitness club called The Program.”

There are also people of ages over 80 and 90 years old who work out regularly to stay healthy, fit, and intelligent. Charles Eugster’s talk about why bodybuilding at age 93 is a great idea is awe-inspiring. (Link below.)

United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 87 years old is known for her energy, strength, and sharp mind. She works out regularly with her fitness trainer who she has referred to as “the most important person” in her life (after her family, of course). There is a book called The RBG Workout about her exercise routine and its role in her life.

I have included links to articles about some of the world’s top business and public leaders like her and others who work out regularly in the ‘Further Reading’ section at the end of this article.

Apply Behavioral Science and Social Psychology

💡I recommend exercising daily. Not 6 days/week. Not 5 days/week. Daily. One reason I work out daily is that I find it easier and longer lasting to build and maintain a daily habit than a habit of n times per week. I use the “Seinfeld Strategy” (link below) to maintain my daily workout habit. I am not a fitness professional, nor an athlete and my daily workouts are not so strenuous that I would need a rest day. When needed, make it an “active rest day” where my workout is limited to active recovery exercises. (If you work out so hard that you need rest days, you already have greater expertise on fitness than I do, and you are beyond my intended audience for this article.)

💡To keep workouts fun and avoid them becoming boring, I suggest you change your exercise routines periodically. This will keep challenging you and result in improvements to your mind and body. Doing a variety of exercise with different types of equipment or in different environments will increase your brain stimulation and will make you both physically and mentally healthier. There is evidence that the brain evolved for the body to be able to perform complex movements and that doing complex exercises is good for your brain development. (More information on that in the links at the end of this article.)

Hand-painted 24 kg ( 53 lb) Bulldog Kettlebell and two 6 kg (13 lb) Kitty Kettlebells by Iron Skull Fitness.

💡I purposely purchased artistic kettlebells that also double as decorative art pieces in my apartment. I keep them within easy reach in my living room. Having my workout equipment nearby, easily accessible , quick to set up, and ready to use reduces the cognitive load on my brain to start an exercise. This also encourages me to do one or more enjoyable exercises while I’m taking breaks from other activities during the course of the day.

💡I have installed a mirror next to the exit door leading out of my apartment. I have also installed a mirror on the door of my closet where I keep my clothes. They give me frequent feedback on how my body looks relative to the shape I want to be in. That helps me curb desires for unhealthy eating and gives me motivation to exercise.

It is interesting how our brains evaluate things in relative terms:

  • 💡I find it easier to do certain exercises by thinking of my kettlebell’s mass in kilograms which is smaller in numerical value than the pounds equivalent.
  • 💡I find that having my 34 kg (75 lb) Bear kettlebell nearby makes it easier to do exercises with my 29 kg (63 lb) Odin kettlebell because it seems lighter in comparison.

💡Recently, the eight exercises in that day’s circuit which my coach Julian instructed me to perform felt too challenging for me to complete. After the first round, I felt I wouldn’t be able to complete all three rounds. To gain motivation to complete the third round in good form (actually, to be able to complete it at all), I made a decision to post that final round on Instagram. So I turned on my video camera and started recording. I wasn’t initially planning to post that day’s workout on Instagram, but when I began to struggle during round two, I knew I needed a motivational boost, which the commitment to post its videos on Instagram provided.

💡I transfer learnings from my work in product engineering and business to my fitness regimen. For example, I use Objectives & Key Results, OKRs for my personal fitness. I incorporate reflection, retrospectives, and project pre-mortem methodologies that I have found successful in product development.

I encourage you to transfer learnings from the domains you are good at to your physical fitness projects.

I find that applying behavioral science, learned from the works and writings of experts like Daniel Kahneman, B.J. Fogg, James Clear, and Charles Duhigg is effective in creating lasting exercise habits. I recently gave a talk about this at a World Economic Forum YGL event.

Some of My Recent Workout Videos

We should all prioritize our health and wellness and inspire others in our lives to do so. Here are 8 videos of my workouts from Friday morning:

Further Reading

Why Leaders Should Work Out

Exercise and the Brain & Health

Working Out Regularly at Any Age

How to Apply Behavioral Psychology and Social Science to Make Exercise a Daily Habit

Effective Ways To Exercise

Excellent Workouts That Can Be Completed In Only A Few Minutes

Why Work Out Daily, Active Recovery Exercises for Active Rest Days

Home Gym Fitness Equipment that I Use or Recommend


(Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook. Most recently updated here on 2020-August-14.)

Matthew Murray, Editor in Chief of The Wall Street Journal

Matthew Murray
Editor in Chief

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

To Whom It May Concern:

When Rajiv Pant arrived at The Wall Street Journal, our technology was in a mess in every way—in the personnel, in how it prioritized and focused and in how it interacted with news and the rest of the company.

Rajiv transformed their entire department within weeks. He methodically and fairly rearranged and upgraded our talent, making his expectations clear, giving everyone the chance to contribute, but not hesitating to make changes as needed. He was a magnet for talent. He understood exactly how to fit technology properly in the center of our larger effort, how to connect with news and other functions and how to focus on specific, achievable and remarkable product improvements.

He did more. His managerial acumen is very high, and he was able to quickly establish procedures and protocols from chaos that gave us clear goals, measurable progress and much deeper satisfaction for our users. He understands engineering talent and psychology and what motivates people. More than that, he understood how engineers and designers fit in alongside crusty reporters and graphics artists. He made the WSJ an exciting place to work for his team, probably for the first time ever for many of them.

He is a skillful navigator of his teams, peers, and bosses—quite difficult in a crowded newsroom—and quickly raised the game for all of us. It is not too much to say that it was not until his time here that we truly became a technologically adept newsroom and company. When he left us, he left an organization that was of a much higher caliber and competency than we’d ever had. He was a builder.

I found him also to be useful and thoughtful senior leader on a range of issues, from strategy in the broadest sense to important tasks like prioritization and time management. In his relatively short time here he was a pivotal figure for us. We miss him.

In the right role at the right time he showed himself to be a transformational leader and important figure for the Journal. he has my wholehearted recommendation. And I’d be happy to share any further insights if helpful.

Sincerely,

Matthew Murray
Editor in Chief
The Wall Street Journal


Here is the original signed recommendation on letterhead in PDF format:

Related: Here is a memo Matt previously wrote to the WSJ newsroom announcing my promotion.

Kindness of Strangers: This Time From a Fitness Expert

24 kg (53 lb) Bulldog Kettlebell by Iron Skull Fitness that I used for the workout below.

Kindness, generosity, and helping others selflessly are human virtues. Some of you have commented on my previous posts about the examples of kindness from strangers I have witnessed in people. Here is another example.

A helpful stranger named Marcel Dinkins who is a well-respected fitness training expert saw my kettlebell swings videos on Instagram, and read that I appreciate feedback.

She sent me a custom-made and detailed video message with her expert, relevant, and excellent feedback on several improvements I can make.

She didn’t ask for anything in return and wouldn’t accept even when I wanted to send a gift card as my sincere appreciation. I am deeply touched and feel honored that an expert like her took the time and effort to send me such useful feedback in a video message.

People like her make the world better for everyone.

If you are interested in fitness, I suggest you follow her on Instagram @officialmarcelfit.

I am now working on incorporating her superb feedback in my kettlebell swing technique.

On her advice, I recorded this video from a sideways angle so I can better notice areas for improvement in this particular exercise. On watching this video in light of her feedback, I find I have even more improvements to make ahead. This 24 kilogram (53 pound) Bulldog theme kettlebell is made by Iron Skull Fitness.

#Fitness is fun!

(Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook.)

Personal Fitness During Quarantine Times

In a 24 hour worldwide live streamed event titled #FindingBeauty in Quarantine Times organized by Drue Kataoka and fellow members of the Young Global Leaders community of the World Economic Forum, Rajiv spoke about his personal fitness journey during the months of the 2020 quarantine.

Rajiv’s 25 minute talk begins at the 42 minutes 45 seconds (=2565 seconds) mark on this video hosted by the WEF YGL community at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=272616700574025&t=2565

Kathryn Friedrich, EVP, GM of Operations at Conde Nast Entertainment

Kathryn Friedrich shared this recommendation for Rajiv on November 25, 2019 via LinkedIn:


I started at Thrive Global at the same time as Rajiv. We were both coming from large prestigious companies and beginning the “start up journey” together. Rajiv was an amazing asset and a partner on the leadership team. As CTO and CMO we were not only responsible for building the business, but also the culture.

Rajiv built a strong and loyal team that embraced the challenges of getting the infrastructure of the company built from the ground up. He worked tirelessly to make sure we launched on time and with accurate assurances that we could handle traffic, volume and anything else that was thrown at us. His leadership skills to guide the team during uncertainty and ambiguity were second to none. He cared about the work and the team equally and knew when to be more hands on, but also knew when the hands off approach could yield better results. He was both a leader and a student for everyone on the team.

As CTO, Rajiv drove overall business strategy. His contributions did not stop with our product and technology. He actively participated in business planning and strategic conversations about growth, and was thoughtful in his approach to building for the future. He secured many partnership conversations and led active brainstorming around AI that could accelerate our trajectory.

I would easily recommend Rajiv for any role he intends to pursue in the future and I hope I get a chance to work with him again.


As Chief Marketing & Revenue Officer at Thrive Global, Kathryn worked with Rajiv. Kathryn is now EVP, GM of Operations at Conde Nast Entertainment. Previously, she served as Global Head of Content Monetization at YouTube and was a Google employee for nearly 9 years.

Jason Patterson, Software Engineer at Instagram at Facebook

Jason Patterson shared this recommendation for Rajiv on November 25, 2019 via LinkedIn:


I worked with Rajiv as Director of Mobile Technology at The Wall Street Journal, and later as Distinguished Engineer, during a transformation of the iPhone app for The Wall Street Journal.

As a manager, I observed Rajiv’s talent for putting together a team of people to execute on a common mission. He was able to rally whole departments from disparate areas of the enterprise (from Technology, to the Newsroom, to Customer Membership) with a focus on the big picture.

As an engineer, I was given the flexibility to design and develop impactful solutions. By shifting our product and technology initiatives to focus on OKRs (objectives and key results), he was able to let teams come up with the solutions that delivered on company goals, instead of being prescriptive with top-down solutions.

In addition to focusing on OKRs as a success metric, he was also able to help fight to grow teams that were under-resourced, and transformed the WSJ delivery culture from a mindset of big-bang releases to a new normal of constant incremental improvement. This allowed the business to reap benefits earlier. The fruits of these efforts eventually yielded a Webby award for best mobile news app.


As Distinguished Software Engineer and Director of Mobile Engineering at The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones, Jason worked with Rajiv. Jason is now a software engineer at Instagram/Facebook.

Katharine Bailey, SVP, Product at The Wall Street Journal

Katharine Bailey shared this recommendation for Rajiv on November 21, 2019. This is the full version of what she wrote and also shared via LinkedIn:


I worked for Rajiv for two years, from 2017 to 2019 at The Wall Street Journal, where he held the role of CTO and CPO.

Before he arrived, I held a position of leading digital product, and we had been going through a tough period of transition.  I had gotten to the point within product where I wanted a new and exciting challenge, and in my desire to learn, I was interviewing for a new opportunity.  I was offered a plum opportunity, with a higher title and a broader scope. I was very close to taking it — and then I got to know Rajiv. Rajiv is unlike any other leader I have worked for….

He treated me like an equal, and reminded me frequently of how much he was also learning from me.  He used to tell me that he could have ended up working for me just as easily as me for him.  He would go out of his way to ask about product and my process, and with every probing question I felt he made me a bit better at my craft.  He would suggest countless books and way of thinking, and initiated interesting dialogues with the team around themes like empathy in product development, and the selflessness in leadership. He led by example in that we are all students in our careers and to stop learning is to stagnate – the worst possible fate. He relished in vigorous debate, giving us the gift of critical thinking when it came to coming up with the best solution for the problem at hand, whether it be the right authoring tool approach for our newsroom; how to handle successful authentication and access, or how to best handle personalization in our iOS app.

Inevitably those navigating the trio: the tough terrain of product, engineering and design, tend to favor one above the others, leading to a rather lopsided org from a focus and process perspective.  Rajiv conceded that engineering was his background, but his curiosity for design and product had him engaged and collaborating, and amazingly all three legs of the stool were on equal footing. Together we drafted a vision for what Product, Design and Engineering should look like as a single organization, replete with values, roadmaps, and process drill-downs. What was even better was we socialized it and brought it into practice.  He also brought solid talent into the team, recruiting from Apple, NY Times and Scripps, serving as a strong indication to all of us that Rajiv is someone people follow.

Product had so long worked through KPIs, but they never got the traction they deserved. Enter OKRs, a critical underpinning to our PDE story.  Rajiv introduced them to me, and really brought them to life. It was a way to tell a story, backed with a mission and attach quantifiable results.  One of the most wonderful things about Rajiv is he actually let me run with the idea. He allowed it to be mine, where others might have been slightly more territorial.  He supported me and gave me air cover as I championed them tirelessly across the organization.  Rajiv is an incredible boss. Remarkably because of our work, OKRs were adopted company-wide at Dow Jones across the B2C and B2B businesses. And this was not without tough times, and myriad questions about them.  Rajiv encouraged flexibility around how we presented them, and helped me understand the value of really “understanding the API” of the person across from you. He would always tell me that you must understand your audience when making any argument.  He countless times helped me do just that, which is a great part of the reason we had so much success in his tenure here. What Rajiv was really doing with OKRs was trying to tie all of our wonderful product work back to the bottom line, and with that giving it greater more far-reaching relevance.

Rajiv also has a remarkable ability to galvanize a team, to instill a sense of pride in their work. I watched as he regularly would check in with team members to hear about their projects, and he would encourage them to publish post about their work for external review. One woman who was quite shy felt some of that encouragement and actually authored a medium post about how OKRs work with engineers in the mobile team. This was all with Rajiv’s cheerleading all the way — it was magical to watch her gain such a sense of confidence.  He also encouraged us to publish a newsletter about all of work great product development work we were doing for WSJ. The final product was slick, well-written and broadly consumed. It really helped raise the profile of our team, well beyond order takers and into the zone of being innovators.

Lastly, Rajiv is one of the most fun and kind people I have ever worked with. He is always respectful, and thoughtful — caring about his employees, and passionate about their bringing their full selves to work. In this way he models the kind of environment he wants to create and shape.  Disagreements between people would fall away with Rajiv, and he would refocus us on the job to be done, and on the importance of mutual respect.

I hope I would work with Rajiv again, and if you get the chance to work with him…jump at it.


As Senior Vice President of Product at The Wall Street Journal, Katharine reported to Rajiv.