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.

Leadership B.S. by Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer (Book Review)

Many books on leadership are like fairy tales: Inspiring, but misleading about leadership that is actually effective in our real world. Real leadership — i.e. leadership based on evidence and science, and thus statistically more likely be effective in practice — is less commonly found in leadership teachings. Instead, what we often hear is “feel good leadership” that sounds good, but is often ineffective, or worse, counterproductive at worst.

Few books open our eyes by revealing truths hiding in plain sight. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is one. Leadership B.S. by Jeff Pfeffer is another.

Many books, lessons, and word-of-mouth teachings about leadership are misleading, misrepresentative of real world experience, and based on feel-good ideals. There are five reasons why several things we are taught about leadership and management are wrong.

  1. Lack of Rigor — Many leadership lessons based on someone’s experience are not based on a systematic analysis of complete data, comprehensive understanding of circumstances, and other available options at the time. What worked for the winner may be simply chance (luck), weakness of the opposition, or insufficiently acknowledged help from others.
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  2. Before and After — The behaviors that lead a person to a powerful leadership position are often not the same as the good qualities the person assumes later in life after they are already successful. Take the case of Bill Gates, who as a competitive businessman was a different person from the kind, caring philanthropist he is today.
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  3. Delusion — Human beings have a positive, good impressions of ourselves that are often not accurate. Studies have shown that about 80% of people believe they are better car drivers than average, better looking than average, and better human beings than others. The Overconfidence effect and above average effect are well documented. How a successful leader feels they act (morally) is often quite different from what they actually do based on observation.
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  4. Deception — Human beings, especially successful ones, lie, mislead, and often don’t give away their coveted secrets that given them their competitive edge. There is plenty of scientific evidence that lying is a common daily habit.
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  5. Leaving a Legacy — Many leadership books and articles are written to make the author look good, to build a good reputation and brand for the leader, and to make money. They are not primarily written for the purpose of making other people successful, even if the author thinks so. This could be due to delusion, deception, or a bit of both.

For the above reasons, my friend Jeff Pfeffer and I sometimes say that most leadership books and products should be labeled like packs of cigarettes: “Warning: This information will make you feel good in the short term, but is likely to be harmful to your effectiveness,  career, and well-being.

So how should you minimize your time and effort wasted learning ineffective leadership and management methods that are likely to backfire?

I highly recommend reading the excellent book Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time by Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University. It was finalist for the 2015 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year and Best business book of the week selected by Inc.com. This book will help you identify real and effective leadership and management lessons based on evidence that are more likely to work than platitudes.

Disclosure: In the acknowledgements section of this book, Professor Pfeffer writes:

This book was inspired in part by my interactions with Rajiv Pant. It was Rajiv who first used the phrase “feel-good leadership literature.” It was Rajiv who provided some of the stories and examples incorporated in this book. But mostly it was Rajiv Pant who helped me see how much damage was occurring because of the current incarnation of the leadership industry. Rajiv’s support and friendship mean a great deal, not only for this book but in my life.

Pfeffer, Jeffrey. Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time (pp. 221-222). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

My rating of this book: 5/5 stars.

Your Brain At Work (Book Review)

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Let me tell you a story about my friends Emily and Paul.

Emily and Paul were struggling in their demanding jobs and in managing their busy family life raising young children at home.

Emily, a marketing manager at a company, had recently earned a promotion to VP and was finding it challenging to supervise the team comprised of people who were her peers until recently. Paul, an independent software engineer and project manager, was running into problems completing the proposal for a software development project for his client, managing his subcontractors, and determining the best way to architect and implement the software product.

Their workdays were burdened with email overload, filled with meetings, and interrupted by phone calls at the most inopportune moments. They multitasked during meetings, responding to emails on their smartphones1 while missing important discussions and failing to pick on subtle (and some not so subtle) human interactions.

Life at home was no child’s play either. Their son, Josh, and daughter, Michelle, didn’t feel their parents understood them. The parents and children didn’t communicate on the same wavelength. This led to the parents and children talking over each other and having angry arguments.

So Emily and Paul turned to a consultant called D’Rock for help. By following his evidence-based, proven, scientific advice, Emily and Paul began to get increasingly better in their jobs, with family and in social settings.  They didn’t become perfect: They still made occasional mistakes, but fewer and smaller ones, and when they did, they recovered well.2

The improvements in their lives were measurable, major and memorable. Emily and Paul became highly successful in their jobs, solved the problems with their children at home and even developed a more enjoyable sex life!

How?

All this was possible because D’Rock was no ordinary consultant, but a neuromagician (stay with me here) — a superhero with who had the ability to give other people the power to change themselves for the better.

Here is the surprising twist to this story: D’Rock, the neurosuperhero character in this story is a real person called David Rock. He has even written a book that can help you overcome major challenges like Emily and Paul did.

Following David Rock’s advice will make you more successful in your professional, personal and social life. It is highly likely to make you a better computer programmer, a better project manager, a better people leader — better at pretty much every aspect of your job. It will make you smarter, more effective and happier. It will even enable you to fly. Ok. I’m joking about the flying part. Unless you are a pilot.

Before you ask me what drugs am I taking that have caused this flooding of dopamine into the synapses in my brain and is causing me these delusions, read the book Your Brain At Work and see if it changes your mind.

The book is enjoyable, educational and easy to learn from since it is written in the form of stories. That’s one of the best ways the human brain learns.

I highly recommend reading this book. Once every six months.

My rating of this book: 5/5 stars.

  1. Doing emails on smartphone during a meeting, by the way, is a not-so-smart habit. []
  2. The path of steady progress is preferable to the pursuit of unattainable perfection. I call this the P5 principle. []