“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Gmail’s new Web Clips feature

Recently, Gmail came out with a new interesting and for me unexpected feature. They call it Web Clips. It’s a fairly basic piece of functionality whereby a user sets up a bunch of RSS feeds (subscriptions). Then whenever you view a list like your Inbox, or a conversation (a message) at the top of the panel that displays the list or panel is a link title of an article that would have been called up from one of your subscriptions.

It looks like this:
Gmail's Web Clips

The Web Clips are managed as a tab in the settings. A closer up view of the standard Web Clips area is here:
Web Clip closer
Notice the paging widgets on the far right. It allows you to toggle through the listings. Since it appears to be on a random loop, unless you have a lot of subscriptions you tend to get a lot of repeats as you page through the clips.

Since I’ve started using this feature, I have really enjoyed it. There is a new serendipity to coming to my e-mail and finding something unexpected. It adds to the experience of reading mail in a new way. I’ve tried to add subscriptions that are not part of my regular RSS Feed Readers, but I have found that I find too many juicy tidbits and eventually end up adding them to my regular feed anyway. I tend to like the news items best, like Business Week, NY Times, and CNN.

In my use of this feature I’ve noticed some unexpected and at first unwanted features. The most “distressing” one is that somtimes when looking at conversations the clip is used not for my subscriptions but for sponsored links. Check this out:
Web Clip with Sponsored Link

Ya get over it, just like you get over the sponsored links that are already on the right of the page. Then I noticed these odd recipe links showing up whenever I was looking at my SPAM filter:
Web Clips displaying Spam recipe
It turns out that there is a Spam Recipe listing somewhere and Gmail always finds a new recipe every time you look at your held spam. I found this to be too funny when I first noticed it.

As I was preparing screenshots for this article it occurred t me that maybe there are some other funky uses for the web clips so I went hunting around a bit more. I found one more funky one:
Web Clips Trash-Recycle
This one always gives you a link to information about recycling. Obviously, this is a view few people go to, but it is the kind of easter egg that just brings a total experience together.

Google has constantly displayed a very human and humor-filled sensibility, and it comes through here with this very well thought out piece of functionality. It is something so simple, but takes it up a notch to produce more than functionality (that was easy). Considering that no other mail program is doing this, they could have stopped there and be content, but they added more to it, their own personality, and it is risks like this that propel a company to the $400/share mark. “Be yourself!” What a beautiful motto.

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