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Get Productive With Google Talk, Split Browser and Firefox

Get Productive With Google Talk, Split Browser and Firefox

If you’re like me you’re probably using multiple VoIP/ VoIM (Voice over Internet Protocol/ Voice over Instant Messenger) software clients to communicate with friends, family and business clients. I use all of Google Talk, Skype, AIM Pro, Yahoo Messenger, and Live/MSN Messenger nearly every day. That not only gets annoying, it also uses up loads of computer RAM, leaving little memory for other applications. It’s also difficult to work in your web browser and a text chat client at the same time, unless you have a giant screen. But there are a few simple solutions.

Memory Usage

To alleviate some of the RAM memory usage, I rotate between soft clients based on the time of day and the time zones of the people I talk to daily. So for example, if I’m expecting a chat with someone twelve zones away, I’ll have a 3-4 hour window where I’ll fire up the software they prefer to use, say Google Talk or Yahoo Messenger. For someone who is closer to my time zone, and who chats with me more often, I might leave their preferred client, such as Skype, open longer each day. So far, I tend to have Skype and Google Talk open most often, and the other three clients mentioned above the least often.

This way, I don’t have to run all five clients simultaneously. Of course, I could get more RAM, but at present, it’s not an option for me. Because of my warranty, I’d have to take the computer miles away and leave it there for two days. So this is the best solution I have short of buying another computer with more RAM – possibly one dedicated to VoIP calling. But that’s an expensive solution.

Another possibility is Meebo, which is a browser-based application that bridges all of the above VoIP/VoIM clients except Skype. The problem with Meebo is that it doesn’t do audio and doesn’t support Skype – my primary audio call application. So Meebo is of no use to me. But if you use it, understand that it’s memory use is not cheap. It’s only worth it you use three or four of the VoIM clients indicated earlier. If you have audio conversations, then it’s not.

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Productivity

The other problem with using chat clients is productivity. Or lack of it. I use multi-tabbed browsers like Firefox and Mozilla. Firefox is a great productivity tool for bloggers and anyone who does online work, simple because of the incredible array of extensions. I could never be as productive as I am with my freelance writing if I didn’t have Firefox. There’s nothing like it.

Therein lies a partial solution to productivity: the Split Browser Firefox extension and the new Google Talk Sidebar widget, which can also run in the Firefox sidebar. Here is a quick overview:

  1. Install the Split Browser extension in Firefox.
  2. Bookmark the Google Talk Sidebar widget.
  3. Split up your Firefox window into whatever convenient configuration you prefer. Leave one split pane blank for Google Talk.
  4. Drag the Google Talk Sidebar bookmark into the empty pane.
  5. Voila, embedded Google Talk that doesn’t steal the sidebar.

Now for the long explanation…

The Split Browser extension is simply brilliant and has multiplied my blogging productivity many-fold. With it, I can split up the Firefox browser into multiple panes, in whatever way I want. Anything that runs in a normal Firefox tab can run in a split pane, though I use it to run multiple ScribeFire editor sessions (see Top 10 Firefox Extensions to Avoid, which I obviously disagree with). That’s because I work on multiple articles simultaneously. Multiple edit sessions are not for everyone, but it works for wonderfully for me.

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Now, while the Google Talk Sidebar widget is supposed to run in the Firefox sidebar, it can actually run in any of the split panes too. All you do is go to the above link, find the link to “Google Talk Sidebar”, then bookmark that in Firefox. Your Firefox bookmarks run in the sidebar. Find the bookmark. If you click on it, Google Talk starts in the sidebar. But this means you cannot simultaneously browse your bookmarks. So what you can do instead is split off a Firefox pane, then drag and drop the bookmark into that pane. Google Talk will now start in that pane.

The screenshot below shows a portion of my Firefox browser with the sidebar still intact, and multiple panes running. You can see the main multi-tabbed browser pane at right, and two PFF (Performancing for Firefox) sessions at bottom. (PFF is the earlier version of the ScribeFire editor. It was renamed and moved when Performancing was sold earlier this year.)

    A closeup of the Google Talk pane from above is shown below. You can see that there three tabs within Google Talk: one is the main Contacts tab, and the other two are chat sessions that have stopped. I have had situations where I’m chatting with three people in Google Talk at the same time (or even two in GTalk and one in Skype). This functionality remains intact in the embedded version of Google Talk.

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      Of course, if you have anything less than a 17-inch monitor, this may not be all that effective for you. For me, it’s been an incredible boon to my multi-tasking and productivity. My text chat sessions are intermittent. A single conversation may extend 30-60 minutes. But for most of that time, there is no chatting. The communication channel is open, and if either party needs to communicate, we do. Now that I can embed Google Talk, my general productivity has increased.

      This is something that I hope can be duplicated for other VoIP/ VoIM clients, especially Skype. Skype has developer APIs, as do some of the other clients, so it’s possible someone will come up with a Skype Sidebar. Of course, what would be better is if there were a single Sidebar style client that supported all the primary VoIP/VoIM applications.

      It should be noted that Split Browser itself does not take up a lot of memory. However, if you have loads of Firefox extensions that you do not use, uninstall them before you get addicted to Split Browser – since it appears to load up all of them each time you split panes. Also beware that the Split Browser button pops up when you least expect it, depending on where your mouse cursor is. So it may take a little getting used to before you become efficient.

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      For me, it’s been a boon, and now with the Google Talk Sidebar, I can chat and browse at the same time, in the same application window – which is especially valuable if the browsing has to do with your conversation.

      [Raj Dash writes about blogging productivity, Internet success, new media, VoIP, RFID and other technologies, and is the editor of Tubetorial.]

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      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      What happens in our heads when we set goals?

      Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

      Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

      According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

      Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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      Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

      Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

      The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

      Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

      So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

      Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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      One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

      Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

      Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

      The Neurology of Ownership

      Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

      In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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      But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

      This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

      Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

      The Upshot for Goal-Setters

      So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

      On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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      It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

      On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

      But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

      More About Goals Setting

      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

      Reference

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