Advertising

Get Productive With Google Talk, Split Browser and Firefox

Advertising
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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

    Advertising

      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.

      Advertising

      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.]

      More by this author

      Bootstrapping Life: Five Tips Get Productive With Google Talk, Split Browser and Firefox

      Trending in Featured

      1 8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener 2 The Art of Humble Confidence 3 How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart 4 15 Healthy Eating Tips from a Professional Health Coach 5 Back to Basics: Capture Your Ideas

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising

      8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

      Advertising
      8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

      How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

      Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

      When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

      Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

      What Makes People Poor Listeners?

      Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

      1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

      Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

      Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

      It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

      2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

      This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

      Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

      3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

      It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

      Advertising

      I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

      If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

      4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

      While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

      To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

      My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

      Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

      Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

      How To Be a Better Listener

      For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

      1. Pay Attention

      A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

      According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

      As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

      Advertising

      I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

      2. Use Positive Body Language

      You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

      A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

      People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

      But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

      According to Alan Gurney,[2]

      “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

      Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

      3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

      I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

      Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

      Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

      Advertising

      Be polite and wait your turn!

      4. Ask Questions

      Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

      5. Just Listen

      This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

      I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

      I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

      6. Remember and Follow Up

      Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

      For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

      According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

      It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

      7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

      If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

      Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

      Advertising

      Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

      Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

      NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

      1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
      2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

      8. Maintain Eye Contact

      When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

      Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

      By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

      Final Thoughts

      Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

      You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

      And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

      More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

      Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
      [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
      [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
      [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

      Read Next