Archive for the ‘Gmail Podcast’ Category

Google Buzz

This entry is part 29 of 35 in the series Green Belt


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This past week Google introduced a new feature called Buzz. Buzz is Google’s cannonball in to the social media space. It features some of the benefits of Twitter like quick messaging, some Facebook like media sharing, and some from other social networks.

Buzz is very appropriately named when you consider all the press generated following its release. Unlike many Google products in the past that have typically been released gradually or as an opt-in feature like labs, Buzz was automatically released to millions of Gmail users on Tuesday Feburary 9, 2010.

While it is easy to start using it, many pundits are saying that Google forgot to think through privacy aspect of the product. Unlike some social media sites that start you with no information and connections, Buzz uses your Gmail contacts as a base for who you are following and who is following you. Initially, Buzz allowed others to see who was following you, who you were following, and some parts of your profile that you may not have intended to share.

To Google’s credit, they reacted quickly. Within a couple days (and lots of feedback) they added some options to allow you to control the visibility of your profile and follower information. If you’re the type of person who is concerned about privacy, you might want to wait before using Buzz. On the other hand, if you’re like me, and have been on the Internet for 25 years, then the horses left the barn a long time ago. With that in mind, there is no way to actually “turn off” Buzz in Gmail. It is integrated right in to Gmail which Google, at least, touts as an asset.

Here’s a step-by-step approach to get started with Buzz.

The first time you sign in to your Gmail account after Buzz has been enabled, you are taken to a screen that advertises Buzz is available with a message “New! Google Buzz in Gmail”. At the bottom of the screen is a blue button reading “Sweet! Check out Buzz.” When you click on the button, you’re taken to the Gmail interface only instead of your inbox, you are brought to the Buzz tab just under the Inbox.

Again, if you don’t feel comfortable with the maturity of the product yet, don’t click the blue button. Instead use the link “Nah, go to my inbox.” If you clicked the blue button by mistake, don’t worry. Just use the Inbox link to get back to your friendly mail.

The place where your messages usually are located is replaced with several items. First, there’s a text box that works much like Twitter, Facebook, or any other sProtect who is able to see who you follow and who follows youocial network. This is where you place the message you want to share. If you try to post a message there right away, Google will prompt you to create your profile (see Figure 1). Pay particular attention to the checkbox that reads “Show the list of people I’m following and the list of people following me on my profile”. This is one of the enhancements Google made two days after Buzz launched to help protect you and your follower’s privacy. If you’ve already setup a Google Profile, you can find this setting and more near your photo.

Just above the text box are links. Clicking your name displays how the public views your profile. The Edit link lets you set your profile and share other items from other social networks like Flickr, your personal blog, and other sites. Below the message box are some helpful instructions to get you connected to other people and get started posting your Buzz messages. Once you start following people this area lists their updates in Buzz, and other social networks.

When you want to post something to Buzz, just type in a text message. You can control who sees the message by using the dropdown list next to the Post button below the text area (see Figure 2).
Select who you want to view your message

If someone comments on your Buzz, the response shows up in your Gmail inbox. You can reply to the Buzz message right from within Gmail like a regular email message. If you don’t want the responses showing up in your inbox, you can create a filter that operates on the label “buzz” to automatically archive or delete them. Listen to the Gmail Podcast on filters and labels for more information how to manage your messages.

Keep in mind, Buzz is still in its infancy despite being deployed to millions of people on its initial release. Things are likely to change rapidly over the next few weeks and I suspect I’ll need to redo this episode.

From what I’ve seen so far, Buzz is as a good social network it just has a little maturing to do. If you’re concerned about privacy, wait a while and stay tuned to the Gmail Podcast and blog for continued updates.

That’s all for this time. Comments, suggestions, or questions can be sent to or check the website for full information and archives of all previous Gmail tips at And don’t forget about the short listener survey on the website. I really appreciate that so many of you have already done it and encourage more to do go and fill it out. It helps me understand who is listening and what I can do to provide you more valuable information on the Gmail Podcast.For more great information between the podcasts, follow me on twitter at gmailpodcast. I have no affiliation with Google other than as a satisfied Gmail user. Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to write.

Update: 14-Feb-2010 17:12 – There IS a way to turn off Buzz. There’s a tiny link in the footer messages below the conversation index that says “Turn off buzz”. It removes your buzz tab. Your profile and any existing Buzz conversations remain intact in the event you want to turn it on again in the future.


Screen Layout

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Getting Started

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This show is another in our getting started series with Gmail. It’s purpose is to help you understand the various parts of the Gmail screen layout and the functions they perform.

The largest and most noticeable object on the screen is the conversation index. It’s simply a list of email messages in a condensed format, showing who a message is from, the subject, part of the message (called a snippet), and the time or date it was received. Messages with the same subject are combined in to groups called “conversations”. Gmail does this to help you keep track of related information. Other email readers refer to this as a “thread”. Some people find this a little confusing at first and wish there was a way to turn it off. There is no way to turn it off and I’m sure that after a time you will find the conversation layout a preferred way to see your email. By default, the message index displays your inbox, however it can display other messages you have searched for, messages you have labeled, and so on.

On the left side of the conversation index, still within the list boundary, are a series of checkboxes. These are used to mark the conversations for additional actions such as archiving, deleting, labeling, and so on. You can select one or more messages by checking the checkbox or using the links just above the first message where it says Select All, None, Read, Unread, Starred, or Unstarred. This same list appears at the top and bottom of the conversation index.

Also at the top and bottom of the conversation index is a menu of options labeled Archive,Report Spam, Delete, Move To, Labels, and More Actions. These menu buttons are the actions that complement the conversations you have selected. I’ll get in to some of these menu options in greater detail in other podcasts. A separate link to the right of the menu, labeled Refresh, allows you to update your inbox on demand rather than waiting a few minutes for Gmail to refresh automatically. As a quick example, when you select one or more conversations with the checkbox on the left then click Archive, the conversation is removed from your inbox, but still available on the server. If you click delete, the message is removed from the servers and gone.

One of Gmail’s most used, but little appreciated features is it’s built in spam filter. Spam is unsolicited email for products or services you have no interest. It is the junk-mail of the Internet. As good as Gmail’s ‘spam filter is, a few slip through. You can help improve Gmail’s spam filter by selecting those troublesome messages and clicking the Report Spam button.

To the left of the conversation index are several links. Just below the Gmail logo is a link labeled “Compose Mail”. This link takes you to a new screen to create a new email message. Composing messages is covered in greater detail in another podcast.

A little further down are a group of links to your mail messages. The first is Inbox. As mentioned earlier, this are the conversations you have received and possibly read. The number next to any of these links indicates the number of conversations with unread messages in them. You can tell at a glance if, and how many, conversations need your attention.

Next is a link labeled Starred. Starred messages are simply messages you have tagged to keep track of. What you use the star for is up to you. I use mine as a way to quickly tag messages I want to view at the end of the week for podcast material. Once done, I unstar the ones I use and leave the rest. Clicking this link displays the first page of conversations you have starred all grouped together. You can add or remove a star from any conversation or message you like by clicking the star just to the left of the senders name in the conversation index.

The Sent Mail link displays the first page of messages you have sent. This is useful to verify you actually sent a message.

Drafts displays all the messages that you have composed, saved, but not yet sent. If you have a long message, or want to wait before sending, you can find it in Drafts. As you compose a message, Gmail will save periodically, so don’t become alarmed if you see a number 1 appear here from time to time.

Below Drafts is a short list of the most frequent labels you use. Labels are much like folders on other mail systems and Gmail creates several of them for you when you set up your account. Clicking any one of these links displays the conversations you have labeled or tagged with that label. I cover labels and managing your email in another podcast.

Also on the left is a link to take you to your contacts and tasks. Not to sound like a broken record, yes, those too are also covered in greater detail in other Gmail Podcasts as is the chat feature also on the left below these two links.

To search for messages in your inbox or archive, use the text box just to the right of the Gmail logo at the top. Type in the text you are searching for and click the Search Mail button.

At the very top of the screen are links to other free Google services to help you manage your calendar, documents, and more.

If you ever need help, and you cannot find a Gmail Podcast for it, use the Help link in the upper right of the Gmail screen.

Finally, for security, be sure to click the Sign Out link in the far upper right when you are done using Gmail – especially on public computers like those found in hotels or libraries.

One quick reminder, please consider filling out the Gmail Podcast survey. It will help me understand who is listening and how I can provide you with more useful information. Look for the survey link at the top of the website at

screen-layout-movieFYI – This podcast is also available as a full motion video demo. I am considering doing more of these as premium content for those who subscribe to the monthly donations to the tip jar.

As an added incentive, the videos will be free from advertisements.

If you’re interested, please let me know. If there is sufficient interest, I will continue to develop these.


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General Settings

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Getting Started


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This episode is the second in our Getting Started series on Gmail. I’ll walk you through the basics to setup your account.If you’re brand new to Gmail, you may want to go back and listen to the previous show on setting up an account. You can find it at the Gmail Podcast website,, under the Getting Started page. If you’ve been using Gmail for a while, I recommend you still listen. You might hear something new.

When you created your Gmail account, you provided a few items like your name, location, and a few other things. In this episode I’ll take deeper dive in to some of the other items you can configure.

Begin by going to and logging in to your Gmail account. Next, click the Settings link in the upper right corner of your Gmail web page.

The settings screen displays several links, or tabs, across the top. These are labeled General, Accounts and Import, Labels, Filters, Forwarding and POP/IMAP, Chat, Web Clips, Labs, Offline, and Themes. This show covers the General settings. I’ll go in to more detail for the other tabs in other Gmail Podcast episodes.

The General tab includes the general settings to you account. The Language field allows you to set the language and character set used to display the Gmail application. This changes the menus, labels, and other aspects of the Gmail interface. If you get messages in French, this setting will not automatically translate them to English for example.

Maximum page size sets the maximum number of conversations (or messages with the same subject) on a page. You can set this to 25, 50, or 100. The more messages you display, the more you can select without going to another page. However, too many messages and you may have to use the scroll bar on your browser.

Keyboard shortcuts allows you to enable or disable the use of keyboard shortcuts in Gmail. Keyboard shortcuts allow you to save time by typing “c” for example, to compose a new message from the conversation index. These can be a real time saver. if you ever get confused, you can use the “?” key to show you the shortcut key help.

External content determines whether or not Gmail will display images in your messages from trusted senders or prompt you each time. Since displaying messages can be a security issue, Gmail doesn’t simply display all images. If you’ve already sent messages to a person twice, they are considered a trusted sender and Gmail will display images from that person.

Browser Connection: Security is important with Gmail. As a result, Gmail offers a secure connection using the HTTPS protocol. This is the default connection between your browser and the Gmail server. When you use HTTPS, the traffic on the Internet is encrypted. I recommend you keep this setting turned on unless you have a strong reason to leave your information unsecured.

My Picture lets you upload an image that people see when you email or chat. Click the Select a picture link to get started uploading an image.

Contacts’ pictures determines whether you are going to use the images that your contacts provided for themselves or only ones you uploaded as part of your contacts.

The Signature option allows you to automatically place one or more lines of text at the end of each message you compose. To do this, change the radio button from No Signature to one with the text box. Place some text in the text box. This is what gets appended to your messages.

Personal level indicators enables or disables little arrows next to the subject line of each conversation in the index. This is handy to know at a glance how the message was addressed. No arrow indicates it was a mass mailing. A single arrow indicates it was sent to you and others and a double arrow indicates it was sent only to you.

The snippets setting tells Gmail whether you want to see the subject and the first part of the message in the conversation index or just the subject. How much of the snippet that’s dispayed depends on your video display and browser settings. By default, this is on.

Are you heading on vacation or business trip and won’t be able to check your Gmail for a while? You may want to use the Vacation Responder option to send an automatic message to people trying to contact you to let them know you are out and when you will be able to respond.

Outgoing message encoding tells Gmail what character set to use when sending your messages. In most cases, you won’t need to worry about this setting. However, if your recipient is having trouble reading your messages, you may want to set this to Unicode (UTF-8).

Finally, the attachments setting lets you upload multiple files and see progress bars when you attach files to messages. The catch is, it requires Flash to be installed on your machine. If you’re not sure, head over to and download the latest Flash player for free. If you’re having problems with file attachments, try setting this to Basic Attachment Features and see how that goes.

As a reminder, if you’ve changed any settings, click Save Changes at the bottom of the screen and you’ll be taken back to the conversation index with your new settings in effect.

Subscribe to the podcast for free via iTunes to have the show automatically delivered, or watch the Gmail Podcast website for my next installment of the Getting Started series.


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Texting – Part 3

This entry is part 4 of 20 in the series Gmail Master

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Welcome to part 3 of our 3 part series on texting from Gmail and Google applications. If you haven’t listened to parts 1 or 2, you can download them from iTunes or listen directly from the Gmail Podcast blog at That information is not required for this podcast, but it makes for a more complete picture of what you can do with Google applications and text messaging.
In parts 1 and 2 I showed you how to send free SMS messages from Gmail and Google Voice. In this part of the series, I cover how to send SMS messages to Google Calendar to quickly create appointments.

Let’s say I want to meet a friend for lunch tomorrow. I simply send a text message to GVENT (48368) with a message “Lunch with Bill at The Point tomorrow noon”. The text message gets sent to Google and put in your calendar. When the appointment is put on your calendar, you receive a text message confirming your appointment.

There are several ways to construct your message. If you remember “who”, “what”, “when”, and “where” you should have no problems. Only “what” and “when” are required. The message format follows the same rules as the Quick Add feature in Google Calendar.
The “what” is any text. The event title is created from this.

“When” is the date and time of your appointment. Leaving the time off makes the appointment an all day event. Using the words “at” or “on” can help Google recognize the when. By default, Google calendar creates one hour appointments. You can optionally specify start and end times or a duration.

You can add people to the guest list if you include “with” and one or more email addresses.

Where is also any text following an “at” or “in”.

Other examples are:

  • Disc golf with Jerry at 6PM
  • Take Cat to Vet Monday 3:00PM
  • National conference 3/15 – 3/20 in Orlando
  • Weekly one-on-one with Jason 10 – 10:30 every Wednesday at Jason’s Office

I use this feature all the time and absolutely love it when my wife tells me something. I can quickly text to Google Calendar and know it will appear our shared family calendar.

Here is some helpful reference information from Google how to create SMS text messages that get turned in to appointments.


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Texting – Part 2

This entry is part 3 of 20 in the series Gmail Master


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Welcome to part 2 of our 3 part series on texting from Gmail and Google applications. If you haven’t listened to part 1, you can download it from iTunes or listen directly from the Gmail Podcast blog at

In part 1 I showed you how to send free text messages from Gmail chat. Another way is to use Google Voice. Google Voice has several features that make it attractive, including:

• Publish a single phone number and have it ring your home, work, and mobile phone or any combination based on the caller.
• Free voice mail with personalized greetings
• Voice mail automatically converted to text and emailed to you with both the audio file and translated text attached
• Listen to, or read, your voice mail on your computer or mobile phone
• Free text messaging

Begin by signing in to Google Voice using your Gmail account at At the top, just under the logo, click the SMS button. Begin typing the name of the contact or their phone number. Make sure you have mobile phone numbers associated with the contacts you intend to send text messages. Unlike the Gmail Chat feature, it will not prompt you for the contact if you enter only the number. Similarly, if you enter a name that has no mobile phone number associated in your contacts list, you cannot send a message.

After you have entered a phone number or contact, type your message and press send. It’s that simple. Managing your Google Voice conversations from the web interface is very similar to Gmail. Responses will show up in your Inbox or you can look at just SMS messages and filter out voice mail by clicking the SMS link on the left. You can reply by typing in the text area just under the conversation and click Send.

Currently, Google Voice is free and open by invitation only. Contact me if you are interested in trying it out.


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Texting – Part 1

This entry is part 2 of 20 in the series Gmail Master

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Google offers a number of ways to send and receive text messages for free without using a mobile phone. This is part 1 of a 3 part series on using text messages, or SMS, with Gmail and other Google applications.

Let’s begin with Gmail. Texting from Gmail chat is fairly easy. To do this you will need to enable the Labs feature “Text (SMS) in Chat”. You can find this in the Labs tab in the Settings page.

Once the labs feature is setup, begin by opening the chat window and signing in to chat. Type the name or phone number of the person you want to send a text message to in the “Search, add, or invite” box. If this person is not already in your contacts list, don’t worry. As you type, a window appears under your text with options “Mail, Invite to Chat, and SMS”. If you entered a phone number, only the SMS option will be displayed. Finish entering the text then choose the SMS option and a window appears. In the window, finish filling out the contact information. If you entered a name, provide the phone number, if you entered a phone number then provide a name and click Save. This information will be added to your contacts list for easier reference later.

gmail-sms-contactWhen Gmail gets done saving the contact information, a window appears at the bottom of the screen – much like a chat window. Type you text message and send it with the Enter key. If the other person responds, you will receive a response in the same window. Gmail makes it as easy to send text messages as it is to chat – and best of all it’s free.
Another way to send text messages from Gmail is to use the SMS in Chat gadget. This is also a labs feature that works very similar to the Text (SMS) in Chat feature. I don’t recommend using this labs feature. First, it requires the Text (SMS) in Chat feature to be turned on – so why not use that instead? Second, at the time this article was written, the labs feature seems to have a bug in that it prompts you for contact information each time instead of reusing previous entries from the contact database. This creates duplicate entries in the contact database each time you use it.

Keep in mind that although the text messaging using Google may be free to you, it may not be free to the person receiving or sending replies. Currently, text messages from chat only work with US phones.

Listener John writes in and asks “Is there a way to set a primary email for a contact that has multiple addresses?”

While I cannot find a definitive rule or setting to make any particular email address the primary one, my own experience has shown me that mutliple email addresses seem to be ordered by the frequency they are used. The more you use a specific address for a particular person, the more likely that address will appear at the top of the list. If you’ve got information to the contrary, let me know on the blog or drop me an email.


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Mark Unread From Here

This entry is part 30 of 35 in the series Green Belt

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If you belong to one or more mail lists that have lots of traffic, I recommend the labs feature “Mark Unread From Here”. This handy labs feature allows you to mark messages from a certain point in the conversation as unread.

Here’s how a typical conversation goes with me. I receive one or more messages, open the conversation, read them, and then archive the information. Later, I find the conversation has re-appeared in my message index with several new messages. If I open the conversation again, it marks all of the new entries as read, however I might not have time to read all of them. I may only read two or three – because I typically get distracted with embedded links to read, watch, or listen to something.

If I go back to the index, Gmail is going to mark all the messages in that conversation as read, when in fact, I may not have read them all. If I mark the conversation as unread, it marks all messages unread. That’s where the labs feature “Mark Unread From Here” comes in handy.

Enable this feature in the standard way by going to the Labs tab under Settings. Mark Unread From Here is near the bottom. Click the enable radio button and then choose Save Changes at the bottom of the screen.

Now when you open a conversation with many unread messages, use the Reply (or Reply To All) button in the upper right corner of any particular message and choose “Mark Unread From Here”. The remaining messages are marked unread, while the previous ones are marked as read. Alternatively, you can use the Expand All link, just above the sponsored links on the right, to show all the messages that may have already been read and collapsed. Using the Mark Unread from Here feature acts like a bookmark for a specific conversation, allowing you to come back later and finish reading the conversation right where you left off.

One final note, Google engineers are reporting that Gmail mobile now loads 2-3X faster than it did just a few months ago. For iPhone and Android users, the app is up and running in less than 3 seconds.


Merge Duplicate Contacts with One Button

This entry is part 28 of 35 in the series Green Belt

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Gmail has added a feature to the contacts screen to allow you quickly find all duplicate contacts in your contacts database. Until I hit this button, I thought I was pretty good about managing my contact, but I found that out of more than 1600 contacts, I had 163 with more than one entry.

You’ll find the new magic button by clicking on the Contacts link on the left, then in the main window labeled “My Contacts”, there are two buttons labeled “View Suggestions” and “Find duplicates”. After you click the Find Duplicates button, a list of all contacts with more than one email address is presented. Review the list and uncheck any contacts you want to leave alone. Click the “details” link next to each contact to see which addresses Gmail has found for this person, or use the “expand” link at the top of the list to show the details for all duplicate records. Use the collapse link to shrink them back down to a list of names.

After you have reviewed the list, click the Merge button to combine the multiple email addresses in to one contact. Verify the operation worked as expected by looking up your contacts and noting that there are now multiple email addresses for that person. Choosing a name when you compose a message is the same as if the contact was not merged. Start typing the name and all available email addresses are displayed.

If you’ve been considering using Gmail as your central contacts database, this feature makes it easy to keep everything together and then sync it with your phone or other portable device. To find out more about syncing your contacts, search for the term sync on the Gmail blog at

Here’s today’s quick tip – Use the question mark key (?) to see all the shortcut keys Gmail has to offer.


Default Text Styling and Free Holiday Card

This entry is part 7 of 23 in the series White Belt


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Want to put a little flair in your email? Want to get away from the standard font that everyone else is using in their Gmail messages? Try the labs feature called Default Text Styling. Like other labs features, you can turn it on by:

  • Clicking the Settings link in the upper right corner
  • Click the Labs tab.
  • Scroll down the list until you find Default Text Styling and click “Enable” next to it
  • At the bottom of the screen, click “Save Changes”

Now you can define your default text style under the General tab in the setting screen. It may take a few minutes for the feature to show up if you are using offline mail. If you want to remove the formatting and go back to the default style, use the rightmost icon that looks like a capital T with a red x.
When you compose new a new message, your default text style will be set to the color, font, and size you setup in the General Settings. Your signature will not use the default style if you have one setup.

Here’s today’s quick tip. Send a free holiday greeting card through the U.S. Postal Service and let Google pay for it. You can choose from six different styles and send one card with a personalized message to anyone with a U.S. Postal Address for free. Find out more at

A couple quick updates before I go. First, the Gmail website has been redesigned. We’ve cleaned things up and modernized. There are still a few tweaks to make, but I think you’ll find the interface quite familiar. Second, if you’re a WordPress user or are thinking about starting your own blog, watch for the book “Sams Teach Yourself WordPress in 10 Minutes” written by me and my Technorama co-host Kreg Steppe. The book won’t be out until March 2010, but you can pre-order now at


Offline Attachments and Green Robots

This entry is part 23 of 27 in the series Black Belt

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Beginning November 22, 2009, Gmail has added the ability to add attachments to email while in offline mode. This was not previously possible and frustrated many people who use offline Gmail. Now email attachments will behave just as you would expect whether you are online or offline, with the exception that you cannot do inline images when you are in offline mode.

When Gmail sends your mail, it goes through the outbox whether you are offline or online. This allows Gmail to capture all the attachments. If you are online, your message is sent immediately. If you are offline, it sits in the outbox until you are reconnected. Oddly, I would have expected this behavior already since I am so used to it in Outlook.

To get started with offline access:
1. Go to Settings and click on the Labs Tab.
2. Select Enable next to the Offline Gmail option
3. Click Save Changes at the bottom of the page
4. Your browser will then restart and you should see an offline link represented as an icon of a white checkmark in a green circle, next to your name in the upper right corner of Gmail. Click the offline icon to start the setup process.

Listen to the Gmail Podcast from March 1st and November 8th 2009 for additional information on setting up Offline Gmail and selecting specific messages to synchronize..

Here’s today’s quick tip. If you have friends with Android phones, enable the labs feature Green Robot to identify in your chat listing which people are online, but perhaps not always available because their Android phone has them automatically logged in. Android users will show up as a green robot indicating they are ready, but not ready-ready.