She starts off explaining the limitations of email in the perspective of “collaboration”, but then she proceeds to explains why email is good enough, from the post:
“Everyone has to manage their own archives. New team members don’t have easy access to old discussions and shared documents. People lose or delete information that turns out to be important. Stakeholders get mistakenly or purposefully left out of discussions. Email inboxes get flooded with information their owners don’t need to see.”
These points are exactly the limitations of a closed system; where’s the visibility, where’s the re-editing of updates…also I’d rather pull the information to myself, instead of being invited to a party that you don’t want to go to, and then further being updated about stories at the party.
Anyway Anne makes some respected points:
Interoperability - sender and receiver can use different clients
Personalised Organisation - store content with your own categories, keep only the content that you want
Easy access control - control on who sees the content
Single point of information access - everything in the inbox, instead of scattered
Visibility - we need a webpage to host or be a pivot space to the scattered information
Spam - can you trust email, will people read the email (just another email)
Findability - can you find the email (I suppose desktop search is helping)
Communication - the receiver is pushed information they may not want to see
New Comers - how do new people catch up on what’s happening
Changes - re-edits require a new email, instead of just simply re-editing the wiki and just using email to notify
On top of this you have a lot of people spending (wasting) time dealing with this information, the alternative is to keep it in one place or use a wiki as a gateway.
I guess my stance is that email is good to notify, along with system tray alerts, IM alerts, RSS, but let’s face it everyone’s head is in email…I don’t think email is the best container to hold collaborative content, it is a good messenger.
Luis Suarez posted more indepth, most of the post came back to visibility issues of email.
Interoperability - with web-based collaborating services all you need is a browser, it doesn’t matter where you are, or what PC you are using…how do you show your mum if you are not on your work computer, and it doesn’t look all clear and smooth for your mum to navigate to work out what’s going on.
Also I like the idea of using RSS to re-syndicate content elsewhere, ie. your collaborative efforts can be re-published and promoted in other areas.
Personalised Organisation - Luis mentions a disaster scenario of losing your mail…personally I think the convenience of personal organisation just doesn’t outweigh public visibility.
People like to own content, they are afraid of socializing, having content stored in only one place. An issue is that even the though content is visible, it may be stored in once but in many places, it can still be scattered (kind of like silos). eg. you may use a forum, wiki, blog, and other tools for the one project.
This is what I like about wikis, they can be a gateway or even hold some of the content itself.
Easy access control - It is tiring to re-send information to new comers or people left out of the loop, or to resend an email because you re-edited something…then to remember to delete the old email, but you can’t delete the old email because it has other useful information in the replies.
This is a very static system, it gets messy.
Single point of information access - some people want security of not missing anything and want it all to come via the inbox.
Luis hit the spot, even if information is scattered in different collaborative modules, you can keep up with RSS, it will eventually happen.
Of course, depending on the project you may want other collaborative modules such as a project blog for announcements, a wiki to brainstorm or even distill the good points from the blogs and forums, etc…in the end you have a collaborative topic portal, such as GROU.PS or Zimbio. These portals give security that all the collaboration on a given project is in one space.
Luis also mentions that an open system doesn’t have the worry of missing access to content because the gatekeeper or the person with some valuable emails is on holidays.
He also mentions the reasons email is still popular are: laziness, fear, control, culture, group mind.
Check out a post in this discussion by Innovation Creators, it shows the benefits of blogs and wikis…why wouldn’t you…lots of nice graphs.
On a work project I was given, it was my task to develop a project with someone is an oversea’s office, we started using email, I kept all these in a folder…we kept replying to email’s where the content kept changing/evolving in its subject matter. The issue was when I looked at the subject line of all these emails, it didn’t really reflect the content, so I had to go through chains of email or use search.
The other problem was that when it was time to get feedback from the rest of the team, how were we to show them our discussion, we would have to distill our discussion in a document for the team to review.
But still then we would start another email discussion…
The document would basically be our proposal, there may be some points in our discussion we wanted to pursue but decided against it, this will be left out of the proposal…the issue here is that if others could view the discussion, perhaps they could make these points we wanted to pursue a reality.
Problem is we didn’t want to annoy people by including them in our discussion, people are busily working on their own projects.
Our solution was to create a discussion forum, I re-posted our email discussion into discussion topics and we took off from there, then we let other knows about this by sending an email…they could choose to add their views in the forum if they had time.
This was a great idea, we achieved what we did using email, but more:
- others could choose to take part on their own accord
- multiple points of view
- every post had a subject line and replies (not as messy as email)
- the discussion was visible to everyone (even lurkers, or people from other business units, who I would of never considered including in the to: or cc: field)
- the discussion is there to stay even when people leave the workplace
- not everyone is keeping a copy of the discussion in their email, this saves time and storage space
[ADDED 2/02/07: Where does email fit in document collaboration?, Email collaboration re-visited (forum add-on, 9cays, Grouptivity and QuickTopics), Document collaboration re-visited (NextPage2, PleaseReview and QuickTopic)]