The other day I posted to the email meme that’s going around lately, I’m not going to go over the misery of email overload, but I will say that when communications are spread in the context of different tools it’s much less daunting.
This was illustrated in Matt Moore’s presentation, there are tools like IM, blogs, and micro-blogs (presence) that can be used instead of email for particular types of communications.
I’n not saying email is not a good tool, but rather for certain types of communications there are more appropriate tools that do the job much better. We can have a dashboard of complementary tools that can replace some of what we do in email, and also do lots more, especially the social and connected aspect.
So with all these other ways to communicate, which tool would you choose for what type of communication?
Is it really going to be a cognitive stress like choosing what bin to put your rubbish in (environmental sustainability stress
Luis Suarez is attacking this, as Jack Vinson puts it, input and output behavioural email issue, at the moment by using the right communcation tools for the right content, I’m just wondering how he keeps an eye on this scattered approach, and whether he misses anything…more on that later.
Here are some reasons where other tools are more appropriate than email depending on the context and calibre of your communication:
- broadcast an announcement, instead of emailing a batch of people
- others can do the same
- comments are there for everyone to see
How is this better?
- “where’s that email saying when the server is going down, is it tonight, I hope not, I want to work back…darn, I can’t find it!”
- Instead of asking around and emailing people
- Check the server status blog
- Even leave a comment if you want to know peripheral stuff
- Hang on someone else has already left a comment on what you were going to ask, and the subsequent comment has the answer
- similar to blogs in that conversation is public rather than in email silos
How is this better?
- you are after a solution
- you can’t search people’s emails, but you can search forum conversations
- you want to ask a question
- ask the public, whereas in email you select the people you ask
- all discussion is clean and threaded, email conversations are frustrating and all over the place
- a quick query
- a chat (even a group chat)
- just like the phone, but better if you wanted a quick query as you don’t feel obligated to keep talking as you don’t have as intimate a connection
How is this better?
- sometimes you don’t really want a history of your chat, whereas it would be just another email in your inbox
- sometimes you need an answer fast and IM is in your face, whereas people may take time to get to that email
- you wouldn’t send an email to say good morning, but you would with IM, so it feels more social and intouch
- you can chat with a group of people in real-time, email doesn’t have good group conversation features
- you can see if people are online and whether to bother them or not, email doesn’t have this intimacy
- similar to IM, but you are publishing rather than sending a message to select people
- you can send a public message at someone, but others will also see it, in email you choose the others via the cc: field
- others can tune into your micro-posts in their stream along with other people’s micro posts
- you can also send private messages
How is this better?
- you can correspond, but also have conversations, and view other conversations, it’s totally social
- the public can see your publishings, similar to blogs, whereas email is closed
- you can discover people, whereas email doesn’t have discovery
- it’s like overhearing conversations in a bar, and joining in…email is not socially dynamic at all
- you can ask a question, and lots of people you don’t even know may have an answer, with email you select the people
- since presence messages are only 140 characters long it’s a great place to break news or send links
- presence streams flow like a river and you grab onto a floating log every now and then, whereas email demands you open each item to read
- as per presence blogging you have a profile and can communicate with friends, and discover people and information
How is this better?
- a public comment wall enables you to send someone information, and others in your network will also be privy to that, great for sending someone a link
- with a general social network like facebook which is not topic (Sports) or format (slide decks) specific, I’m not sure how private messaging is different to email at all…if we are going to leave the email client for social networks because of all the benefits, it means we will still be able to use email functionality via private messages
- but you will be less hesitant to send a private message when the same client you use gives you the choice of: private message, presence status update, public wall comment, blog post, blog post comment, posted item, upload a photo rather than email attachments, etc…
- don’t have to email someone all the time, just visit their profile or check your newsfeed to see what they are up to
This kind of answers the early question, when you have all these different ways to communicate within the one client, you naturally know which one to use without thinking…private messaging (email substitute) is just one of many features in your dashboard.
There are various network or collectives for different topics and format types, so I won’t go into these
eg. if I want to share a presentation I don’t email a few people, I load it into a presentation network like SlideShare, people can leave comments
- Email allows you to read feeds, but why not use email just for one-to-one correspondence, and use the right tool for content alerts
How is this better?
- they can manage these alerts much better and you can skim read these alerts much better, and you can action these alerts much better
- a friendstream like FriendFeed is another way to keep up-to-date
Your email inbox is not being used a jack of all trades, you can use various tools to be a master of all types of communication:
- email for one-to-one correspondence
- no more overload
- pull, tune in, add friend network, subscribe model…rather than a push model
- more social…conversation, discovery, recommendations
This last point really hones into the benefits, even though you still use email for one type of communication, you substitute it with other tools for other types of communications.
You don’t just relieve inbox overload, now you have a network of people you tune into, now you participate, you know what people are up to by just visiting their profile, you discover and recommend, information somehow seems to come to you, your world has changed.
What would be overloading your inbox is now distributed:
- Content alerts in your RSS Reader
- Quick chat in IM
- Reply to a your broadcast publishing is a blog post comment
- Reply to a your broadcast discussion topic is a topic reply
- Communication directed at you-but OK for others to see and jump in-is a presence reply or public comment wall post
- Reply to your latest presentation is a slide deck comment
And the reverse, when you want to know something, instead of emailing people or checking your email archives…yuch, try this:
- search your RSS Reader
- search the blogosphere, publish a shoutout blog post
- search or ask the forums
- publish a micro-blog shoutout
- search social bookmarks (del.icio.us), search social presentations (slideshare), search social documents (srib’d), etc…
- search the expert locator
…everything has a place of it’s own, where you can hang out.
It’s a similar amount of content, but just distributed, actually it may be less content as instead of people emailing you stuff, they can find what they need using an above method, without bothering you…re-usable and findable tacit content. And the fact that you also choose to pull communications as some people may now publish without pushing to you… plus no spam.
Another benefit is that since most of these other tools are based on social relationships, there is more chance that the communicated content is of more quality as people you know and trust are communicating with you, whereas an email inbox doesn’t really decipher this well for you…xobni is a start.
On the open web the only emails I get are spam, notifications, and correspondence from people I don’t know or from non-tech savvy friends. All my quality communications happen at my blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc…this means I only visit my email once a week, as it has become very low priority communcations. This is not the case at work.
Our communications are no longer just communications, but publishings and discussions…and they are in scattered systems.
What we need is a dashboard to replace the email client.
You can use a startpage like iGoogle, where all the tools you use are widgets one the one page, in fact this can also be your overall portal where you keep other tools.
But still how do you know when anything happens to you, it’s obvious when someone IM’s you, but how will you know when you have a new:
- email or private message
- public message
- presence reply or private message
- blog comment
- comment on your slidedeck
- a comment reponding to a comment you left on someone’s blog
- a new forum topic or reply
- new content alerts (RSS Reader)
Now you have to visit 4 or 5 place constantly to know if anyone is communicating with you.
An RSS Reader can’t help as you can’t get a new private message as an RSS feed, plus feed updates aren’t instant…and the idea is to not have all communications in the one spot, we don’t want the RSS Reader to be the new inbox disaster, instead we should try limit their use to general content alerts.
Most of these notifications are happening as new emails, meaning your inbox is the receiver of 100’s of notifications…the content is no longer in the email (we have achieved step one), but you are being notified of new content in email.
As soon as we get a new email we launch to the place to action the item.
How do we overcome step two of keeping email for just one-to-one correpondence and using another tool as a notifications stream?
I haven’t used Fuser in a while, but I know I wouldn’t want one notification inbox, I’d like an inbox for each service, so I guess what I’m looking for is iGoogle crossed with Fuser.
And further to this, I don’t even want just notifications, I want the content as well to appear in a particular widget stream on my dashboard (startpage).
And the ultimate is that I can action back from a widget stream without having to visit the service, which Fuser also dabbles in.
So what I’m looking for is a startpage/dashboard where I have a widget inbox/sent box for each service…or I could have one inbox and just filter it by service.
This breaks down into a few streams, that we could filter by public and private stuff, by service, by person:
- Lifestream (stuff I publish)
- “Me to Others” (replies I make to others) or Commentstream or Outboxstream
- Friendstream (what friends are publishing)
- “On to Me” stream or Replystream or Inboxstream (stuff friends do to me)
- “On to Others” stream (what friends are doing to their friends)
As mentioned at the start this is not just your issue, it’s everyone’s, you may be able to do what Luis Suarez is doing, but how do you get others to do the same, how do you stop them from bombarding you with email. As in Luis’s case the more he sticks to his changed behaviour the more people will respect that and get used ot it, perhaps even take to it.
What I am doing at work lately is replying an email to a person when I think they could have used another tool:
- If I get a broadcast announcement, I email that person suggesting a blog
- If I get a broadcast question, I email that person suggesting a forum topic
- I try to get people on to IM, so we can be in touch and social
- I try not to accept attachments as we have a DMS
- If someone emails a response to a blog post or forum topic I email them to please communicate with the right tool
Hopefully using this repetitive pressure we can break habits, and along the way people will also feel the benefits of new communication avenues.
As I mentioned earlier another way to change culture may be in the tool itself (funnily enough), if we have a dashboard client with 5 communication tools on it, then we are more likely to choose the right tool for the right type of communication, just like we do in Facebook.
I really think we need to change the dashboard or Outlook has to no longer be centred around email and have email as just one feature of a unified communication and publishing tool.