What actually is the email inbox?
It can be the latest private correspondence, news, questions, announcements, conversations, document collaboration, tasks, notifications etc…
This is a lot of different types of content coming into the one stream, where it’s hard to sort out priority, and also hard to organise what you’ve done, what the status is on what your doing, and where to find what your working on.
My post, Instead of sending an email…, poses that a better way is to receive this content in context
eg. IM for quick questions, forums for discussion, blogs for know-how and communications, wikis for collaboration, RSS for notifications, etc…
Now you have various places to go to do your work…email can be used for one-to-one private correspondence and for invite links
eg. you are invited to collaborate on this wiki, here is the link
Instead of getting an email about project status, a new forum topic, I check my RSS Reader where I subscribe to blogs and forums.
This has split my email inbox stream into various other services, and most of the time I can reply or take part within these other services.
And of course this content is in the open for all to benefit from, for conversation to evolve the content, and I can discover people, connect and learn.
Email stress is something that is relevant to everyone, but what are people doing about it besides re-appropriating content elsewhere as I have suggested above?
There are lots of ways to be productive to keep your inbox down, but this is still putting up with the firehose problem, you are just putting up with the problem by implementing a nifty method to deal with it. Why should you have to deal with it, why not treat the cause?
A comment I left on one of my blog posts, referncing Jack Vinson, is that the real issue is the “input problem”. Email is just a tool, it’s the way we are using it, that’s stressing us. What has to happen is a policy, rule, social norm on group behaviour using emails. If you tell Bill to use a blog or IM sometimes instead of email, then you don’t need to solve your inbox problem as Bill is doing it for you, by re-purposing the content in the first place.
We don’t use RSS Readers at my work, we are using email to subscribe to blogs and forums. This is OK as you can post replies and comments from within your email, you can even post a forum topic and blog post via email…people like this.
We are in the open, having conversations, discovering people, creating serendipity, which is doing the right thing as we are leveraging the social capital, creating a corporate memory, creating conditions for emergence, etc…
We are starting to collaborate with wikis.
NOTE: this is not enterprise wide, we are in pilot mode
Even though I still have the problem of all this stuff (notifications) coming into my inbox, at least it doesn’t live in my inbox, at least I’m not actioning stuff as a new email. Once I read the email I delete it, as I know where the content lives.
One other benefit I forsee is that when people get the hang of blogs, I won’t be pushed so much stuff anymore, I can choose to subscribe by email. We already have an issue with a flooded inbox with stuff that’s relevant, last thing I want is occupational spam.
Another option over the RSS Reader subscription model is to have profiles and be able to network by subscribing to people:
- your profile
- what your subscriptions are doing
One thing that stuck in my mind is when Luis said he was sick of answering the same question all the time.
- he would rather answer a question once in a community forum or blog post where it is visible, and allow people to search or be pointed to it
- if the question was asked in public perhaps others could see it and answer it if Luis was unavailable, or didn’t know the amswer himself
This is similar to our support database where people log calls…if I can’t answer a call or I’m absent at least someone else can see it in the cue.
When people email a call, I have been instructed to ask them to log the call, please.
Luis is proposing this concept to any sort of question, just search the blogs or forums, if no luck then choose a forum to ask the question, or ask your network.
He is also doing what I do with support calls that are emailed to me, he is letting people know that what they just emailed him could of been done by IM, or a forum topic, or a blog post, or a wiki, etc…and he is letting them know by using this social tool to deliver the message.
Since our community pilot I have been doing the same.
Everytime I get an email that is an announcement I remind that person that they could have blogged it.
Everytime I get an email that is a question or discussion query I remind that person that they could have posted a forum topic.
Everytime I get an email that requires a more synchronous feel I ring that person or answer using IM.
Everytime I get and email that asks to collaborate on something I inform that person that we can use a wiki.
My intention is that once all community leaders discipline their members, they will hopefully re-habitualise (is that a word?) people into using the right tool for the right job.
Another thing that came across is that “email detox” is a great selling term to get people social online. Email stress affects everyone, and a process/program to help with that is a great disguise for getting social tools adopted. It will soon be realised that email detox is just a by product of social tools, and the real benefit is being connected.
What if you want to annouce something and some people you want to reach don’t subscribe to the blog?
Firstly if it’s a team blog, perhaps you could subscribe the group email to the blog.
But sometimes a team announcement may affect another party, in a past post I suggested that if you can post a blog my email, just include these other people in the address bar as well.
The end of the email can contain a link to the blog homepage so these people are aware that the content is archived, and not siloed.
How do I share links with people?
If I want to share a link with a friend that is not private correspondence, how do I do it?
- and what if she doesn’t subscribe to my bookmarks, or what if I haven’t bookmarked this link anyway, but I just want to tell them about it
This is what I like about the Facebook comment wall…I can share a link with one person, but it’s public.
- others can see it when they visit that page
- others will be aware of this via their News feed.
What about if I want to share a link or an email someone sent me, with three other people?
I wonder what Luis does for this type of communication.
I’m thinking perhaps we should do something similar to Andrew McAfee’s latest post with example scenarios of when a social tool would be beneficial.
Perhaps we can create a wiki for re-purposing email examples:
And also have wikipages for each wikipage above, example:
I have started going through my current inbox and am filing emails in re-purposing folders.
I’m finding that I don’t know where to file some emails…maybe we can have a wikipage for emails that we don’t know how they could be re-purposed. This is especially happening with task type emails.
If a task is to request the team to sign off on the latest server upgrade testing, then a blog post is OK.
But what if the task is just for me to carry out something on my own and report back…I guess this is where something like the Activities module of Lotus Connections is the right social tool.
In some cases a task request may be a question to me and cc:’d to two people in another team. In this case the requestee has perhaps spoken to these two people and has said I’ll email John and cc: you.
I really think that on-the-fly forums are essential, as not all work is done within a team or community. Sometimes you are cross-collaborating so you want to have a quick task and discussion space quickly set-up rather than resort to email.
Or maybe the task could be a wikipage and the comments can be used for discussion.
I’ll perhaps do a follow-up post with some examples of the type of content we could include in a “re-purposing email wiki”
Wiki for gathering a list, and the need for comments and notifications
Blogs can solve cross-departmental communication silos
Email is not the centre of my universe!
Email needs to know it’s place
Enterprise email and blog processes