Email is broken (part II)

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Further expanding on a point raised last year, today I received an email the had the following disclaimer in the .sig.

Note: Because of the high volume of spam we receive, legitimate e-mail is sometimes mistakenly filtered. If you send a message and don’t receive a reply, please try the telephone.

The IT press has been writing about the problems with email for some time now but this notice really brought it home to me. What this is saying is that if you can’t reach this person or do not receive a response, hail me on a technology that was invented 100 years ago.

This gives me a chance to segue into some email anecdotes that we’ve been using around the office just to illustrate the current frustrations with email as a business communications tool.

1. Anyone under 30 has only known broken email. Most of the folks hitting the workplace these days have grown up using IM, Skype, and blogs to communicate. Email is viewed as an outmoded technology to get receipts from Amazon and stuff.

2. 10 – 20% of your email volume may be better suited for a blog. For those of you that think you’ll never have enough time to blog, take a look at your Sent Messages box someday and count the number of messages you send in a day. I guarantee that a good percentage of them would have been better suited for either an intranet company blog or external work or personal blog. Responses to your posts will be there for others to see and learn from and the posts will be indexed and archived for quick future reference. Anytime you write an email where you wouldn’t mind adding “cc: the world” – then you should be thinking about a blog post.

3. If you address and email to ten people. . . there are 2 that got it that didn’t want it, 2 more that got it, threw it away, than later regretted it, and 2 more that didn’t get it but wished they did. This is Anil’s favorite anecdote and I use it quite often. The mere act of addressing an email asks you to define a circle of trust (to borrow a phrase from Robert DeNiro’s character the movie, Meet the Focker’s). This sets up barriers to communication and we all know it’s uncool to cc:all on something. Email is great for the point-to-point exchange of information but it really breaks down when used for group collaboration.

One Reply to “Email is broken (part II)”

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