Email is the new floppy drive

[note: I am typing this in Byword on the new iPad. Along with TextExpander and iCloud it is a pretty neat combination. Thus far I have had very few problems using iCloud sync.]

I really relate the story I have linked to below, from "Wired" in January 2012. The article talks about Luis Suarez at IBM. After getting burned out and stressed out by too much email, he more-or-less stopped using it.

Facebook has been studying the same phenomenon:

“When we were doing research for our messaging product, we actually looked at what subject lines people used. And like 80 percent of subject lines are “hey,” “hi,” or left blank. The subject line is outdated. The truth is, e-mail is outdated.”

While Louis still checks his email, it is only twice a day and he reserves its use for only one-on-one communications and to stay up to date on appointments and notices. Instead he encourages open communication on Twitter or on IBM's internal chat systems. I started doing something similar at ZPFC last year, using 37 Signals Highrise as a kind of internal Twitter. While this did not work as well as I had hoped, it did convince me once and for all that email in 2012 feels like it causes many more problems than it solves.

Why?
- Email is private. While you are usually answering a question that others will want or need to know, there is no way to share it without pushing it to everyone, forwarding it, etc. This creates a cluttered mess.
- Email is time specific. Even if you do include everyone in a message about something important, what happens when a new person shows up, and they do not have the message?
- Email is permanent and pervasive. People say a lot of things they should not over email, because email has low friction and high availability. And you can say everything you want to say without having to accept any dissension. Then the email, that was written in haste, shows up on all of your devices and backups. Or it gets forwarded. Or it gets put on someone's Tumblr blog because they thought it was funny.
- Emails never sound the way we intend them to sound. Enough said.

For Suarez, it’s not just more efficient. It’s a nicer way to communicate. There’s a “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” kind of passive-aggressiveness to the way many people use corporate e-mail, with the strategic bcc and the cover-your-ass e-mail message. “If you have been using e-mail in a corporate environment, you know that plenty of people use e-mail as a weapon against their own colleagues,” he says. “This was also creating a new way of working where you wouldn’t need to justify the work you did. You earned trust from your colleagues by being a lot more public, a lot more open and a lot more transparent in what you do.”

This is why major companies such as Volkswagen are starting to limit email. So, let's use email when it is needed, and use it less and less. Let's use better systems when we can. Floppy drives were seen as essential when they were removed, and no one misses them. I am sure the same can be said for email.

Via Wired

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Stickers. Yet another form of communication better than email (Franklin, 2012)