Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Email Deluge About Trying to Free Yourself From Email

In Saturday's post [I Freed Myself From Email's Grip] I pointed to a story about Luis Suarez trying to reduce his use of email by using platform communication tools. He is increasingly using web 2.0 and enterprise 2.0 mainstays like blogs and wikis to answer the questions and host the answers to the questions.

Law firms and businesses operated for a long time with out email.  They were successful without email. There is no reason to think that email is either the zenith or the endpoint for business communications.  Email is an incredibly powerful tool. But it is a closed system where it is hard to find and very hard to reuse information.  Take a look at your email.  Wouldn't you like to have the answers to a lot of those questions saved for later use? Are people trying to turn your email into a content repository?

Based on those propositions, Luis outlined what he was trying to do in I Freed Myself From E-Mail’s Grip.  The unexpected consequence of the article was that he received a deluge of emails from people sending him the article or their thoughts on the article: Giving up on Work e-mail - Status Report on Weeks 15 to 20. (I am a true believer; I sent my message with Twitter and put up Saturday's blog post.) 

The article about reducing email even ended up on the top ten list of most emailed articles on NYTimes.com.

Keep in mind that the goal is not eliminate email. It is a very powerful and very useful tool. But it is not appropriate for every communication.
"I am just saying that it needs to be re-purposed and used for what it was meant to be in the first place: A communication tool for one on one conversations of a sensitive, private or confidential nature. The rest should be going out there, in the open, in the public space(s), transparent and with an opportunity for everyone to contribute!"


  1. Two points: (1) agreed that email is a useful tool. I just wish more people would use it properly/effectively (e.g., appropriate subject lines, not attaching documents when you could just as easily write the text from the document into the body of the email to obviate the wasted time of opening the attachment, etc, etc.). (2) "Pardon the interruption, does anyone know…" emails need to stop (unless they truly are urgent, in which case don't waste time begging your reader's pardon - get to the urgent stuff).

  2. The problem with email is a knowledge management problem. All of that good information in the email is lost from the institutional knowledge.

    One of the key features of enterprise 2.0 is that it can be a communications tool, not just a repository. You can create the message, distribute the message and save the message all in one easy to find place.

  3. i'm right there with you... we're looking at an internal blog platform to serve as a communication tool / repository (we're not on SharePoint so we can't take advantage of the functions that come along with it).

    regarding other non-email tools: have you decided on an RSS vendor yet?

  4. I just returned from a meeting where we discussed knowledge sharing as it relates to IT support. We discussed the issue of how e-mail becomes a knowledge repository for our first line support staff. We also talked about how hard it is to get incorrect information out of that repository, or maintain any sort of knowledge flow when everything is sent through e-mail. Obviously moving some of these e-mail messages to a blog or wiki is a much better idea.

  5. Sean -

    Try using a wiki. You can test out a free, private wiki using PBwiki or SocialText. That is what we did. No upfront costs. If you like it, you buy a relatively inexpensive subscription.

    You can devote a page to each major application or area of support. You can post questions and post the answers on the page. Delete bad information; add good information. Set everyone up with an RSS reader to get the flow of changes.

  6. @Doug
    both the blog approach and the wiki approach seem to involve a lot of manual copying and pasting. Any ideas for an automated way of getting know-how from emails into a blog, wiki, or other repository? We are toying with a blog platform that allows blogging by email, but none of the blogging vendors seem to have perfected the blog by email functionality. And, it will require the email sender to cc the blog's email address - lawyers will often forget to copy the blog when sending their "PTI" emails.

  7. @Patrick

    The problem is that the know-how should not be in the email to begin with.

    My goal is to keep the content on the blog or wiki and send an email with a link pointing to the information.

    As we get the notification process to work better we hope that the request can originate on the intranet, with the responses ending up there.

    In the beginning there is a lot of cutting and pasting. We are in the process of wiki-fying lots of our substantive legal content.


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