A new use for email

Sun rise by Just-Us-3
Re-purposing email meme:
[Via Library clips]

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?


Lots of good stuff here. Email was really the first online social tool. But we forget how long it took for people to really get its usefulness.

When email was first introduced at Immunex in the early 90s, people were not certain what it was good for and there were no gurus to show people how to use it. Consequently, it took almost 2 years before you could be certain that if you sent an email, it would get read that day! Often you would send an email then walk down the hall to ask someone if they had gotten it.

Its usefulness, over the immediacy of the phone and voice mail, was not obvious. Now its use if ubiquitous. It is great for one-to-one communication of short, bursty messages. But now it is used for everything – messages to entire groups, long discussions between groups, requests for information, collaborations, etc. Many inboxes
are out of control, not because of spam but because of the huge influx of social requests from email.

As this article discusses, much of this can be relieved by new social tools, such as wikis, blogs, RSS, IM and forums. There is still the same problem I saw with email adoption – people need to be shown how to use the new tools. They need to know why it is worth their time to learn a new way of doing something.

I like the idea of using email to help. Gently remind them that this information could be put on a wiki page rather than in an email, that this question would be more likely to be answered if it was on a forum.

Use email to drive traffic to the new tools. Use the bursty, one-to-one aspects of email to move information to the one-to-many approaches of blogs, or the many-to-many approaches of wikis.

Then maybe the inbox will shrink to more manageable size.

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