Archive for November, 2011

While some like Observer (UK) writer John Naughton are LOLing over Mark Zuckerberg’s observation that email is dead,” others, like Atos SA (Europe’s Largest IT Company) CEO Theirry Breton are kicking email out of their companies.
Thierry Breton - Credits:  France TÚlÚcom
Breton’s pronouncements got ink (err electrons too) in Wall Street Journal and The Telegraph (UK) yesterday before getting the hyperactive Slashdot treatment. today. Among the firebombs tossed by Breton were:

“The email is no longer the appropriate (communication) tool. The deluge of information will be one of the most important problems a company will have to face (in the future). It is time to think differently.”

“Companies must prepare for the new wave of usage and behaviour”

Obvious statements to folks reading this blog or who have since shutoff email themselves.

Not that everyone agrees. Dudley Dawson at examiner.com composed a long whine about Breton including a critic of his English (or of the translator’s version of Breton. I await to read with some anticipated glee Dawson’s French postings.) Dawson raises many points, misfiring on each and misinterpreting all while missing the main point — collaboration and social are less served by email.

But with Atos and IBM both pushing for #noemail workplaces, Naughton’s claim that “[T]he main reason young people don’t use email is that they haven’t yet joined the world of work” becomes more empty and obviously reactionary and tired. Work at great companies isn’t about getting stuck in unproductive technologies but about pressing forward to a more efficient and productive future — without email.

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A recent BBC article, Clash of the titans: Email v social media by Fiona Graham (Nov 25, 2011) falls solidly and flatly in the “He said, she said” camp of reporting.

Ping ponging back and forth between experts on social media — Zuckerberg is pictured with his vision of better messaging’s somewhat redundant six points — informal, immediate, personal, simple, minimal and short — Graham recounts very briefly the history of email name-checking @ sign promulgator Ray Tomlinson in the process.

Overdue attention is given to MIME creator Nathaniel Borenstein. Borenstein notes that email use continues to grow and rues the slow uptake that IBM’s LotusLive has seen. Graham notes that until recently Borenstein was an IBM employees working on LotusLive. Borenstein became chief scientist at email management company, Mimecast, in June 2010

Who speaks for social? Lee Bryant, co-founder of Headshift, the world’s biggest social business consultancy (according to Graham). I wonder what he will say. “He believes email’s dominance over business communications is coming to an end.” Since he’s based his business on this, I guess so.

But setting the snark aside for a paragraph or two, I agree with Bryant as he opines:
I think we’ve reached the stage where email as means of communicating is overloaded. I think we will see what happens on email today transitioning towards various kinds of both internal and consumer facing social tools.”

For a finale, Graham turns to Dave Coplin, head of Microsoft’s Envisioneers team. The guy who works for a company heavily invested in email solutions — Outlook, Exchange and HotMail — and famously unsuccessful at anything social can’t find anything wrong with email. Social media is just a “shiny new penny.” The Envisoneer is no Imagineer. He cannot speak publicly in a way that would disrupt his company. He does in the course of the discussion utter a keen observation: “I think that email is dead when it comes to social media in the same way that snail mail was dead when it came to email.”

Perhaps he’s still writing letters in the way we wrote them in 1960 or sending postcards as frequently. Maybe he hasn’t noticed that the USPS is seeing a precipitous drop in first class mail usage. Heck, we don’t even get billed on paper any more. Yes, I agree with the Softie: snail mail is diminished and fading like AM radio. Email will soon follow.

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A tribute to Luis Suarez (aka @elsua) in the form of a Dutch/English language site — Moving/Collaborating/Sharing/Connecting/Thinking/Helping/Innovating/Working/Living Outside the Inbox — from IBM Netherlands. Includes the Prezi from my talk at Duke last month “#noemail – Why you could/should/must use better ways of communicating than email” and this interview with Luis:

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Aditya Johri. (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA)
Look ma, #noemail !: blogs and IRC as primary and preferred communication tools in a distributed firm. CSCW ’11 – Proceedings of the ACM 2011 conference on Computer supported cooperative work. Pages 305-308.

Abstract

Email has been the primary communication medium in organizations for decades and despite studies that demonstrate its obvious disadvantages, the prevailing thinking is that email is irreplaceable. In this paper I challenge that view through a field study of a distributed firm that is highly successful in developing and delivering products without regular use of email in the workplace. Group blogging and IRC were the primary tools used and they allowed improved coordination and knowledge sharing compared to email. This paper contributes to scant literature in CSCW on firm-level technology use.

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