XKCD’s comic was so close to the truth yesterday… but missed ever so slightly. I fixed it:
Email is the only thing that will outlive cockroaches when the nuclear winter happens
For the past year my goal around fitness was to change or fix or instill one new habit each month. I tracked that at http://fitnow.posterous.com.
This year I am doing the same thing for my brain, writing, career, etc.
For January my goal is less email. Email is at times a great communication tool. But it suffers from immediacy, lasting impact, and frankly it tends to make me cranky more often than not. I send a well-crafted email and get back “okay”. Or someone responds to an email thread which is stale and has moved on days ago. It’s pointless at times.
I will rely on a few tools:
Tumblr of course
Path (if I can get anyone else over there)
Google+ (same comment as Path)
IM a lot more
Walk and talk
Writing real plans and documents and then sharing them.
I’ll report back on my success rate. Will communication get better? Richer? Deeper? Will I be less cranky (probably not:-)?
I assume this won’t work
This link describing an anti-email jihad at one tech company is making the rounds. It’s happened before. I’ve seen this happen as teams have zero email days.
Why it fails is simple: email is better than the alternative in many cases. IM can be superior but it requires all important people to be online at the same time. Hurdle #1. It also requires all important people to have similar tools. This is Hurdle #2 as today we roam, we use phones, we have corporate IT policies for security and audit purposes. On my small team of 30 people these hurdles are enough that we can’t reliably use IM all the time. If IM fails a few times, it’s abandoned.
And IM is terrible for persistent or heavier communication. So wikis are trotted out or forums or chat rooms. All of which lack ease of use, remote access features which email has.
So is email overload a problem? Yes of course. The answer though I think is not banning email. The answer is technological and cultural. Things like Shortmail are interesting so are tools like Lync which ease email to IM transitions. Skype’s persistent chat is intriguing if only installing Skype didn’t tank the machines I installed it on.
But this won’t be enough. Cultural changes are needed too. Knowing that you don’t need to reply to every email is important. Knowing to limit audience to people who need to know helps rather than broadcast. And having key leaders adopt practices of email sanity filters down. I have been on email-sane and insane teams, it can happen organically. My goal this month on my team is to use our persistent tools (like a wiki) for docs and IM for urgent issues. Email is reserved for “those other times”. Learning the difference has been fun.
Hey Tumblr, another email post was silently lost yesterday. I emailed it, Tumblr silently swallowed it.
This is bad guys, weeks now with email failing.