Sunday, December 06, 2015

I'm so over email!

Companies today still use email as their de-facto means of communication, which is quite sad. The problems with email are:

  • Asynchronous - in our world of real-time everything, is surprising that email has lasted so long.
  • No built-in feedback: Receipts dont work. Because its async, people to resort to phoning or asking people if they received their mail. This is crazy. You never ask people if they received your whatsapp, because if gives you instant feedback with the ticks.
  • Takes too long. People understand that email is send and wait, so they therefore build their workflow around that. You have to wait for a reply!
  • Far too many - its too easy to CC as many people as possible. Its not focussed enough.
  • The protocol is far too antiquated. Emails can get lost and not delivered.
  • When a mail trail gets too long, its difficult to follow who said what. And the sad part is that all the signatures and headers take most of the space.
Email is so clunky. Email feels to me how people behaved before email - its almost as bad as sending physical mail. Its too slow, and it might not even get there. The answer may not be relevant if it arrives.

At my workplace, we actively use Instant Messaging. No, not Lync! We use Telegram. Its realtime, and quick. Its perfect for most situations, especially:
  • when you actively working with someone on a problem. Because we have domain experts, if you putting in or supporting a problem, you need real time communication with others even if they based on the next floor, or another office some where else. Telegram makes it seem like the guy is next to you, its that quick.
  • Rooms or groups, based on topic: easy to send info to a group of people. No need to CC!
  • Apps for PC/Mac, mobile and web
  • Easy to send files
  • Parses and loads web links/URLs
  • Can reply to or quote previous or specific messages
It just feels better than email. 

Having said that, IM or Telegram is not perfect. There are definitely situations where you cant respond now, and need to come back to it. Because IM flows downwards like a list, that item is quickly lost. I often force myself not to read a particular Telegram group, because the last discussion had a point I needed to come back to. So now I have to forcefully disconnect from the discussion because otherwise I will lose the action point.

Email is not dead, yet, but it definitely needs to evolve. It needs to be relevant

A few years ago Google came out with Wave. I thought it was perfect. It added real-time capabilites to email. Looking back, it seems to be the perfect mix between the strengths of email and IM. Sadly, they care too much about the technical prowess of the protocol than usability. 

We tried Slack a while ago, but it seems to suffer from the same weaknesess on IM and Telegram. There's just no way to mark a message as unread. Also, you need to keep on inviting people, which hampers its uptake in a large organisation. If there was a way to use it in greenfields company, where you not choosing between email and IM, then Slack may work. 

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