Nov 27 2007

The death of e-mail

Published by at 16:42 under Blogs,Technology

Chad Lorenz wrote in Slate an article about the “Death of e-mail”. It was picked up by Thomas Hawk on his blog who celebrated it this development and said:

And I read this article and can’t help but keep muttering inside, “Yes. Yes! YES!!!! Die email die!”
Increasingly email is playing a smaller and smaller role in my own life. I used to spend hours every day in email. Checking my email. Answering emails. Following up. Sending my own email to others and merely perpetuating the problem. Email sucks. Now I spend maybe 30 minutes a day skimming my email, ignoring most of them, deleting most of them. Answering a few.
At present I have 3,002 messages in my email inbox. Of these 2,794 are unread. And this is already after committing email suicide once. One of the fortunate by products of my Mac’s hard drive recently failing was that it wiped out all of the 5,000+ messages that I could never quite get to.

Thomas was missing the point that Chad was making in his piece. Besides the fact that Thomas has a time management problem, it is about how we use communication devices and how we communicate these days.

Basically, contacts and communication have become more superficial and more casual. Take a look at how sites like Hyves, MySpace, Twitter and FaceBook operate. You sign up to the service and you try to expand your list of ‘friends’. Before you known you have hundreds of people who call themselves a ‘friend’ of you. But how many of those friends are really friends and how many are part of the service?

Last year an experiment was conducted in the Netherlands with some kids. As with most kids they were constantly texting their friends during the day. In the experiment they took away the cellphone for a week and looked what the effect off that was on their circle of friends. The most frustrating conclusion (for the kids) was that none in the circle of friends had missed them that week.
Another survey looked at how kids used e-mail addresses, login accounts and other identifiers on the Internet. I find one of the most frustrating things when somebody changed his e-mail address but has not informed me about this. This is one of the reasons why I took a personal e-mail address which I can take with me to any provider. The survey showed that kids just dumped e-mail addresses, changed login accounts when they forgot the password. Basically they did not care about the worries I had of being reachable on the net.

Sure, collaborating and Instant Messaging tools have found their ways into the corporate world. But that is simply because there is a business case. These tools enable organization to become more flexible, use resources and people more efficient and to respond quicker to opportunities. But they won’t eliminate e-mail. E-mail will remain the only formal way of communication in a company and kids moving into the corporate world will have to learn to communicate via formal channels. Maybe we can learn them something?

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