Email not dead?

April 30, 2008 at 4:58 pm (1)

I’ve been thinking about email a bit recently, following a post i read yesterday about an attempt to use a wiki for a project rather than large quantities of cc’d emails. The post was over at Library Clips if you’d like to read it. It got me thinking about what email is, and what it does, and how people cling to it as a means of communication when other things could work a lot better. Actually, I should say “when other things could work better” and leave off the “a lot” because that seems to be one of the keys.

My perception of Web 2.0 trends right now is that the frenzy of innovation that marks the early stages of a movement is nearing its end, or is perhaps already dead. We can see the peaks of this movement in the survivors and the sites and tools that are managing to succeed. So, Facebook and MySpace carry on, even though both have problems. Twitter moves on, though I suspect that more people post to it than actually visit it or read it. The major blog platforms are doing fine. The better apps and tools out there are being picked up by the big cheeses to add to their already bloated profile in an effort to make themselves the go-to spot for everything you can imagine, etc.

I would guess that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll see a lot of dead wood being carted off to the bonfire, as the Web 2.0 bubble bursts. Innovators on the next level will be using semantic search, storage and retrieval techniques, beyond keywords, tags, and subjects. I don’t understand how semantic search will work, technologically, but I know it’s something that librarians already do – make sense of a large variety of possibilities and narrow things quickly down to real results based on more than just keywords.

So where does that leave email? Looking at my email inboxes (I have hotmail, earthlink, a work email, myway, and a variety of others) they all look fairly similar. The added features of Outlook are things i rarely use, and there are things i wish outlook would do that it doesn’t, at least the version I have (which admittedly isn’t the latest version). For the most part, I make do with other tools to do projects.

I don’t like email that much. It’s clunky, and i have a lot of clutter in my inbox, and I don’t like trying to create folders because no matter what keywords I choose for the folders they always collect emails that aren’t about what i want them to be about.

So I was really interested in this article over at TechCrunch this morning on a new email start-up that looks really promising. It has all the nicer aspects of Web 2.0 – the architecture, I mean, not the surface stuff – and many ways to make email a real tool again in todays workplace. Read the article and see if you’re not excited:

Link to the TechCruch article.



  1. Keith Johnson said,

    I love your line: “I would guess that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll see a lot of dead wood being carted off to the bonfire, as the Web 2.0 bubble bursts.” Sifting the tech wheat from the chaff always interests me, especially as technology leaders are supposed to model the new technologies. I suppose I could be categorized as one of those ‘tech leaders’ although my skepticism (and sorry, laziness, or no, lack of time) always leads me to be cautiously selective about what I test and adopt and then promote to other classroom teachers (who are always busy beyond belief). With a little time it would be nice to reflect back on the detritus of past technologies that never really caught on to see the trend. I used to ‘review’ technology software for magazines (which I’d then get to keep…) and invariably I was forgiving and soft in my reviews, usually with the spin that ‘this is so good that an educator should find a way to incorporate this into their instruction.’ In hindsight, I can’t think of a single product that passed muster enough to generate any educational buzz. But any new technology has a ‘buzz’ of novelty and interest around it, but that is seldom much of an indicator of its true usefulness. Email? I still use it and rely on it, but anything beyond the main screen list is in danger of being lost forever, or luckily salvaged by the saving grace of serendipity.

  2. supercrazylibrarianguy said,

    Thanks for the comment, Keith – I agree that it would be great to be able to examine in more detail the failures of the past – of course how much evidence could we find? I was just thinking about email in comparison to television – both are terrible vehicles for information transfer, but the times they are a-changing, and a little more interactivity with either, done right, could make them better.

    In terms of being at the forefront, it seems like so many of the people out experiementing and reviewing things do so with a kind of double vision – how does it make me feel, and would other people enjoy this? Always looking at it with an eye toward promoting it to others changes the way a person thinks and talks about technology. But if we can’t easily convince ourselves that other people would find something useful, then it’s going to be a tough sell down the road. I hope that makes sense. 🙂

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