Changing State of Email

Ross Mayfield writes:

Lets consider three aspects [of] attention management : Search, User Control and Network Structure.

Part of the problem is we view email as something we have to consume when we get it. The marginal value of a message exponentially decays because there isnt confidence in retrieval (Bloomba and Gmail are addressing this with deep search and usable metadata). We force ourselves to pay attention to every interruption and live in our Inbox, suffering an interruption tax of 15 minutes to fully recover to the cognitive state we were in before the ping (this is why I believe IM is due for a cultural shift, and we already see signs of it with interrupt flow largely being top-down in organizationsbe careful interrupting your boss, its not convention).

RSS, Atom, Blogs, Wikis and Workspaces represent a Pull Model model of attention management that lets users control what the subscribe to AND when they want to receive it. Email, by contrast, centers on an Inbox beyond your control. Once someone has your address, at least your gateway will be bombarded. You have control over your subscriptions in your client. If someone starts to spam, you loose trust and unsubscribe. Reputation has some value in feed selection, but if it fails you have recourse.

Occupational Spam, email sent out of context characterized by CCs, is 30% of corporate email. You know this problem and are a part of it. You want to keep people informed and you want to be informed. The problem is email wasnt designed and its best use is for one-to-one communication. Enter Workspaces, which in our latest case study dropped group email from 100 messages per day to practically zero. The efficiency for information flow gained is similar to moving network structure from point-to-point to a hubbed architecture. But beyond the network structure, greater transparency allows people to be informed when they have time for peripheral attention. Workspaces are designed for Many-to-Many interaction, where group communication should occur and with the right email integration it doesnt demand up front change in behavior.

In the future, everyone will be Larry Lessig for 1500 messages a day. All addresses will be exposed and everyone has a global constituency that will ping you. You have a choice of declaring Email Bankruptcy or shifting to other modalities. Use Social Networks as your whitelist and a web of trust for new Senders. Use public blogs for open broadcast. Use Workspaces for group communication. It may be interesting to note that Communities Tied to One Technology pattern applies less to strong ties, but social networking services and a public identity as a blog will keep you in touch with weaker ties.

In the end, they are all messages and email and the web are blurring as a platform to give you greater control and choice.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.