Paul Kedrosky writes:
Why have we reached this email impasse? Largely because email was intended to be the electronic equivalent of a brief hallway conversation. Instead it has become something else altogether, a Swiss army knife of the Internet, with responsibilities ranging from communications, to personal archives, to task management.
But email does most of those things poorly. Filing is too hard, tasks scroll off the screen in an ever-filling inbox, and personal archives in email are almost entirely unsearchable.
Increasingly, this has consequences. Companies lose sales because leads get lost or accidentally deleted; lawyers lose correspondence in important cases; software vendors worry about vexing emails hiding in dark corners; and technical support people lose track of ongoing discussions with frustrated clients.
It will only get worse. People are increasingly reliant on email, and they will be more so once the spam problem is reduced — and once Sarbanes-Oxleys email-retention implications are better understood.
Everyone complains about email, but does no-one do anything about it? Well, trouble means a business opportunity, so various companies are are promising to make email manageable.
Stata Laboratories has a product called Bloomba that it is billing as the Google of email. It is, in effect, an email client built around a speedy search tool. Another California company, X1.com, has also received favorable press for its high-speed email (and everything) search product.
A Canadian company is in the mix too. Nelson, British Columbia-based Caelo has a nifty product it bills as an email organizer. While it offers a nice search feature, perhaps Caelo’s most compelling attribute is that it auto-files much of your email into intuitively-derived folders for you.
Even Microsofts Outlook 2003, which bestrides corporate email like a colossus, has added some useful new organizing features in its latest version. That said, its search remains abysmal and filing in Outlook is only one step above throwing things into random piles on the floor.
We are over-focused on one shrinking email problem spam only to be confronted with a growing one that never went away email overload. Fixing that one will turn out to be much more interesting and important.