E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Vacation eMail Page

Last week, in a very interesting and enlightening blog post, Ross Mayfield, Chairman, President & Co-founder of Socialtext, and who I had the great pleasure of meeting up in person while in Lotusphere 2008, mentioned how he is taking a very provocative turn into expanding further with his adoption of wikis in the corporate world, not only to enhance the overall knowledge sharing and collaboration experiences, but also as a way to try to escape e-mail. And in so doing it by making use of his Out of Office (Or auto-responder) indicating folks how to best reach out to him, while he is away. And he does it via a wiki, of course!

What an AWESOME idea!!! Just brilliant! For someone like myself who is also trying to divert some of those different public conversations coming through e-mail, this is perhaps one of the best tips I can think of in my on-going fight against such work related e-mail. My immediate team is currently making use of a wiki, so you probably know where I am going to create my Vacation Message Page. I seriously think that this could be one amazing idea worth while exploring and I am surely going to try it out. Go into my team’s wiki, create a specific page for Vacation Messages and encourage everyone in my team and, through my Out of Office message, everyone else to come over and share what they would want to get my attention on when I am back.

No more e-mails. No more e-mail quotas exceeded. No more stress having to sort out hundreds of e-mails. No more having that feeling of wasting your first or second day of productivity. Just pure delight! Just productive on first day back, first thing in the morning! More than anything else, because there is a great chance that if someone updates that wiki page wanting my attention when coming back, perhaps one of my colleagues may be able to chime in between and help out, while I am away. Of course, it works both ways, when they are gone themselves, I will be chiming into that wiki page and try to help out sharing and providing the necessary info.

Yes, I know! Mind-blowing!!! I am *so* going to try this out next time I am away, which happens to be in mid-April, so will keep you all updated on it! For sure. What’s also interesting in Ross’ blog post is how he is also sharing how he is making use of external applications like Facebook, Twitter and wikis to close some deals during this quarter! Boy, and then they tell me that all of this social software cannot be used to conduct business as productively as you can, if not more, than with e-mail! Ha! Well done, Ross!! Thanks for sharing and showing us the way as well!!

However, one other item I found interesting was his auto-responder message, which clearly points out something I have been doing myself over the last few weeks: Don’t send me an e-mail while I am away, because it’s the last thing I am going to check, if at all. Find me in social software spaces instead!

So for the sake of sharing the one I have been using myself lately, here is my current auto-responder that gets sent out to every single person who sends me an e-mail while I am away:

"I will be out of the office till the 25th of March

During that time, I will have very limited access to both e-mail and voicemails, so would only be able to check them once a day, at the end of the day, and only for urgent, private or IBM confidential messages.

In order to help avoid running into mail jail while I am away, every single e-mail larger than 300kb will be deleted without even looking at it! Please resend again on the week of the 24th of March. Thanks!

And if you have been reading my "Giving up on e-mail" new mantra, LINK HERE, you will know by now that e-mail is the last thing I check & respond to. Find me instead in IBM’s top social software tools… (Sametime, Connections, WikiCentral, Beehive, BlueTwit, Cattail, etc.) for a faster response while I am away.

If you have any questions regarding SUCH & SUCH please do contact JOE DOE

Alternatively, if you have got questions regarding the SUCH & SUCH team please do contact JOE DOE

Luis Suarez

Yes, I know. It is a long read for an auto-responder message, but you would agree with me that it gets straight to the point of how people can reach me faster while I am away, while keeping them informed of how they can get to the rest of my teams and the one and only exception while I still check e-mail for. And you know what the greatest thing about this whole thing is? Well, that little by little, I am starting to see some of my work colleagues using similar Out of Office messages, if not much more drastic altogether. And, that, folks, is a good thing!

The word is getting out. People are reacting and challenging their work related e-mails and finding better ways of reaching out and connecting with other knowledge workers. And all of that through social software and not through e-mail!

(I just cannot help smiling, while putting together this blog post, how I have been away celebrating Easter and having a well deserved long weekend break, including today, Easter Monday, and the count of e-mails so far is on 5 e-mails! It is working, slowly, but steadily! Finally beating work related e-mail to suit my needs and not vice versa! Tomorrow morning, first thing, I’ll be productive once again!) 

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  1. Hi – I am following this little experiment of yours closely. It is very interesting because not only are you changing YOUR behavior, but you are also asking people who want to contact you to change THEIRS, too. Are you still getting the same amount of other “contact” via ST, Beehive, or whatever? or do people just go elsewhere, using their old email patterns (in which case, I guess it wasn’t that important for you to respond anyway!)?


  2. Hi Chris! Thanks a lot for the feedback comments and for dropping by! Appreciated the feedback on the follow up from this experiment. Yes, indeed, I am changing MY behaviour in how I process and work with e-mail, and as a result that one from THEM is also changing.

    The good and very encouraging thing is that people who I am interacting with, or getting through to me, are starting to make use of those social software tools. I am continuing to make much heavier use, week by week, of blogs, Beehive, Sametime, BlueTwit, Cattail, wikis, Quickr, Dogear, etc. etc. Basically, getting more involved with folks for interactions that used to happen on e-mail, but now on social software tools.

    So the e-mail count is getting lower, but an exponential growth in the social computing space is getting more and more noticeable. For sure. Yes, I changing MY behaviour, and also THEIRS to some extent. And so far so good.

    Thanks a lot for the feedback!

  3. Chris – I can vouch for it affecting the way I think about connecting / sharing with Luis. I saw this article


    while on holiday and made a mental note to share with Luis – remembering that I ”couldn’t / shouldn’t” email it because he wouldn’t see and certainly not in proper context. Viola – I’m able to share it with him and add to your awareness of impact(s) of experiment.

    Luis – More fodder for your fire, my friend.

  4. Hiya Howard! How is it going, my friend? Hope you had a good Easter break! This is just too funny! That article you referenced from Techcrunch was already on my drafts for this week’s progress report on my fight against work related e-mail. So far I have found it a really fascinating read, not so much for the overall content of the article, but because of the extensive commentary it has already. It is interesting to see how the vast majority of folks try to justify something that is just *so* broken.

    I mean, the conversations that are open, public should be out there, in the open, ready for everyone to chime accordingly and not have to have them hidden in some obscure e-mail system that we all know no-one is going to look into.

    E-mail still has got its value, don’t take me wrong, but it needs to be re-purposed and used for what it was originally intended for: a communication tool between two individuals with a need to share sensitive or private information. The rest should go out in the open so that everyone benefits from it.

    That’s why, for the last seven weeks I have been doing this experiment, I have seen how much of a tremendous impact it is having in those around me and myself on how we get together to collaborate with one another. And your example is a living one of how those interactions can be improved by sharing them out in the open, like you have just done with the Techcrunch article.

    So thanks for that, too! Have a good one!

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