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

From the blog

A World Without Email – Year 2, Weeks 11 to 14 (Email as a Collaboration Tool? No, Thanks!)

Gran Canaria - Driving through the countrysideDuring the course of yesterday a couple of tweets (Thanks, Sandy & Stewart!) over at Twitter (Where I nowadays get most of my dynamic feeds, I must admit) I got a couple of strong reminders to eventually share with folks a quick update on how I have been doing over the last few days, in this case, weeks, living "A World Without Email", that is, giving up e-mail at work. And here I am, once again, putting together another blog post where I will be sharing a quick update on how things are going.

I cannot believe that it’s been four weeks already since I last blogged on the topic, but I guess that’s what happens when you keep having fun, eh? However, I am starting to think that it may not be such a bad idea to eventually share the progress reports over at my Flickr account on a weekly basis and then perhaps recap every month on a single blog post detailing what’s been going on throughout those weeks. That way I will avoid boring you to death with countless progress reports entries on this blog on detailing what it is like not using email at work. I know I may not be able to share some further insights on interesting links I may bump into, but I think I am willing to give it a try.

If you would want to still see those weekly progress reports here in this blog, leave a quick comment sharing thoughts and I will try to accommodate accordingly. For now though I am just going to point you to each of the different weekly reports from the last four weeks and just share with you a screen shot from the last one of those, so that you can see what’s been happening. Thus here it goes:

A World Without Email - Year 2, Week 14

As you would be able to see, things have been going exceedingly well over the last few weeks, except perhaps for last week, week 14, where both Wednesday and Thursday were just far too email centric and I think I may know what the reason was. People couldn’t find me online readily to engage through my usual various social software tools, more than anything else because of how incredibly busy those couple of days were with what I call meetings galore, which means people decided to send me an email instead. That would teach me again next time to take care of my agenda and schedule much better than what I did last week!

Either way, the rest of the other weeks things have settled down on that limit of roughly 20 to 30 emails a week, which I think is rather nice if I compare the results during those very same weeks last year. I was just getting started with the experiment and was averaging 42 emails a week. This time around, in year 2, that average is down to 27 emails a week, which means that, if things continue to go like they did last year, by the end of this year I may have well exceeded my follow up challenge of receiving 20 or less emails a week on a really consistent basis. Exciting stuff! I can’t wait to see what would happen then, but I guess we will have to wait and go step by step …

Ok, now on to the interesting couple of links I would want to share with you folks to give you an idea of how I think email is going to have a tough time surviving in its current (mis)use. Let’s get things rolling!

Five people collaborating on a tender via mail…

Brilliant blog post put together by Oscar Berg, over at Content Management Connection, where he gets to describe the typical scenario we have all gotten exposed to over the course of the years on what it is like trying to collaborate through email with, say, five people to share and exchange feedback on a specific file. Pretty revealing discourse of interactions, I can tell you. You should read the blog post, because as you get to finish it you will be nodding rather heavily, strongly agreeing with a situation you have seen and experienced far too often! Perhaps too much…

To me, that blog post is a clear reminder of something I said a while ago and which I would not get tired of mentioning again: email is a pretty good communication tool, but it does a very very poor job as a collaborative one, and therefore we should distinguish communicating and collaborating are two completely different things! Oscar’s blog post is just another indication of that thought!

Oh, and while you are reading it through Oscar concludes his article with this quote:

"How would this process have looked if they had used a wiki instead?"

Well, let me help you answer that one by referencing what, to date, is perhaps one of my favourite blog posts of all times over at the super fine Wikinomics blog: Wiki collaboration leads to happiness. In it you will find a graphic put together originally by Chris Rasmussen that explains what collaboration would be like through a wiki in that very same scenario vs. email. Wonderful and a must see!

A world without Word

In a very interesting, and rather shocking blog post (Read through it and you will know what I mean with shocking), Bill Roberts of Swirrl shares some further insights over at Stewart Mader‘s wonderful Grow a Wiki blog on an initiative he has been doing for a while, which is basically separate himself from the print world and gradually moving away from Word (And Office, I would think) into other online spaces where content gets shared without placing too much focus, or as much as we all used to with Word, and other productivity suite tools, into the format itself.

That basically means he is relying more and more on wikis, blogs, etc. etc. to help spread knowledge across, instead of "closed" attachments like Word documents that usually have gotten around through email. I bet by doing this he is consistently reducing the amount of email traffic he gets, not only from not sending those files anymore, but also from getting emails back at him asking him where such and such Word document is stored, who has got the latest most up to date document or, just simply, where did we leave things again after our last everlasting threaded email conversation that no-one can make any sense out of it anymore?

In a way, I am pretty much doing the same. It’s very very rare for me nowadays to eventually write an office document from scratch and then share it across; I rather prefer to use a wiki or a blog for that (Or some other social software tools that would fit in within a specific context much better). Main advantages I see of doing that? Well, mainly openness and transparency where others and myself get to collaborate on public spaces, internal or external, exchanging ideas, sharing knowledge, brainstorming, innovating and whatever else.

Bill’s initiative may not be as radical and controversial as the one I am doing, but he surely proves it can be as equally effective and worth while a try. Thus next time you are thinking about putting together an Office document, re-think, and see if you could avoid all of the hassle and share the content right across in a blog, or a wiki. Or whatever social software tool of your choice. I bet it wasn’t even difficult to make that transition … And yet the advantages are so many it’d be difficult to count them all!

From Email Culture To Stream Culture: Out Of The Inbox

Another superb blog post from my good friend Stowe Boyd, who, once again, nails it. In that enlightening article he gets to detail how we are moving away, gradually, but steadily, from an email driven corporate environment to one where (live) stream rules, and with chat sitting in between; or, at least, it is starting to change the conversations into the right path towards open (Again!) and trustworthy knowledge / information sharing, as well as open collaboration.

His quote from Gabriel García Márquez on "Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life and a secret life" is just a brilliant segway to introduce how email, chat and microblogging come to represent each and everyone of those "lives" for each and everyone of us. Here is one of the three graphics he shared on this very same topic:

Like I said, this is one of those blog posts that I will be remembering and quoting all over the place, because it describes pretty much how we are continuing to transition from that closed-ness that email currently offers towards much more open models of engagement, like microblogging / microsharing, amongst several other 2.0 components. A must read, for sure!

And, finally, after such a rather long blog post I thought I would finish up with some fun stuff. Actually with something I have found hilariously amusing all along since I first bumped into it a few days back! I found it through the always insightful Carl Tyler’s Blog and it is another funny video from Current where you get to experience over the course of a bit over three minutes, some of what we saw in the above mentioned blog post from Oscar. But better!

I bet that plenty of us have been exposed to similar situations where we all knew from the very beginning how to tackle them much more effectively in the first place, like what happens in the last few seconds of the video itself … Brillaint!

And what a great way to finish off another round of weekly progress reports on living "A World Without Email". Till next time …

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  1. Hi Luis

    Thanks for the mention of my article, and thanks also for the inspiration to write it!

    And you are right, reducing use of Word does cut down my email quite significantly.


  2. Apropos collaboration on tenders etc by email… how about… an email client that does not support attachments?

    Instead its UI encourages using URLs of existing online docs. Just maybe it could support “uploading” to some kind of repository (including DMS, Google Docs, etc) and forward the URL to the recipients.

  3. Well, we could be soul twins! We recently created a white paper on the exact same subject – misuse of email as a collaboration tool. You have written very insightfully on the subject, and your post is certainly a one stop place to get all the pertinent insights and opinions, as you have very nicely captured what authorities on the subject have to say.

    However, I would like to humble suggest that one possible angle has been missed. Email for collaboration is obviously a mistake since using email for many-to-many situations causes a torrent of responses to a single initial message. You have pointed out the specific case of email for file collaboration and suggested wiki collaboration and blogs as an alternative. Another possible alternative I would suggest is document management systems, which allow everyone to access and collaborate on documents in a central place (as opposed to sending them back and forth as attachments)

    Other “collaborative” situations which contribute equally to the email deluge are – assigning and managing group tasks, having discussions and reaching consensus, coordinating on schedules. Moving to online collaboration tools (task management, discussion forums, voting) for these purposes would ease email pressure as well.

    I would love for you to read our white paper @ http://hyperoffice.com/business-email-overload/ and give your opinions.

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