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

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A World Without Email – Year 2, Weeks 30 to 33 (Study: Social-Media Junkies Use Email More)

Gran Canaria - Roque NubloIt has been a little over a month ago since last time that I put together a blog post where I was talking about my ongoing initiative of living "A World Without Email". So given a couple of recent events, that I will talk about in a couple of minutes, and seeing also how it may well be about a good time now to share some further insights on how things are going with the various different progress reports from over the last few weeks, I thought I would spend a few minutes today with you folks telling you about what has happened since last time, where I blogged about week #29, which, to date, marks the week with the lowest incoming count of e-mails received (With just 10 of them!) for 2009.

Well, it looks like over the last four weeks the number of incoming emails has been rather steady going from a range of 18 to 34 emails received. A couple of times right on target for my follow-up challenge on getting 20, or less, a week, but then again in one of those weeks the number went all the way to 34 (being the "Reply To All" button the main culprit). If you’re interested in checking further the drop-down of those weeks here you have got the progress reports for weeks 30, 31, 32, and last one, 33, which I am just going to share over here:

A World Without Email - Year 2, Week 33

As you will be able to see, week 33 has proved to be a little bit of a challenge having almost doubled the amount of e-mails than the week before. And as usual, I owe it to the "wonderful" email capability called "Reply To All". Two or three conversations, three or four replies (I know, that’s nothing!), but voilà!, my inbox going out of control! Geez. I tell you, if I could I would get rid of that button, with a snap of my fingers! (ZAS!) I would do it right away. No questions asked. No mercy. Just be done with it! For good! (sigh)

Anyway, at the beginning of this blog post I mentioned how a couple of recent events triggered the creation of this entry as well, specially since a bunch of people have been pointing them out to me in various micro-blogging Web sites. The events are actually a single study released by Nielsen that states how "social-media junkies" use email, and rather heavily, to keep on top of things and, especially, on top of their own social networking experiences.

Thus, a couple of the people who contacted me through those micro-sharing Web sites were asking me what my thoughts were since, obviously, I don’t use email at work any more; they were questioning whether we would ever be capable of getting rid of it altogether, since it looks like hard-core social software users seem to still rely pretty much on email.

If you would remember, all along I have been mentioning how I don’t think that the email is going away any time soon (Email is not dead!). I still see plenty of benefits for using it (one on one conversations of a sensitive nature or calendaring and scheduling events, to name a couple). However, when I was reading a couple of the articles that referenced this study I couldn’t help smiling at the fact of how simplistic the actual study is. Yes, we may be using email much more than before, I am sure we are!, but are they really emails that I need to process myself or more along the lines of BACN notifications that plenty of the social networks available out there trigger as recent updates that I may need to check (or not)?

In a follow-up article by CNet, we can actually find the answer to that question with this interesting and relevant quote:

"Although the study ended there, researchers said that correlation might be due to "social media sites like Facebook (that) send messages to your in-box every time someone comments on your posting or something you’ve participated in, and depending on your settings, can send updates on almost every activity." The researchers also believe that the connections people make through social networks cause them to "extend those connections to e-mail, a phone conversation, or even in-person meetings.""

You see? Yes, we’re getting plenty more emails, but there aren’t emails that I need to process myself. Instead, they are actually notifications that keep folks up to date with what is happening in the various social software tools that they use on a regular basis, because in most cases those notifications are generated as email ones. But are they really? I don’t think they are. That’s what BACN is all about. That’s not really email, is it?

So my reaction to those folks who were worried that we would never be able to get rid of email I will answer this: email is not going to go away any time soon; yet social networking tools are going to re-purpose how we use it so that instead of being that system "where knowledge goes to die" is actually that system that will tell us not only where our knowledge is but also how it has been (And will be even more!) enriched by our various social networking "friends".

Nothing wrong with that, right? No, I don’t think so. I actually think it is a good thing. Using your email system as your feed aggregator, versus an RSS feed reader, is just as valid. What matters is not the tool you use, but the form that allows you to keep on top of the content that gets shared., at the same time that you are capable of keeping up with your various social networks.

Because, after all, in this particular example, email is just as good as any of the others. What really matters is how you are going to keep up with all of that knowledge that gets shared across in multiple places. Thus, if anything, your inbox will turn itself, slowly but steadily, into that massive aggregator, that, if anything, is going to make your life much easier. Now, I bet you won’t be able to say the same thing about traditional email, would you?

(As a quick annotation from the beginning of the year I have received, in my email work address, over 3.350 BACN notifications, whereas I have received 813 "traditional" emails, most of them one-on-one conversations or calendaring and scheduling events. Not bad, eh? Yes, you could say that I love BACN! Don’t you?)

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