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

From the blog

A World Without Email – Year 2, Weeks 42 to 45 (50 Minutes a Week!)

Tenerife - Mount Teide's SurroundingsWhile starting to look back into another amazing year with plenty of things happening all over the place, both on a personal and work related levels, I guess it’s time for me to start putting together a number of different blog posts on what this year has been like so far and what lies ahead for 2010. No, not to worry, *none* of these blog posts will be about the well-known, and already abundant, 2010 predictions series. Like every year, I’m planning to make it a bit more personal than just a business or industry focus. Like I said, for all of those there are hundreds of articles already out there which I am sure you may have been reading already…

So, over the next couple of weeks I am going to share a number of different reflections on what 2009 has meant for me and what it has enabled to prepare for the upcoming year. And perhaps the main major highlight that I have been thinking about throughout the last few weeks is how, once again, another year, I have managed to keep living "A World Without Email". Yes, that’s right! For the second year straight I’ve been able to carry on with my experiment of giving up on corporate email to the point where I never thought I may be able to pull it through altogether, but, here I am, coming closer to that date that will mark the third anniversary and still going strong!

It’s interesting to see how over the course of the last few months I seemed to have settled in with putting together blog posts with those "weekly" progress reports, but on a monthly basis. It looks like that’s the timeframe I keep coming back to in order to share what’s been happening. Interestingly enough, in a previous blog entry, I mentioned how I would be making use of my Posterous Web site to move those reports to. Yet, it hasn’t happened, as you may have noticed …

And judging for how attached I continue to be to this little project overall, I doubt it will ever happen. More than anything else, because I still want to keep things simple and point people to a single focal point of entry where they would be able to find all of the different progress reports without having to use multiple URLs, but just one. And besides that, also because I think the overall experiment still has got a place in this blog, at least, that’s how I feel about it and why, perhaps, I will continue to share those progress reports on a monthly basis over the next few months… Yes, I’m planning on keeping things going into the third consecutive year without using email at work! Yay!

I know that perhaps plenty of people out there bumping into these blog posts may not be rather excited about them, but, to me, it’s all about proving a point; and that’s been part of a reflection I have been pondering over the last few weeks as well: "A World Without Email" has always been associated with elsua. So why change that, right? That’s how most folks out there who have been following this blog for a while got to know someone called Luis Suarez, who nearly two years ago challenged the status quo of the corporate world saying out loud that enough was (Still is!) enough! No more email, please! Smarten up, think! and start making use of much more efficient and effective collaboration and knowledge sharing tools! Welcome to my Enterprise 2.0 world!

2009 has been quite a ride in this space, for sure! Having started the year feeling very much like I was alone fighting it all, showing and educating folks on how they themselves could move on further from email and into various other social software tools, surely has proved to be a rather exciting experience when at the end of the year I have been witnessing how several dozens of the people who I closely collaborate and share knowledge across with have managed to also cut down on their incoming email counts to the point where in most cases, and for a good bunch of them, I don’t even have their email addresses! Whoahhh!

Well, 2010 is going to continue with that trend. As more and more of my colleagues, and other fellow knowledge workers, get acquainted with a good number of social software tools somehow I sense how that third year without corporate email is going to be just as successful as the first or the second one. So if for this year I had set up a follow up challenge to receive around 20 emails, or less, a week, somehow I feel I’m ready to stretch it all out in 2010 and perhaps keep decreasing that number even more! Say between 15 to 20. Or even between 10 and 15, why not, right?

But how have I been doing over the last four weeks, you may be wondering, I am sure. Am I ready to keep things going with this experiment into the new year? Well, I think so. I hope so! If you take a look into the progress reports for weeks #42, #43, #44 and #45 you will see how over those few weeks things have been going really well (#20, #23, #12, #19, respectively, the number of incoming emails received) and since we are entering that time of the year where things are much slower than usual I can always be hopeful that I’ll be well into the new year right on target on that potential follow up challenge for that third year giving up on corporate email. W00t!

A World Without Email - Year 2, Week 45

It’s interesting to see how when comparing the same periods of time from the first and second years the progression has been rather remarkable thinking that plenty of weeks I have been getting as much as half of the emails in the second year from the first one, so I keep being optimistic that things will continue going down, even though plenty of people keep saying that our corporate email usage will double in 2010. We shall see …

For now though, I’m just pretty excited that throughout these 45 weeks I have gone through without email at work I have been averaging around 24 emails per week. Yes, 24!! Which means that I have probably been spending around 50 minutes a week to process them all (Yes, 50 minutes a week!) and the rest of the time I have just been sharing knowledge and information (As well as collaborating across) in networked environments, i.e. social networks and communities, which is probably one of the best things I may have done in my 13th year working for my current employer: IBM. I may venture into saying as well I just regret one single thing from this whole experiment: not having started with it all back in 2000, when I was first exposed, and started using, social software tools… Oh well …

2010, here I come again! Are you ready?

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Máximo 1.400 Caracteres – Entrevista a Luis Suarez

Tenerife - Mount TeideA couple of weeks back, just before I took that long weekend holiday break to Tenerife, my good friend Marco Cimino (Marketing Sales manager at Sowre, one of IBM’s Business Partners in Spain) pinged me on Twitter to ask me whether I would be available to conduct an online interview by answering a few questions. Of course, you can imagine how I just couldn’t ignore, nor reject, such kind offer. So I accepted it.

After a couple of tweets and Direct Messages through Twitter itself, we established the best method to answers those online questions was Google Wave (No, not the usual way, I am afraid, no email in this house, remember? :-D). So he went ahead and created a Wave where he dumped all of the interview questions and I would head over there and try to answer each and every one of them. As simple as that. That’s what Wave is supposed to be good at, right?

I should probably talk a bit more in length about my overall user experience with Wave itself, specially since plenty of people keep asking me how it compares to email and whether it would replace email altogether as a communication and / or collaboration tool. However, I am not going to do it on this blog post. Yet, suffice to say that I do see plenty of great value in making use of it, specially within a very powerful scenario: task centric computing for a small reduced number of known collaborators (Basically, executing on the closure of a particular task where all participants know each other very well). But more on that perception at a later time…

For now I thought I would take this opportunity to point you directly to the online interview we conducted so you could have a look into it and perhaps chime in as well in some of the various topics we discussed. The interview itself is available in multiple places, and it’s written in Spanish, so it may also be a good opportunity for those folks who want to polish some of their Spanish skills.

To give you a taster of what the interview was all about, here you have got the questions that Marco sent across and for which I shared my ¢2 accordingly for each of them:

  • "Desde hace algunos años te dedicas a impulsar la filosofía 2.0 en una multinacional como IBM; nos puedes explicar en qué consiste tu trabajo?
  • IBM redactó en 2005 un documento de Guidelines (http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html) con respecto al uso de los Social Media. Hay 2 puntos que me llaman la atención: intenta añadir valor y sé tú mismo (habla con tu propia personalidad). Son declaraciones en el más puro estilo 2.0! crees que muchas empresas hoy en día están preparadas para salir al descubierto de esta forma?
  • Nos podrías resumir las ventajas de la adopción de la filosofía 2.0 en la empresa?
  • Muchas veces asociamos el mundo internet con el concepto de “gratuito”, “software libre”, etc. Como conviven, en el mayor fabricante de software comercial como IBM, estos 2 mundos, el software libre y el software comercial? En Internet todo es necesariamente gratuito?
  • Sigo con interés y mucha curiosidad tu “experiencia” sin correo electrónico. Donde nace la necesidad de este experimento?
  • Y después de más de 2 años cuáles son tus conclusiones al respecto? Es posible vivir son correo electrónico? Qué ganaríamos con ello?
  • En un reciente post en tu blog nos hablas de un momento histórico en IBM. El momento en que Lotus Connections 2.5 se ha convertido en la plataforma estratégica de colaboración y gestión del conocimiento que será utilizada por los 500ks empleados de la compañía. De qué forma cambiarán los hábitos y la manera de relacionarse de las personas?
  • Porqué es tan revolucionaria una solución como Lotus Connections? En que ámbitos las empresas deberían prestarle atención?
  • Unas lecturas (libros, artículos, blogs) que sugieres para quien quiera iniciarse a la filosofía 2.0?
  • Un lugar para visitar (real o virtual)?"

Lots of meat in there, I know! For those folks out there who may want to check out an English version of the interview you may want to have a look into this link (Google Translate did a pretty decent job at it, I must confess) to get a good glimpse of what we discussed… Hope you enjoy it just as much as we did going through it.

From here, I just want to take this opportunity to send across a very special thanks! to Marco for inviting me to take part of the interview and share some, hopefully, interesting insights on how the 2.0 philosophy is changing not just the way we do business, within the corporate environment, but also how we behave ourselves as knowledge workers, and humans!, in this brave new world of Social Computing versus the traditional Personal Computing we have been doing for a couple of decades already.

Thanks ever so much, Marco! It was a great pleasure and plenty of good fun going through it! And surely look forward to further interactions! 😉

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The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections – Innovate or Die

Tenerife - Mount TeideIf yesterday I talked about the latest adventures of Molly exploring social software within the enterprise with IBM’s own Lotus Connections, today I thought I would go and check out what "The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections" has been up to lately. After all, it has been a few weeks since the last time I talked about him and his discovery of the immense power behind participating actively in online communities in order to reach to fellow knowledge workers to share your own knowledge and collaborate on a common topic.

Yes, of course, I am talking about the wonderfully delightful series of video clips that my good friend, and fellow IBM colleague, Jean Francois Chenier, has been putting together over the last few months and whose latest episode (#5 at this point in time) is just as witty and hilariously funny as all the other ones, if not more! But this time around he actually touches base on a use case related to one of my favourite services within Lotus Connections: Activities. And I will explain why shortly …

First, go and check out "Innovate or Die". That’s the title of this last episode and although it lasts for a little bit longer than all the others (8′ 19”) it’s just as worth it going through it and learning plenty more how easy it can well be preparing, managing and hosting a conference event using Lotus Connections Activities versus other traditional communication and collaboration tools. Certainly, a lot less painful, I tell you and, if not, hit play, judge for yourself and start enjoying this last episode:

Just too funny, eh? I told you. I said you would enjoy it and I bet you did. And quite a bit! I did, too! It’s interesting to notice how from all of the various services that Lotus Connections has got Activities is probably the most unknown of them all. And, funny enough, it’s yet *the* most powerful one of them all! In this episode #5 Jean Francois takes the opportunity to show how different things could have been for organising and hosting a conference event when making use of Activities versus other options. And having used it myself a few times for such kind of event organising I can tell you how easy it is to keep track of multiple threads trying to nail down such complex set of activities without going crazy along the way.

But that’s not the only reason why I really do enjoy working with Activities, both inside and outside of the firewall. At a time when most people are talking about how effective the Getting Things Done method is within your email system, here I am myself having my own GDT method: Lotus Connections Activities. There are multiple kinds of definitions that plenty of folks have been using to define such service, but the one that I keep re-using myself constantly is how I view this component as my micro-project management system, allowing me to execute incredibly easy on every single to-do or action item that hits not only my Inbox, but also my own day to day productivity.

Indeed, Activities touches base on a key area that I have developed a keen interest on over the last few months as one of the major drivers of Enterprise 2.0 within the corporate world: Task Centric Computing. That is right, if you would want to focus on interacting socially in finishing up task after task, to-do after to-do, with hardly any effort and in an open, public and transparent manner, so everyone can benefit from those interactions, (Although you can also keep it private, if you wish) Activities is the way to go.

Why, you mabe asking? Well, mainly because of how simple they are to use; mainly because of how integrated this service is with a bunch of the tools that I use on a daily basis: Lotus Notes, one of my Web browsers (FireFox) and Instant Messaging with Sametime. So all of those action items that may come through my way through those tools, and whatever other ones, I can just convert them easily (With a single click, in most cases) into a new Activity (Or an existing one). Just like that!

But what’s also amazing is that if you happen to be a Lotus Notes 8 user you will have to agree with me that it is just such a treat being able to take those Activities offline and work disconnected. Whoahhh! Who would have thought about that, eh? One of the major issues that mobile knowledge workers have got against social software (Lack of offline support) is fully supported by Activities! Ha! I told you it’s one of my favourite social computing tools, right? That’s why! Now I can take my to-dos and action items in a protected and secured environment I control with me wherever I may well be… and WITHOUT using email! Good stuff!!

Better use cases than that one of GTD using Activities? Probably, yes, but you would have to agree with me just that one makes it all worth it giving it a try. And believe it or not, you, too, can take it for a spin, right as we speak and, best of all, free of charge: Welcome to Connections Activities on ibm.com!

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The Adventures of Molly Discovering Social Software – On the Importance of Status Updates

Tenerife - The Rose's SurroundingsIt’s been a while already since the last time that I shared over here a blog post on the wonderful Adventures of Molly Discovering Social Software, so I thought it would be a good opportunity today to come and touch base on the latest episode available and which I didn’t include in that previous article. Yes, indeed, it looks like Molly’s adventures discovering social software at IBM continue and this time around, for episode #3, on one of my favourite topics, although things around it haven’t been very smooth lately. And you will see what I mean shortly …

Yes, like I was saying, it looks like Molly is back at it again exploring the great opportunities offered by social software tools and in this particular episode around the subject of Status Updates. Now, I am sure that at this point in time there is very very little that I would need to add about the subject of micro-blogging (Or micro-sharing, whatever term you would prefer), since I am sure plenty of people out there have already been exposed to it through, perhaps, its most popular example out there: Twitter.

However, what you may not be familiar with is how micro-sharing works for one of my favourite social software tools: Lotus Connections, in a large corporate environment such as IBM’s. And this is exactly what episode #3 from Molly’s Adventures… is all about. My fellow BlueIQ team colleague, Anna Dreyzin, has done it again and has put together a rather funny, witty and insightful video clip describing not only what Status Updates are all about, but also detailing the kind of impact that something so relatively simple can have in every single business (No matter how small or how large that business may well be).

As far as I can see, and if I watch closer my own behaviour from all of the micro-sharing I have been doing over the last three years nearly, I would probably venture to say that, along with my blogs, Status Updates are probably my favourite social software activities. Over 18,000 updates on Twitter & over 5,500 updates combined between Connections Profiles & BlueTwit would probably corroborate that theory. I would even go further and confirm that it is probably one of the main social tools that has allowed me to reduce by 95% my incoming take of emails over the last 2 years, therefore truly living "A World Without Email".

However, this may all be coming to an end pretty soon, unfortunately; at least, as far as one of the tools I mentioned above is concerned. To the point where I’m on the brink of giving up on it altogether for good (After my several failed attempts to do so in the past). I know. It’s not pretty, but the frustration with it is at such an incredibly high level at the moment, that I just entered the point of no return.

Yes, of course, I’m talking about my good old friend Twitter with which I have been having a love / hate relationship for nearly three years now. Sometimes I can’t even answer why I have stuck with it for so long, when for most other social tools where the experience has been that frustrating I have cut off that relationship almost right away. Go figure! It’s probably the community. I am sure.

I am certain as well that at this point in time you may be wondering what’s that last straw that broke the camel’s back, right? Well, something so relatively simple, yet so important and critical that in most cases we all seem to take it for granted all along, not just with Internet tools, but also with those behind the firewall, because most of us probably don’t think it is that crucial… when it actually is …

I am talking about support, more specifically, customer support. Specially when things don’t work out all right and you expect to have some decent customer service that never arrives. Here is an example:

Early last week, while I was enjoying a long holiday break I started to notice how a couple of the desktop and mobile Twitter clients I use on a regular basis (Mixero, Tweetie for Mac, Tweetie and Tweetie 2 for my smartphone) failed to provide me with plenty of the tweets that would typically come through my timeline. I initially thought it may have been an issue with the silly Twitter API limit set on 150 calls. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t.

I was also experiencing the same issues on my timeline through the Web interface. Missing large chunks of tweets that when going through the remaining ones they would not make any sense. Almost impossible to follow up with the conversations. And if Twitter is about something, you would have to agree with me that it would be conversations. So imagine how frustrating it all started to become …

And here is where the real issues began. I decided to raise a ticket to Twitter Support, since I couldn’t find any related items on the usual places, hoping that someone may be able to help out eventually, since I seemed to be the only one experiencing the issues (At least, none of the folks I follow complained about a misbehaving Twitter). And I was hopeful. For a little while. But for just that little while. Because, as I am putting this blog post together, I am no longer hopeful. I just basically gave up!

It’s been six days (Yes, 6!!), since I contacted support to inquire about what may be the issues with my Twitter timeline and why am I only seeing half of the tweets coming through. And to date, not a single solution has been offered. In fact, after an initial timid response I haven’t received anything else in those 6 days. And that hurts! Very much!

If I didn’t rely on Twitter as much as I do today I probably wouldn’t be worried much about the whole thing, but the truth is that I have learned to depend on it. My entire team is there, including my boss and my boss’ boss, plenty of my fellow IBM colleagues are there, too, as well as a good bunch of the people who not only do I respect tremendously, but also value, very much, their friendship and connections. So you can see the dependency I have on it at the moment. And the fact that I cannot longer hold conversations with them is becoming an issue for me. And a big one.

I mean, can you imagine 6 days without email? Or can you imagine 6 days without access to any of the other essential tools you may be using to keep in touch with colleagues, customers, business partners and other fellow knowledge workers? Right, neither can I! And that’s why after 6 days without a decent customer support experience, I am almost ready to give up on it, leave Twitter for good, and don’t come back. Instead, I am thinking I will be benefiting much more, without that frustration, by continuing to nurture my connections behind the firewall with an application that I can trust would work as expected and that, if not, I know from where the customer support would be coming in.

That’s why over the last few days I have gone quiet in Twitter; in fact, I haven’t been there much lately and don’t plan to come back till Twitter Support decides to look into whatever it is the issues I am having and provides a solution to them. Why? Mainly, because life is just too short to have to worry about not having something so fundamental and paramount as customer support, specially nowadays when customers are behaving different. Yet, Twitter doesn’t seem to understand that.

Oh, well … we shall see … I just don’t want to finish up this blog post with such troublesome reflection, so here is the embedded version of the video clip that my colleague Anna put together and which clearly shows the way I will be heading from here onwards, if Twitter doesn’t pull its act together real soon. Status Updates within the firewall for the win! (At least, for now…)

Dear @Twitter, are you listening? Please do not let me abandon you, just like that, after all these years, ok? Don’t let something so silly and yet so powerful as customer support get in between our relationship. It would be too sad … Don’t let it happen. I don’t want to look for alternatives. I just want Twitter to work as it used to. That’s all. Don’t think I’m asking for too much, am I?

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Validating Social Computing by Living an Historic Moment at IBM

Gran Canaria - Roque NubloIf yesterday’s blog post was probably one of *the* most important articles I have written in my 12th year old Internet life anywhere (Although the initial outcome doesn’t seem to be that positive, at least, initially), here I am today again putting together another entry where I will share another piece of news about one other historical moment in my work career that I witnessed earlier on this morning . One that I have been drooling all over about during the entire course of the day and for a few more days to come, of course!

As most of you know, I have been working for IBM during those 12 years (And still going strong!); most of the time around the area of Knowledge Management, collaboration, communities and social computing. My initial first contact with social software dates back to 2000 and 2001, when I was a member of one of the most active IBM communities (And still going strong!) that used, rather heavily, a wiki as its main collaboration and knowledge sharing tool amongst community members.

From there onwards, and, over the course of the years, I have been working in multiple various different projects where collaboration, knowledge sharing and communities have always played a key role (Even today!), having gotten plenty of exposure to some of the most amazing innovations that fellow IBM colleagues have been putting together throughout all of that time for the rest of us to enjoy. Most of those innovations have been around the area of social software and the main culprit of the availability of such tools has been an IBM initiative that’s been there for a few years now, and which I have talked about a few times over here: IBM’s Technology Adoption Program, a.k.a TAP.

Well, TAP has been hosting hundreds of those innovations in the last few years, but one of them has probably been, all along, the star of the show. Yes, of course, I am referring to Lotus Connections. It’ll started back at the end of 2003 when the Connections Blogs component was first made available. A couple of years later came Dogear (Now Bookmarks). Shortly afterwards, started to come on board Activities, Profiles and Communities. And last year the final two components: Files and Wikis.

In the beginning, there were all separate, they didn’t talk to one another very much, but pretty soon that changed; with the release of Connections v2.5 all services became integrated with one another and IBM’s Lotus Connections became a Product. Yes, I realise that Connections as a product has been there for a while, but for those who know (And have played with) v2.5 you would understand some of the initial limitations that were there before. Version 2.5 was just that quantum leap we were all waiting for all along…

So for the last few months we have been using that version in TAP, which is, as you may have imagined, a pilot environment that serves more the purpose of a playground area to explore the potential of what the tool can do to help improve the way we collaborate and share knowledge with our peers. But always with a purpose. The purpose that one day it would leave TAP, continue to grow further and reach that full production environment that serves as perhaps *the* most prevalent validation point that social software for the enterprise is here to stay.

Well, today is that historical moment. I am very pleased (And incredibly excited!) to share with you folks out there that overnight Lotus Connections on TAP was successfully migrated into IBM’s full production environment within the IBM Intranet. And everything has gone very smooth. The performance has been amazing all along and, like I said, this is just a new beginning for all of us IBMers.

This move into that full production environment means that from here onwards IBM’s 500k employee population will be using Lotus Connections as their strategic knowledge sharing and collaboration tool. As far as I know, that is the largest deployment of enterprise social software behind a corporate firewall. And along with the recent announcement that the instance of Lotus Connections on http://ibm.com/communities has moved to version 2.5 in a production environment as well we are witnessing very exciting times on what’s still to come, indeed!

So next time someone asks me how real social computing within the enterprise is, I guess I won’t have to walk very far. In my own house, after a couple of years of testing the ground, playing extensively with the various options, exploring a new world of opportunities in knowledge sharing and collaboration, there is now this social software tool called Lotus Connections that is being used by 500,000 people (Potentially), helping them take their day to day productivity into new heights.

There is very little else that I would need to add, other than plenty of excitement and drooling about something that I have been waiting for a while. My good friend James Governor tweeted to me the following a few days back:

”. @elsua you must be excited by the Lotus Connections momentum. chance to get some customers out of inbox stockholm syndrome”

You bet! I just can’t wait to continue telling customers how to live in “A World Without Email”, but first I will keep doing that very same thing at the same time with my own colleagues, since things have gotten a lot easier after today’s historical moment. Don’t you think?

(From here I just want to give a big, and a special, thanks!, to all of the folks who have made the migration total success, starting with the people behind TAP (For providing us with that perfect pilot environment where we continue to experiment with some of the coolest technologies out there) and finishing up with the superb joint work of the Lotus Connections team(s) as well as the CIO office. Without their perseverance and true hard work it would not have been possible. Thanks ever so much, guys! You rock!)

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Will Social Software Replace Email in an Enterprise 2.0 World?

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo's SurroundingsNow that I have gotten off my chest that reflection on something I have been meaning to write about for a while now, I think it is time to move into the next one. Perhaps, in a follow-up blog post I will talk a little bit about which social networking sites have now been become part of my recently created and ongoing "black list". Facebook, LinkedIn and Slideshare are just three of them, but there are a few more. So I guess I will start putting together a table with those networking sites that, in my opinion, would need to get their act together, before I would come back to them.

But that’s the subject for another blog entry… For today I would like to reflect some more on something that has been bugging me for a couple of years and, which I think, is a good time now to share it and get it off my chest as well (You can see to what I dedicate part of my time during the holidays: think, rethink, ponder, ponder some more and finally share some of these crazy ideas out there. In this case in this blog).

You may have noticed how what I’m going to talk about (Expect a long blog post ahead, by the way, so you may want to grab a cup of coffee, or tea, sit down and read on!) dates back to around two years, more precisely a few weeks after I started this initiative of living "A World Without Email". Most of you know how I have been using social software for much longer, yet things changed when I kicked off that experiment. And time and time again people keep asking me how do I do it. How am I capable of giving up corporate email altogether and still do the stuff that I do on a daily basis.

Interestingly, plenty of people keep wondering how they could do it themselves as well, after having witnessed what I have been doing all along, and they continue to ask what would be some of the main challenges, issues, showstoppers, etc. etc. with the whole experiment itself, so they could overcome them and start walking away, slowly but steadily, from corporate email. And over the last few months I’ve come to the conclusion that the main obstacle there is out there hasn’t got anything to do with changing people’s habits, or provoking a cultural change, or trying to convince people there are better ways of collaborating and sharing knowledge out there.

It is actually a lot simpler, and perhaps even more upsetting, too! Remember that brilliant piece that Andy McAfee put together a couple of years ago under "The 9X Email Problem"? Well, it has got to do with it, and quite a bit! In that brilliant article Andy comes to highlight, amongst several other very interesting things, how the biggest challenge for social software to take over email and become the primary corporate collaboration and knowledge sharing tool is its simplicity, or the lack of.

We all know that sending and processing email is very easy, perhaps far too easy. It’s the tool that we have been relying on for the last few decades and it has evolved good enough in the direction that today it is an indispensable business related tool. There’s no reason to deny that. And, in fact, I’m not going to.

What I have noticed though, as I have been more and more involved with getting the most out of social software (versus corporate email), is that social software tools, in my opinion, are almost there: just as easy to use as email is. Everybody knows how easy it is to create a blog post, to edit a wiki page, to tag a Web resource, to bookmark a link, even to tweet. So what seems to be the problem then, you may be wondering, right?

Well, you are not going to believe this, but over the last few weeks I have been studying how I work and interact with social software tools on a daily basis and, to me, the biggest obstacle, the main challenge why social software is still going to take a long while to replace email altogether is no other than something we are all very familiar with: the Web browser.

Who would have thought about that, eh? The main issue I am seeing when interacting with social software tools is actually not the social tools themselves, but how I access them. You know the story, if you want to write an email to someone, you bring up your favorite email client in a second or two, you hit the magic keystroke combination to bring up a new memo and you start writing away and send it off. All of that in a matter of seconds. You know how it works.

The thing changes when you need to do something in one of your social networking tools and you need to go and access the Web. What do you do? You go and launch / switch to your favorite default browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Flock, Safari, Chrome, etc.), start loading the URL you’re interested in and start interacting with it. Now depending on the social software tool, depending on the Web browser you may be using at that time, or your network speeds (Even more, if you are travelling!), depending as well on how many other things you’re doing at the same time that relatively simple task may take from a couple of seconds to a whole bunch of them!

And that’s where the problem starts. Because, as I continue to rely more and more on those browsers, the overall user experience has deteriorated quite a bit for most of them, if not all of them!, to the point where opening a single page to start loading a Web site can take several seconds, and if you have multiple screens (multiple tabs) it will get worse. And worse! And much worse as you try to work your way through various multiple social networking tools!! To the point where you would realise you would have been much faster reaching out to that person through email (Versus whatever the social tool). And we are back again to square one! Email rules!

Now most of you know that for the last two and a half years I have been using, almost exclusively, a MacBook Pro as my main work machine. So from that list of browsers mentioned above you will need to scratch Chrome and Internet Explorer (No, I don’t have a virtual Windows machine running on the Mac. Never have, in case you are wondering…). Thus for my day to day work I have four Web browsers opened, at all times: Firefox, Flock, Safari and Opera (Which has remained, throughout the years, as my preferred default browser!). I’ve got all of them fine tuned to be top-notch web browsing experiences. Yet all of them, except one, keep failing miserably, time and time again, to get me the kind of response, as far as performance is concerned, as to what I usually get from my email client that I have been utilising for a few years.

And that’s not good. Because it basically means that email will "win" over and over for as long as those browsers don’t improve themselves against overall outstanding performance benchmarks. It’s got even to the point where I have almost given up on all of them (Except one! Hint, hint…) and instead of using and relying on them rather heavily I am noticing how I keep downloading the various different desktop applications to interact with those social tools. So I hardly use the Web browsers anymore for my own productivity. Instead I just use them to read Web resources.

All except one, like I just said: Opera, the one that rules them all and which, on the Mac, is a unique Web browsing experience! Even today! Too bad though most Web applications and other social tools don’t interact too well with such browser, probably just because it is not one of the popular / hyped ones (I know, a shame!). Talking about following Web Standards …

You would probably say I may have become, over the course of time, what some people would call a "Power Web Worker"; someone who spends a good chunk of his time (Probably 80% of his working time) on the Web, if not more! Remember, I don’t rely on email any longer! Instead, I rely on Web applications accessed through the browsers and continue to expect the same kind of response from those productivity tools, i.e. the browsers, as what you would expect from the various desktop applications we are used to, including our email clients. Yet they keep failing to deliver and, as you may have guessed, they keep adding further up on my frustration levels, something that, for instance, email clients haven’t done any longer for a long while now.

That’s definitely why Posterous has become incredibly popular at the moment, way beyond the hype. And, as you may have guessed, for a particular good reason; it is dead simple to use! It still allows you to share your knowledge and collaborate with other knowledge workers in an open, public and social space by bypassing the main issue that is stopping us all from adopting these social tools in the first place even more: The Web Browsers. I bet most of you folks have got your own war stories about your default Web browsers (Anyone care to share theirs?)

But how does Posterous do it? Well, using something that will still be with us for decades to come, not only because it just works, but also because it’s the easiest way of helping you stay productive: email, which is not the same thing I could say for all of those Web browsers, that will keep hindering your overall productivity due to their appalling performance, except for that one in the minority that I wish people would pay more attention to, because so far it’s the only one that can deliver a true Web browsing experience: fast, secure, reliable, stable, complete and straight to the point! Opera rules! And so does email (Through Posterous though)!

So imagine the possibilities of this newly born nifty combination between Opera, which happens to be an email client as well, and Posterous. Are you ready to experience the Web once again? Are you ready to leave behind the daily headaches, the increasing level of frustrations, behind your Web browser(s)? I surely am!

(Thanks for reading this long blog post directly from your favourite RSS / Atom feed reader… You just proved the point ;-))

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