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

From the blog

A World Without Email – Year 2, Week 9 (How to Kill E-mail, Before It Kills You)

Gran Canaria - Puerto de MoganLast week I mentioned in Twitter how during the course of the week I’d be putting together a rather compelling and thought-provoking entry where I would detail how folks could kill over 85% of the incoming e-mails they get on a daily basis. Yet, in the end, I didn’t manage to publish it, more than anything else, because, at a certain point, I got carried away and added some additional materials into the mix. And thus the draft needs further editing. This week though, that post will go up and I am surely hoping it would help folks find their way to, finally, move away from corporate email.

But today I am going to go back and share with you folks further insights on the weekly progress reports from my daily living “A World Without Email“, plus a couple of interesting links I have bumped into over the last few days. You would remember how last week I was a bit concerned at the prospect of seeing the highest number of incoming emails per week since the beginning of the year and I was surely hoping that things would tame themselves a bit. And they surely have. I am not certain whether it was down to the progress report related post I put together or to the upcoming long holiday break. The end result is that the numbers got substantially lower for Week 9, as can be seen from the following snapshot:

A World Without Email - Year 2, Week 9

Yes, I know, not close enough to that follow up target of 20 emails a week or less, but with 26, coming from a whopping 47!, I guess we are back in track again with things, don’t you think? Specially noteworthy is how Monday last week seemed to have been a rather hectic day and I supposed that was mainly due to folks preparing for a long holiday break taking place on Thursday and Friday, where the incoming count went really low. Thus I would suspect things will be different for week 10… And they are, but that’d would be the subject for another blog post at a later time.

Let’s move on now into the interesting couple of links I bumped into in the last few days, which I am sure folks out there are going to find interesting and somewhat humourous, at least, one of them.

Head over to PCWorld‘s “What Your Webmail Choice Reveals About You” where you will be able to see for yourself how, depending on which Web mail system you may be using at the moment, you would be flagged one way or another. Rather amusing read, to be honest, specially the end of it with this precious gem shared across under No E-mail Account:

Typical user: You are in your late teens or early 20s and you equate sending e-mails with using a fax machine, watching broadcast TV or buying CDs — lame. You text and/or IM, and that’s it. TTYL

Well, not quite just yet, but getting there … 😀

Check though this other much more provocative and mind-boggling article published by Mike Elgan over at Computerworld under the title “How to kill e-mail (before it kills you)” where he gets to describe some of the most comprehensive and compelling reasons I have read in a long while on why e-mail is perhaps not the best of communication / collaboration tools we have at the moment. And why now is probably the perfect time to re-think how we make extensive use of it. Or not. Here are a couple of interesting and relevant quotes towards living “A World Without Email“:

E-mail has become a pandemic social disease. The more you get, the more you send. And the more you send, the more you get.

Or this other one:

What’s wrong with e-mail? In a nutshell, the medium is perfectly designed for information overload. Both message size and quantity are essentially unlimited. Unfortunately, electronic communication is like a gas: It expands to fill its container.

Or this other one, incredibly insightful and very much along the lines of what I have been saying myself all along on the power of the spoken vs. the written word:

E-mail has always suffered from another flaw: It facilitates miscommunication. When you’re typing out words, you’re thinking one thing, but the receiver can perceive your intent as something else. You’re being funny. They perceive hostile. The reason is that humans are designed to communicate with words, facial expressions, body language and hand gestures all together. When you send only cold, black-and-white words, the other person can easily read into your message inaccurate intent or emotional content.

You can go and read further on the article by going over here. I can surely state it would be worth while your time. Not only because Mike keeps addressing some of the main issues e-mail is suffering from for a while now, but also from the perspective that he ventures into providing some sound advice on how to diversify your Inbox and bring into the mix an alternative set of tools to help you manage your time, and your email interruptions, in a much more productive manner:

  1. Set up a Twitter account
  2. Set up a “public” e-mail account as a data repository
  3. Set up a “secret” e-mail account for content
  4. Set up a Facebook account
  5. Set up a Skype account and get a webcam

I know most of us have made extensive use of these tools, but throughout the commentary from that article you would be able to see how most people are skeptical that such a system could work, more than anything else because of a number of issues people have identified with applications like Facebook or Twitter. But, to me the important and relevant question would be, what happens when you implement such a system behind the firewall with real Enterprise Social Software?

That is, when you have applications like Facebook, Twitter or Skype directly available behind the firewall, with whatever other name and with the same kind of quality and service as other traditional tools you are used to. Is the skepticism still realistic? Are people’s comments on Mike’s article consistent enough? Does it sound like a chimera as much as initially thought? Or is it something that could be put to the test and see if it would meet your needs and, eventually, help you make your final move away from corporate email?

Well, stay tuned, because that is exactly what I am going to cover in that upcoming blog post I started this entry with; you will see how it’s a lot easier than whatever you may have thought thus far …

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Changes, Changes, Changes – Part II

Gran Canaria - Presa de AyagauresOh the excitement! It looks like the new upgrade of the blog template over at http://www.elsua.net has been a total hit! Plenty of folks have dropped by the launch entry, as well as through Twitter, to comment on how much better the new design is, compared to the old one, and although I am sure the other two blogs I maintain will keep the same flavour they have been having I can surely guarantee you it is quite a rush receiving all of the positive commentary and quite motivating to keep things going with some more regular blogging. And since we are starting another year, why not, right?

Well, here I am again then, putting together a follow up blog post to the one from yesterday where I will be commenting further on some of the various different changes that will be taking place over at elsua.net and which, in a way, will also affect to some extent how I will keep things going with all of the blogs I currently look after.

Thus without much further ado, here is a short list of the new things you will be able to find at my main person / business blog:

  • About: This is where folks can find a recent photo of what I look like (Ideal when meeting up face to face!), but also a description of who I am, what I do, what I like and what people can expect from the blog. And, finally the opportunity now to leave comments with whatever you may have in mind that you feel would need / require my attention. Whenever people may not be able to reach out to me through IM, Twitter, Facebook or whatever other social networking site, this would be the area to drop by and leave a comment. You see? I didn’t mention email 😉
  • Archives: One of the sections I am most excited about and which I was really looking forward to finally have it as part of the blog. A lovely, and nifty, index of the over 866 blog posts I have put together in elsua.net, so if you are looking for something I may have blogged about in the past you will be able to find it through there much easier! Oh, and the Search function now works, too!
  • Links: For a good number of months I was using a blogroll injected directly from BlogLines, where folks could check out some of the current reading I was doing. But then things got messy and I eventually had to take it down. However, since plenty of folks have been asking me about it again in the recent weeks I thought it would be nice to recover it and that’s why under Links you will find my current blogroll of over 270 feeds, because, yes, indeed, I still read feeds (As well as Twitter!). Don’t you?
  • Photos: Definitely, this was one of the sections I was really looking forward to, but never thought I would have a chance of implementing it. But, again, thanks to the lovely piece of work from Laura Whitehead, under Photos you would now be able to get a glimpse of all of the photos that I get to share in my Flickr account, without you having to go anywhere else. Over there you will be able to find pictures from all of my travelling (Getting started with 2009’s in just a few days from now, by the way!) as well as from the place where I have lived for the last five years: Gran Canaria.

    You may have noticed how I haven’t been sharing as many photos as I once used to and all along there has been a reason for it: not having a good enough photo editing / processing software on the Mac. But now that Picasa for the Mac is there (Which, along with Camtasia, was the only piece of software I really missed from Windows. Now, not anymore!), be certain that I will start sharing plenty more of the pictures I have taken during the course of 2008 and beyond! 😀

  • Lifestream: Finally, another section which I was really looking forward to implementing in elsua.net, was the one called Lifestream, which happens to be a super nifty WordPress plugin, put together by David Cramer, and which is going to prove incredibly useful as I start to diversify my online presence in more and more social spaces. Yes, that’s right, I won’t say much about it for now, but things are going to change slightly with my own blogging style and how I get to use other social software tools and Lifestream is the one that is going to put them all together in a single place. Thus stay tuned for more to come…

And that would be it, folks! Some of the most striking, and new, changes that you would be able to notice on my main personal / business blog on the Internet. The rest you would notice how it is much cleaner, a lot less clutter, plenty less widgets (I have only kept there MyBlogLog, since I still make use of it to a certain degree) as I was fully aware how much noise they added to the template as well as slowing down the overall Web site itself. So I decided to take them all down!

Finally, you would also see how for each of the blog posts I will be putting together you will have an opportunity to weigh in your thoughts not just with comments, but also with ratings (Thanks to the GD Star Rating WordPress plugin put together by Milan Petrovic), as well as share across that specific article in various social bookmarking and social networking sites, thanks to another really nice WordPress plugin called Sociable, put together by Joost de Valk.

Like I said, quite a thrill having gone through such a massive upgrade of the blog template, which in reality has also managed to introduce a few new things which I am hoping you would get to enjoy them quite a bit more, but, most importantly, a much more significant change, which is going to be detailed in Part III of this series and which will relate to describe some more the new blogging style I will be adopting (Adapting to) from here onwards. But that would be another day…

(For now, if you are reading this article directly from elsua.net, hope you will be enjoying this new ride, and remember if you find something is broken or whatever other issue or bug, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We will be more than happy to amend things right away!)

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Giving up on Work e-mail – Status Report on Week 41 to 43 (The Yo-Yo Effect)

Gran Canaria - Barranco de MaspalomasAnd we are back again! Well, better said, I am back again! Back at my regular blogging activities, after having gone through my last business trip of the year, i.e. to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, to participate on the superb Dutch Innovation Platform event, for which I am already working through putting together a couple of blog posts with some of the highlights I went through and experienced, along with other events I have been to this year and which I am hoping to be able to share them accordingly shortly. They are still there, so not to worry, I haven’t forgotten. Things have just been busy and with all of the travelling and year end activities you can imagine where my mind has been lately …

But today I thought I would go ahead and resume those blogging activities by tapping into the weekly progress report from my giving up on e-mail, which, in case you are wondering, it is still going rather strong and with no outlook to go back any time soon! Thus, even though I may not have blogged about it just recently, it doesn’t mean I have giving up altogether on the whole thing. Quite the contrary.

Main reason why I haven’t blogged on the topic for a while is because I have been watching a phenomenon happening right as we speak and for which I just cannot find a good explanation for at this point in time and it looks like it is expanding into this current week we are on. Yes, it is about something that I have started to call it the yo-yo effect and which surely is helping bring plenty of puzzlement for myself and a few other folks who have been wondering about the same thing.

Nevertheless, instead of me detailing some more what’s been happening over the last three weeks, i.e. week 41, 42 & 43 I thought I would go ahead and share with your those progress reports over here in the usual way, but with these three grouped together:

Fighting e-mail - Progress Report - Week 41

Fighting e-mail - Progress Report - Week 42

Fighting e-mail - Progress Report - Week 43

As you would be able to see, there has been a yo-yo effect which I am yet to explain where it comes from, because there hasn’t been anything special taking place for it to be there. So I am not sure how that came up. Either way, you would be able to see how for week 41 the total number of incoming e-mails was 43; for week 42 it was 26 and, finally, for week 43 the total number was 37. Rather interesting to try to figure out a pattern for that to happen, but so far it is failing in me to figure it out. And even worse when this week the yo-yo effect continues and this time around on the low side of things! Oh, well, I will trying to figure out and see how it goes. The interesting thing is that the average incoming count of e-mails hasn’t gone up tremendously high as I suspected it may have happened due to the time of the year. Alas, it looks like things have been rather different than what I thought! Oh well, we shall see if I can figure it out.

For now though I thought as well I would wrap up this blog post sharing with you folks a couple of very interesting entries I have bumped into from my good friend Dennis Howlett (Who is probably starting to enjoy LeWeb in Paris this week! *wave*), who, a little while ago, has finally decided to take some action in handling some of the interactions that arrive through his e-mail address and move them elsewhere outside his Inbox. Does it ring a bell?

Check out “Email is driving me crazy” and from there onwards head over to “Why I’ve blown the PR gaff“, to get a little bit of background and some further insights on some of the stuff that I am sure most of you folks would feel identified with. In this particular case, the fascinating stuff is not that Dennis has put together two really nice blog posts, but something that I consider much more important and relevant for what I have been doing all along: recognising there is a problem with e-mail and finally decide to do something about it!

I did that over 10 months ago and I don’t regret it a single time! It has been quite an experience! Acknowledging there was a problem with my Inbox in how it was controlling my own productivity for me versus myself dictating what it would be like was just the first step towards what I have achieved from there onwards. And I am really glad to see how Dennis has started that path as well. So from here onwards I will be following up on his progress and see how he is doing on that innovative approach to move away from his e-mail by making use of various other tools, like Twitter. Best of luck, Dennis! I am there with you, my friend! Hang in long enough and then there would be no way back!

However, the interesting thing about Dennis’ blog posts was eventually the comments from the first entry where John Reed shared an excellent piece with some very sound advice on how he himself has also been reducing his incoming e-mail count and I surely was inspired by reading his commentary, because he was just sending out a very loud and clear message that everyone can tame their e-mail beast and make out of it what they had envisioned in the first place. Here are a couple of interesting quotes from John that I thought were worth while mentioning over here as well:

One thing is that any emails I get on general SAP career questions, I tend to respond more briefly and point them to relevant links on my site. Or, I will create a longer email if it is a good new question, turn that into an article, and point folks there the next time around. So, creating content that serves as “FAQ” is always good to reduce general inquiries.


Another thing that has helped me is to realize that as important as it is to respond to client questions, I’m better off limiting my email sessions to a couple a day. So, after a certain point in my day I shut off my email. Twitter has helped me here as I let clients know they can find me all the time on Twitter if they need anything. The reason limiting the amount of email sessions is important is because many email correspondences are just longer conversations and the more email you send, the more you accelerate those conversations. Limiting the frequency of my own email sessions is helpful and folks know that while I will respond to email almost every day, they shouldn’t think of it as an instant ping”

To, finally, wrap up the commentary with these equally wise words:

I tend to keep my email responses to the short side, to create more efficiency on an email-by-email basis […]

Thus as you would be able to see, plenty of common sense and a very good strategy put in place on how John keeps his e-mail count to a reasonable amount, or, at least, with a lot less noise than ever before. Which reminds me of something I keep getting confronted with over and over again. Reducing your e-mail count of incoming e-mails is not something that any system is going to help you out with. It is all about you; it is all about your willingness to challenge your Inbox, to fix what may be broken, to try to amend a situation that is becoming more difficult to sustain day in day out; to find a way to regain back your own productivity versus that one of others. In short, to challenge and figure out a way to help improve the way you interact with your connections, because there is always a chance that there would be something out there way better than e-mail!

Both John and Dennis, not just me alone anymore, are proving it is possible to do it. Yes, it may take time; yes, it may take some initial effort; yes, it may take more energy than you can anticipate, but hang in there. Hang in there tight for the initial storm to take place, because, before you know it, the calm will settle right in, and from there onwards there is no way back! You would no longer be able to say that you are being overwhelmed by your incoming e-mail. Key question though for you folks out there … Are you willing to take back control? … It is your choice!

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