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

From the blog

The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections – On the Misuse of Email

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las NievesI am not sure whether you may have been listening to the CBC radio show Spark interview I did with Nora Young earlier on this week, and which I have blogged about it over here, but, if you have, you may have noticed I have tried to explain how all along, during all of this time living "A World Without Email", I don’t have anything against it per se, as a system to help people communicate with one another. In fact, I still think it’s probably one of the best tools out there for 1:1 communications.

A different matter would be email as a collaboration tool, although that’s perhaps the subject for another blog post at some point in time. What I have been up against all along, throughout all of these months though, is not email as such, but how we keep misusing it (And abusing it!), over and over, for the daily tasks that we know we could use better tools for, in the first place, but that perhaps we don’t because email is just way too easy.

To follow up that statement with an example, I would love to point out to you a YouTube video that one of my fellow IBM colleagues, Jean Francois Chenier, has made available and which has been so incredibly popular inside IBM with hundreds of views and downloads that by that same popular demand it made it into YouTube itself, and the best part is that it won’t be the last one!

Go and have a look into The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections; a short, incredibly accurate, and hilarious, video clip of a bit over three and a half minutes that describes the painful experience of going through such a relative easy task / activity of sharing files with your colleagues using what we have been using for years: yes, indeed, email! (Funny enough, if you would ask me for the number #1 misuse of email file sharing will be it, by far!; hummm, well, perhaps followed closely as well by Reply to All !)

You will find plenty of humorous commentary that describes pretty well (Too well at times!) the scenario that we go through every time we share a file through email. Pretty much along the lines of what Chris Rasmussen detailed not along ago with this graphic, but this time around showing it with an amazingly funny animation.

The rather interesting part of the video clip is from minute 2:14 onwards, where you will be able to see what a difference it would have made making use of a social software tool for file sharing. In this particular example, it showcases IBM’s Lotus Connections (The Files component, to be more precise, which is by now one of my favourite social software tools behind the IBM firewall! And I am sure you will be able to see why after you go through the video clip).

I tell you, indeed, after you watch that last part of the video you will see the huge difference between both approaches and you will see as well why I’m so keen on living "A World Without Email", specially when someone decides to send me a 10, 20, 30MB large presentation just because they wanted to make things really easy. Really? Do you think so? Specially, after going through that video clip? I am not sure what you would think, but I don’t think so!

A special big thanks to Jean Francois for putting together in a wonderful video clip the struggles we go through with relatively simple tasks just because we didn’t want to start Thinking Outside the Inbox! Well done! Thanks for showing us the way, Jean Francois!

Have a good one everyone!

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A World Without Email – Year 2, Weeks 15 to 21 (#e2conf Update on “Thinking Outside the Inbox!”)

While I am going through a number of different blog posts sharing some of the major key highlights from the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston a couple of weeks back (Already!), I thought I would go ahead and share with you folks an interim article on my (weekly) progress reports of living "A World Without Email"; more than anything else, because it’s been nearly two months! (Yes, 2 months!! Goodness!), since the last entry I shared over here on this very same topic was quite a while ago.

And it would be even more interesting since it ties in, quite nicely, with one of the many highlights for me while being in Boston a couple of weeks back at such special event. But let’s start one step at a time. Last blog post I shared I put together a report that ended up with Week 14, so I am sure you may be wondering what happened ever since, right? Whether I have been able to keep it up, or give up on it altogether, I am sure you are wondering what’s been going on all this time. I have been sharing in my Flickr account all of the different weekly progress reports (Week 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20), adding some further thoughts along the way, but here is the latest one for week 21 (As well as all the others):

A World Without Email - Year 2, Week 21

As you would be able to see, things have been going on really really nice, to the point where last week it marked the 2nd lowest number of incoming emails for this year with a wonderful 17 emails received! Great news, indeed! And for the rest of the other weeks things have kept a good pace of staying under control between 20 to 25 emails a week, which is rather close to my follow up challenge for this year on 20 or less a week. Thus getting there!

The interesting thing is that during those few weeks I haven’t shared the progress reports, lots of things have happened: recovered from the phishing attack in Facebook (Which was quite an interesting experience putting to the test my online reputation, like why would Luis send me this awkward link? Not to worry, I won’t!); was on the road again for another business trip; then the Enterprise 2.0 conference event itself and the usual stuff at work. And yet the number of incoming emails has been getting lower and lower, but still interesting as busy as ever through social software tools. I tell you, if things continue like this throughout the year, I expect to have gone well below the follow up challenge I set myself for at the beginning of the year. Remember 20 or less emails a week! Slowly, but steadily!

Ok, moving on! Hopefully, next weekly progress report I will share it won’t take two months for it to come through, since I already got a bunch of interesting links I would want to share with you folks that touch base on this very same topic of re-defining and re-purposing how we make use of email while at work and finally how we can, successfully, diversify our Inboxes. But that would be the subject for another blog post.

For now, allow me to put together over here the connection with one of the main highlights of Enterprise 2.0 in Boston a couple of weeks back. Remember Ulrike Reinhard and the wonderful interview she did with me while I was in Berlin for the Web 2.0 Expo on the topic of Thinking Outside the Inbox? Well, our paths crossed each other again while in Boston and Ulrike kindly invited me to do a short update / interview, where I could detail some more how the experience has been like of living "A World Without Email" and what I have been learning throughout all of these months (17 months and going!).

Of course, I couldn’t reject such a lovely and kind offer, since I thoroughly enjoyed the first interview back in October. So we went to the lobby of the Westin hotel and she hit the record button and right away we were talking again. And Update on "Thinking outside the Inbox!" is the actual outcome of that interview. A video that lasts for a bit over 22 minutes in which I touch base on what it is like having ditched corporate email for good; how much I rely now on the nurturing of my various social networks; how they help me collaboratively filter what I need and how I try to keep them as healthy as I possibly can so that I can trust them to help get the job done throughout the day, just as much as I am contributing myself as well.

Here is the embedded version, so you can start playing it right away. Or, alternatively, the direct link to it is here.

As you would be able to see I got to share plenty of details as well about how I decide to follow people across the board, whether internally or externally, in the various social software tools, including Twitter, which also provides an answer to those folks who have been asking me for a while how I eventually make use of such micro-sharing Web site.

Again, a big special thanks! to Ulrike for another very enjoyable interview that I had the pleasure to participate in and, even more, when such interview, and a couple of other things, sparked a superb conversation on something that’s been in my mind for a while now. Unfortunately, I can’t share many more details just yet. Other than it would involve … Gran Canaria 😀 (Thanks ever so much, Ulrike!)

(Oh, in case you may have missed the various installments from the Enterprise 2.0 conference highlights I have been sharing already, here are Part I, Part II and Part III so far… Flickr picture shared above courtesy from Andrea Baker, a.k.a. @Immunity)

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Seth Godin Explains Why You Need a Tribe by Loic Lemeur

And since yesterday was a rather long blog post, I thought today I would share with you folks a shorter one. A much shorter one, actually. But a rather interesting, compelling and enlightening one. One that would take you about 14 minutes to digest, but keep you thinking for a long while! I am sure of that! At least, it has had that effect with me.

Check out this interview that Loic Lemeur has shared over at his blog of a recent 12 minute interview he did with Seth Godin where he gets to talk about his concept of tribes; marketing done right; leading the way through community involvement, driven by empowering community members to thrive on through their (And your!) common passion(s) / mission; on doing what you are really good at and stick with that!; on reflecting why you shouldn’t jump into every single social networking tool there is out there just for the sake of it (Incredibly inspiring that part of the interview, by the way!); in short, how you can (And should!) define your own social software adoption strategy to make you better at what you already do excel at!

Yes, indeed, one of the best short interviews I have seen in a long while! Really enjoyed that informal flavour they gave to it as well, with plenty of knowledge nuggets to chew on that, like I said, would make you think about plenty of the stuff you are heavily involved with at the moment. Thus without much further ado, here it is:

Seth Godin Explains Why You Need a Tribe

Now, is that the reason why I have been relatively quiet today in Twitter? Hummm, some further food for thought in there, I think… Oh, and listen up to some of the amazing stuff Seth also talks about with regards to one of my favourite topics as of late: re-purposing e-mail to communicate, share and collaborate with others!

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Giving up on Work e-mail – Status Report on Week 52 (On Reply to All – Again!)

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas DunesAs I am about to finish with another Monday, on another busy week at work, I thought I would share some of the excitement of what I have been going through over the last couple of weeks. Yes, indeed, it is time again for that blog post with information details on the weekly progress report about my quest to giving up e-mail at work, but this time as well reflecting on a major milestone I will be sharing shortly with you folks.

If you have paid close enough attention to the title of the blog post you would realise that the post I’m putting together relates to week 52, yes, week 52!! of this particular experiment, which I would say is more of a new reality for me, and that means that last week it marked the one year I have been giving up on e-mail altogether! Yes, one year without e-mail at work! Yay!

Well, to be more precise, the actual date of when I started with this quest was February 15th 2008, so I still have got a few more days to enjoy such exciting anniversary. I never thought I would be saying this, but I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I decided to make that blunt move and give up on e-mail altogether!

A lot has happened since that date and over the course of the next few days, and in between other blog posts, I am going to share a number of different insights on what the whole experience has been and what I plan on doing for the second year as my next challenge. Thus stay tuned for some more to come, as I am sure you will find it rather interesting.

For now, though I thought I would share with you folks the progress report from last week, week 52, which I can tell is a rather interesting one, because it is highlighting one trend I am starting to see repeat itself more and more. But without much further ado, here it is:

Fighting e-mail - Progress Report - Week 52

The incoming count of e-mails is settled on the usual average I have been getting over the last few months. This time around on 36 e-mails. The interesting trend that I see coming up is how both Mondays and Fridays seem to be the quietest days of the week in terms of e-mails received whereas the rest of the week, they are not. To the point where last week they triggered me to tweet the following nugget:

"Confirmed: Mondays people *do* some work; Fridays they prepare for the weekend; rest of the week they overload you with emails! #toti"

It is a trend which is going to be a rather interesting challenge; to see whether I can confirm if it is the case or not, but so far it feels like it. And pretty much so! Let’s see how it goes from there.

For now though, I am going to share with you folks an interesting couple of links, talking about the same subject, which I am sure is going to grab your attention. I first got alerted about it by my good friend Livio Hughes, Director and co-founder of Headshift, through one of his tweets; then I got another alert from a fellow IBMer, and good friend as well, Ed Brill, who blogged it at "TechCrunch: Nielsen Deletes Reply-To-All Button". Livio’s tweet pointed me to this piece by Dylan Stableford: "Dunder Mifflin Alert! Nielsen to Disable Employees’ ‘Reply to All’ E-mail Functionality".

Both articles talk about a rather blunt move by Nielsen, where from a specific date onwards, January 29th 2009, the (in)famous "Reply to All" button was going to be disabled, so that no-one would be able to make use of it any longer! Talking about bold moves, eh? This would pretty much nail it, as far as I can see.

You would be able to see the reasoning directly from either of both links mentioned above, including the communication that got sent out announcing such initiative, but one thing that I have found interesting, and rather fascinating, is the negative response of the commentary throughout, thinking that it may have been just far too bold by itself. Well, in my experience, i.e. not having used e-mail in the last year, I can certainly confirm that I would be more than happy to join that initiative and forget about the "Reply to All" button altogether! The amount of wasted time, unnecessary increase of incoming e-mails and the overall abuse certainly makes me feel that such button, along with that one to attach files, are the two biggest time wasters from every single e-mail conversation you may engage with!

What would be interesting to see, and witness, is, for such initiatives as that one from Nielsen, what it would be like running it for a short period of time, say, a week or two, and see how people would react and interact. I bet it would achieve exactly what I have been trying to say all along: think before you send that e-mail, because there is a great chance there would be better ways to share the message across!

Thus well done, Nielsen! Great to see how you pushing the limits and, although you may not go that very far, seeing the dependency some folks seem to have on their e-mail systems, I surely want to take this opportunity to thank you for challenging our traditional methods of work within the enterprise, because you have certainly shown us there is a problem, and we need to do something about it. Or, at least, try!

Are you? Are you ready to challenge the way you interact at work through e-mail? Could you live without "Reply to All" for a week? If your answer is Yes!, why aren’t you doing it then? 😉

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Giving up on Work e-mail – Status Report on Week 51 (SNBC – Connect, Collaborate, Innovate)

Gran Canaria - Risco Blanco, Pozo de las Nieves & Santa LucíaAnd we are back at it again, folks. Time for that weekly progress report on giving up e-mail at work where I am getting really, really, close to the one year anniversary of such remarkable quest: reducing my incoming e-mail count consistently over the last few months and, instead, use more and more social software tools to get the job done!

So here we are again, and, by the looks of it, it seems that the numbers for last week are back to the usual average I have been getting for a good number of months as well. But let’s get to the report itself so that you have an opportunity to check it out and see what’s changed from the previous week itself:

Fighting e-mail - Progress Report - Week 51

As you would be able to see, the number of incoming e-mails went up again to the usual average: 30 e-mails a week, but what seems to be most interesting is the fact that both at the beginning of the week and at the end the peaks of incoming e-mails are rather low, which is starting to make me think that’s probably when people are doing most of the work (i.e. Monday / Tuesday) or preparing for the weekend (i.e. Friday). And somehow mid-week is when the number of e-mails seems to be the highest. Interesting fact, eh? Well, let’s see what happens this week and see if that new trend confirms itself or not. I will keep you all posted!

For now though, I thought I would share with you a couple of interesting links, which I am sure you are going to enjoy quite a bit.

A few days ago, David Christopher (From Oracle‘s Social Networking & Business Collaboration) sent across, through Twitter, a quick tweet sharing a new video he has been working on with Frank Bradley, where they are showing an "insight into the Social Networking & Business collaboration team in Oracle, the strategy and how we are bringing Web 2.0 into the business environment". Rather interesting and relevant stuff for those folks interested in Social Networking within the corporate world and a completely different perception from what we were exposed to at the Enterprise 2.0 conference (Link points to 2009’s event, by the way!) in Boston last June.

I won’t be saying much more about the videos themselves, other than point you to the couple of different takes that were made for it: Take I and Take II (Tried to embed the videos themselves over here, but, unfortunately, they messed up the blog post, so you would have to click on the links, I am afraid), as well as one single gem that shows up on both videos, which is one of their key objectives: Reduce email by 50%! Yes, by 50%!! I have been able to reduce my e-mail count by over 85% so far and I can imagine they would be doing something similar pretty soon. They are already making some really good progress!

So … who said again I am all by myself on this one? Oh, want to have another interesting bonus link? Check out what Hutch Carpenter and Jennifer Leggio have been doing lately under "One Thing Social Software Needs: The Guaranteed Delivery Button". Yes, indeed, slowly, but steadily, we are getting there! 😀

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Mac Tip #1: MacBreakZ – Healthy Computing Made Fun

MacBreakZ for Mac OS X: Healthy Computing Made FunIf you have been reading this blog for a little while now, or if you have been following me online in multiple social networking sites like Twitter, you will know how for the last 18 months I have seen the light and have become the proud owner of a MacBook Pro as my main work machine. During that time I have tried several dozens of applications trying to help me increase my productivity into new levels and although with some of them such improvements haven’t been there, with some others the jump has been tremendous!

So I thought it may be a good time now to share with you folks a series of what I call Mac Tips, putting together short blog posts sharing some further insights on some of those incredibly helpful and resourceful tools I have been using at work all along, some of which have been incredibly instrumental in my successful quest of giving up e-mail at work.

Yes, that’s right! This is going to be the first of a series of blog posts where I will be sharing with you the productivity tools, as well as the social software tools, I am using to eventually move out of e-mail successfully, which I know is something that most of you would find interesting and perhaps somewhat intriguing.

Every now and then, what I will be doing is putting together a short blog post, shorter than this one, definitely! (This longer one is the kick-off one!), where I will share 5 different reasons as to why I really am enjoying using that tool and how it has improved my productivity at work. And all of that using my MacBook Pro.

Why using my Mac? Well, in most cases to prove the point that you, too, can be productive at work using something else than Windows. Plenty of times I get people looking at me with weird looks when I tell them I work for IBM and I use a Mac. This is just the perfect opportunity for me to share with everyone out there how it is possible to do that! So, let’s get the fun going, before this entry becomes longer than I expected!

Mac Tip #1: MacBreakZ – Healthy Computing Made Fun

In the past I have been touching base a couple of times on the important topic of working in a healthy environment, whether at the office, on the road or from home. Specially sitting in front of a computer for many hours a day, it is something that no-one should ignore. To me, on the Mac, that lovely tool that looks after my health is MacBreakZ. Preventing Repetitive Strain Injury (a.k.a. RSI) is probably one of the best things you can do to keep yourself healthy while sitting in front of a monitor for far too long. Thus here are 5 reasons why you would want to give it a try yourself:

  1. Its incredible ease of use: That’s right, installing and setting it up to match your needs is very easy to do. I set up mine to kick in every 30 minutes with a 5 minute break in between and so far I am loving it!
  2. It actually works: I have tried in the past a couple of other applications in this space of preventing RSI like Time Out, but somehow I noticed how they weren’t as effective and convincing as they could have been. MacBreakZ does the job beautifully, so much so my wrists are now very very grateful!
  3. Its sounds: One of the issues I had with some of the tools I tried in the past was the fact their sounds were not as wonderfully annoying are those from MacBreakZ. I mean, if you exceed the time for a specific break, this application will keep nagging on you with a lovely sound till you eventually give up and move away from the keyboard. Love it!
  4. Its price: Yes, I know, it is not freeware. It costs 24.95€, but if I look into the potential amount of money that it has helped me save keeping me in good shape with my wrists, elbows, etc. etc. and away from the Mac when I should, I think that amount of money is a very worth while one! Don’t you think?
  5. Its tips: Finally, this is probably one of my favourite reasons to use MacBreakZ, and, in a way, it kind of reminds me of Workrave for Windows. Every time you take one of those breaks, MacBreakZ actually shows you a few tips with graphics showing you different types of very easy stretches you can do while at your desk; some of them which I am sure you are all familiar with (As you will find them in other programmes), but with plenty others I was not aware of and which after executing them on a regular basis not only is it good fun, but you get to feel the stretch and how it helps release the pressure of your muscles and tendons. Amazing!

    Never thought that so relatively easy stretches, yet so powerful, would have such effect and since I have set up the system to kick in every 30 minutes it helps me stay on top while I learn new ones! Ideal as well for when you are on the road and you have a spare minute in between to keep stretching! Just brilliant!

Oh, and one other really neat feature that I certainly like about MacBreakZ is the fact that if you try to type for an extended period of time, right after you have just finished with one of those breaks, it immediately tells you to slow down with a beep, beep, beep sound that reminds me I need to stop now!

Thus there you have it, my first Mac Tip on one of my favourite Mac programmes available out there looking after my health while I am typing away on those long days in front of the Mac: MacBreakZ.

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