Email is selfish
If we are working on a team project and I send a message only to you, only you have access to it. I might have meant for only you to have the info (maybe I was griping about another team member), but more likely I just didn’t think the others would be interested and I was trying to keep their in-box clutter to a minimum. On the other hand, maybe I just didn’t know that the other team members were actually just then wondering about that information, or I didn’t know that you were about to quit the team and now the person taking over your role won’t have access to the info unless I figure out that I need to resend to them.
Email requires a lot of forethought – and when was the last time you seriously thought about the information architecture of your team project as you were popping off that message? True, systems like those available from Tacit can mine email for content, but does your team have access to such tools?
Email is unwieldy
To file or not to file. Do you structure your email in well-considered folders, or actively label/tag as GMail would suggest you do? Do you save every single email you send and receive? Can you easily search your archived email? (As an Apple Mail user I don’t believe I can – though I could if I bought add-on tools.)
As Wired magazine might put it: email is tired, pages are wired.
Pages are the structure of Facebook and Google Sites. Portals may be the enterprise version (e.g., w3 from IBM). Pages and portals push us to think of content as content, rather than as a fleeting message. Communication within pages is persistent and searchable – as people change roles, the material stays put. (July 2008 Wired has an article by Clive Thompson about email management tools -- describing current email use as “The Great American Timesuck.")
I don’t yet have a clear-cut platform/page structure to suggest for a project team (would be great if people would post possible examples in the comments). I am thinking hard about how to best structure the content for my upcoming EMBA Managing Innovation and Change course. We use Angel as our course management platform and it has some blog/wiki capability (and needs to be private in some areas), but maybe I should be thinking about Facebook instead. If this were an undergraduate course I expect I’d make the leap as that would give them more of a one-stop shopping experience for their on-line activities. (I’ve heard from more than one place that email is just for old fogies.)
In an earlier post I talked about using freely available tools to handle complex tasks. Please comment if you have found a way to move your group away from email using freely available platforms. Clearly there is still a place for point to point communication, but is switching over to your separate email application going to be as attractive if the rest of your workday is taking place on a more full function platform?