Have you guys heard of this new thing? It’s called electronic mail. ‘Email’ for short. Instead of writing a letter, putting it into an envelope, sealing it, addressing it, stamping it, dropping it into a postbox and waiting days for a reply, you can now just hit a button called ‘send’ and be done with it. It’s amazing and fast.
Unfortunately, aside from the speed thing, email is almost exactly like paper mail: there’s too much of it, it’s mostly junk, and it’s very hard to have a conversation with it. Sometimes it comes in waves with too much text. Imagine corresponding with paper mail by stapling your response to the original and sending it back. Back and forth you go, the wad of papers getting bigger and more unwieldy. Now imagine digging through to find a bit of info hidden inside, a needed detail. Now imagine that there are five or six other people involved, all adding to the wad. No need to imagine too hard, we’ve all been there. Email is a mess.
And yet we still use it. It is common form. Yes, it has its function, but its ubiquity in the workplace encourages us to use it for almost every type of communication. “Hey, John – can you send me the Nordstrom research document, again?”
It’s like building a birdhouse using only a hammer; we need a range of tools for a range of tasks. Fortunately, we now have many good, application-specific communication tools at our disposal.
For managing projects I have begun to use Basecamp, a tidy little piece of software built only for that purpose. Everything is dynamic, the attachments are organized, roles are properly assigned, it’s great. The same thing done via email is an obnoxious chore. For fast conversations I prefer text messaging (or DM’s on twitter). I don’t ever want to send an email that just says, ‘thanks’, nor do I want to receive one. If we’re exchanging one word at a time let’s stay out of each other’s inboxes, ok? I even like Twitter’s In Box (DM feature) instead of email. I can control the participants, it’s uncluttered, and the best part: it’s concise. 140 characters gets you to the point very quickly, and I like getting to the point.
So what does that leave? Letters to Mom. Email should be used for the exact thing it was invented to replace. The letter.
Well, that and exciting investment opportunities from Nigerian business folk.