Thursday, April 19, 2012

Email Needs To Go Away

I'm reaching a point where email is getting to be a pain, both personally and professionally. Personally, my gmail inbox has become pretty much what my USPS mailbox has been for years: a place for newsletters and other fairly low priority correspondence.

At work, email is getting to be even more of a pain. Trying to find an email in my archive is getting totally unworkable "Yeah, I know I have that design in here somewhere..." People will send out emails for projects, and forget to include other people. This happens to a lot of us. I'll find out, late, that something is happening on one of my projects but I didn't know because they forgot to include me on the email. Or the email gets sent to the wrong manager. It's getting to be a pain.

On work related email, I'd rather have too much. I never get annoyed when somebody copies me on something I *might* need to know about, but probably don't. My blood pressure goes through the roof when somebody decides the all hands email list needs to know about the cookies he or she is selling for a child's school though, or for raffles, or the organizational charity drive, etc. I hate those. I came up with an idea years ago that I call the "BS Filter" and I still use it. I also have filters in place to Remedy notifications, reports, and change notices don't clutter my inbox. Those don't annoy me, but I'd never get anything accomplished if I didn't filter them out of the way.

You're probably wondering what I would replace email with. I don't know if "replace" is the right word. More like augment.

For personal use, text messaging and social networks do a pretty good job. Facetime is kind of fun, but I hate looking at video of myself. I also like to pace around when I talk on the phone, and that's hard to do

For work, point to point type correspondence can go through a service like Microsoft's Lync. It's pretty cool. A friend of mine installed it on his server and we use it to chat from time to time. It includes clients for most mobile devices. I have the iOS client on my iPhone and iPad. In a work environment, this would replace a lot of email between a small group of people. It has the added bonus of letting you know if someone is present or not. Also voice and video chat. I've used both. Pretty cool.

The video chat would fix something that blows my mind. Why haven't our phone systems grown to match comparable technology? If you sent me an email asking me to call you, on my iPhone or BlackBerry I could just tap the number and it would dial. Send it to me at my desk, and I have to reach over, grab my desk phone, look at the number, punch everything in (including 99 to get an outside line and 1), not fat-finger anything, then wait for the ring. I'm mystified why we don't have a phone system by now that integrates with Outlook. I'm told they exist. I haven't seen one in the wild yet though.

For correspondence between more than a few people, like a project team, there is plenty of collaboration software available. Microsoft Sharepoint has a group discussion feature, as does Project Server. I've seen a few groups where I work use it. I wish we'd get on it. This would eliminate that "Oh, you didn't get the meeting invite?" annoyance.

Of course, that means you actually have to check the team discussion. And every time I bring this up, somebody reminds me that we're not exactly dealing with responsible adults.

There are better ways to do this. The problem is convincing other people to try them.
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