RIP email?

Is it true? Is email a thing of the past?

According to the buzz that comes through my inbox, many people would like us to believe so – Luis Suarez from IBM being the most oft-quoted example. Or is that just because less people are using Notes these days and IBM are sulking?

I’m a big Microsoft supporter – I make no apologies for that; Exchange Server has been a large part of my working life these last 15 years – but I can see the case for something different. For example, I like Facebook as I only get messages from people or companies I’ve said I ‘like’ or I’ve confirmed are my ‘friends’. No spam, but spam is less of a problem for me in email these days thanks to Exchange and Forefront. The main junk in my personal inbox is from companies I opted in to; one in a hundred mails from Starbucks may actually be of interest to me. Maybe one of Jobsites alerts may actually have an interesting contract that I haven’t already been phoned by an agent about. And maybe I had actually missed the fact that there was a £37m jackpot fund on the lottery tonight. Sure, like was simpler when no-one knew my external SMTP address, but then I didn’t know when my favourite bike shop was giving 10% weekend discounts either, unless they sent me a card through the post and I hate that even more.

But if Facebook was to become my universal inbox and I start ‘liking’ more and more companies to get free stuff, competition entries, discounts and baubles, and I not just shifting the problem? In fact I am the problem; the author of my own destruction, drowning in unnecessary marketing rubbish. I am led to believe that young people use BBM for messages for similar reasons (I’ve hit middle age – I don’t like BB devices, and everywhere I’ve worked the feature’s been disabled by policy). But presumably if this is popular enough, a company could entice someone to add them to their BBM list and… well, same, same but different, no?

On the enterprise side, joining distribution groups has always been my downfall. Sure it might be important that I know that Mike from the SQL team needs Dave and Siobhan to approve his storage PO, but as I mostly don’t, I will either waste a few secs checking the relevance, or have a rule to file messages sent to that DL in a folder I never read. Lync GroupChat is one option for moving that stuff elsewhere, but as of today that’s another client.

I’ve been on inbox management courses. I know I should batch process mail, I just don’t, same as most people, so I miss some stuff. You can read all of the mail some of the time, or some of the mail all of the time, but you can’t read etc. etc (sorry Abe)… but now I’m starting to miss stuff on Facebook as well. And if Stephen Fry or Sport Relief have been particularly active on Twitter, there’s no way on earth I’ll see that hidden gem on EHLO that will radically affect my day.

So, clearly email isn’t dead. But these social sites do have some enticing features to spend more of my time in them, and less in Outlook. Easily embedded video, ‘likes’. comments, retweets, subscriptions etc etc. There surely is a case for corporate equivalents, and I don’t doubt such products exist, I just don’t know about them – so is there a new big thing I should be working with instead of Exchange? Is there a Facebook style product with serious corporate credentials already out there?

Or could the next version of Outlook or its competitors (?) be the one that intuitively handles my email like a good PA, tells me my friend has just posted a YouTube video, lists colleagues present and past who I might like to link to, launch me into a multiparty videoconference, give me a small calendar toaster pop up to remind me Starbucks have 10% off this weekend, and still let me do a full days work?

Phew that turned into a lot longer ramble than I was expecting. Good job no one actually reads this stuff 😉 But if you did, and have some comments let me know. I always have more questions than answers…

Disclaimer: the views expressed in this post are personal and do not necessarily represent the views of Llama IT.

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