Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Email Is Dead? Long Live Email Then, Cos I Still Use It Daily.

A very much beat up and overdone topic these days is the death of email.  Oh really? Tell some smart-ass spammer that.  Tell my collaborators and colleagues and friends.  Really.  Of course, there are caveats and maybes to that.  I still send fifty to a few hundred emails every month, and receive almost a thousand in that time span.

One of the maybes is that I used to receive a thousand emails a week at one stage, most of them from server management systems, mail filtering systems, and automated processes in the server room. It took months after I stopped working, before the uneasy feeling went away when I checked my emails and found less than a hundred a day...  So there's some wriggle room, but I seem to be finding that people still use email to about 50% of what I recall four years ago.

Then too there's the number of nasty people who are leaving spam behind and turning to other delivery methods for their malware.  Rats may be filthy and disgusting and disease-carrying, but they do know when to abandon that ship.  Maybe email isn't in its peak years any more.

But go to log into any new web application and what do they ask you?  "email address here please" is the first and foremost means of identifying yourself to a website, and the place where they'll send your reset password link to...  Yes, some sites let you use the hodge-podge that is OpenID - but most OID providers ask you for - yep, you guessed it - your email address...  
So email is NOT about to shuffle off and leave us anytime soon, and anyone that says so is overlooking the fact that it's the Internet's major identification device.

But that's not the worst thing about those "email is dead, long live *insert favourite new app here*" articles.  It's that they DO all tout one or other message delivery systems, or combinations of them.  None of them are game to state the awful truth:  There are just too many ways to keep in touch these days.  The problem isn't that email isn't suitable for our purposes (for most, it still is) but that we only have a certain amount to say, and too many places to say it...

I know I've shifted a great deal of my communication to things like facebook and friendfeed and plurk and plaxo and picasa and flickr and youtube and ...  well, you get the idea.  But I need to upload every video or image or status update several times if I want to update all of them.  So after a while, you find that you're not updating ALL your videos to youtube any more.  And when that Flickr Pro membership lapses...  Ah, just leave it.  I can get my pics up to facebook and picasa and photobucket...

So it's not a result of one application or other being a clear winner - it's that my output is limited to updating two video sites at the most (so goodbye vimeo and the rest, most of the time) or put my status update in one text box only.

Similarly with blogging - I've noticed a lot of people doing what I do, which is to use the relevant "horses for courses" and post stuff to the relevant site.  Since facebook is such a phenomenon, I use that for interesting links and short snippets that may also be suitable to post on friendfeed and twitter, and I use automation to get those short messages out there. I use the blogs for longer articles that have some more meat to them.  And I use photo sites to put photos that I want to reference in blog posts and status updates, or nowadays also facebook, because it allows me to link photos externally now.

So the fact that I'm not updating you by an email list server is simple - I don't actually have the time, the energy, nor the inclination to do that.



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