Under the guise of simplicity

Image credit: Jay Cuthrell

Under the guise of simplicity

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Everything after the Etch A Sketch has been an exercise in escalating support demands. Consider that simply shaking it like a Polaroid picture puts you right back to a pristine operating state.

Loss of productivity from email is symptomatic.

Rethinking how email is used would mean there might be a problem… whether or not email is creating a problem is greatly dependent on the organization and how they are geographically structured, on site interpersonal dynamics, and the chain of command approach to leading by example.

Email can be highly asymmetric with traditional desktop clients. Blackberry and other push type messaging services seek to bring a symmetric flow but, as with any tool, it requires the user to read and comprehend. This assumes that email flows — spam, queuing, and poor MUA design in the UI make a lot of email go unread or buried in the haystack (so-called vacation dread).

Still, some abuses of email features and flow are why email etiquette and guides towards sending better emails should be shared with company members. Oddly enough, this can be done via email. :)

Instant messaging (IM) is often considered by a lot of pundits as state where email will evolve to. However, IM is still at the mercy of presence. Just as with a Blackberry push of email to gain immediacy, the sender has no control over the far end reading and comprehending. They can always walk away from the desktop/laptop. That’s not always a bad thing if they are going to talk with someone but in a crunch period with remote teams, it can be devastating if the walking party is in the critical path.

Voice is immediate symmetric one to one communication (face to face, telepresence, phone call) or immediate one to many mild asymmetric communication (staff meeting, telepresence, conference bridge) if you can reasonable assume the parties on the far end are listening and comprehending. With face to face and staff meetings you get the benefit (hopefully!) of proxemics.

People should use voice more if they are spending too much time in email or finding frustration with IM if they are not part of an email or IM culture oriented company. Sometimes, the use of voice is a cost concern or an availability concern. Most often this revolves around the notion of presence. Emails are fire and forget. So is voice mail – especially in unified messaging scenarios where workers know the far end gets the voicmail as an email attachment.

Real time voice requires a lot more work and, frankly, confrontation. Instant messaging is thought to be a way to gain some idea of presence for the far end of a possible conversation. Of course, if someone isn’t looking at the screen or isn’t near the phone, even the best find me follow me PBX feature won’t help connect parties – mobile phones get turned off and left on the desk or forgotten at home.

FWIW, I think Iotum for Blackberry and other presence engines are a great idea — assuming that like any tool for communication: the other team members have to use it as well or better than you do!

As one peer once told me:

“I look forward to the day when technology allows us to use mobile phones for more than just web, email, SMS, and instant messaging. I envision a future where people are able to use mobile phones for real time voice communications. Here’s to the future!”