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article imageOp-Ed: The ‘email is dead’ storm in teacup hits user realities

By Paul Wallis     Apr 29, 2014 in Internet
Sydney - If you’ve been seeing the endless “email is dead” stuff online and rebuttals, you could be forgiven for wondering what they’re talking about. Most normal human beings can manage their email, some just bitch about it more than others.
There are a few things which people don’t seem to realize about email:
1. It’s an audit trail for businesses.
2. It creates a third party record of messages.
3. How you manage your email is up to you.
4. The trash and spam options are a great way of getting rid of superfluous junk.
The alternatives to email are supposed to be:
Twitter- Forget it
Social media generally- You’re kidding
Smartphone apps- Like hell
Dropbox- Not the same thing
Aksana, started by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz- The only barely credible alternative, based on “restructuring” messaging. Short answer- Structuring good, annoying new non-universal messaging system not good.
The trouble with this argument is that it intrudes on people’s basic choices. Email is easy, relatively efficient, most of the time, and if “thematically” insecure, so is Internet Explorer.
Harvard Business Review states the other case in “Email- Not dead, evolving”:
WHAT DOES A YEAR'S WORTH OF E-MAIL LOOK LIKE? Each dot here represents one email sent to the average user in a year—11,680 in total. A full 74% is junk that never reaches the in-box. Fortunately, workers see only a small portion of the malware, phishing scams, and promotional offers that bombard their accounts every day. Of the e-mails that make it into the in-box, 42% are essential or critical, and just 8% are spam.
OK, you can move those figures around, (74% junk? What happened to filtering?) the basic message, pun intended, is that the net usage is most of the email is relevant, or something you want.
Then there’s this:
WHICH ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE CHANNELS FOR COLLABORATION? When asked to select all the tools they trust for collaboration, respondents chose e-mail as the best, by far. Workers use 19 distribution lists on average. But 22% would like to see e-mail adopt a more social construction, using self-selected “followers” and “friends.”
Your email isn’t supposed to be a catchall for the world's trash, to start with. Why would you give out your email address to people you don’t need? It takes me about a second to remove spam, unwanted emails, etc. I have at least 6 different email accounts, four of which are business accounts. Hard labor? Hardly.
Consumer values and email
There’s another issue here, which relates directly to user values- What are we about to get inflicted with next? Given the tendency of majors like Apple, Google and Microsoft to spring unavoidable extras on their customers, it’s a question worth asking.
The big drive for mobile has a very cynical underside- Hardware and app development. The hardware guys make a fortune out of delivering useless proprietary add-ons. Software developers are much the same. Smartphones and the “smartphone culture” are the classic cases. Overpriced, overvalued, and just doing the same things a bit differently, not better.
The battery chicken-brained online market, which should know better, has touted every damn thing which has called itself a messaging system as the Next Big Thing. None of them were. People stuck to email as a convenient, cheaper, and in many cases far less irritating, option.
Most messaging systems are “interruption factories”:
Hey, we make a fun noise when you get a new message! Well, golly gee, thanks, or expressed otherwise, two well-known words which when put together give most people a very clear sense of direction.
We’ll give you all your messages ASAP. Great, now explain to me how I get the time to deal with them. Some people do have lives, and aren’t glued to their phone/whatever.
Emails are trackable and easy to organize. I do business around the world. I don’t want to spend X amount of time scrolling through messages on my phone. I spend enough time rummaging around deleting messages as it is.
Emails I can store. I have a complete record of all my business and other emails, built up over nearly a decade. How do I do that on a phone, or with social media messaging? (I actually have to keep some of these messages for the statutory limit, anyway, both as best practice and under business law.)
Business emails are business. The organization of these emails is critically important. They contain contracts, business information, etc. Can you do that on a gizmo? Why would you want to?
The market needs to get this message:
1. Consumers can take or leave inferior options.
2. Anything which replaces email will have to do the same job, as efficiently.
3. Consumers aren’t interested in paying for yet another gimmick that doesn’t deliver, in such a critical part of their lives. Open source would be very appropriate.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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