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Microblogging@Workplace - Is this the end of eMail?

by Sachin Balagopalan on November 23, 2008 · 4 comments

Most of us who login to our email servers at work the first thing in the morning, are usually welcomed with a deluge of email - some requiring action and others merely informational. Sifting through each one quite frankly takes up a huge chunk of time not to mention the impact on productivity. You see the “bad” thing about email is it enables the writer to be verbose - sometimes unintentionally. I’ve done it myself on more than one occasion i.e. make my point in a couple of lines and then reiterate it in the second paragraph and provide a bunch of useless information in the third paragraph. Of-course the barrage of email continues throughout the day and you pretty much end your day the same way you started it - sifting through email. About a year ago in this post I said …

I think it’s time to phase out email from the work place because it’s become more of a nuisance to those of us who actually want to accomplish something and replace it with something else. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for effective communication and keeping people in the loop etc. and email is better than nothing but as technology evolves and we have applications like social networks and IM being used extensively outside the workplace I think it’s time to start integrating them into the office as well ….

One of those new technologies, Microblogging is now slowly making it’s way into the work place according to this piece by the New York Times. Microblogging services typically restrict messages to the tune of 140 characters thus encouraging brevity in addition to the networking aspect. While Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce and a slew of others are geared towards the public, people are now seeking similar systems for the office.

As people have grown accustomed to public microblogging — also called microsharing, microupdating and micromessaging — they have begun to look for similar systems that will let them communicate solely with co-workers at their own companies.

Several services have sprung up to meet the need. Yammer started in early September, followed a few weeks later by Present.ly. Each of those two services reports that it has been tried by more than 10,000 businesses. Both provide private microblogging with features tailored for the workplace, like the ability to add attachments and to communicate in subgroups.

Especially during these hard economic times companies are increasingly becoming customer focused and services like Yammer provide a secure way of staying in touch - assuming customers/partners have a valid eMail account setup on the company mail servers - with the customer base and keeping the pipeline opened so to speak. Just as the guys in the sales department can learn what engineering is up to customers can participate in the conversation as well.

Workers say several aspects of microblogging make the medium well-suited to internal communication. The messages are very quick to write and read, replies are optional, and there is nothing to delete or file. Moreover, people can glance at posts as they come in or read a batch during breaks.

“Quick to write and read” is key with this medium and IMO we’re seeing the beginning of the end as far as eMail is concerned. People are increasingly fed up of their bloated in box at work and are looking to streamline that process and it looks like microblogging may be the solution.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Templeton 11.24.08 at 12:55 am

I think there is a little bit of confusion in the last part of your post, as Yammer does not allow interaction between the company using it and their customers (unless those customers also have company email addresses on the same domain).

However, you've brought up a great point about email and how ineffective it really has become these days. Microblogging in the public sector has made many of us much more efficient communicators due to the limited nature of posts and messages. It will be easy for us to begin using microblogging internally for business, but the learning curve will jump when you get to those still having a grand old time with email. But, the best thing about microblogging is that it really is easy to use and keep up with.

Great job illustrating how cumbersome email has become and what an impact microblogging could have on the business world.

Sachin Balagopalan 11.24.08 at 5:14 am

You’re right Mike. I’ve clarified that now in the post.

And you’re absolutely right about the learning curve. Email is so entrenched that it will take awhile for people’s mindset to change

It’s funny - here I am calling for the end of eMail but to use services like Yammer you still need a valid email account. :)

Mike Templeton 12.16.08 at 7:43 am

@Sachin A valid email account is still required for verification purposes, but that doesn’t mean you need to communicate with it. ;)

The number of emails I actually send to others for communication purposes has continued to drop over the last few years. Anymore it’s just a storage hub for inbound information like Yammer signups and notifications of actions on the web (such as Google Alerts or new Twitter followers).

If I need to contact someone, chances are I am more likely to send them a note on Twitter, because I know they spend their time there and I am likely to get a note back in a reasonable amount of time. Also, email addresses are not as widely available as things like a Twitter account, which make using email for communication even more difficult. Email is generally a last resort, or something used when the conversation needs to move beyond the public eye or 140 characters.

Sachin Balagopalan 12.29.08 at 10:13 am

@Mike Yes, unfortunately a valid email account is indeed required as an identifier right now. What we obviously need is some sort of universal identifier that maps us to all facets of our online presence - like OpenID

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