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The Problem(s) with Email.

This article is part of our series on Bloo, our in-house developed teamwork and collaboration software, designed to make teamwork simple again .

Lately, I’ve taken a distinct dislike to email, and this has been further increased by working in a high-growth startup.

I believe the main problems of email can be summarized into two main categories:

  1. The issues with the “email” system itself.
  2. The (mis)use of email by the vast majority of modern knowledge workers.

The two points are linked, because the issue of the (mis)use of email can, in part, be attributed to the way that email encourages us to behave.

The List

It was built before we knew how we were going to work.

Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. ~Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

Yes, email is a technically good solution for getting information from one recipient to another, and it’s scaled quite well, with an estimated 205 billions email sent per day in 2015.

That’s 2.4M every second or 74 Trillion per year. I’m sure that figure has grown significantly since then.

However, email wasn’t conceived with the modern understanding of the internet in mind (how could it have been), or specifically with the type and style of work that is taking over the world:

Knowledge Work.

You’re (Stuck) In a Thread.

Another grinding issue with email, is the fact that you cannot “unsubscribe” to an email thread you’re CC’ed in.

Think about it, once you’re included in an group email thread, you will receive every single email that anyone sends to that thread, unless you specifically email and ask to be removed from the loop, and then you’re still at the mercy of the other parties.

That’s a complete loss of control over the type of information that you receive, and don’t receive.

I pity the poor soul that gets looped into to a 30+ deep email reply chain with lots of participants. Having to manually review triple and quadruple quoted messages with different fonts and colors, trying to understand the context, must rank quite high as one of the biggest wastes of times for anyone with an intellect.

Keeping things topical and connected

Email is not used correctly.

It is was originally meant to be a replacement to the written letter, a type of long-form communication, not an instantaneous communication tool.

Nowadays, email has become a hybrid between long-form writing and group chat, taking the worst aspects of of each and combining them.

We will cover everything wrong with Group Chat another day (!), but someone, somewhere, summarized it as an all-day meeting with no fixed agenda, and I think that’s spot on.

Email can take this aspect of group chat, and then adds messages that can be much longer, and then side threads of forwards, looping people in, and an accumulation of everyone’s quoted messages.

Spam

No comment…

Privacy

Email is not great on privacy. Yes, there are ways to ensure messages are encrypted, but these are not user friendly, and do not “just work”.

Personally, I find the bcc (blind carbon copy) feature, a horrific use of email. This is when you send a message to someone, and secretly include someone else as a receiver in the email.

I generally feel embarrassed when I am bcc’ed into an email, as this goes against some of my basic principles, including transparency and honesty.

In fact, just the name of the feature “Blind Carbon Copy” heralds back to a time when I wasn’t even born, and organizations ran in a completely different way.

The One Thing that email does right.

The one thing that email does get right.

It’s an open protocol, that does not depend on a trusted third party, you can self-host it and customize your setup, which in turn has made it the de factostandard for inter-organization communication.

In normal language: *everyone has email.

With the advent of the blockchain, many Trusted Third Parties in every industry will soon be a thing of the past. After all, if you can verify who you are, who the receiver is, that an email was sent, and the content of it, on a blockchain, what need do you have for an email provider?

In Conclusion

So it’s great to list problems, and I know many of us everywhere hate email, but what’s the solution?

Here at Mäd, we’re trying to do build just that.

A way of working between teams that is sane, and promotes best practices that ensure productivity, strong communication, and a healthy balance between work and life.

The idea is that Bloo becomes the standard communication platform for your internal team work, and email is relegated to a secondary function:

  • Signing up for websites/services that require an email address.
  • Password resets (by the way, passwords are a really, really bad idea).
  • Receiving newsletters.
  • Communication with people outside your organization that still use email.

The hope is, we can bring some sanity into the modern workplace and help people work better, together.

Emanuele Faja

Emanuele Faja

CEO at Mäd. Emanuele brings on board a passion for minimalist Italian design and a 21st-century management approach. He consistently helps clients create and maintain market leader positions.

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The Problem(s) with Email.
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