Where I work, the corporate policy for all communication is through the use of e-mail and e-mail lists. I like to think that tech companies are in the know and willing to embrace new technologies such as wikis, blogs or anything that supports syndicated feeds. The problem is that there is a varying mix of people and wisdom of the masses can sometimes fail.
Here are a few problems I have with e-mail and e-mail subscription lists:
- Suffer from poorly constructed subject lines. Lets face it, many people do not know or care to take even the slightest bit of effort to construct a subject line that would be easily searchable and convey the general purpose of the message. Some simple tactics would be: Writing sensible email messages and Getting the Subject Line Right.
- Suffer from randomly formated message bodies. Ever get a message that is part HTML and part text? Maybe you get people who like to use different colored fonts and font sizes. How about header and footer images, or even background images? Yeah, now were talking. It’s a kaleidescope of fonts, colors, and images while you try to find the real content.
- Generally have bloated signatures. Sure, it might be nice the first time around but if I have to converse with you multiple times it gets monotonous really fast. Lets not forget about people who feel the need to add cheesy graphics as either part of the header or footer of their e-mail message. Then there are always those touched individuals who love to add famous quoted material either in the form of a single line or an entire paragraph to their signatures. Yeah, thanks buddy, but I really don’t care! So think about what your e-mail signature says about you before setting it up.
- Difficult to follow message threads. Think of the multiple reply and forward messages not to mention the splinter reply and forward messages based off of a related reply or forward message (i.e. “re:re:fw:re:fw:Check this out”). Even that last sentence alone should make your head hurt. Mine does.
- Do not have the ability to catch up on any historic conversations unless you ask people to forward their mail to you (which isn’t going to happen). Obviously, there is some history that took place but good luck learning about it!
- Can have e-mail lists (which is like a subscription to content written by many people of which you can also contribute to). E-mail lists alleviate some of the problems of personal e-mail but are cumbersome to gain access to (either via a web interface or a complete dump to your inbox). Many times these lists are not even archived which, again, means no history.
- Allow the user no choice on what they want to listen to. With personal e-mail it is difficult to turn off the spam once you have given out your e-mail address. Yeah, you can set up filters but wouldn’t it be great if you could just turn it all off with a click of a button or simply unsubscribe? Same goes for e-mail lists. No choice. It’s all or nothing.
My solution has been to push people away from this overused format and use blogging software to help foster communities of interest. Progress has been slow because it is hard to get people to open up and take a bit of time to jot down what they learn to reduce the strain on e-mail (example: Personal vs. Corporate Blogging).
I am curious. Has anyone else had luck changing corporate mentality? What are your successes and failures?
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