Why Email is Dumb

 workstreamr tackles the issue of dumb email text to make more intelligent workflows

One of the issues Workstreamr is tackling is the notion that ‘email is dumb.’

So why is email dumb?

Generally, there is no database attached to email. Even if there is, email is still essentially dumb text sent from one person to another. Email is dumb in the sense that the content of a particular message is subject to the interpretation of the person receiving it. While you know things such as a) who sent the email  b) the date and time it was sent, really the crux of the message is not necessarily clear. People are notoriously poor communicators and in today’s multi tasking environment, particularly poor readers.

While the dumbness of email doesn’t matter much when email is being used for social communications, the lack of ‘intelligence’ in email really starts to matter when we’re talking about work. Deadlines. Action items. All critical to the success of a project – and our careers.

How many times have you emailed someone only to learn a week later that they ‘overlooked’ something you had asked them to do? How many times have you searched in vain, even with advanced systems like Gmail, to figure out what was assigned to you? Or how about when an email chain contains multiple changes to a deliverable’s due dates? Who changed the date and why again?

Email is not intelligent in that it lacks the ability to recognize and translate grouped text into action items. Microsoft Outlook, or iCal offer a slightly more intelligent approach. When you receive an iCal invite you clearly are being asked to a) attend something and b) respond. Those are two calls-to-action that might be missed in an email or IM such as “Jones Meeting at 4pm.  You available?â€� Tumblr.com takes an interesting approach to how it renders text, but from a more visual standpoint. [Here is my Tumblelog]. Tumblr is a blogging platform but unlike any other in that you have multiple types of posts you can use; they are posts with very specific formats. For example, if you wanted to blog a quote, Tumblr lets you simply select its “Quote Post.â€� All you do is add text and Tumblr formats it all for you, rendering proper quote conventions in a aesthetically pleasing manner. These variations on types of posts, or ‘typed-posts’ are a very powerful concept on a number of levels.

Shortly we’ll reveal more about how Workstreamr is tackling this ‘dumb communications’ problem. For the time being, it’s simply important to recognize the limitations of email. Newer, and more innovative tools are a step in the right direction for producing much more intelligent workflows.

*You can now register for the Workstreamr Beta! If you haven’t done so already, you should do it now.



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