FCW cartoonist John Klossner looks at the pros and cons of various collaboration tools.
I love the variety of communication technologies at our fingertips. I especially like that they offer me many different ways of not speaking directly with the person I want to contact. My professional existence involves a wide variety of relationships where I have rarely spoken or met with my employers or co-workers. (For all they know, I may be an alias, or several people working together. The quality of my drawings and writing discourages that line of thinking, however.) If "electronic hermit" isn't in use already, I wish to coin the phrase.
I might not be the person to talk with about the future of e-mail, though. Having once lived in a world where, in order to communicate with someone, I had to either find a telephone connected to a wall or the ground, or write on a piece of paper, put this into another folded and sealed piece of paper, apply a 20-something-plus cents sticker to the corner and put it in an outdoor box to be picked up, or physically locate the party I wished to speak with and have a face-to-face conversation -- having lived in that world, it still seems new to me to be able to sit down at a keyboard or cell phone and communicate with another party any time of day. Problems with this technology? You must be kidding.
We've reached a point where it's not enough to be able to communicate with anyone, anytime. We now have to be able to speak with EVERYONE, anytime. Mind you, I'm not complaining about this. The problems with e-mail, which mostly centers around security, response time and data storage issues, have made it an inefficient technology for collaborative communications, especially in the workplace. Sending out group e-mails has become the equivalent of throwing a fistful of post-it notes into the wind. Web 2.0 presents more efficient technologies for office communications.
(We've also reached a point where our technologies suffer from generation gaps. Can you imagine the point in time where we will think the Web 2.0 technologies are "old school?" "Dad, you still Tweet? You are SO embarrassing." As of now, anyone who is still impressed by e-mail is considered outdated by the tweeters of the world. How soon until we hear the phrase, "Never trust anyone who Lotus Notes?" This may already be the case; I discover these things later than most.)
But here's the catch - studies show that e-mail isn't actually dying. Active corporate and consumer e-mail accounts are predicted to grow in the next few years. The reality is that e-mail is just becoming another tool in the box.
So the question isn't "Is e-mail dying?" More to the point, it's "Which technology is right for me?" I offer the following directory to help consider which technology best fits your particular communication need.
Pro: Can reach party directly.
Con: Can reach party directly.
Pro: Can send a communication at any time of day.
Con: Communication can be denied by server for any number of reasons at any time of day.
Brick through window
Pro: Can make a direct, dramatic statement to a specific party.
Con: Might get caught.
Pro: Can send a brief message to a group of contacts / followers.
Con: Numbers of contacts/followers might diminish after receiving "just got out of shower can't decide what to wear" tweet.
Pro: Immediate delivery of packages.
Con: immediate receipt of sweaty package.
Pro: Allows immediate response to specific article.
Con: Immediacy can come at expense of rational thoughts.
Pro: Can develop a full media package, with sound and visuals, to tell your message.
Con: Need to create a production company in order to produce 5 minute story that gets 136 hits.
Pro: A written phone call.
Con: Index finger can be larger than some cell phone keyboards.
Pro: Traditional delivery method which is good for the environment.
Con: Not sure if the Washington D.C.-Omaha route is still in operation.
Pro: The joy of producing a physical message that will be unique to the sender and recipient.
Con: The 17 people who still do this may be too busy to immediately write back.
Pro: Can send mass message to group of contacts or friends.
Con: Might forget to hide the photos of last week's party that are still on your wall.
Pro: Can write thoughts and philosophies on a variety of subjects.
Con: This is monologue, not communication.
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