Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Email is Dead? I Think It Was Just In Nebraska

New! Now! Different!

That sort of sentiment is always entertaining because it's the same feeling people have always had (how's that for a paradox?), and supports the basic premise that the more things change the more they stay the same. Certainly there have been eras that are more "innovative" than others. But from where they stood in the mid-1920s, young Americans were every bit as smugly confident of their modernism as we are today (women's independence! cars! planes!). And don't get me started on the Enlightenment. But in another hundred years, probably less, others will be looking back on us and indulgently thinking how cute it was that we thought we were really cutting edge.

Which brings us to the concept of email and the exaggerated reports of its death. Rob Preston (InfoWeek) argues in E-Mail is Dead, Long Live E-Mail that email remains king because, quite frankly, people need to be prodded.

But for business communication there is really a simple analog between how we were doing business then (offices circa 1950-1995) and how we are doing it now.
Email = Memo
Chat = Phone Call
Feeds/Blogs/Tweets = Watercooler/Grapevine/Cocktail Party
Perhaps you've already noted that, egads, we are still using the items on the right side of the equations! We will probably never leave anything behind, we will just continue to expand our repertoire of communication options. Twenty years from now nothing will be quite as impressive as a REAL memo on REAL letterhead. Something that in 1961 we might have used to order office supplies. But in 1961, little excited monkeys that we are, we were extremely excited that we could keep a copy of that order due to our brand new Xerox machine. New! Now! Different! Or, as I like to call it: Same ol' same old.

Update: Just noticed that BlogThings recently added a What Email Function Are You? quiz. How timely. I'm "Archive."

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