Peter, it's great to hear your thoughts; I couldn't agree more.  John just gave me a demo of the latest & greatest, and I'm truly pumped.  He demo'ed it to me using a WinForms web services program running against localhost, which kind of blew my mind as we were brainstorming about the kinds of “outboard” cross-telespace utilities that could be whipped up in nothing flat.

Woah – later – what a coincidence: Jon also talks about localhost web services.

Jon, your talk about mail brings up a discussion that I had with someone lately about email, linking, and transparency.  One of the unfortunate aspects about “googling email” is that there are really no inbound links except those that can be reverse engineered through threading.  But in social systems, those are the “strong ties” – the obvious relationships.  What is more interesting, I believe, are the “weak ties” that would emerge if people outside of your social group started pointing into an interesting message of yours.  (Weak Ties are precisely why I read blogs!!)  Imagine the field day that Google could have if 1) all email files had access controls removed, and 2) people started surfing each others' email messages.

Unrealistic, right?  Well, think again.  Why have we grown so accustomed to the social norm that email should be private?  Think about it.  Start small.  And remember that your company owns your inbox and outbox.  What if all engineers within a company were given a new email address when they started, and were told “just use it for business” and “please note that everything that you do in email is in public view.  In order to prevent embarassing moments, please keep matters of your personal privacy OUT of your assigned email box; use Groove for private matters.  Oh, and by the way, here are the URLs of all of your team members' mailboxes, in case you care.  Oh, and by the way, here's a site where you Google across all of them.  Oh, also, I should mention that we never delete any email, by policy.” 

I truly, seriously wonder what would happen!?  At first, people would be shocked at not having private email, and private hotmail addresses and “groove spaces” would appear when people wanted to do something privately.  But people are creatures of convenience and habit, and more and more work would be done in the open.  And what would be the benefit to the collective productivity if we could all watch and listen to the thought processes of the stars on our teams?  What kind of interesting bots would emerge that started to watch and subscribe to relevant queries?  (I'm not just talking about voyeurs.  Customer support interactions with customers should be watched by engineers every bit as closely as the public forums.  Right?)

Thinking even more over the edge, imagine if part of being a public company, or being a paid government employee, involved doing your email in public?  Who needs FOIA … how about “real time disclosure”?  All of the stuff that got us into this most recent debacle – accounting – is an attempt to take the messy reality of business complexity and risk and spin it into a dubious “standardized form”.  But what if all of that messy reality were known by everyone equivalently, in real time, everywhere, interpreted-as-you-will?  (Yes, for those of you who recognize the similarity in arguments, I am indeed a proponent of allowing insider trading as a better indicator of internal corporate conditions than packaged quarterly Productions.)

Surely everything can't and shouldn't be transparent: SCIF-like privacy is what products like Groove are for.  Doing M&A, or concocting a stealth project?  Start a Groove shared space.  But let's get real: email is already a semi-public space.  100% of corporate email today – YOUR email – is already being read at least once before you get to read it, probably many times more.  By your ISP, by your admin.  If you're paranoid, maybe by law enforcement, your school, your Dad, your spouse, or the RIAA.  They call it “content scanning” or “virus scanning”, and it's for Your Protection.  So why not just “go for it” and open up email to public viewing, so that the rest of your team, or company, or world has the benefit of linking into it??

(Ummm … no, I won't be the first.  Sorry.  YOU be the first.) [Ray Ozzie's Weblog]

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