I can't for the life of me imagine why this is a surprise to people. There is NO possibility of sustainable constraints on email – a fundamentally unaccountable medium. Are we surprised when we can't do productive work in an uncontrollable medium? Are we going to whine and look for legal relief when in fact it is our own complacency that keeps us from embracing (or demanding) effective solutions for information workers?
People who use Groove today, and people who used Notes in its early years (before most enterprises locked down the creation of databases), understand the personally-empowering feeling of doing work in “collaborative workspaces”.
What, you might ask, is the big deal? It's actually quite simple: When you have a space (a workspace) online to do your work with others that truly feels more effective and more convenient than eMail, you start relying less and less on eMail for critical work processes. In Groove, for example, once you start experiencing the swarming aspects of work within its workspaces, you're hooked.
And it stops bothering you that eMail is so incredibly broken.
Anyone who is doing a critical business process online that involves substantial dialog between individuals should NOT be using email at this point in history, and many no longer are.
Maybe you're doing joint design, joint development, customer support, developer support, supply chain exception handling, work with outside counsel on patents, business development work on a merger, preparation for a product launch, making a decision on product naming or pricing or packaging, working with others to open a new store in a new region, collaborating on an audit, working with others to nail a global account, doing joint selling with a partner, working with another agency on a criminal investigation, or just working with someone to review a contract or a presentation … you name it. If you're doing a critical process in e-mail now, you won't be doing it there for long.
Think about it. Think about the rate of increase of “noise” in email over the past two years, which is a very short time. Think about where we'll be in as short as five years. Can you imagine?
Right now, every major enterprise has a “content-scanning gateway” that processes every incoming email, looking for Dangerous Stuff. Many individuals do the same thing on their own computers. Some enterprises are beginning to quarantine incoming email for extended periods – sometimes an hour or more. Maybe you'll get too much junk, or maybe you won't get what you're supposed to get. Maybe you'll get it, but it'll be too late. It depends upon where they turn the knob on the software … and it's insane.
If you're hoping for some super-duper neo-PIM to or super-filter or super-law to come along to make your life easier, spare yourself the agony and just think ahead: it is NOT a sustainable solution if it is still called “eMail”. eMail is thirty years old, and we owe it a great debt of honor, but it has been pushed well beyond its design center and it's time to move on. Incrementally, progressively, but most definitely.
If you have work to do with others, online, try workspaces. There are many different types – from Groove if you like client-based mobility, to SharePoint if you like using Websites. No noise, no spam, tuned to save your time. Of course, you can't give up on eMail, and likely never will. As time goes on, though, you'll only visit eMail as a low-priority background task, much as you do when sorting through your physical mail at home. You'd never do important work through your home mailbox, would you?
Workspaces work. [Ray Ozzie's Weblog]