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Communications

Tech Columnists' Day Without Email 204

Posted by Hemos
from the oh-the-humanity dept.
Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "When a recent power outage disrupted email service at WSJ.com, our tech columnists were plunged backwards into a time before every meeting, every little task, came with an email-program reminder, and where checking the bottom right of the screen for a new-mail envelope was futile. "Some of us quickly got a reminder that email is the lingua franca of projects that bridge different departments and involve a lot of people," Tim Hanrahan and Jason Fry write. "For all the talk of whiteboarding, it's email threads that we rely on to remember where we left certain questions and what our next moves are. Similarly, email has become our storage system for important documents and works in progress--how often do you email yourself? It's also replaced the telephone for lots of our routine touching base between colleagues, friends and families: Instant messaging is simultaneously too casual and too intrusive, and weekday phoning is reserved for more-substantive matters and emergencies. So a lot of that social lubrication went out the window.""
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Tech Columnists' Day Without Email

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  • by yagu (721525) <yayagu@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday June 06, 2005 @01:07PM (#12737446) Journal

    Seems to me the advent of e-mail as a key role player in managing information is pretty natural evolution. In the face of all efforts to create information management systems, data mining systems, et. al., e-mail quietly assumes a central responsibility for more people than ever. And this has probably happened for a few reasons:

    • e-mail has been around for a long long time, and has finally been socialized to be as everyday common activity or vernacular as "google" (ironic).
    • e-mail is comfortable. People abstract e-mail easily from their previous snail mail universe. Interestingly I've seen people actually evolve e-mail habits to mimic their snail mail habits, e.g., checking only once a day, managing "turn around" times to the tune of days, not minutes, etc.
    • e-mail has leveraged the rest of IT technology as processors and storage have increased through the years.
    • e-mail is central, i.e., you can (once you get comfortable with this) pretty much start managing much of your data life around e-mail... why not? You have to pretty much go there all the time for communication anyway, why not send yourself reminders, links, data, etc., and use e-mail searching to retrieve.
    • e-mail is now amazing with the leverage of third party technology like Google Desktop search. I've pretty much gotten to total (okay, heavy) reliance on Google Desktop and e-mail for managing data in my Windows environment.

    Probably a lesson learned from the article is the importance of some contigency plan, but losing e-mail for a day sounds like it turned into a positive experience for the authors. Regardless, it appears once you lose e-mail access (in power outage, system outage, etc.), you've lost essentially your context of IT anyway, and contingency is pretty much old school interaction (phone calls, paper trails, MBWA, etc.)... no biggy.

  • by smithberry (714364) on Monday June 06, 2005 @01:12PM (#12737495) Homepage Journal
    Err, not very often. Is this how most slashdotters keep track of thoughts, or are the folk in the article unusual?
  • by teutonic_leech (596265) on Monday June 06, 2005 @01:16PM (#12737524)
    Yeah, that was actually my reasoning. Although they offered to open up access to all java related sites I still refused to stay there. At the end of the day - if you treat people like children they will act like children. Finally, I also wanted to draw a line in sand - we techies have been taking a lot of sh...t in the last few years and sometimes it's good to tell them to f...ck off when they try to cross the line. Hey, don't mess with my slashdot access, alright? ;-)
  • by rsax (603351) on Monday June 06, 2005 @01:19PM (#12737550)
    Similarly, email has become our storage system for important documents and works in progress

    If I had a penny for each time I have repeated this to users frustrated with their email account quotas: "Our mail server does not exist to fulfill your file storage needs." The file server is where people can store their important.......wait for it........FILES!

  • Document storage? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ars Dilbert (852117) on Monday June 06, 2005 @01:29PM (#12737645) Homepage
    email has become our storage system for important documents

    No yuo! E-mail should be used only for collaboration. Documents belong on a file server or some kind of a Web based document management system.

    How big is your mail store? How long does it take to backup? How long would it take to restore in case of a failure? Half a day? I'm guessing that 95% of your mail store are file attachments that shouldn't even be there...

    How do you share those documents with others? Forward them via e-mail of course. Thus compounding your document versioning problem, and increasing the mail store size. (Single instance storage can only do so much.)

  • Re:Get it in email (Score:2, Insightful)

    by arkanes (521690) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [senakra]> on Monday June 06, 2005 @01:36PM (#12737716) Homepage
    ........

    Because of emails well-known resistance to impersonation and spoofing, right?

  • by mooncaine (778422) on Monday June 06, 2005 @01:41PM (#12737775) Journal
    All the effort you describe would no doubt be rewarding to you, but the client, WSJ, would be better served by having more robust email with larger storage capacity, ubiquitous user access, and appropriate security. Far better to use a pencil you already understand than have someone come build you a fancy pantograph with optional 3-handled family gradunzas attached, just to do the same thing you happily accomplished with a pencil.
  • by Snowmit (704081) on Monday June 06, 2005 @01:51PM (#12737864) Homepage
    If I had a penny for each time I have repeated this to users frustrated with their email account quotas: "Our mail server does not exist to fulfill your file storage needs." The file server is where people can store their important.......wait for it........FILES!

    And here is the fundamental problem with IT departments. IT departments do not exist for the sake of IT although they sure do act like it a whole lot. IT departments exist for the sake of users, you know the people that it's so fashionable to arrogantly hate.

    I suggest that if a great number of your users are using email as a file storage system that you as a diligent IT guy should spend some time figuring out ways to make it work for them.

    Shouting "You're doing it wrong!" does not count as making it work.

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