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Why Email is a Bad Collaboration Tool 245

Posted by Hemos
from the the-best-tool-to-use dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Isaac Garcia follows up his popular "The Good in Email" article with "The Bad in Email or (Why Steve Ballmer is the CTO of Microsoft)": "In spite of email's universal success (as a collaboration tool), and in spite of its many good traits, email contains deep, inherent flaws that force users and markets to seek alternatives to collaborating via email."
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Why Email is a Bad Collaboration Tool

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  • Amen (Score:5, Funny)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:11AM (#15244919) Journal

    Email Communications Do Not Correspond Priority
    If everyone used Outlook (70% of Central Desktop users use Outlook), then the ability to assign priority to each message would actually work. But we don't live in a Microsoft world (in spite of what many of you might think) and instead, we usually measure and weigh the importance of an email message by the number of people included in the carbon copy. This is highly subjective and fails to address the need to order and sort messages and task by importance.

    One alternative is to use ALL CAPS IN YOUR MESSAGE TO IMPLY PRIORITY.
    I can attest to that. Send me an e-mail via the Microsoft Outlook Exchange servers at work. But don't just send it regular style, send it in Outlook with the super duper maxi-ultra-important urgent need flag (the little red '!') enabled. Yeah, on top of that, make it required that the user send a response (thank you, Microsoft).

    Wait a few minutes ... or maybe an hour. I'll get back to my desk and see a notice that I'm 13 hours overdue to read your message (they've managed to somehow attach a meeting notice to it and insert it in my calendar for yesterday at noon without me knowing) that I missed the funniest super bowl commercial last night. And then put everything in caps.

    Yeah, I think I'd pretty much wait for you in the parking lot after work. And I wouldn't be there to give you a hug, ifyaknowwhatimean.

    Oh, by the way, my boss has it somehow set to default that it's urgent and he needs a response once I've read it. Same with his secretary. Urge to kill rising ... rising ...
    • Yeah, I think I'd pretty much wait for you in the parking lot after work.

      Would it be to prank the Stiffly Stifferson to death with a tire iron?
    • Re:Amen (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Frumious Wombat (845680) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:21AM (#15244979)
      Which, in the end, is one of the problems; the Sender sets the importance, not the Reader.

      IMHO a simple improvement to email would be no more than twice a day delivery. People would know the corporate email shows up at 6:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Therefore, if that time has passed, you won't get a reply before the next email dump. This removes the pressure on the recipient, who knows he has at least 8 hours before anything has to be done with that email.

      A side benefit is that there is only new email twice a day; when you arrive, and mid-afternoon. No more checking it every five minutes, no more boss yelling "did you get my email yet", no little dings/mailbox flags, etc, going off and distracting you from your job. Go a step farther, and let an intelligent agent apply your rules of priority to the message "has the word "superbowl video", so file it under "never"", rather than the sender's, and some of the issues are gone.

      For colllabortion between more than 2-3 people, use a Wiki or Notes. Email should be for person-person, ephemeral, communication.
      • Some of this you can do already with the use of mail filters. I haven't used Outlook/Exchange in some time, but I can do everything that you have described in MS Entourage--only check email at 8am and 1pm for example (I just set this one to see how well it works out, I get distracted by email quite easily) and raise/lower message priority based on sender/content/etc.

        Perhaps this doesn't work with an Exchange account, but I can do this all with POP or IMAP accounts.
      • no little dings/mailbox flags, etc, going off and distracting you from your job.

        Worst thing with the "dings": they distract your coworkers too!

        Folks, if you absolutely must have an überflashy desktop, please keep it just flashy (visual), but don't add bells, whistles and airhorns (audio) too...

        For colllabortion between more than 2-3 people, use a Wiki

        Good idea...

        ...or Notes.

        Bad idea...

        mail should be for person-person, ephemeral, communication.

        ... and also for notification that there is sth

      • Re:Amen (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Fred_A (10934) <fredNO@SPAMfredshome.org> on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @11:21AM (#15245651) Homepage
        The mail delivery time idea is quite clever.

        In case anyone is interested, here is the setup we had in a little company (now long sold) I setup with friends a while back (I wasn't the one who came up with the idea) to manage the "info" mail account (standard email addresses were still used back then) :

        • any incoming mail to info was dumped to our local news server in a private group we all read;
        • replying to the newspost replied to the mail.


        This would let you know who did what and it kept an archive in a platform independent format as well. It was used for other "global" addresses as well.

        People could browse news in the same client (Netscape at the time) they used for email, which was convenient. We ran a mix of Linux, BSD, Windows and Irix.
      • Re:Amen (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Neil Watson (60859) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @11:22AM (#15245655) Homepage
        One of the benefits of email is that new mail waits in a mail box for me to look at when I am ready. I take advantage of this by disabling any new mail messages. No flashing, no popups and no noise. That way I can focus on my current task; checking my mail only when I am ready.
      • Re:Amen (Score:4, Funny)

        by curecollector (957211) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @11:23AM (#15245665)
        For colllabortion between more than 2-3 people

        Great typo - seriously. You've inadvertantly invented a term that has accurately described more workplace collaborative efforts than I care to remember. Thanks!
      • Re:Amen (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mmalove (919245)
        An interesting idea, but to each their own. Email's great when you don't need an immediate response, or when you know someone is in their office. Not so good when you are trying to track someone down for a question, but that's what cell phones are for, right?

        Me personally I try to at least respond to an email asap, but I may not fill the person's request immediately. But everyone has their own service level standards, based on who your customer is and how many responsibilities you have. I think a good t
      • Re:Amen (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr. Slippery (47854)

        For colllabortion between more than 2-3 people, use a Wiki or Notes.

        Once upon a time, there were these things called "newsgroups"...

        Wikis (or if your group is HTML literate, just setting up a local website on space everyone can access) are fine for producing documents, but are lousy at capturing threaded discussions over time. Setting up a local NNTP server works well for this.

        Notes, of course, is a bloated proprietary monster that should have been killed long ago.

      • Re:Amen (Score:2, Insightful)

        by pacalis (970205)
        Twice a day delivery is an awful idea. First, email is asyncronous communication - thus it works better than a phone when I don't want to be interrupted. I can read it and answer it when I want, not when the company schedules me to. Second, why impose structure on a system that has its advantages in allowing for less structure? If there actually is anything important everyone has to wait to get it started becuase they won't know about it until 8 hours later (ie. what if there is an internal post that has an
      • IMHO a simple improvement to email would be no more than twice a day delivery.

        Let me guess. You have stock in fax machine manufacturer?

    • Re:Amen (Score:5, Interesting)

      by timster (32400) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:22AM (#15244993)
      I've just disabled the "priority" column in Outlook, as all it tells me is that the email is from a certain person (who shall not be named) who seems to think that everything is urgent.

      The disease I'd like to complain about today is the "read receipt". I can only imagine how much time people waste looking up whether I've read their message or not. You can turn that off, too, but some people really go crazy if they don't get their read receipts.
      • I used to have an outlook rule that anything set to "Urgent" was automatically reset to "low priority". I know, it' childish and stupid, but then again, so was my job.

        Of course, no one has ever once sent me something marked "low priority", so whenever I received a low priority message, i knew it meant high priority.

        I just liked the fact that when my boss looked over my shoulder, all his messages were marked "low priority".
        • Re:Amen (Score:3, Funny)

          by timster (32400)
          I once got an email marked "low priority" from a soft-spoken accountant. If that man ever sends me anything marked "high priority", I will flee the building.
      • Re:Amen (Score:3, Funny)

        by Brewskibrew (945086)
        I used to have a manager who sent all his e-mails with read receipts, even low priority messages like status reports and "there's cake at the secretary's desk" messages. Rather than mark them read, I used to move them all (in their unread state) to a subfolder. Once a month or so, I would do a "Select All" and then "Mark Read", flooding his Inbox with dozens and dozens of read receipts. It took a couple of months of this passive agression, but he stopped using the read receipts by default.
        • Re:Amen (Score:3, Interesting)

          by honkycat (249849)
          I always set my mail reader to ignore all return receipt requests. If I want someone to know I read their message, then I'll reply to the email myself. I find them to be intrusive and impolite.
      • > The disease I'd like to complain about today is the "read receipt". I
        > can only imagine how much time people waste looking up whether I've read
        > their message or not. You can turn that off, too, but some people really
        > go crazy if they don't get their read receipts.

        Read receipts aren't all bad; I've used them on occasion when working with coders in different time zones or on different shifts. When I got the receipt, it let me know they had checked in and I should probably get ready for a phon
    • Yeah, I think I'd pretty much wait for you in the parking lot after work. And I wouldn't be there to give you a hug, ifyaknowwhatimean.

      It's better for your carreer and for your outlook (pun intended) in court (due to a lack of witnesses), when you shift the waiting place to the dark corner of an underground parking at 2:30am.

      An alternative may be a crouded subway station at rush hour. That would be the more, uh, final approach to solving this little issue.

    • I have that turned off. You will never know :) And no one can even read my calendar, let alone insert ( except the exchange admin of course, which i am one )

      Oh, and if you tag it as important. i ignore it that much faster.

      Yes i know you were joking.. however i wasnt...
    • Re:Amen (Score:3, Funny)

      by ArsenneLupin (766289)
      Our local Spamfilter is configured in such a way that it bounces messages containing the header X-MSMail-Priority: high.

      Problem solved.

      Another alternative would be to greylist them with a delay of 2 days, hehe...

    • Oh, by the way, my boss has it somehow set to default that it's urgent and he needs a response once I've read it. Same with his secretary. Urge to kill rising ... rising ...

      Actually, the sender-assigned priority thing works pretty well. I just assume that anyone who sets their own message's priority for me is an idiot or ass-clown and I read those last, if at all.

  • by NaijaGuy (844212) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:13AM (#15244938)
    An intelligent user of email considers whether sending an email is appropriate for the communication at hand. That's the way it is with so many tools--they're often misused, but that doesn't mean they don't still have their proper place.
  • A few problems: (Score:5, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:15AM (#15244947)


    The summary states the title of the article as: "The Bad in Email or (Why Steve Ballmer is the CTO of Microsoft)"

    Two problems with that:
    1. The title is actually "The Bad In Email (or Why We Need Collaboration Software)"
    2. Steve Ballmer is not Microsoft's CTO...Ray Ozzie [microsoft.com] is (Steve Ballmer is the CEO [microsoft.com]).

    Problem #2 is especially difficult to understand, as the article itself correctly identifies Ray Ozzie as Microsoft's CTO.
  • How many times (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrotherNO@SPAMoptonline.net> on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:18AM (#15244965) Journal

    What I mean by silo'ed is that email traps information into personalized, unsharable, unsearchable vacuums where no one else can access it - the Email Inbox. Think of your Email Inbox as a heavily fortified walled garden. Not mentioning the difficulties many have accessing their Email Inbox outside the corporate firewall, the Email Inbox contains a hodgepodge of business, personal and private information that most people do not want to share with others.

    Unfortunately, the Walled Gardens of our Email Inboxes are deceivingly warm and cozy. This feigned-comfort of safety whispers into our ears like a wily devil to, "Just email the document to me" or "Just email that document to yourself" with the false-belief that it will remain safe, secure and locked away. But that is just it......its locked away so that NO ONE ELSE CAN ACCESS IT. This is counter-culture to team collaboration.

    And how many times have you sent out a document for comment and gotten back 30 different versions with markups, which you then have to reintegrate into one document and somehow handle inconsistencies and overlap? Then of course you need the document, but don't have a copy where you're at, so you retrieve one from an email and use that, but it's an old version, so you have to recreate revisions. And then someone always emails you their revisions late, after you think you're all done (usually it's your boss, so it's not like you can just leave them out).

    If nothing else, you need a document collaboration tool, to avoid this nightmare of multiple files, and email is not it.

  • The Real Problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Atomm (945911) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:19AM (#15244971) Homepage
    I believe the problem with Email is usually only 10% of what you are trying to communicate is actually understood.

    Sort of like posting on slashdot..... :-)
    • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:31AM (#15245080) Homepage Journal
      Could you explain your post further? All I got was "the."
    • by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:33AM (#15245104) Homepage

      I believe the problem with Email is usually only 10% of what you are trying to communicate is actually understood.

      Sort of like posting on slashdot..... :-)

      I know your joking but you're absolutely correct. This is a very serious problem with e-mail and why using the phone should be prefered over it. You see, when you're speaking to someone face to face or even over the telephone a lot of the information is contained in the delivery. Your body language and intonation help to create context and help the message get across to the listener.

      E-mail, by contrast has none of this. Writing an e-mail that your audience will understand first time - both in tone and in content - takes considerable effort and skill. E-mails are often not considered fully. Hands up if you've sent an e-mail quickly and realised the tone of the e-mail makes it sound very hard and demanding? I suspect most of us have!

      Because writing clear e-mails is difficult, people often resort to writing bullshit instead. The idea being is that if you can bedazzle the recipient enough with your buzzwords and other pseudo-words that they feel inferior and are unlikely to ask for clarification.

      Why do we need software to collaborate? Humans have always collaborated best when sat around a table talking to each other. In my opinion, the software solves a problem that would be better solved by taking the time to see each other in the flesh.

      It may be expensive but it's less expensive than getting it wrong and ruining the reputation you had with your client.

      Simon

      • You see, when you're speaking to someone face to face or even over the telephone a lot of the information is contained in the delivery. Your body language and intonation help to create context and help the message get across to the listener.

        E-mail, by contrast has none of this. Writing an e-mail that your audience will understand first time - both in tone and in content - takes considerable effort and skill.

        It is possible to convey "intonation" in text - using italicised and boldfaced text. It's just a

      • Writing an e-mail that your audience will understand first time - both in tone and in content - takes considerable effort and skill.

        Sure it does.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:22AM (#15244991)
    From the article:

    The single worst trait of email is that it's silo'ed.

    Then he says:

    For many folks, the Email Inbox contains their most intimate secrets all mashed together into a single location: business correspondences, contracts, proposals, reminders, tasks, love letters, indiscreet online purchases, dirty jokes, pictures of your spouse (and kids), time-wasting games, inappropriate messages from co-workers and friends and lets not forget spam.

    To me it seems like the perfect argument for why email should be silo'ed, and that it's one of the reasons why it is still so popular. I completely agree with his comment that there is a wealth of information hidden within emails that others could/would find useful. However, there obviously is even more that most would find useless or that the inbox owner wouldn't want visible. To me email represents the best, if flawed compromise. If the inbox owner wants to, they can redistribute their emails to a wider audience. This can be done by forwarding, or in Outlook, simply dragging the email to a public folder. I think the alternative approach, assume that everything is public and force the user (either sender or receiver) to selectively "hide" or "target" emails falls too far on the "other side" for most companies.
  • IM (or IRC) and Wiki (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fak3r (917687) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:23AM (#15245003) Homepage
    In development over the last 5 years I think the most useful tools are IM (or IRC) and Wiki. Email can be used to setup a time to meet/work on things, from there constant talk back/forth via IM is perfect. Hashing out overall ideas via the Wiki is perfect for before and after, and allows for ones ideas to get fully out there, then edited by others during critque.

    This has been true for me working on OSS at night with a partner in Qubec as well as working in the same office with a developer two aisles away.
    • by Abcd1234 (188840)
      Wow, do we work for the same company?? I work for a smallish business that's divided into two offices, one in Canada and one in the US, separated by a two hour time difference, and we've recently incorporated those exact tools into our workflow. IRC has been invaluable, allowing realtime, quick feedback on issues when the need arises without being overly obnoxious (unlike many IM clients). And recently, we've begun making serious use of a Wiki for authoring technical material, as it drastically lowers th
  • "The Bad in Email or (Why Steve Ballmer is the CTO of Microsoft)"

    Except the article says :
    Therefore, we'd like to present The Bad In Email, or Why Ray Ozzie is the CTO of Microsoft.

    There's a bug somewhere... maybe bad RAM, or buggy software, maybe between the chair and keyboard (if your chair hasn't been thrown away by Steve, that is) :)
  • by Odiumjunkie (926074) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:28AM (#15245061) Journal
    A fairly insightful article, but it misses a couple of points:

    It's difficult (if not impossible) for the average user to discern who an e-mail is actually from. Most people have no idea about message headers or IP addresses. It is trivial to send e-mail spoofing the address, and have 95% of people unquestioningly believe it's from the address you specify. This is one of the biggest and easiest to exploit weaknesses in e-mail.

    E-mail is incredibly easy to ignore. Really, really, really easy. Claiming you didn't receive an e-mail is a get-out to any number of problems in collaborative projects, mostly because it's so common - it's fairly easy for an e-mailto not get to its recipient, be it an over zealous spam-filtering policy, a misconfigured mail server somewhere along the line or a lack of space on a company intranet (combined with badly configured mail servers which are relatively common).

    • Yup - it's not only a convenient excuse, but legitimate.

      Unless I'm running an online business, I certainly don't approach my email as if I have to look at every hour on the dot. Sometimes I even let it sit for a week at a time if I'm not expecting anything.

      If someone has something important to say, call me.

      And conversely, if someone has something trivial to say (telemarketers, etc), email me so my spam filter can kick in.

      Just because email is convenient doesn't mean it should be used in all situations.
    • Claiming you didn't receive an e-mail is a get-out to any number of problems in collaborative projects...

      And that's why it is the perfect tool for a work environment. :-)

      In all seriousness, remember when email was just about perfect? Except for the occasional server mishap, every message got through, and they were all good. (Except for chain letters, 'Good Times' warnings, etc., from well-intentioned noobs and clueless relatives.) Then along came spammers, followed by imperfect filtering, and now email is j
    • Claiming you didn't receive an e-mail is a get-out to any number of problems in collaborative projects, mostly because it's so common - it's fairly easy for an e-mailto not get to its recipient, be it an over zealous spam-filtering policy, a misconfigured mail server somewhere along the line or a lack of space on a company intranet (combined with badly configured mail servers which are relatively common).

      Yeah, that's why i really hate "company" mail servers. I've used yahoo and then gmail for
  • Scare Tactics (Score:5, Informative)

    by RedHat Rocky (94208) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:36AM (#15245132)
    "If you are using POP or IMAP, you need to know that they both require you to send unencrypted authentication (username/password)."

    Ah, not necessarily. Especially in the IMAP world, see IMAP over SSL.

    [insert story about linux box and IMAP/SSL/MUTT]

    Here's the real problem: You tried to scare your audience with concepts that your target audience doesn't understand. You can't scare ignorant people, see low limit Texas Hold'em.
  • Some great quotes :

    Email is NOT Secure (Part 1)
    [...]
    (Anyone using cryptographic e-mail is in the minority and the exception to the rule.)


    Anyone needing secure e-mail is in the minority and the exception to the rule.

    there is no way to 'retract' your email.

    And how are you retracting your mail ?

    Email is Prone to Viruses
    There is no need to elaborate here.


    You should make an effort. I do not understand.

  • There is a way to use e-mail as such a tool, which was the preferred method used by the Spanish Al-Queda cell:

    1. Open e-mail account (on your own web mail server, preferably) and publish username/password to members of cell/department/workgroup.

    2. Write e-mail detailing plan and save as "draft."

    3. After connecting by SSL, other co-workers/conspirators view and edit draft or attach comments for all to browse and update.

    4. If server is owned by group, files are as secure as the passwords and OS. If a

  • by szembek (948327) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:47AM (#15245240) Homepage
    Part of this article drives me nuts, and I see the same crap in /. comments all the time:

    2. The data is often 'NSFW' (Not Safe For Work).

    Why did he use the acronym if he defines it directly after use. The only reason he should do this is if he used 'NSFW' elsewhere in the article, which he does not. The writer should decide whether he feels this acronym is recognizable enough to use without a definition. If it is then use it, otherwise don't!

    Fixed:
    2. The data is often not safe for work.
  • by dada21 (163177)
    E-mail will have been dead for close to a decade in 3 years. Yes, we all still use it. Yes, it is a primary form of communications for anything over 30 miles. And yes, the horse is dead but we'll still beat it.

    I stopped using e-mail as my primary form of communications almost 7 years ago (about the time I started using SMS en masse, combined with instant messaging when available). For me, e-mail is no different than TV, radio and telephone -- all technologies that should have been replaced eons ago but
  • Overzealous spam filters. I've recently tried to send PDF and JPG files to some people, and failed. The recipients' ISP's filters blackholed either the attachments or the entire message. Nuts!
    Another intended recipient has a local spam filter that somehow checks the messages while still on the POP server. This takes bloody ages, causing the transfer to time out. Lather, rinse, repeat. As a result, he has to use a webmail client to receive large messages.
    And then there's Outlook's inability to receive execut
  • by Old Man Kensey (5209) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:59AM (#15245382) Homepage
    The article starts off strong, but it has a couple of glaring issues that makle me question how qualified the author is to actually be talking authoritatively:

    1. "If you are using SMTP (the universal pipe, remember?), you need to know that it doesn't encrypt data/messages. If you are using POP or IMAP, you need to know that they both require you to send unencrypted authentication (username/password)."

    None of these is true. Encrypted SMTP, POP and IMAP all exist and we've been using encrypted POP/IMAP where I work for over two years now.

    2. In the discussion of encrypted e-mail, he jumps straight into certificates with no acknowledgement or apparently even clue that PGP/etc. exist and are a lot simpler to set up and use (even in Outlook, or even manually if you have to).

    3. "Eudora Security Flashback: I still don't know what the hell Kerberos is and what it has to do with a dog much less my email?"

    Considering that this guy is, judging from the content of his post, very Microsoft-centered, for him to not know what Kerberos is suggests he is not even close to any kind of expertise in the field.

    4. "Most companies spend a fortune locking down their IT infrastructure. This results in either Total Lockdown, also known as Paralysis whereby no one can do anything without a password, passkey, keycard, signature and sign-in sheet; or in No Lockdown, also known as Free-Love-Utopia whereby everyone is equal because everyone is an Administrator."

    Um... no? He says "This results" as though these alternatives are the only two possible. This is probably just sloppy writing, but it still sticks out at me.

    5. "If everyone used Outlook (70% of Central Desktop users use Outlook), then the ability to assign priority to each message would actually work. But we don't live in a Microsoft world (in spite of what many of you might think) and instead, we usually measure and weigh the importance of an email message by the number of people included in the carbon copy. This is highly subjective and fails to address the need to order and sort messages and task by importance."

    I know from personal experience that Eudora among others had the capability to set and recognize a Priority or read-receipt header as long as 10 years ago. Priority fell out of favor because of abuse by spammers, but it does exist. And that was valid for any message sent to or from anyone on the Internet. Can we trust Outlook's read-receipt and priority flags to be as portable?

    6. "Its still challenging for multiple people to share business email accounts (i.e. support, bugs and sales messages). IMAP sort of works, but presents its fair-share of limitations."

    Such as? How could IMAP be better? Given the inherent needs and limits of sharing what is essentially a file folder, I think IMAP is designed about as well as it can be. There could be improvements, but nothing I can think of that would make me go "wow! It's a whole different IMAP!"

    7. "Email is Prone to Viruses - There is no need to elaborate here."

    Yes there is, because (say it with me!) E-MAIL IS NOT PRONE TO VIRUSES. E-MAIL CLIENTS ARE.

    There are some good points in this article, but you have to filter them out from the sophistry.

  • by ChaseTec (447725) <chase@osdev.org> on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @10:59AM (#15245389) Homepage
    I'm going to be starting on a spare-time open source project pretty soon and was wondering what people recommend for collaboration. The biggest project I worked on was the jboss portal server(previous version) and communication to developers(non-jboss employed at least) seemed to be mostly by email and forums. It was a little hard to know for sure if someone else was working on the same thing as me until a cvs commit. All the jboss guys I delt with were really helpful, but because of some of the reasons outlined in the article I kind of always wanted a better way...

    Thankfully the new project I'll be working will have 2 main developers in the same city so we'll actually have some sit down sessions but so far almost everything is in email. What are good collaboration practices(the article mostly just said email sucks)? For software I'm currently investigating gforge [gforge.org] with the wiki plugin. Does the slashdot community like wikis for collaboration between developers on software development projects or something else? Does all this really get solved when you have a dedicated project manager? Should your collaboration tool also be your project management tool? Any good project management tools(esp. ones that combine collaboration software). Thanks!
  • by YU Nicks NE Way (129084) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @11:02AM (#15245420)
    Not surprisingly, for a PR puff piece, the article is full of lies. The most egregious is this one, though:
    If you are using SMTP (the universal pipe, remember?), you need to know that it doesn't encrypt data/messages.

    If you are using POP or IMAP, you need to know that they both require you to send unencrypted authentication (username/password).
    In fact, SMTP offers a number of secure alternatives, included TLS within an otherwise unencrypted pipe, or SMTP/SSL on port 463. POP and IMAP both support TLS for 110/143, as well as POP3S/IMAP4S over 995/993, and have not required plain-text login since the introduction of capabilities negotiation more than a decade ago -- both of them support a version of the AUTH verb. (To give you a sense of time, the relevant RFC's were published before Netscape developed SSL v1, back when sending creds over the wire in clear text was completely standard.)

    The guy's trying to sell something, but it would help if he could sell things without lying about them.
  • Most senders I've received E-mails from assume I received and read the mail within 5 minutes of their sending it. Scheduling a meeting for 20 min after sending the mail notification is rediculous, or sending it right at the end of the workday (or later) and assuming I'm so eager to read it I access my work E-mail from home. If its that important PHONE ME! Just because you sit all day at your desk with your E-mail open doesn't mean I do, two way communication is the only way to confirm a message is received.
    • Just an idea - decied on two times a day you will read email. Then when ever anyone send you an email have the program send an automated email back saying that you have recied their email but will not be reading it before such and such a time.

      Then they cant complain since you already told them.
  • Not surprised (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jalefkowit (101585) <jason@jasonlefko ... net minus distro> on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @11:16AM (#15245589) Homepage

    Winston Churchill once said [uga.edu] "Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." You could say the same thing about email as a collaboration tool -- it sucks, but for the average user it sucks less than every other option.

    • IM? Most IM clients don't log messages by default, so things can't be easily searched or retrieved unless you know to turn on logging (assuming your client even allows that).
    • Wikis? Each wiki has its own arcane markup syntax, and the average user has better things to do than learn them.
    • Intranets? Somebody's gotta post stuff to the Intranet, or nobody will use it... and nobody wants to post stuff to an Intranet that nobody is using.
    • Web calendars? Slooooow.
    • Project management software? Using tools like Microsoft Project successfully requires a level of discipline and expertise that is beyond most people.
    • And none of the specialized services that have evolved to fill this niche (Basecamp [basecamphq.com], for example) have a mental model that's as easy to grasp as e-mail.

    None of these objections are so large that they can't be overcome; many people use the tools above successfully. But for the average user, who accepts defaults and isn't interested in learning a new skill just to organize a meeting, they all have flaws that outweigh the flaws of e-mail.

    I hate collaboration-by-email as much as the next guy, but until we can come up with something that is an order of magnitude better for the average user right out of the box, we shouldn't be surprised if they keep shooting e-mails around. (sigh)

    • You could say the same thing about email as a collaboration tool -- it sucks, but for the average user it sucks less than every other option.

      The Okham's Razor of technology: What about the good old-fashioned cork bulletin boards? :-D Maybe it should be Knuth's Razor (Prof. Donald Knuth is a vocal critic of email).

  • Outside of fictional characters in Cryptonomicon, I'm not aware of anyone else using encrypted email and digital signatures.

    (Anyone using cryptographic e-mail is in the minority and the exception to the rule.)

    It doesn't have to be like this. My mother runs a counseling service and I installed gpg and a plugin for SquirrelMail - and now my mother, my father, and yes, my grandmother can easily send encrypted mail back and forth. And we have to, if we want to discuss clients over email and stay HIPAA compli

  • I think the issue is mostly how people use email in collaboration situations, not the actual technology. This fact pretty much dooms other technologies to be no better; even people using the ideal collaboration software can (and will) sometimes send a personal email instead of using the tool.

    The solution is to train people in using the tool. On the linux-kernel mailing list, the policy is that you cc the list on any reply to a message on a list, and cc all recipients. If you violate this rule, people compla
  • Email and Mail (Score:2, Informative)

    by intangible (252848)
    Email is and should be recoginized and used for what it is, "Electronic Mail". Not "URGENT NEEDS A REPLY INSTANTLY"... NO! I do not check my email every five minutes, once or twice per day.

    If you need an instant reply, how about use something like "Instant Messaging", VOIP, a phone call, or come over in person?

    I really hate people who expect email to be almost the same thing as instant messaging. Email is a lower priority messaging system, it should not be used for something that you need an instant reply

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