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Why Email Is Still The Most Adopted Collaboration Tool 253

An anonymous reader writes "Isaac Garcia, the founder of a Web 2.0 Collaboration Software company, writes bluntly about why Email is still the preferred and most adopted collaboration solution around. 'So, why are Collaboration Software Vendors (Central Desktop included), keen on vilifying email and so quick to promise a practical alternative to the chaos of email? And, if the vendor's software is so much better than email, than why do users revert back to email as soon as they hit a snag in the system? Why do users refuse to adopt collaboration software?'"
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Why Email Is Still The Most Adopted Collaboration Tool

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  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monkeys!!! ( 831558 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:09AM (#15056727) Homepage
    It has worked and it continues to work well despite all the short comings mentioned in the article. Because of this people have adopted the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude.

    At least that's my two cents.
    • by tentimestwenty ( 693290 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:40AM (#15056866)
      It's also a low-energy medium. You can answer messages when they come in or wait until you're ready and format the messages however you want. Most collaboration systems require a lot of user focus either to respond in real time or to satisfy strict interface requirements. E-mail allows people to communicate in their own way, not the way of the application.
      • In a large (multinational) company, you're bound to have multiple collaboration systems (per region/devision/...) and at some point an integration step will be needed. Most of the time e-mail is simply good enough.
        • But it's a pain when distributing documents.

          For short emails it works incredibly well, but if I want 10 people to get the latest version of a document, it's just not good enough. For that you just have to use a decent version-control/synchronisation system; the only problem is that they are viewed as too complex to use.

          Fortunately, free software like Tortoise(SVN) [tigris.org] are making it easier to use for even non-technical people.
      • You can answer messages when they come in or wait until you're ready and format the messages however you want. Most collaboration systems require a lot of user focus either to respond in real time or to satisfy strict interface requirements. E-mail allows people to communicate in their own way, not the way of the application.

        So true. I get pissed when people try to communicate with me via phone. Its easier now because I have a cell that is always on me (and it works), but phone tag is obnoxious.

        I never ha
        • Seriously. I do not know what people did. Did they write snail mail letters and/or phone tag each other? What a waste of time.

          Yes, and yes. And they also got up out of their cubicles and talked with other people. Email can be a waste of time too, spending lots of time crafting a perfect message when a quick phone call can accomplish the same thing.

          • Email can be a waste of time too, spending lots of time crafting a perfect message when a quick phone call can accomplish the same thing.

            And that's what they invented IM and SMS for...

            Seriously, though, I didn't understand the point in the article where he was like "everyone knows email is broken." Really? Who is everybody? Everybody I know uses email pretty well, thanks.

            While I like the idea of collaborative software, it kind of reminds me of group living situations, where someone is eating other peo

            • Seriously, though, I didn't understand the point in the article where he was like "everyone knows email is broken." Really? Who is everybody? Everybody I know uses email pretty well, thanks.

              I would guess that the only thing "broken" about email is the fact that there is SPAM and viruses. I have a filter for that and the couple mails a week that escapes I either call the people and tell them to stop sending me mail or I just delete it if its foreign or just one of those mails that is unreadable and gibberis
      • Exactly, and if another $*%&# outlook user books me in another $(%^*# meeting without even ASKING me if I'm available, or if it's a good time, I think America is going to hear about epic scale workplace violence.
        • Exactly, and if another $*%&# outlook user books me in another $(%^*# meeting without even ASKING me if I'm available, or if it's a good time, I think America is going to hear about epic scale workplace violence.
          I was about to comment on the situation of them ignoring established appointments when setting up meetings, but then I realized that that's still a bit of a double-edged sword. I've had situations where people have ignored the fact that I already have an appointment listed for the time slot th
        • The real lesson there is that if your office uses Outlook to schedule meetings, then you need to use it too. If its not a good time for you, or if you have something else going on, block it off. It only takes a couple of seconds, and everyone in the office can see what your available time is without trying to call 20 different people to find out. Really, its pretty trivial if everyone just keeps their calendars updated (not even with detail - just with the fact that there's something from 2-4 that you'll
          • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:16AM (#15058195)
            Like other guy said, it doesn't matter if I'm booked or not, they schedule the meeting anyway. Anyhow, it shouldn't be assumed that because I do not have a meeting scheduled, I am available, particularly on one hour notice. I COULD book 8-5 every day, for the entire year, but the tool is now totally useless for people who I have approved a meeting for.

            The bottom line is that availability is a BAD thing. It's like money and real estate. The more you have to give away, the more people will want. You need to keep quiet about it, dole it out only to the deserving and only in the amount they need. If people don't know your availability, and have to ask you first, you are in control of where the time goes and how much. I think Louis XIV was the one most famous for this technique of dealing with bureacracy.

            As it stands I have to play a cat and mouse game with "tentative" responses (because declines are often sent to managers for negative use on performance reviews) and finding the people who really did have an important meeting and making sure they understand tentative is my code for "a meeting I rejected implicitly", without actually telling them that because I may want to decline them some other day. It sucks up a lot of time, and worse, my cell phone (which I download my calendar too) understands tentative as "booked", so I can't rely on it to tell me what meeting i need to be attending, and when I have time to do real work.

            Like most of us, management will not approve overtime, I'm "exempt", but I'm not going to work overtime without pay. There is plenty of work to do for an 8 hour day with 0 meetings. The only solution is to manage time carefully, something made extremely difficult by these sorts of "productivity" tools.
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:11AM (#15056735)
    So, why are Collaboration Software Vendors (Central Desktop included), keen on vilifying email and so quick to promise a practical alternative to the chaos of email?

    So they can increase their profits by selling businesses software they may not even need.

    And, if the vendor's software is so much better than email, than why do users revert back to email as soon as they hit a snag in the system?

    Because email works, period.

    Why do users refuse to adopt collaboration software?

    Usually, it will just be another application to learn aside from your email and IM, and doesn't provide any greater functionality.

    Am I the next master of the obvious? ;)
    • ubiquitous (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AltGrendel ( 175092 )
      I think this is the reason that the article is searching for.
      • OMG I agree. (Score:2, Interesting)

        by xtracto ( 837672 )
        You got the word from my fingertips. Email is the principal collaboration tool because it is common knowledge that everybody has it, and, it is more than less sure that the message will be read by the person receiving the message, even if she is offline and that is a great advantage.

        Even when working with more than 2 persons, there are lots of email software applilcations that make life really easy to handle them.

        THere is also chatting, forums and even Voip (even with video) but they have this "live" requir
    • by Monkeys!!! ( 831558 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:17AM (#15056761) Homepage
      Usually, it will just be another application to learn aside from your email and IM, and doesn't provide any greater functionality.
      This brings us to yet another reason why email is still around; simplicity. All the functionality you need in email already exists. It conveys all the needed information in a simple format and is easily understood. Anything else is just trimmings.
    • by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:36AM (#15056849)
      So, why are Collaboration Software Vendors [...]
      (bolding mine)
      All we need to do is to point at this single word.
    • The author makes it sound like the world is full of vendors trying to sell collaboration solutions without email. Most office collaboration suites include email. It is just one more tool in the toolbox. The author should be asking himself 'who would build a collaboration suite without email?'
    • by Mateo_LeFou ( 859634 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:08AM (#15056989) Homepage
      This morning before even reading this article I woke up thinking about plain email versus "fancy" email. In McLuhan-esque terms

      The content of a medium is another medium. The content of a web page is a book (sometimes a film) and the content of email is speech. Your pithy, useful, one-liner emails resemble a bit of conversation a lot more than they do a piece of text.

      Speech is electric (it was your sig that inspired me to post here). Books are not. Books move very slow and require a committee to "get them right". Speech is autonomous, isolated, demands free action. It's like the difference between cars jammed up on a highway (or content-management) system and people zipping around on their own personal jetpacks.

    • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:11AM (#15057002) Journal
      Don't forget, even if you're starting from scratch, you won't make a profit selling an email system. Even a fancy Exchange setup costs so much in licensing that you're not going to be turning over a good profit.

      On the other hand, selling someone a video confrencing suite, or a huge fancy intranet application with built in messaging and project management, will make you a very handy profit.
  • geee (Score:5, Funny)

    by sl8r ( 104278 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:12AM (#15056738)
    "why do users revert back to email as soon as they hit a snag in the system?"

    Mmmmh... i love the smell of rhetorical questions in the morning...
  • Email (Score:4, Funny)

    by u16084 ( 832406 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:12AM (#15056740)
    EMAIL Is Just that EMAIL. And the system is stressed to hell. I had a client of mine attempt to attach a 500 meg file an email.. Wtf.. I asked him if he would put a postage stamp on a brick and mail it... and quite didnt understand. Email should be left to its "mail" - dont start adding layers to something that was never meant to be.
    • Re:Email (Score:5, Insightful)

      by oyenstikker ( 536040 ) <slashdot@s b y rne.org> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:30AM (#15056818) Homepage Journal
      COMPUTERS Is Just that COMPUTERS. And they are all stressed to hell. I had a client of mine attempt to hook two computers together with a phone line. Wtf.. I asked him if he would put glue on a brick and stick it to another brick... and quite didnt understand. Computers should be left to its "algorithms"- dont start adding layers to something that was never meant to be.
    • by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:31AM (#15056825) Homepage Journal
      http://www.directcreative.com/aaexperiments.html [directcreative.com]
      Wrapped brick. Wrapped in brown paper; posted in street corner box with same amount of postage as was strapped to unwrapped brick. Extreme weight for size made package seem suspicious. Notice of attempted delivery received, 16 days. Upon pickup at station, our mailing specialist received a plastic bag containing broken and pulverized remnants of brick. Inside was a small piece of paper with a number code on it. Our research indicates that this was some type of US Drug Enforcement Agency release slip. The clerk made our mailing specialist sign a form for receipt.
    • Re:Email (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hazem ( 472289 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:42AM (#15056879) Journal
      A few years ago, a 500K file was routine and we were able to e-mail those. Now 500 MB files are pretty routine. My computer can handle it, the network can handle it, my memory stick (used to be floppies) can handle it. Why shouldn't my e-mail handle it too?

      While you're using mailed bricks as a metaphor, I'd put a postage stamp on a brick and mail it if that was what I needed to do for my job. In other words, I do what I need to do to get my job done. Sometimes I have to do it in a way that doesn't make sense from the outside. Believe me, I'm trying to fix that. But in the meantime, I mail the brick because I have to. Everyone can receive the brick I mail them and the postal service has a reasonable service level when it comes to intact delivery of my brick.
      • Re:Email (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
        Because email wasn't designed to deal with large binary files. It was meant to send text back of forth between two people. Kind of like paper letters, no pictures allowed. That 500 MB file takes 667? megs in email, because of encoding constraints. Oh, and likely your network can't really handle it. If I, and every one of my coworkers downloaded 1 gig of information every time we checked our email, then, the network would slow to a crawl.
      • A few years ago, a 500K file was routine and we were able to e-mail those. Now 500 MB files are pretty routine. My computer can handle it, the network can handle it, my memory stick (used to be floppies) can handle it. Why shouldn't my e-mail handle it too?

        The email infrastructure can handle it. The problem with the large emails is that the users never clean them out of their inboxes, even though they've saved the attached file to their local drive.

        Users seem to understand the fact that their disk dri

        • Re:Email (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Fred_A ( 10934 )
          The *real* problem is that there can be some text worth keeping in an email archive that came with that attachement. That's why lots of mail folders are cluttered with useless huge attachements.

          With the current structure of email, thare's no simple way of discarding the attachment and keeping the mail body.

          You can of course paste the said text to a new mail and send it to yourself but then you lose some metadata. Or you can edit the mail spool or whatever... I've always seen this as a design flaw of the cur
          • Re:Email (Score:3, Informative)

            Thunderbird/Seamonkey - right click attachment and delete.
            Admittedly, it took a long time and a lot of screaming (and votes) for it to happen, but the Mozilla guys finally got it.
      • The reason we don't email 500MB files around is because our methods of picking up mail suck for large attachments. POP3; terrible. IMAP is slightly better, but still terrible, because you have to download the whole 500MB attachment to read the 10kb message. Webmail is close, but try finding a webmail provider who'll let you receive files of that size. Really, if you're trying to send stupidly large files, it's probably easier to burn them to a CD and mail them.
    • Re:Email (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:42AM (#15056880)
      For many people email is the only way they know of transferring files. How else is some low-level secretary going to send a file - SFTP it to a web server and email a link? Unlikely. Email is omnipresent, virtually instantaneous from the point of view of the sender and already understood by 99% of users
      • For many people email is the only way they know of transferring files. How else is some low-level secretary going to send a file - SFTP it to a web server and email a link?

        Right. And it's not like Windows makes server use any easier.

        Let's say our plucky secretary is told by IT that there are servers available for transferring large files. She is shown how to map a server to a drive, and she can simply drag and drop in Explorer. This is great, she thinks.

        Now she finishes that 100MB PowerPoint presentation wi
      • "For many people email is the only way they know of transferring files. How else is some low-level secretary going to send a file - SFTP it to a web server and email a link?"

        No argument to either the point that email is not the right way to send large files, or the fact that getting users to do it any other way is not likely to occur on any wide-scale.

        Personally, I think the best solution is for the outbound email servers (SMTP) to identify and remove large attachments, replacing them with a URL to obtain t
    • by Tom ( 822 )
      Email should be left to its "mail" - dont start adding layers to something that was never meant to be.

      Too late, buddy. :)
    • lmao. You pwnd him pretty hard. But you really have a point... email ISN'T ftp. I remember when I was writing an email client I did a lot of research into the history of email. Email was never originally meant to carry binary attachments. The whole idea of binary attachments were an afterthought and horrible hack. Ever look at a raw attachment? Looks like regular ol' ascii doesn't it? That's because to work around the RFC (which states that binary data is not allowed in an email), a plain text encoding was
    • For huge file transfers, there are web-based services like the ones in this list. [dirty.org]
    • Re:Email (Score:5, Funny)

      by bwalling ( 195998 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:17AM (#15057043) Homepage
      EMAIL Is Just that EMAIL. And the system is stressed to hell. I had a client of mine attempt to attach a 500 meg file an email.. Wtf.. I asked him if he would put a postage stamp on a brick and mail it... and quite didnt understand. Email should be left to its "mail" - dont start adding layers to something that was never meant to be.

      What a moron! Why didn't he just ask the recipient to setup an FTP server in the DMZ, configure FTP over SSH, set him up a user account and give him the IP and relevant login information so he could just FTP it? Sheesh, when will these users ever learn?
    • The problem in this case isn't collaboration, it's the sharing of large files needed in the collaboration.

      In this case, a simple repository is all that's needed to take care of this problem. Have a large file? Open the repository site, drop in the file, it returns a link to you when it's uploaded. There are commercial document repositories [irisecom.com], and there are Open Source repositories [freshmeat.net], either of which solves the problem of putting documents in a central place for groups to utilize.

      The real problem for Coll

  • by ettlz ( 639203 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:13AM (#15056743) Journal
    as opposed to e-mail.
    • Platform neutrality.
    • Everyone uses it and knows how to use it.
    • It's free.
    • It works, damnit!
    • Intraweb applications tend to suck.
  • Because it is simple (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Herkum01 ( 592704 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:13AM (#15056745)

    You cannot get any easier than email. The collaboration software, you have to understand it and it requires more effort. However, if you just want to get something done quickly people are going to just go straight to email.

  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Groo Wanderer ( 180806 ) <charlie@s e m i a c c urate.com> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:13AM (#15056746) Homepage
    "Why do users refuse to adopt collaboration software?'"

    Well, that can be summed up in a single word, "proprietary".

    Steve: Gee, lets add Bob from company X into this discussion since they will be doing the design for the double ended latex parts.
    Bob: Sure, I use iCollaborate - Black Turtleneck Edition V3.0.7
    Steve: Looks like that won't work with our MS proprietary Subscribe and Collaborate With Those Who Also Subscribe V8.1.1 Security Edition.
    IT Longhair: Well, you could all switch to Open Featureless Collaborate With Clunky Interface V 0.0.2.
    Steve and Bob: Get bent.
    Steve: Bob, go to the iSuite
    Bob: No, you go to Subscribe.
    IT Longhair: Your computers will never run right again, trust me, but you will never be able to prove it is me. Ph33r the admin.

    So ends the tale of proprietary bullshit. Every vendor must foster ths because the funding, patent, and legal system is broken. Until it is changed, nothing will change.

    The only question left is why people keep wondering why incompatible, proprietary and patent laden crap doesn't take off, even if it truly is the better way.

              -Charlie

    P.S. I personally think it all sucks regardless, but that is just my opinion.
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by martyb ( 196687 )

      "Why do users refuse to adopt collaboration software?"

      Well, that can be summed up in a single word, "proprietary".

      Actually, I think the reason people fall back onto e-mail is: TRANSPARENCY. The information and the "communications protocol" are both in-band. Whereas, for a proprietary collaboration tool, my experience has been that the communications protocol tends to be out-of-band. Thus, when (not "if") something goes wrong, the means to identify and work-aroud the problem is hidden inside some "c

    • Fair enough, but why is it out of band and obscure (sometimes)? Proprietary... :)

                -Charlie
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Informative)

      Nice way to perpertuate a myth.

      Egroupware and Kolab are full featured and extremely mature, run on open standards and do not force you to change clients in order to collaborate.

      But, keep repeating the same nonsense on the hope that it sticks.
  • Lack of training (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jolyonr ( 560227 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:16AM (#15056758) Homepage
    The biggest problem I see with users failing to accept a new system and reverting to old bad habits is a lack of real training in how to use the system, and more importantly, why it is better. People need to adjust to new ways of working, and not everyone is capable of being thrown in at the deep end and working things out for themselves. But time and time again I see projects where there is simply no budget allocated for user training, and when it all falls down us developers get blamed.

    Jolyon
    • Training is important but the lack of formal training will not stop people from learning how to use a well designed system, as long as it is properly documented and good user instructions are provided. The biggest barrier to adoption of new systems are bugs and needed features that "will be provided in a later version". Developers frequently do not fully understand the real world use of the system that they are developing and new systems are frequently rushed to delivery; this results in usability problem
    • If it doesn't solve a problem I have, I'm not using it.
  • Why? (Score:4, Funny)

    by voice_of_all_reason ( 926702 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:19AM (#15056768)
    Because it is full of internets: (http://studentpages.scad.edu/~tfarre20/email_cart oon.mpg [scad.edu])
  • three reasons (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:20AM (#15056772) Homepage
    Off the top of my head, three reasons email rules the roost:

    1. It's ubiquitous. Everyone has it, and everyone uses it. You never run into any snag because your mother doesn't use the same collaboration tool (for planning your dad's 60th birthday) as your company uses (for planning the company president's 60th birthday).

    2. It fails gracefully. Everybody knows email isn't perfect, and that the user's actions have a large inpact on it, so you always plan around the fact that people are forgetful, misplace things, delete stuff without meaning to and so on. You send reminders, ask for real confirmation replies (not automated calendar updates), keep a look at the general email banter for signs of misunderstandings and so on. If an email is misplaced, it will probably get caught or planned around.

    3. It has an obvious mental model. An email is a note. You pass it to people, make copies of it, forward it, delete it. There is no complex internal state to the system to (mis)understand. All functional complexity lies with the users - and we're extraordinary good at understanding that particular complex system, and indeed find it joyful to do so.

  • Psychological? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by baadger ( 764884 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:20AM (#15056775)
    I suspect it's the feeling that you have physically sent something to a real person and seen it leave your outbox, rather than a page reloading to say "Thanks for your feedback!" and the idea that you can actually write something the way you want rather than filling out some rigid form? Pretty much the same reasons some people prefer to write letters than filling out long ludacris forms with questions that don't apply to them or they just can't answer.

    With e-mail it's also easier to have a personal copy of correspondence in your outbox whereas other solutions are going to leave you with it scattered across lots of systems, websites and whatnot.
  • many reasons (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:21AM (#15056778)
    Yes, it has its shortcomings, and honestly, given the choice I would not use something as inflexible and unwieldy as EMail to coordinate groups.

    But you have to look at the problems and the possible solution. And finally you have to conform to the least common denominator. And more often than not, that's EMail.

    Look at your task, look at the problems, look at the shortcomings your environment has and you'll find that EMails are for many problems the only solution that fixes ALL your problems. Not as good as many other options, but at least they work.

    Scenario: You have 5 people. Distributed over the world. One of them traveling all the time and the only access to the net he has is his cell. This alone puts many coop-tools out of the ability to serve as the underlying structure. A few more are culled when you look at the quirks of his cell (find two brands that work the same way...). Then have some strict guidelines that keep you from installing "unapproved" software (and knowing how long it takes 'til you get approval, you know that you won't be able to keep any deadline if you wanted to use the soft), so you could only use coop tools that don't inject themselves into your system so you can be SURE it won't interfere with other software you're using, squat, another bunch of coop tools leave the pool.

    And after you're done, you're sitting there with EMail again as the only viable option. So far, that's what I've been experiencing. Maybe someone will develop a tool that is as omnipresent and easy to use and integrate as EMail, and he will definitly take the market. But so far, no such thing.
    • But you have to look at the problems and the possible solution. And finally you have to conform to the least common denominator. And more often than not, that's EMail.

      I agree, E-mail rules because it is works the same way on a PDA, MobilePhone, Windows/OS.X/Linux computer and it is a simple and robust system. If you, using a Microsoft solution want to collaborate with contractor X who uses an Oracle solution and contractor Y who uses Lotus notes or something else you are will be stuck with E-Mail being the
    • We run an SF/Fantasy mag [andromedaspaceways.com] entirely via email. Submissions, slush reading, meetings, discussions, the lot. Proofreaders grab PDFs, and later the layout is emailed to the printer so he can run off the job, and the physical copies are then posted to subscribers. 19 members of the group, and we're about to despatch issue 22. Some users are on mac, some just use hotmail, and it took us many attempts trying to explain IRC before we realised email was the only way. We've been going over 3 years now, and still looki
  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:24AM (#15056795)
    Maybe email is more like how we like to work. We think for a while on something, then we gather information (Google it), then we seek out the input of others (email), then we think on it some more, then we start to build/write/mold a rough outline. Then we stand back, look at it, and pretty much repeat the previous cycle of discovery and synthesis as needed.

    Collaboration software seems to me more like a committee meeting. Good for getting a team of people touching the same base, but not good for actual accomplishement.

  • by squoozer ( 730327 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:25AM (#15056799)

    Email is everywhere, it has a low overhead, it's quick and it's simple. Most of all though you don't need to know anything about the tool you are using - it's like talking to someone.

    Most of these types of tools I have tried force you to do more than is required to get the job done such as cataloguing each message. Sometimes that type of functionality is useful but most of the time it just gets in the way.

  • Echoes of TFA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SeanDuggan ( 732224 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:26AM (#15056806) Homepage Journal
    Funny to read all of these responses which are basically parroting the article and its stated reasons. Sad thing is, most of them will probably rocket up to the top with +5 Informative or +5 Insightful mods as people with mod points who haven't read TFA come in.

    While Email is an excellent collaboration medium in a lot of ways, it still suffers from a bit of the lag that snail mail always did. Admittedly the lag time is down to hours or even minutes rather than days, but you're still faced with the need to cover a lot of ground in your letters, hoping to cover all possible avenues of conversation. *grin* And there's still a hefty amount of people in offices out there who will duly print out and file a copy of your email asking if they're available for lunch.

    So while Email remains an extremely useful tool, I think most people are moving on to some form of IM or another, for the sake of speed and immediacy. True, everyone has a proprietary solution to the situation of IM, but I think there are enough aggregating clients out there like Gaim and Trillian that offer most of the functionality (you know, like chatting through the software rather than trying to share photo albums and the like) that people are finding common ground. Now if only they could learn how to spell...

    • Admittedly the lag time is down to hours or even minutes rather than days

      Uhm. Hours? The last time I had to wait hours for my email was back in 1997. Perhaps you should retire that MicroVAX and get some modern hardware for your mail server?
      • We have also horrible time lags on our corporate Lotus Notes system, but I suspect it is because the administrators know f*ck about their systems.

    • IM is for people who have lots of spare time.

      As I've got busier over the years, I've become bi-modal in my communications media - mostly email for exchanging information, and then (but more rarely) the phone or (better) face-to-face for interactive discussion when I really need an answer now, or when I know the discussion is too difficult for email.

      Even with email, I've now turned off all mail alerting after twenty years of using various descendants of biff. Just too many alerts to pay attention to. B

  • I hear the Security weenies here at $LARGE_US_BANK and the email weenies going back and forth about making sure all outbound mail is TLS (where's the Ha Ha guy when you need him), or if files are larger than a certain size, automatically posting a hyperlink, to an HTTPS website with a username/combo, which are emailed to the recipient.

    Blah blah blah.

    Email works because, well, it works. As someone else said here, its an obvious psychological model.

    Embrace it. Stop doing stupid size and .EXE and .DOC restri
    • Embrace it. Stop doing stupid size and .EXE and .DOC restrictions for those of us stuck in Windowsland. Invest in mailbox storage, or educate users on how to properly archive.

      We tried that.

      The mail server crawled to a screeching halt the first time someone sent a 200MB file to 15 people. Disk storage is far from the only bottleneck - you've also got to account for network bandwidth. Just because it left the factory in a box marked "server" does not mean there's any magic which makes its network card faste
  • With email, I can collaborate (which is really just a fancy word for communicate when you think about it) with anyone on earth who has an email address. With a collaboration tool, I may only be able to collaborate with people in my security realm (company, university, etc) who have accounts on the tool. Or people who run IE (if it is an activeX based POS). Or people who are technically competent enough to figure out how to use the tool (as opposed to email, which most people by now have a basic understandin
  • Simple really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:32AM (#15056827) Homepage Journal
    Email is not the dominant collaboration tool, because it is not a collaboration tool. It is an asynchronous communication medium targeted at human beings.

    Being a medium and not an application means that different applications can be built upon it. This is sometimes good (automated project management notifications), sometimes indifferent (your sister-in-law who forward every joke she hears to everyone she's ever met) and sometimes bad (sapam).

  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lbmouse ( 473316 )
    "Why do users refuse to adopt collaboration software?"

    Because with most tools you spend more time 'collaborating' than you do actually working. You've got to love the PM's that spend so much time in preparation of a project that they miss the delivery date before even getting the programmers to start writing code.

  • why do users revert back to email as soon as they hit a snag in the system?

    This question answers all the other questions.
  • by DingerX ( 847589 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @08:36AM (#15056845) Journal
    TFA confuses things a bit by focusing on the features of email. BCC and CC, searchability -- yeah, those are useful, but I'd guess many, if not a majority of email users don't use them. And when you get to email clients, those things offer practically no help as to email's success. Whatever you do, don't emulate outlook as an interface (and yes, I've been using outlook almost exclusively for nearly a decade)

    Yes, the author is right that everyone's being familiar with Email helps it, and it's not something that everyone has to learn; likewise with SMTP being the common thread.

    But well, I think the reason's a lot simpler. Email is simply more versatile than any number of collaboration tools because it can adapt to any number of tasks, and can be used in any number of ways. And underneath that is a basic design lesson that is most misunderstood. A good tool is one that can be used in a variety of ways, and people will prefer good tools. The problem is that, in the software world "use in a variety of ways" gets misunderstood. Take a flathead screwdriver. "use in a variety of ways" means, in addition to turning screws (its predominant application in many environments), it can open paint cans, punch corks into winebottles, and, eventually, serve as a magnet. To your "office software design committee", "use in a variety of ways" means, in addition to turning screws by being rotated, it can turn screws by pressing a button, or by affixing the screwdriver into an optional clamp attachment and rotating the object with the screw around the driveer. But the minute you apply it to a paint can, it breaks.

    The point is, people don't need many ways to do the same thing; they need one tool that can do many things.

    So let's return to the office collaboration thingembob: the annoying thing about office software for me is that it makes assumptions about what kind of work I'm going to be doing. And somewhere, that work falls under the rubric "business", and, like the syllabus for an MBA, includes all kinds tidbits and distractions that nobody in the business world ever uses.

    The point is: email is not only simple; it can be used in many different ways. In any group, you'll have different levels of computer expertise and different levels of group involvement. Very rarely and in a few fields are the two linked. If you're building software for people to work together, don't focus on "expert users" or giving anyone specific training: make it do as little as possible, as simply as possible. After all, as I tell people repeatedly, it is much more efficient for most people to know how to do a few basic things in relatively inefficient manner, than to learn all the bells-and-whistles of a complex piece of software.

    Things that are easy in the IT world, aren't elsewhere. Try setting up a revision control system for editing 14th-century Latin manuscripts.
  • I've been through this with my company - we bought licences for Groove virtual office and all made an effort to use it for a few months. Gradually, we used it less and less and slipped back to email, sftp and rsync because it was faster, easier and omnipresent.
  • All collaborative software I've seen require all users to be there simultaneously - just like a real face-to-face meeting.

    That's what most people are trying to avoid. An email chain allows users to reply as time permits - and even (gasp) to actually think about something for a while before replying.

    If something is time critical, use the phone, or call a meeting. If something is not time critical, use an email chain. I don't see any hole in that logic that is filled by any sort of collaborative software.
  • Email is like a habit-worn old friend to many people. Email is in the computer-public consciousness... People who would go into convulsions if asked to FTP something - can still understand (basically) and can use email.

    Collaboration systems are often really cool, and are often loaded with lots of features - but at the end of the day, are also often cumbersome (from a work-flow perspective, ironically) and are often proprietary.

    (MOST) people are generally procrastinators or are at least I'll-get-it-done-
  • Email sucks:

    1) SPAM
    2) No guarantee a message is received
    3) Sometimes not even a notification if a message doesn't get through
    4) Not secure

    email is one area where OSS could really innovate, because a open standards, non-proprietry solution could take off if it was better than existing email.

    Why can't this happen (for example):

    When I click on send, the email app checks to see if the recipient is online. If they are, it sends the message via secure, direct P2P. It marks the message as having been received. If
  • Email is the TCP of human-human communications protocols via computer. (IM is UDP) You can layer on it.

    Collaboration software is the OSI model. It's the soup-to-nuts model.

    We all know how well the OSI model did.
  • People prefer working in a comfortable environment. Working with things you know well is confortable. Learning a complex collab product that tries to encapsulate workflow and propriatary business logic is not and---dare I say it---cannot be made easy to learn or use. Email is as easy as writing a letter, something we've been doing since shortly after the first human crawled out ot the womb of some random, doomed neanderthal.

    Tom Caudron
    http://tom.digitalelite.com/ [digitalelite.com]
  • Has everyone forgotton that practically eveyone in business has a universal collaboration device that predates email and vastly surpasses it in usage? It's a phone, people. And for the vast majority of the business population, communication of ideas between two or more parties occurs more rapidly via syncronous voice interaction (you know, talking).

    Face to face is even better and more efficient, though clearly it has colocation issues.

  • "Why do users refuse to adopt collaboration software?"

    No idea... why don't you ask Wikipedia?

  • Everything he said applies to ICQ with the Trillian client except the market share. If more of my friends used it I'd never touch email.
  • The article isn't about collaboration tools, but lists the reasons why e-mail is widely used. But the summary made it look like e-mail is bad and we must get rid of it - exactly the opposite from the article. And so, we go answering the summary as if it challenged us like a Microsoft flying chair. Heh.

    Here's the points in the article:

    Email is Easy To Understand
    Email is Universal
    Email is Accessible from Anywhere
    Email Can Be Personalized
    Email is Manageable/Configurable
    Email is Searchable
    Email is In Your Face
    E
  • It's probably not the sort of "collaboration software" that the blog entry talks about, but a group of writers from the RP Congress [rpcongress.com] City of Heroes roleplaying/writing circle have found that the server-based collaborative editor MoonEdit [moonedit.com] can work better than email for the small, specialized uses of writing stories together. We can write and edit them together in real time, with characters immediately responding to each other, rather than trying to guess at what the other characters would say and emailing the
  • Business software (Score:2, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 ( 956391 )
    Anyone who dealt with business software knows what it is. Proprietary piece of code patched as hell to barely work (or appear to work), functioning just enough so it can be pitched to clueless CEO-s of various companies that have money to waste...

    Unfortunately this is the case, and at the same time the e-mail protocol is simple, proven in time, open and the e-mail clients are used by millions of people world-wide and are simple, therefore reliable.
  • Network Effect (Score:3, Informative)

    by Martin Spamer ( 244245 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:29AM (#15057140) Homepage Journal

    The Network Effect [wikipedia.org] is at work.

    The value of a network is equal to the power of the number of nodes. SMTP Email has many more nodes than any other collaboration option. In order to eclipse email another collaboration technology must have several orders of magnitude more value per node to overcome the network value added of email.
  • The article got it all backwards.
    Why are there other collab tools in the first place? That's because E-Mail sucks so bad at what it does, there is room for other tools!

    Redesign the E-Mail protocoll to something that isn't totally crapped up by a decade of MS Outlook, supports all languages, enforce a single ecryption, request for pass and signature standard, force threading, true metadata seperation (adress based quoting included), thread-based versioning and integrate vcard, ical and XHTML Strict into it a
  • Email is popular because it gets the job done. People like to have a "flow of conversation" just like they do when talking to each other in person.

    This ought to be a lesson to people building collaboration software. Microsoft has a lot of people convinced that calendars and address books are the killer apps for collaboration, but in reality, people are looking to be connected to other people. I may be a little bit biased on this one, though, because I'm involved in a project [citadel.org] that has built a collaborati
  • by Fahrvergnuugen ( 700293 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:40AM (#15057258) Homepage

    I develop "collaboration software". Actually it's document management software with collaboration tools built in.

    My plan for making the software easier to implement was to make it work with email, not separate from it. Keep It Simple Stupid. Most user already check their email multiple times per day, so why create another "inbox" for them to check? It's more work, more effort and therefore simply it simply won't get done (not to mention all of the belly aching and complaining that would come with it).

    It's much easier for a user to get an email that says "Joe Blow wants you to "take out the garbage". Do you wish to [accept] or [reject] this task? If you do not respond within the next [# hours / days] we will assume you reject the task. This task must be completed by [Sunday @ 5pm].

  • No matter what, you won't replace e-mail as the primary means for the distribution of information within a company, or as a means for more personal (i.e. not suitable for the entire project team) communications. So any collaboration tool you put into an environment becomes yet another techno gadget everyone has to learn and use, and split their attention between. And undoubtedly if you split communications between multiple tools, you end up with part of the information over here, another part over there,
  • Interoperability (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pmontra ( 738736 )
    IMHO the answer is interoperability. You can use any mail client to send an email and the recipient will be able to read it regardless of the client s/he uses (and in fact you normally don't know what it is).

    On the other side collaboration suites usually require that everybody uses exactly the same tool. That's maybe acceptable in an small scale environment or in a company but there are no chances that everybody will ever use exactly the same tool in the world at large.

    Furthermore, email clients are free or
  • Sending an e-mail to someone takes very little effort. You open your e-mail program, type out a message, address it and send it. Submitting a document to a SharePoint site or composing a wiki article adds an extra set of steps, even if they're easy. The current version of SharePoint is especially bad for easy editing of content...people I know who do use it just use it as a document dump because they don't like the web editing details.

    Collaboration software that can accept inpot in the form of e-mails addre
  • Email is great, but in only a couple of situations:
    • Sending information that you want the reciever to remember after the conversation
      • Requirements
      • Contracts
    • Information that doesn't require a conversation
      • A note
      • A news letter
    • An asynchroous, persistant conversation
      • Scientists exchanging theories

    What annoys me is when people send out email when what they meant to do was put a file on a shared resource, or have a telephone conversation. Just because you've emailed it to somebody doesn't mean that they read it.

  • Because this [slashdot.org] still applies.
  • Email has one advantage over any collaboration software, I continue to control the content (at least of a copy of what I sent). If the collaboration software doesn't maintain a record of changes made, or if it can be edited by someone I don't trust, the software leaves no "paper trail" when some middle manager insists later that I did or didn't do something. Email leaves a much better record for purposes of fending off corporate infighting. (Yes, I used to work at a mean and miserable .com, actually several
    • It's a common denominator (email your co-worker across the hall and CC someone halfway across the world and they see the same thing)
    • It's not just a replacement for phones, it has other features: phones serve a great purpose for real-time collaboration. Email works very well for give-and-take correspondence. The two styles of communication have different strengths and weaknesses, and it's nice to have both at your fingertips.
    • The "inbox" information focus point: it's a hassle if I have to go look a

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