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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 102309

From the home office in Kabul, Afghanistan…

#1: Twitter’s Web Traffic Flatlines http://ow.ly/viH9 …while Facebook continues to grow.

#2: Initial take on MSFT’s Twitter integration (http://ow.ly/vLGF)…that is sweet! Now will they show tweets beyond the last 3 days?

#3: RT @danschawbel REPORT: 65.6% of CMO’s feel that social media should be done in-house http://tinyurl.com/ygdjtfb

#4: If the Enterprise 2.0 crowd wanted to share a link, my guess for the top 5 services: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Posterous, Yammer. Agree?

#5: Study – Collaborative Networks Produce Better Ideas (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/3xoPM5 #e20 #innovation

#6: Interesting point from #spc09 – SharePoint is a critical driver of MSFT’s future growth. #e20

#7: Two SharePoint 2010 articles – RWW http://bit.ly/1zjI49 | @olivermarks http://bit.ly/4f9en0 – paint a good picture of its #e20 initiatives

#8: Southwest Airlines is running a “test lab” of ecofriendly products on its new Green Plane http://ow.ly/w3fR

#9: RT @Cubba: @bhc3 I thought this was timely based on our conversation at Patsy’s; http://bit.ly/1WQGwH = “10 Tips for Retrosexing on FB”

#10: http://twitpic.com/m13gk – It’s pumpkin patch time! Kids have their own. #halloween

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 101609

From the home office in a balloon 7,000 feet above Colorado…

#1: Well, this was unexpected. The Spigit funding news has hit Techmeme http://bit.ly/3ETPFp #e20 #innovation

#2: LinkedIn: 50 million professionals worldwide http://ow.ly/uq7s “Last million took only 12 days” Wow. Tipping point?

#3: RT @mwalsh: Seth’s best post of the year – get over yourselves…you’re not that cool, interesting or smart. http://bit.ly/3HwrV6

#4: Is Social Media the New Cigarette? asks @billives http://ow.ly/u8IY Looking at social media addiction

#5: RT @nyike First Jive, now Spigit building #e20 and collaborative functionality on top of Sharepoint http://bwbx.io/hina

#6: Within firms, collaboration technologies are dictated by most powerful person involved in the collab http://ow.ly/tJgf by @amcafee

#7: Just as interesting as this WSJ piece is, Why Email No Longer Rules… http://ow.ly/tZpj are the skeptical cmts left by readers #e20

#8: If companies like $GOOG and $MMM excel and incl employee 15-20% personal time for innovation, why haven’t others adopted same?

#9: Wind farm firm makes sure its wind mills are 30 miles away from nearest Starbucks. http://ow.ly/tRQP Why? Best way to avoid NIMBY’s

#10: When a company gets funding, all sorts of interesting “opportunities” emerge. Just got a solicitation for Spigit to sponsor a NASCAR driver.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 051509

From the home office in Pleasanton, CA…

#1: Fast paced start-up seeks Project Manager – Spigit job opening (posted to Craigs List) http://ff.im/2WcXy

#2: Spigit customer Pfizer is in today’s 24 Hours of Innovation (http://bit.ly/rkQiO). Preview their upcoming video: http://bit.ly/Rg6u0 #24hoi

#3: Why Do So Many Big Companies Suck at Innovation? asks @BobWarfield http://bit.ly/1qkRW

#4: Reading: 56 Reasons Why Most Corporate Innovation Initiatives Fail http://bit.ly/3lw6Ju

#5: Annals of Innovation: How David Beats Goliath http://bit.ly/1aikhU by Malcolm @Gladwell, The New Yorker (via @dpritchett)

#6: Webinars are a lot of work. Much creating and researching. Then practice and deliver it. After you do it, lots of work putting it out there.

#7: Digging the new NYT real-time feed. As soon as a story or opinion piece is published, it hits the timeline: http://bit.ly/19cj3P

#8: Smart post: Are you building an everyday app? (the LinkedIn problem) http://bit.ly/sa1IV via @louisgray

#9: Fun with Wolfram Alpha. Type in pi. One of the options lets you look at more digits, then more digits, then more digits…

#10: Playing Candyland with the kids on this Mothers Day. Key is to draw that Ice Cream Cone pink card. Sure path to victory.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 041009

From the home office off the coast of Somalia…

#1: “Never call yourself an expert. Let others think and talk about you as an expert.” http://bit.ly/1yBftl by @centernetworks

#2: RT @dhinchcliffe: Top Five Innovation Killers http://bit.ly/2abnVG Also, #6 – Inability to tap into existing innovation sources

#3: A very interesting read, a useful perspective: Social Architecture http://bit.ly/qynjR #e2.0

#4: @kentnewsome Vista ribbons are almost like re-arranging the keyboard away from qwerty.

#5: Fallout from Twimailer failing to support its emails…I stopped getting both follow and DM notifications. Recommend quitting Twimailer now!

#6: My colleague confirms the social media “dead zone”. He said server traffic at Friendster used to plummet between 12 – 6 pm PT.

#7: Finding myself starting to use Google Tasks more. Biggest hurdle is making it part of my daily routine. It’s happening though.

#8: Marketers’ use of social media, in preferred order: Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook http://bit.ly/sH3P

#9: You know those 404 pages that display when a web page isn’t found? They should all be this good: http://bit.ly/2iytO2 (via @mattcutts)

#10: Want more followers? I imagine there are tweets guaranteed to get new followers. Try: “I need some help with social media.”

LinkedIn Matches Twitter, Facebook by Elevating Status Updates

Checking in with LinkedIn, I noticed this new look on my home page:

linkedin-status-update

“What are you working on?” By putting it so prominently on the home page, you can’t help but be reminded to update it. LinkedIn is upping the importance of these real-time updates on what has historically been a fairly static social network.

I like this, because it’s a chance to put some work-oriented updates out to your network. So LinkedIn now joins Twitter and Facebook in the status update arms race.

*****

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Angels and Demons of Our Social Media Souls

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

angels-and-demons-of-our-social-media-soulsAngel image: The Angel Whisperer

Devil image: People are the boss

*****

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Atlassian’s Confluence Wiki Gets Social: Embed Your Favorite Social Media

Zoli Erdos has a nice write-up of enterprise software company Atlassian, titled Business Models and Right-brained Geeks. In it, he notes the culture of Atlassian is different from many enterprise software companies:

Atlassian is a “different” company in so many ways… no wonder they are still hiring while the rest of the world is busy downsizing.  But one thing I’ve not realized until now is they have a backup business plan. They could quit Technology tomorrow and become a Creative Agency overnight.smile_wink Need proof?

We use Atlassian’s Confluence wiki in our office, and I’ll bet a lot of you do as well. It’s easy to use, and I’ve become a big fan of it versus using Microsoft Word.

So it’s no surprise that the latest release, Confluence 2.10 has a really cool feature: the Widget Connector. Uh…come again?

The Widget Connector. It is a lightweight way to embed content from 16 different social media sites:

atlassian-confluence-connector-widget-supported-sites

I have to say, that’s pretty cool. The ability to embed media created elsewhere is a wonderful feature for any site. I’ve embedded my recent SlideShare on the About Page for this blog. And the ability to embed Vimeo videos was great for a recent post where I talked with MADtv’s Chris Kula.

LinkedIn recently started doing this as well. You can add content and applications from 10 different sites to your profile. It’s a smart play for companies. By letting you bring content from elsewhere, these sites become valuable platforms for getting business done.

Considering the Widget Connector in a Business Context

The interesting thing here is that these sites are indeed social. So the content that will be included is likely to be that which is OK for public viewing. Which means some sensitive internal content won’t be found on these sites. I know many of these sites allow private, restricted access content. It’s unclear whether restricted access content can be embedded though.

But a lot of what businesses do is perfectly fine for public consumption. Well, make sure you embed it in the wiki! Conference presentations, product demos, marketing media, product pictures, etc. In fact, the bias should be to have this content public and findable unless there is a real concern about loss of confidential information. Being a presence in the industry means getting out there with information and ideas that you share. Of course, not everything should be accessible. For instance, a webinar should be public, while a customer presentation will stay internal.

The reality is that companies are expanding their presence on social media sites, even if it is happening in a halting fashion. Turns out consumers are starting to expect it. As use of these various social media sites expands, having a central place to view and track the content on them makes a lot of sense.

Another use I see for this is collecting information from various services and users to build out research on:

  • New product or service initiatives
  • Competitors
  • Customers
  • Regulatory and standards development

Consider Atlassian’s release of Confluence 2.10 another step forward in expanding the use and value of social media for business purposes.

*****

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Why Professionals Should Continue to Blog in the Era of Twitter

I’ll bet you’re smart.

I mean, you’re likely college educated. Maybe even grad school. You can probably remember some killer instances where you nailed some assignment. That clever C++ hack. The time you delivered an insightful analysis of Vonnegut. Navigated your way through a thorny financial analysis. Came up with an elegant solution  in the chemistry lab.

You’re good. You’ve got knowledge in your field, you’ve got a track record of accomplishments in your job. And you’ve got solid points of view about your field and its future.

And all you want to do is tweet?

A number of people have blogged about the uncertain future of…uh…blogging. I understand where they’re coming from. Here’s how Jevon MacDonald put it:

I don’t know what the fate of blogging is, but as I think about it I wonder if it can survive without changing. Just in the last 2 years we have seen massive uptake in the creation of content by users, but most of it is now outside of the blogosphere. Status Updates on Facebook, Twitter, new levels of photo sharing and geolocation based services and networks are all becoming the centerpiece of attention.

His point is that with the ease of Twitter and Tumblr, the relevancy of and desire to blog is diminishing. He’s not alone, it’s a theme that’s been popping up in the last several months.

To which I say:

If you’re a professional who’s just going to twitter, you are missing a golden opportunity to help yourself via blogging.

This post is geared towards those who have day jobs, and for whom blogging and tweeting is an extension of their professional lives.

OK, smart reader, let’s talk about this.

A Blog Is Your Stake in the Ground

Twitter is wonderful. I’ve been tweeting it up the past few months myself. I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for the power of Twitter. As I said in a recent post:

Twitter has established lightweight messaging as valuable and addictive. From the simple roots of “What are you doing?”, people have morphed Twitter into a range of use cases. Open channel chats. News updates. Sharing articles and blog posts found useful. Polls. Research. Updates peers on activities and travels.

It’s great for what it is. And an important part of your professional persona and career development.

But blogs are the professional’s curriculum vitae. They are a standing record of strong thin king about a subject. When you devote the time to put together a blog post covering your field, you’re likely doing this:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Linking to others
  • Establishing your voice
  • Influencing the thinking of others
  • Showing the ability to pull together longer form thinking, a requirement in professional work

My own experience is that if you blog, every so often you pop out a signature piece. The kind of post that resonates with others and establishes your position in your field. These blog posts receive a lot of views, get linked to and turn up in Google searches. When you get one of these, congratulations! You have successfully put your flag in the ground for your field.

Tweets don’t do that. Tweets create a tapestry of someone, they foster ambient awareness. This has value in its own right. But they’re not vehicles for heavier thinking. They don’t demonstrate your capacity to size up an issue or idea and bring it home.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn now lets you add blogs to your professional profile. What’s going to be more valuable to you when people are running searches? Tweets or well-thought blog posts?

There’s a Flow to This

I know this is definitely early adopter stuff. The number of professionals spending time tweeting and blogging is still limited. But I suspect this is going to happen:

Those who can work blogging and some twittering into their regular activities are going to earn more money and get promoted faster.

I can’t wait until some academic study comes out about this.

Here’s how I see the way Twitter and blogging mix:

professionals-social-media-flow

Tweets engage you in a flow of information, they let you pick up signals and connect with others in your field. From all that, you gain a healthy perspective on what’s happening in your industry. Once you write a post, you’ll find yourself energized to engage once again via Twitter. And on goes the cycle.

The mere act of writing out research, analysis and opinion is amazingly valuable. No burdens for how that memo plays with your boss, or keeping your thoughts on-topic for the upcoming meeting. Just you and your blog, working through what interests you.

Could You Really Tweet These?

As an example, I’ve selected three posts from this blog. They were some that really worked out there. And I’ve tried to convert them into a tweet. Take a look:

blog-posts-with-tweet-alternatives

There’s no replacing the permanence or deeper thinking that blogs provide.

So What Are You Waiting For?

That’s my view on why you should keep on blogging even as you tweet. Let’s take this one out with quotes from three bloggers:

Bill Ives:

TwiTip recently had a post on Ten People All Twitter Beginners Should be Following by Mark Hayward. I will let you guess who is on it and then go to the post. It is no surprise that a number of top bloggers are one the list.

With the continuing evolution of tools, blogging is becoming more focused on what it does well – moving beyond sound bytes and providing a permanent accessible record of thought.

Eric Berlin:

Here’s my new thinking: probably the best and most successful bloggers will also tend to be the best blogger/microblogger hybrids, and vice versa.

Steven Hodson:

For us this means less competition and less noise for us to fight our way through in order to get through to the readers. This of course is my first reason why bloggers should be thankful for services like Twitter and FriendFeed – they help clear out the noise makers.

*****

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 112108

From the home office in Manila, Philippines…

#1: “If a mind is always open, it never finishes anything. If it’s always closed, it never starts.” – Scott Berkun, The Myths of Innovation

#2: @pico On FriendFeed? Attention on FriendFeed (for non A-Listers) is driven by: being interactive + decent-to-great content.

#3: Observation: E2.0 crowd is much more active on Twitter than FriendFeed: (1) established connections, (2) conversations, (3) broadcast.

#4: @pico It’s kind of a parallel to enterprise 2.0 in general. E2.0 tracks what happens in Web 2.0, with a 2 year delay. Web 2.0 is the filter.

#5: Just showed my colleague how I’ve got my FriendFeed Enterprise 2.0 List up on my monitor via real-time. His reaction? “Gotta show me how!”

#6: Reading: Why doesn’t anyone care about HP? http://bit.ly/16dEB

#7: @jeffmann The Gartner MQ for social software available in full without registration here: http://bit.ly/gs6dH

#8: Preso best practice = mostly pix, few words. Great for in-person presentations. But Slideshare versions lose context w/ single word slides.

#9: Wow, now my LinkedIn profile is pimped out with my blog posts and Slideshare. Really, really cool what LinkedIn is doing.

#10: RT @THE_REAL_SHAQ Sittin next to steve nash, tryna get hi to join twitter >> Twitter’s viral nature is everywhere…

*****

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Three Ways to Double the Value of Your Social Software

I did a Connectbeam webinar yesterday, Double the Value of Your Social Software. One thing about webinars is they really force you to crystallize your thinking, and you get to try out some cool new ideas. This one was a lot of fun for me. I enjoyed bringing some unconventional examples to the discussion.

So how exactly does one “double the value” of social software? The core of the argument is that integrating the various social software apps inside companies produces a new layer of value. In terms of how this happens, I developed three areas of focus:

  1. Expand information’s reach
  2. Create an employee skills database
  3. Diversify and strengthen workers’ sources of information

The Slideshare below is the presentation I used in the webinar. Below the Slideshare, I describe the background and the three areas of focus.

“Enterprise Silos” 2.0

The great thing about companies rolling out the tools of Web 2.0 is that it lets people from everywhere contribute. Multiple people jump on wikis, blogs, microblogging, etc. Social software can tear down the departmental and geographic walls that separate employees.

So it’s ironic that these wall-busting apps end up as new walled gardens of participation. Employees update their Confluence wiki, they blog on Movable Type and Yammer away. But there’s no integration of the apps.

There’s a screaming need to pull these social software apps together. The folks over at venture capital firm Foundry Group laid out a nice investment theme with regard to Glue.  A lot of the logic from that post applies to the proliferation of social software apps inside companies.

By connecting the different social software apps inside companies, companies will realize a new source of value from them, “doubling” their value.

With that, let’s look at the three new sources of value when you integrate these apps.

Expand Information’s Reach

It’s true that information is the key driver of success in the market today. That’s a truism, overplayed theme, I know.

But, it has had its effects inside companies. You see this theme played out in architectural decisions, such Service Oriented Architectures, which makes integrating data and processes much easier. Mashups are another area where we see this.

How about the consumers of data? How to optimize the creation, distribution and consumption of data inside the enterprise?

This is an area where Enterprise 2.0 can learn a lesson from the world of e-commerce. E-commerce companies work hard to optimize the finding and purchasing processes on their sites. Every extra step it takes to find something or to purchase it causes some percentage of consumers to drop out. So they work hard to provide a full, but easy experience.

How about applying that thinking to accessing the employee-generated content inside companies?
How to reduce the steps to accessing this content?

There are three components for what I’ll call an Information Reach Program:

  • Search
  • Serendipity
  • Notifications

Let’s take a look at those three components.

Search: A Forrester Research survey found that only 44% of employees can regularly find information on their corporate intranet. Meanwhile, Pew Research found that 87% of people can regularly find what they want on the Internet.

Where do you think employees will turn first for information? Now there’s nothing wrong with googling something. New information needs to be brought into the enterprise. It’s healthy and vital.

But the pendulum has swung too far toward looking externally, particularly with the rise employee-generated content. Thing likes social bookmarking, blogging and wikis are letting employees find and filter an array of great information. Yet it’s too easy to ignore.

One way to counteract that? Integrate employee-generated content with search engines. When an employees runs searches, they get their usual search results. But why not also show them related content from the company’s social software? Slide #12 in the Slideshare presentation shows Connectbeam’s example of that.

Serendipity: Also known as, finding useful information when you weren’t expecting it. Or as Dennis Howlett put it:

Serendipity: the 21st C word for ‘bloody good luck.

If search is purposeful, serendipity is passive, and in-the-flow of whatever else you’re doing. For serendipity to work, you have to expose people to a range of information during their activities. And let’s be honest – much of that information will score low on the usefulness scale.

But I argue that you need to cionsider serendipity from a portfolio perspective. If you can enable employees to be exposed to random information in high volumes, there will be cases of great matches between something a worker needs and a piece of information she wouldn’t normally see.

Key here is putting this information in-the-flow of daily work. If all employees do is watch a cascade of information, they’re not being very productive.

Notifications: “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” says Clay Shirky. Search is purposeful, serendipity is luck. How about those nuggets of informaiton that you want to know, but aren’t actively searching for and miss during the course of the day? Notifications are the third component of the Information Reach Program.

Key here is to let people personalize their notifications, because people aren’t monolithic in their interests. Top down push processes diminish employees’ interest in tracking the data presented. Filter on groups (e.g. departments, projects, communities of interest), individuals and keywords. These go a long way toward answering Clay Shirky’s point about filter failure.

Create an Employee Skills Database

When you integrate the different social software apps, you can create rich set of data that well-describes what each employee knows and is working on.It’s not just your position and previous titles that matter – it’s your contributions, visible and accessible by all.

We’re seeing steps toward this approach on sites like LinkedIn, with its new apps platform. When you view a person on LinkedIn, you see more than their resume. You get a living, dynamic view of their work. Someday, all that content you’re piping into your LinkedIn  profile should be searchable by others – beyond the current resume entries.

Same idea holds inside enterprises. If you could aggregate employees’ contributions across the social software apps, you have a much richer view of their skills, knowledge and interests than the typical corporate directory.

Connectbeam customer and all-around smart guy Rich Hoeg of Honeywell put it nicely at the recent Defrag conference:

With Connectbeam, I was looking for a social bookmarking application. I ended up with a skills database.

Yes, that’s a Connectbeam plug. But the logic applies more broadly.

Diversify and Strengthen Workers’ Sources of Information

I’ve discussed previously on this blog a fantastic research paper that evaluated the power of employees’ social networks to affect productivity. Basically, the more diverse an employee’s sources of information, and the stronger her connections to a large number of peers, the more productive she is.

Now tie this idea in with Harvard professor Andrew McAfee’s thinking about employees’ Strong, Weak and Potential ties inside companies. Employees already maintain Strong ties inside companies. That’s the status quo out there.

The opportunity for companies is to work those Week and Potential ties. Move them closer to close ties. How?

  • Make employee contributions as findable as possible (i.e. expand information’s reach)
  • Associate activity and tags to individuals
  • Enable easy following of the activities of others
  • Fish where the fish are – put employee generated content where people do their work

Wrapping up

This webinar was a lot of fun, and I think you’ll notice some different thoughts than what is usually seen in these presentations. There are several ideas included in it that really merit exploration separately. I’ll probably do that on this blog, and over on the Connectbeam blog as well.

*****

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Fish Where the Fish Are: Extend Your Blog’s Reach through LinkedIn

This is controversial, but here goes: I think if you’re remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular, you probably shouldn’t have a resume at all.

How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
Or a reputation that precedes you?
Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

Seth Godin, Why bother having a resume?

It appears LinkedIn has taken this advice to heart. LinkedIn already has recommendations. Now LinkedIn has opened up its site to let third parties build apps for users. There are nine apps to start with. There are two apps letting you add documents to your profile, which touches on Seth’s “projects” advice above.  And two of those apps allow you to add your blog to your profile: WordPress and SixApart.

Which is interesting…two blog apps in the initial nine? What’s that telling you?

In the professional world, blogs are a great way to:

  • Demonstrate your knowledge
  • Stay current on your field
  • Explore new ideas
  • Connect with others

Out in the wild, there are millions and millions of blogs. The smart advice for bloggers is to stick with it, seek out others and engage in conversations. That’s something that should regularly be part of the blogging life. You’ll learn a lot.

But, it’d be nice to know your professionally oriented blog was reaching others who might open career paths. Which is why LinkedIn’s move to add blogs is so exciting.

Here’s how I picture things as they are, and as they can become:

I know the long-term trends favor recruiting via the blogosphere. But for the next few years, I’m not expecting recruiters to get out there and find candidates based on their blogs. They’ll still go to places where there are concentrated areas of people with relevant experience. LinkedIn has become one of those go-to places.

That being said, recruiters, or more likely, the clients for which they are recruiting, can see a much better picture of you outside of the list of jobs you’ve had.

This adds a new dimension to the reasons for you to blog. Bloggers can get caught up in things like traffic, frequency of posts, comments and making sure their blogs are part of the big social media sites. It’s just human nature.

But now, your blog becomes something more. It becomes a record for how you think, what topics are your passion and opinions on events affecting your field. Even if no one reads your blog out in the blogosphere, you’re still making a case for your talents. And there’s no need to have a high frequency. Whatever you last posted shows on your profile, whenever that was.

A friend recently asked me about blogging. She’s in the non-profit world now, and wants to transition to the business world. I told her one thing blogging can do is get you out of the box that your past work experience and education put you in. Through blogging, you can demonstrate the aptitude to handle work in a new field.

Hats off to LinkedIn for adding these apps. Great addition, and something more people should take advantage of.

*****

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Email’s Changing Role in Social Media: Digital Archive, Centralized Identity

Alex Iskold wrote a great post recently, Is Email in Danger? This quote lays out the premise of the post:

From the 20th century mail was a fundamental form of communication. The invention of electronic mail (email) changed two things. It became cheap to send mail, and delivery was instant. Email became favored for both corporate and personal communication. But email faces increasing competition. Chat, text messages, Twitter, social networks and even lifestreaming tools are chipping away at email usage.

When it comes to email, there are some parallels to what happened to snail mail with the spread of the Internet and email. The biggest thing is this:

Snail mail found an unexpected opportunity for growth with the rise of the Web.

Email will lose out on some of its uses, but there are some interesting possibilities that will emerge.

The Disruption of Snail Mail

The diagram below depicts the disruption that occurred to snail mail.

I’ve kept the disruption focused on the effects of the Internet. In other words, no fax machine or FedEx in here.

Back in the day, the mail system was the way you got a variety of important communications to other people. Our grandparents wrote letters. L.L. Bean mailed us the stuff we ordered via their catalogs. All our bills came through the mail. We were notified of things like jury service.

With the arrival of the Net, a good portion of snail mail’s portfolio was assumed by other technologies. And it’s had an effect. Here’s a quote from a 2001 General Accounting Office report on the future of the U.S. Postal Service:

Although it is difficult to predict the timing and magnitude of further mail volume diversion to electronic alternatives and the potential financial consequence, the Service’s baseline forecast calls for total First-Class Mail volume to decline at an average annual rate of 3.6 percent from fiscal years 2004 through 2008.

Pretty bad, eh? Electronic alternatives were evaporating the revenues of the post office.

But something else was out there which would help offset these losses in first-class mail: e-commerce. With the growth of the Internet, people got more comfortable shopping online instead of going to their local mall.

Those packages had to get to shoppers somehow. That’s where the U.S. Post Office shined. It already had the infrastructure to get things from a centralized place to multiple individual residences. What got disrupted were the trucking companies who moved merchandise from manufacturers to retailers.

Sure enough, the U.S. Postal Service saw a rebound thanks to online purchases, according to Web Designs Now:

In 2005, revenue from first-class mail like cards and letters, which still made up more than half the Postal Service’s total sales of $66.6 billion, dropped nearly 1% from 2004. But revenue from packages helped make up for much of that drop, rising 2.8%, to $8.6 billion, last year, as it handled nearly three billion packages.

And the dark mood at the U.S. Postal Service headquarters brightened quite a bit:

“Six years ago, people were pointing at the Web as the doom and gloom of the Postal Service, and in essence what we’ve found is the Web has ended up being the channel that drives business for us,” said James Cochrane, manager of package services at the Postal Service.

There is a lesson here for email.

The Disruption of Email

Email is undergoing its own disruption:

Again, similar to the previous diagram, I’m focusing on the web here. No mobile texting as an email disruptor, even though it is.

As Alex outlined in his post, the easy messaging of social media is supplanting the email messages that used to be sent. I haven’t seen any surveys that show the decline in person-to-person communications because of email. But my own experience reflects the migration of communications to the various social media.

  • LinkedIn messages
  • Facebook messages
  • Twitter
  • FriendFeed comments

As Zoli Erdos pointed out in his blog post Email is Not in Danger, Thank You, wikis are growing as the basis for sharing documents. They provide better capabilities than does email: wider visibility, versioning and searchability.

But it’s in notifications where email’s future is bright. Many of us are members of social media sites. As we go through our day, it’s hard to stay on top of activity in each one: new messages, new subscribers, new friend requests, etc.

Where is the central clearinghouse of my multiple social media identities? Email.

Email is the permanent record of what’s happening across various sites. This is actually a very valuable position in which to be. Here are two examples where email helped me:

  • After I wrote a post about nudity on FriendFeed, I lost some FriendFeed subscribers. I know this because my number of followers went down. There was one person in particular I wanted to check. This person wasn’t on my list of followers, and I thought, “maybe wasn’t subscribed to me in the first place?” Checked email, and I did indeed have a follow notification from this person a few weeks earlier. So I knew I’d been dropped.
  • I inadvertently deleted a comment to this blog. On wordpress.com, once deleted, the comment is not recoverable. I was in a bind. But then I realized I get whole copies of comments to this blog emailed to me. So I went to Gmail and found the comment notification. I was able to add the comment back by copying it from my email.

As snail mail had to adjust to the rise of email, so too will email adjust to the rise of social media:

As the number of social media sites and participation in them expands, email will find new growth and value in being the centralized notifications location.

Email = Centralized Identity Management

Much has been written about email being the ultimate social network. The basis for this is your address book and the emails you trade with others. But might there be another opportunity for email?

If email has all these subscription and message notifications, doesn’t it potentially have a role in helping you manage your centralized identity? Gmail could map out my connections across various sites. Find those that are common across the sites. Gauge the level of interaction with others.

Even add APIs from the various sites and let me send out communications from email. Suddenly, email’s back in the communication game as well.

I’m just scratching the surface of what might be possible here.

What Do You Think?

Email’s primary role as a communication medium is diminishing. Many of us are enjoying the easy, contextual basis of communicating via the various social media sites.

But like snail mail before it, email has interesting possibilities for what it will do for us in the future.

What do you think?

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Email%E2%80%99s+Changing+Role+in+Social+Media%3A+Digital+Archive%2C+Centralized+Identity%22&public=1

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