Why people still use email for collaboration

In How Social Tools Have Failed In the Enterprise So Far, Dennis Duvauchelle writes:

Amazingly (to me), most people still rely on email as the primary method of communicating, collaborating and sharing.

It does not surprise me that so many people still use email for collaboration. Despite the proliferation of social tools, supported by IT or not, email continues to win because it has everyone on it already. It has won Metcalfe. Like it or not, email is the social tool that has most increased productivity.

Alternative social tools suffer the problem that they have to be way better than email to ever beat it. Collaboration is inherently difficult because if you want to know what is going on in a group, you simply have to review a lot of messages.

That problem is more or less incompressible. People moan about all the time they spend ‘clearing’ email as if information about what is going on, who is discussing and working on what, is just noise that gets in the way of real work rather than the actual stuff of collaboration.

All the alternative social tool is really doing is shifting the activity and message stream from one inbox to another, slightly different one. And if you use it, you still have to use email so have two, or more systems to monitor.

If just one important team member detracts, they will drag everyone else back to email.

Yes, email is painful for group collaboration, and still we cc and reply to all. My view is that the problem with using email for collaboration is that it lacks an entity for a group. Individuals have an email address and an inbox but groups do not. Email can be used much more easily for group collaboration with systems that provide an email address and an inbox for a group. This provides a shared persistent place for group messages, that can be searched, accessed and contributed to independent of all other email. It supports multiple concurrent conversations and makes it easy to just keep in the loop or follow something closely. Systems like Google Groups and our own OnlineGroups.net do this. I wrote about this, with some examples, in An email address and an inbox for a group.

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