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Page history last edited by Jay Cross 16 years, 8 months ago



An oldie but a goodie, email is simple and it is everywhere. Also, old-fashion mail lists (AKA listservs) are very effective for swapping information within an interest group.

My first online community of practice pre-dates the web. TR-DEV was a mail list run by David Passmore out of Penn State. For years, a group of us shared discoveries and how-to's. This was when online learning was in its infancy. Finally, one self-aggrandizing blabbermouth ruined the discussion for everyone, David put the list on hiatus, and it has never recovered its once-mighty position.

Today, services like Google Groups and Yahoo Groups combine email with an online discussion forum. These are perfect for community support. I'm a member of one private Yahoo Group that counts some amazing thought leaders as members. It can be like the Woody Allen scene when some blowhard is yapping about Marshal <raw>McLuhan</raw> and Woody pulls the real <raw>McLuhan</raw> from out behind a sign to set the guy straight. Critique a book, and the author may well respond.

Gmail is changing how email is done. Since storage is cheap, they provide enough space to retain a lot of emails you previously would have thrown away. Being entirely online, you avoid the problem of having distinct email accounts on different machines. Google has tied a chat service to gmail. You can easily store the results of a text chat in your email inbox.

Best practices

* Don't put anything in your email you wouldn't want to eventually show your mother or a judge.
* Keep e-mail short and focused on one issue, and reflect this issue in the subject heading. Many people are inundated with e-mail. Focusing each e-mail on one issue allows time-crunched recipients to prioritize your e-mail and respond as necessary. Including a sharp, strong subject header can differentiate your e-mail and          attract your reader to your message…
* Don’t use the Reply to All function unless everyone needs to know the information. Copying people on messages unnecessarily can overload systems, annoy readers and waste everyone’s time.

Bill Gates (in Fortune)


At Microsoft, e-mail is the medium of choice, more than phone calls, documents, blogs, bulletin boards, or even meetings (voicemails and faxes are actually integrated into our e-mail in-boxes).


I get about 100 e-mails a day. We apply filtering to keep it to that level--e-mail comes straight to me from anyone I've ever corresponded with, anyone from Microsoft, Intel, HP, and all the other partner companies, and anyone I know. And I always see a write-up from my assistant of any other e-mail, from companies that aren't on my permission list or individuals I don't know. That way I know what people are praising us for, what they are complaining about, and what they are asking.


We're at the point now where the challenge isn't how to communicate effectively with e-mail, it's ensuring that you spend your time on the e-mail that matters most. I use tools like "in-box rules" and search folders to mark and group messages based on their content and importance.

I'm not big on to-do lists. Instead, I use e-mail and desktop folders and my online calendar. So when I walk up to my desk, I can focus on the e-mails I've flagged and check the folders that are monitoring particular projects and particular blogs.


Being crowded out by IM and social networking sites

E-mail losing its clout in the world of text-driven communication
By Martha Irvine
11:46 a.m. July 18, 2006

Young people see it as a good way to reach an elder – a parent, teacher or a boss – or to receive an attached file. But increasingly, the former darling of high-tech communication is losing favor to instant and text messaging, and to the chatter generated on blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook and [http://www.myspace.com/|MySpace].

The shift is starting to creep into workplace communication, too.

“In this world of instant gratification, e-mail has become the new snail mail,” says 25-year-old Rachel Quizon from Norwalk, Calif. She became addicted to instant messaging in college, where many students are logged on 24/7.

Much like home postal boxes have become receptacles for junk mail, bills and the occasional greeting card, electronic mailboxes have become cluttered with spam. That makes them a pain to weed through, and the problem is only expected to worsen as some e-mail providers allow online marketers to bypass spam filters for a fee.

Beyond that, e-mail has become most associated with school and work....

“Nine to 5 has been replaced with 'Give me a deadline and I will meet your deadline,'” Kirah says of young people's work habits. “They're saying 'I might work until 2 a.m. that night. But I will do it all on my terms.'”

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