For many, email is now the master communication channel. But it’s actually a pretty poor one in this age of mobile computing. Email needs to beaten down into just another channel of flowing information.
- MG Siegler via parislemon
Siegler is wising up to my desire for liquid email, although he doesn’t call it that. What do I mean by liquid email?
Liquid Email, Stowe Boyd
I am using the term liquid media to represent this new soupy, swirling, turbulent cascade of various media types being pulled into the streaming mess of today’s social media. We see images resolved in Twitter clients without leaving the Twitter stream, and Flipboard yanking articles free of their moorings on the NY Times or Wired, and previewing them for us in the article stream. Every sort of media will be pulled into the flow: soon, television will be repurposed as yet-another-media-type and played in the stream like audio is now.
This is all happening because we will naturally gravitate to the place with the fastest tempo, because the best stuff appears there first. Paradoxically, the places with the strongest flow will seem the most calm, because we won’t be jumping from the stream to the browser and back again a hundred times a day: we will stay in the stream: media content will be harvested, and pulled into context for us.
I think this is going to happen next with email.
Email has its own context: the inbox, the email apps, Outlook. The metaphor is now second nature to us: email comes in, from anyone having our email address, maybe is filtered and categorized, but mostly is shown as a chronological list of discrete messages. If we are lucky, our email tool ties together email threads, although that mechanism is semantically flawed, because a single email can deal with many topics. As a result, email is as messy as we are. But more structure won’t help email. The problem is the metaphor, and as a result, how the metaphor channels our thinking about communication.
Using a beta version of Nimble has caused me to think about a fusion of Twitter and email. That product manages to support both email and Twitter, but not in the way that I am envisioning, although the app is inventive and likely to be a good social CRM offering.
Imagine a liquid model of email, based on Twitter being my preferred context for communication:
- I receive email in Gmail.
- A new Twitter client (or a new version of Twitter) — let’s call it Liquidate — captures all my incoming emails from Gmail, and drops a shortened link into my stream for each, with the subject line as the tweet, and associating the email address of the sender to their Twitter handle, if known.
- The fact that this is an email would be made obvious in the UI, and I could open the text of the mail — and bring it right into context — by clicking on a link.
- I could read the email text, and then respond to the sender either by a Twitter message, direct message, or another email, depending on the circumstance, and based on various criteria, like whether the sender has a Twitter account.
- If I opt to reply by email, the client would send that into Gmail, and I would always have Gmail as a repository, if I want to search there.
In essence, I would be treating email messages as just a long format tweet, and using Gmail as an appliance to carry that message from my streaming context out to a world that has not completely switched to Twitter or liquid media. But the activities associated with ‘email’ would be carried out in the streaming context, and the email would be just another sort of media pulled into and then pushed out of the stream. And again, I would always be able to go to Gmail directly, if needed.
I have other thoughts on this, based on using Sparrow recently, which I will have to spell out in the next few days or weeks.
Web anthropologist, futurist, author. My focus is the future, and the tectonic forces pushing business, media, and society into an unclear and accelerating future. more.
Working on longer format projects, Sign up for the newsletter.
GigaOM Research analyst and curator.
Also writing beaconstreets.com.
Contact me. or ask me a question.
My Vizify profile.