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Posts tagged with ‘liquid email’

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:

  1. I receive email in Gmail. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Aussies' fix for 'stagnated' email - Ben Grubb via Sydney Morning Herald →

Looks like a bunch of ex-Googlers are building the 'Liquid email' product I've been writing about and dreaming about:

Ben Grubb via Sydney Morning Herald

One thing Fluent aimed to change about email was presenting it in a stream that lets one action items as quickly as possible, Adams said.

"So rather than having to receive a message, look at the subject, click on it, read the conversation, and then decide what to do, we sort of present you with the information that you need to immediately action on it."

Other features of Fluent include letting users quickly browse attachments such as images in a slide show format, the ability to search for emails as one types - something Google’s search engine pioneered with “Instant Search" but is not available in Gmail - and the ability to pinpoint emails one has sent to a specified email address on a timeline.

Another feature in Fluent, which Adams said most webmail clients were “pretty horrible” at dealing with, was its focus on letting users access multiple email accounts under one log-in.

"The market that we’re going for initially is sort of independent professionals and small businesses that tend to have personal accounts [and] maybe several work accounts," Adams said. "It’s quite important for them to be able to check their multiple accounts at the same time."

What I want to know is, are they going to support an ‘open email’? Where I can publish email to all my followers, whoever they are? Are they going to support an open follower model?

I’m Quitting Phone Calls | TechCrunch →

Robin Wauters is swearing off phone calls — including VOIP calls — for business, and wants everything in email. I favor Skype — or other video comms — for product demos and online meetings, but I have to admit, like him, I don’t like phone calls much.

I still would like an open email solution, like liquid email, though.

Google Unveils Three Pane Gmail Interface

Typical.

I started using Sparrow this week — a Mac OS X lightweight email client — partly to get a three pane email view.

Then today, I read that Google announced a three pane display on Gmail, similar to what they did on the iPad.

So, I am out the $9.99 for Sparrow, I guess.

Sparrow is a reasonably good email client, but I was a bit misled by the positioning as a ‘social email client’. What’s the social part? It’s just email in a slightly more fluid UX.

There is a place for social email — as I wrote about in Liquid Email in July — but Sparrow isn’t it. And neither is Gmail.

So I’ll go back to Gmail. mostly because I can have a more-or-less similar experience on all platforms I use.

We Know Whose Throat To Choke: Gundotra’s

Larry Page reorganizes Google to make management leaner and more accountable. Nice goals. However, I am uncertain as to how ‘social’ can be broken out of everything else.

Jessica Guynn, Google CEO Larry Page completes major reorganization of Internet search giant

Those promotions include Andy Rubin who is now senior vice president of mobile; Vic Gundotra who is now senior vice president of social; Sundar Pichai who is now senior vice president of Chrome; Salar Kamangar who is now senior vice president of YouTube and video; Alan Eustace, who is now senior vice president of search; and Susan Wojcicki, who is now senior vice president of ads.

The executives will be able to act more autonomously and won’t have to turn to Google’s powerful operating committee on every decision.

Gundotra might be better at leading social than Sergey Brin — the champion of Buzz and the ill-fated acquisition of Slide — but is he just the guy left standing after Google couldn’t find someone to run social?

Oh, and ‘running’ social does not mean buying Twitter.

We shouldn’t be surprised when a company that has placed algorithms at the center of its pantheon of deities is a bit flummoxed by messy, messy humans connecting.

Maybe this is time to pitch my Liquid Email project to Gundotra?

Update 9 April 8:00am

Mathew Ingram comments on a leaked memo from Larry Page, threatening Google bonuses if social efforts there aren’t successful:

If nothing else, Page’s move makes Google seem increasingly desperate when it comes to the social sphere. The company has tried to get things moving by launching features such as Buzz and the ill-fated Google Wave but has had little or no traction with regular users. And the +1 network seems to be designed primarily to influence Google search, rather than to actually encourage users to socialize with each other. In that sense, it’s another sign of former CEO Eric Schmidt’s strategy of adding social as a “layer” to existing products.

As we’ve written before, the contrast between Google’s approach and Facebook’s approach couldn’t be more stark: Facebook was designed to be social from the ground up. Social features are the core functionality of the system, not something that gets bolted on after the fact. Google has spent the vast majority of its life not really caring about social features, and it shows. As Om has argued, social just doesn’t seem to be in Google’s DNA, and so far, there are no signs that it has been able to splice that kind of knowledge in from elsewhere.

[…]

Will Larry Page’s attempt to rally the troops and incentivize them to get social actually have some tangible impact on Google’s ability to succeed in this area? That remains to be seen, but I’m skeptical. I think Google staffers are more likely to resent these moves rather than feel inspired, and resentment isn’t a great foundation for a new social effort.

The threat of punishment is not an incentive, but leave that aside. The deeper question is this: can Page socialize Google, but whatever means?

Wouldn’t it be better to create a skunkworks somewhere, one that is fooling with socializing existing Google tools, or devising more social replacements? Again, going back to the Liquid Email model, couldn’t a Google skunkworks figure out a more social email client, or more social calendaring?

Teens Hate Email

The Comscore 2010 US Digital Year In Review demonstrates one fact very clearly: email is doomed.

Taking as a given that what the kids and young adults are rejecting today will die off quickly, it’s fairly clear that email is on a steep trajectory and will crash in the next decade.

I recall being almost ripped to shreds back at a 2005 Supernova event, when I predicted that email would rapidly die off as soon as texting-like social network-based communications were adopted by young people. A lot of the graybeards there (now in the older two segments of the graph) suggested that I was a lunatic, and should never be asked back. Now, just over 5 years later, the handwriting is on the wall.

Many of the 18-24 year olds are in high school and college, where email is a necessity, so that data point is an anomaly. Otherwise the graph would be linear, showing a clear age-based demographic line.

And for all of those that said spam was email’s biggest challenge, I’ll just say look at the graph. What will it look like in 5 years? 10?

I still maintain that there is a fusion product waiting to be built — one with aspects of email and social network-based messaging. However, Buzz wasn’t it. I will keep hoping for liquid email, though.

(h/t Alexia Tsotsis)

Tweetdeck’s Deck.ly: Not Quite Liquid Email

I recently wrote a post called Liquid Email, in which I made the case for a new paradigm of email, one subordinate to streaming media like Twitter:

Imagine a liquid model of email, based on Twitter being my preferred context for communication:

  1. I receive email in Gmail. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Almost immediately after writing that post, Nick Reynolds commented on it, saying that Tweetdeck had something in the works along those lines. 

It turns out that Iain Dodsworth and crew had been working on Deck.ly, which bears similarities to what I was alluding to as liquid email, but not quite.

Deck.ly supports longer that 140 character Twitter messages, but does not integrate email in any way.

In the soon-to-be-released version 0.37.0 of Tweetdeck, when you type beyond 140 characters you are no longer warned that the message is too long. You will simply see the count of characters go beyond zero, as in this case below:

When other users of Tweetdeck see this post, it looks like this, with a ‘read more’ link appended:

When you click on the link it takes you to a Deck.ly page, showing the entire post.

Currently, the limit for Deck.ly posts are 5000 characters.

A non-Tweetdeck user would see the tweet slightly differently. Here’s the same tweet in Twitter, where a ‘… (cont)’ suffix is inserted into the text before the URL.

(By the way, I don’t think this is good microsyntax. Better would have been just the URL and the ellipsis, since the ellipsis can be encoded as a single character (option-; on Mac), with more of the original tweet showing.)

Oddly, Deck.ly doesn’t collate a strem of long posts under the user’s identity. There is no www.tweetdeck.com/twitter/stoweboyd, although all the long tweets I create are formed with that as the head of the URL, like http://www.tweetdeck.com/twitter/stoweboyd/~b47T4.

Final Thoughts

Deck.ly is a good idea, and workably implemented. I think that a fuller realization of Deck.ly will include an aggregated stream of all of a user’s long posts, but otherwise I like what I see.

Deck.ly could also form the basis of a liquid media communication solution incorporating email, too. But that’s not their aspiration at the moment, I guess, although I am hungry for that to be built by someone, if not Tweetdeck.

related

Liquid Email

We are rapidly detouring into the web of flow, leaving the static web of pages behind. (Or more accurately, covering the web of pages with a layer of liquid media, so that we will increasingly not notice the static URLs down there, except as IDs that can be used to fetch content, and yank it into the liquid context of the web of flow.)

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 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:

  1. I receive email in Gmail. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

The question of how much of this email should be public and how much kept private is a very complex one. I am not advocating a general policy of taking all emails and automatically sharing them with all followers, per se. On the other hand, I might start using slight Gmail-supported variants of my email address for different constituencies — like stowe.boyd+public@gmail.com versus stowe.boyd+private@gmail.com — and at the same time tweeking Liquidate to take the appropriate actions with the associated messages. 

Imagine the scenario of an interaction with customer support at Cablevision. I might want to have that discussion completely in the open, with all tweets and emails available for my community to observe. On the other hand, my interaction with a bank or my realtor might be better kept confidential.

And in such a situation, I would want the email text to be publicly available, or published to a public location. Today, Gmail doesn’t support that, but Liquidate could do that: taking emails — that are all private today — and publishing those that I have marked as public.

And I will just close with an observation: this scenario of use makes sense because the continuity of communication is more important than the communication mode. If I am having a Twitter conversation with a pal, and I need to write something six paragraphs long, it’s annoying to write ‘taking this to email’, and then switch to my email tool. The thread of discussion is broken, and is never tied back together.

I think Google, Microsoft and Apple would both be well-served to implement liquid clients like this, well-integrated with their email services, and also coupled to winning social streams like Facebook and Twitter. Google should have done something like this instead of Buzz, I think. But I bet that the email giants will wait too long, and some upstart, like Nimble or Tweetdeck, will hit upon the right combination of features that comes to define the next generation of email tools, based on a metaphor along the lines I have sketched out.

Anyone working on a product like this should certainly contact me.


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