Elsewhere

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

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/aussies-fix-for-stagnated-email-20120221-1tkqd.html

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?


The data shows that, on the day of its public debut, Google  traffic skyrocketed to peak levels. But, soon after, traffic fell by over 60% as it returned to its normal, underwhelming state. It would appear that although high levels of publicity were able to draw new traffic to Google , few of them saw reason to stay.

(via Failure to Launch: Google  Growth Spurt Short Lived | Chitika Insights)
Google+ is turning out to be might be just-another-failed-social-experiment for Google.
I wonder why I can’t convince them to socialize Google’s core tools: Gmail and Google Calendar? Anyone listening?
Update 11:56am: Others have analyzed the math better than I did:

Tim Worstall via Forbes
Note that the traffic jumped before it fell back again: so what’s the result of the interaction of those numbers?
Well, if traffic was 100 when Google plus was invite only, then  opening it up to all comers led to a 1,200 percent raise in traffic,  then we’ve got traffic of 1,200. A 60% decline from 1,200 leaves us with  traffic of 480 (doesn’t matter whether this is users, page views,  visits or whatever, the math is the same).
So, what the report is actually saying is that in less than a month traffic has risen 480%, or 4.8 times.
Which isn’t, really, all that much of a failure.

It has been pointed out to me that Chitika is a competitor of Google, as well, and may have an agenda here.
I will revisit this as others come forward with other numbers, but the graph appears to support the idea that the surge of interest has tapered off, even if use is higher than before the opening of the beta.
related
Google+ Traffic Falls 60% After Public Launch [REPORT] (mashable.com)
Google Plus Traffic Drops, 1269% Gains Erased (readwriteweb.com)
Google+ Traffic Drop of the Day (geeks.thedailywh.at)
Google+ traffic drops 60% after public launch (digitaltrends.com)
Google+ traffic drops 60 percent? (technolog.msnbc.msn.com)
Why the talk about a 60% traffic loss to Google+ is (probably) alarmist nonsense (royal.pingdom.com)

The data shows that, on the day of its public debut, Google traffic skyrocketed to peak levels. But, soon after, traffic fell by over 60% as it returned to its normal, underwhelming state. It would appear that although high levels of publicity were able to draw new traffic to Google , few of them saw reason to stay.

(via Failure to Launch: Google Growth Spurt Short Lived | Chitika Insights)

Google+ is turning out to be might be just-another-failed-social-experiment for Google.

I wonder why I can’t convince them to socialize Google’s core tools: Gmail and Google Calendar? Anyone listening?

Update 11:56am: Others have analyzed the math better than I did:

Tim Worstall via Forbes

Note that the traffic jumped before it fell back again: so what’s the result of the interaction of those numbers?

Well, if traffic was 100 when Google plus was invite only, then opening it up to all comers led to a 1,200 percent raise in traffic, then we’ve got traffic of 1,200. A 60% decline from 1,200 leaves us with traffic of 480 (doesn’t matter whether this is users, page views, visits or whatever, the math is the same).

So, what the report is actually saying is that in less than a month traffic has risen 480%, or 4.8 times.

Which isn’t, really, all that much of a failure.

It has been pointed out to me that Chitika is a competitor of Google, as well, and may have an agenda here.

I will revisit this as others come forward with other numbers, but the graph appears to support the idea that the surge of interest has tapered off, even if use is higher than before the opening of the beta.

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.

Could Open Email Work for You?

Having a morning chat with JP Rangaswami, who will be on a panel session with me today at the Cutter Summit. JP has adopted an unusual approach to email.

JP has set up a stringent approach to filtering his email. He throws all email where he is CC’d directly into the trash. Basically, he only reads email directed to him, alone. Of course, for this to have any influence on people’s behavior, he has to loudly and regularly let others know that he is doing this.

More interestingly, he has opened access to his email to his staff. By treating his email as an open forum, he has found that his associates are more involved in his interactions with others. He has found that they can use this — particularly his sent mail — is a great learning opportunity.

I am personally not in a position to leverage this thinking, being a soloist, not an executive in a large company like JP is. But I can see how revolutionary open email could be in a historically closed and secretive corporate context.

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