Why E-Mail Sucks and How to Make it Smarter

Many of us live in email. I get hundreds per day and I need almost every message. I am also a source of tremendous messaging pain here at TMC because part of what I think makes an effective team, is being in sync. To ensure the right people are in the know, I forward a tremendous amount of messages to various groups. Perhaps a few dozen pieces of email which I send each day are newsletters, press releases or other information my team should know about.

If I knew however that the people I was forwarding to already had the email I was about to send, I would have one less job to do and they would have one less email to check. Amplify this concept and you can see how if we effectively had an email reduction system in place where a person could know who else received the same email, we could cut down the size of inboxes and sent folders.

A simple solution would be to display the “Send To” address in a different color if the person in question already had the document. At that point, if you weren’t going to send a special note with the message, there is no need to send it at all and moreover, you may remember to not forward that newsletter again because the person in question, already gets it.

We’ve heard that other technologies such as social were going to kill email but personally, email alerts me to messages in my various social accounts, not the other way around.

Social techniques however could help email a great deal. Imagine if you could like an email and everyone in my company could see which messages were marked or perhaps more importantly, which emails were trending, were disliked, etc. Tagging would be another great feature – if a few users tagged an e-mail with the word #WebRTC, #iPad or #Verizon, it would be helpful to other potential readers.

Currently, many mailboxes let you rank your messages with a VIP list of senders but this is not a great solution when an urgent news item or other piece of actionable intelligence comes from a source you never considered adding to the VIP list. What if you could just extend the VIP idea slightly by marking messages as VIP if a person on the VIP lists marks it as important?

A simple way to achieve many of these goals would be to establish a domain of users and then have the mail server provide options in the email client for users such as a selection of tags – and/or a like button.

What is shocking is that email vendors haven’t done these things. Imagine the lock-in potential available to Microsoft if they had such technology in place in Outlook. Instantly, Gmail would have a high hurdle to overcome and the iPad mail client would be inferior.

Microsoft should have done this years ago and integrated the same functions into Hotmail for the double-lock-in.

Frankly though, these systems would work better if they worked across mail systems – something which is probably unlikely.

E-mail is here to stay but it sucks and needs to be fixed. Smarter email systems should help us by reducing our sending and receiving workloads and cluing us in to important emails before they are even opened.

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