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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

e-mail: The worlds greatest form of communication

Over the past few months I have spent some time considering new forms of communication. With our society changing the way it communicates and works as a whole I have been fascinated by the technologies driving and enabling this change. I've been weighing SMS, IM, e-mail, wikis, VOIP, Cellular voice, and plain old telephone service (POTS) and come to the conclusion that e-mail is simply the best form of communication for business and pleasure.

Why I hear you ask - why email over some far quicker and more personal forms of communication like voice or IM technologies? My reason is simple - email is both universal and sessionless. When you send an IM or call someone on the phone for the communication to be a success the other person needs to be available and ready to pay attention to you. In the case of IM they need to have their computer or cell phone logged into the network and be willing to devote some attention to you immediately. In the case of VOIP and cell phones the communications recipient not merely needs to be near the phone, but willing to drop everything and sit down to talk to you on the phone while ignoring their surroundings.

SMS is an interesting compromise between email and an IM. SMS is usually used in a similar manner to IM for quick communications but it provides a stateless user experience similar to email. I would say that SMS is my favorite method of communication if it had a method for overcoming it's two weaknesses: a 160 character limit and no easy way to store or index your old messages for future reference.

E-mail's biggest strengths come in its simplify and widespread use. When you send an email it's easy for the recipient to reply with a quote of your original email for easy reference. E-mail relies on open standards enabling users to access their email on multiple devices and computers easily using IMAP (or the antiquated POP). E-mail allows quite reference of past conversations - I have every email I've sent or received in years and can instantly (via search technologies such as Apples Spotlight) recall messages or pieces of information that I might need. E-mail is also polite: when you send an email you might be delighted to receive an instant reply (which is quite probable with the coming generation of QWERTY phone/PDA combos that are designed around email - not to mention good old fashioned crackberrys), but there is no social obligation for it, the recipient does not feel obligated to reply in an instant. The e-mail might sit unread (a great organizational technique - don't remove something from your inbox or mark it as read until you are done with it) in someone's inbox waiting for action.

Simply put until our society and it's technology comes up with something radical and new e-mail will be the best form of communication for business (and geeky personal users like me). I welcome comments to this brash statement - who has some? Send them to me using my email address: me (at) my photography domain: sparktography.com.

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