Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is email dead?

by Joe Moore

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal talked about the topic while discussing alternative forms of communication such as Twitter, Facebook messaging and similar services, and how social networking and instant messaging are surpassing old faithful: email.

Before you say “no way”, think back to those distant dark ages when one of the main forms of business communication was the fax. How many faxes did you send last month?

And if you really want to get into the “way-back” machine and visit historical communication methods, let’s consider letter writing. Anyone remember that. While some used a gadget called a typewriter to compose letters, the shocking truth is that others actually wrote letters longhand using an analog marking device commonly known as a pen (or pencil). I know, it’s crazy but true.

Many of us are still using email everyday and are perfectly happy with it. But technology is constantly moving forward, with or without us. It’s well documented that Egyptian Pharaoh King Tut once proclaimed, “I’m still using hieroglyphics everyday and am perfectly happy with it.” But as the article points out, email is a function left over from the bad old days of logging off and on and checking stuff in globs. Today, everyone is “always on” with the latest generation of mobile communication devices and smart phones.

As an example, my son travels a lot. We both have Google Talk installed on our PCs so we can chat. Rather than emailing me a question, comment or a simple hello, he sends me an instant message. I hear a ping and within seconds I’m chatting with him anytime in real time. Last week, he sent me an IM from 30k feet over the Midwest on his way to Washington, DC now that airlines are installing in-flight wideband WiFi.

With services like Twitter and Facebook, you can answer a question before anyone even asks it. Rather than sending me an email wanting to know how my latest thriller is selling, I can update my status to declare that it’s selling somewhere under a million copies—way under.

But like the WSJ article asks, does the new generation of hieroglyphicscommunication services save you time? Or are they eating up your day? Now that we have so many methods to instantly communicate, are we going to spend more time doing so? Or are we already wasting more time in the process? What do you think? Is email dead at your house or are you still using hieroglyphics and staying perfectly happy with it? Send me an IM and let me know.


  1. IM is evil. It demands immediate response, rather than allowing you to prioritize and devote full attention to issues one after the other. An unanswered ping too often feels like an insult to the person on the other side of the transaction. (We have extensive use of IMing at work, in case you didn't guess.)

    So, yes, it will soon become ubiquitous.

    But it will also cause as many walls as it breaks down. A lot more people have my e-mail address than have my IM account name. I intend to keep it that way. I have to respond to IMs on demand at work. I don't have to (and won't) at home.

  2. I'm probably the wrong one to answer this, because I've never sent an IM. Ever. And I don't send text messages on my phone, either. By the time I figure out how to compose the message, I could have called the person. Several times.

    I'm perfectly content with email. The other day I was emailing back and forth with my three sisters, and it worked fine. Most emails arrive within seconds anyway.

  3. I made the switch from cave drawings to email a few years ago and haven't looked back.

    So far, I've been able to draw the line at texting. Of course, if I want to converse with my teenager, I'd better learn.

  4. oh, man, i don't have enuf grandchildren to orient me to all this electronic stuff....and i have eleven!!!! i'm still trying to figure out how you put a needle on a black disc and got music.

  5. As Jimmy Buffett sings, "So connected yet so alone."

    I'm a wannabe tech geek so I'm in my glass house writing this, but doesn't this technology allow us to be alone more? And not in a good way. To be separate from others. Why call them on the phone when you can send an e-mail? Why waste the time on an e-mail when you can instant message? We've gotten pretty far afield from sitting around the family hearth talking about our day with our kin folk.

    Maybe I'm being morose, but it has been raining here for about a week and I'm about ready to commit bodily harm if I don't see the sun soon.

  6. I have used email since 1989, two years before the internet went public. I still use it all day, everyday. Best for business as it is a great way to keep a digital record of forms and correspondence. It'll be a long time before it is gone, just because of the easy archival of emails, and the attachment of documents, images, etc.

    I also use Twitter, and Facebook almost everyday. They are a great way to chat and have conversation. I recently got back into MSN messenger (I usually shorten the pronounciation to 'messin')because relatives in far off countries wanted to video chat for free rather than call long distance for a $1 a minute. Once in a while I use Myspace as well.

    With all of these different applications I have decided to create a single application that will combine MSN with Myspace, Twitter, and Facebook into one easy interface on my blackberry.

    I am calling the new app

  7. I rarely use email to talk with my friends, but constantly use it at work. I don't like IM for the simple reason that I only use it at my computer, and I'm not always in my office. But I do have my phone with me, so instead of IM, I text, a lot.

    I still use email at the office to talk with coworkers, because it allows us to keep a record of the conversation, and it's also easier to have the entire team chime in.

    We've talked about using IM at the office, but the ease of searching emails for a record of what was said, is still too inviting.

  8. Don't look at me! I'm still trying to decide if I need a cell phone (I do not own one). Call me at home and leave a message if necessary on the answering machine. I will call you back as soon as possible.

    I do use e-mail and check it frequently during the day and evening, but at this point I don't see any advantage (for me) to having anything else.

    I am definitely not a tech geek!

  9. I used a chisel to carve my last novel into rocks that I mailed to my agent. The postage costs were outrageous.

  10. It's here to stay for quite a while yet. Sites such as ShareThis have reported it as being the most common method used on their service, and i know it's the first thing i check in the morning.

    Think about it, sites like Facebook use your email address to let you know you have messages etc. So as long as it's inherent to services like that then it'll continue to sit well in the overall scheme of things.