For my sins I go to lots of conferences, I hear a lot of presentations, some good, some bad, many indifferent. But one assertion that really gets my goat, and I’m hearing repeated quite often, is that e-mail is dead. Nonsense. Here’s why:
Magna Carta has 3600 words.
Winston Churchill’s Fight them on the Beaches speech has 351.
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettsyburg Address has 270 words. 3600, 351, 270. Words so carefully chosen that they changed the course of history.
Not 140 characters.
Now don’t get me wrong I like brevity (no, really I do), and there are many occasions in life when brief is good. But to suggest that a medium designed for the express purpose of conveying longer more considered thoughts and views than a TXT, a Tweet, a Status Update, a Snapchat or other short message forms is just silly.
E-mail isn’t dead, in the same way that words and ideas are not dead. I think what people mean when they say these things is that the volume of messages is too great and it has an adverse impact on productivity.
I’m not that old – but my first job as a student was working for the Ministry of Agriculture and my role involved writing to people. I had a Dictaphone (for those of you too young to recall a pre-smartphone world that was a tape recorder). I blathered on and then popped a wee cassette (that’s like a ribbon with words on it) into an envelope (that’s a folded piece of paper to contain thin objects) and handed it to an internal post man (that’s a man whose job was to wheel envelopes around an office) who took it to the typing pool (water free – this is where [mostly] women were imprisoned for 8 hours a day and had to take the cassette and type the words onto paper and give back to the post man to wheel back to the sender). 24 hours later I’d get to add my signature, find a stamp, another envelope, a post box and slowly lose the will to live……
SO DON’T TELL ME THAT PRODUCTIVITY HAS DROPPED BECAUSE OF E-MAIL.
Just as the written word still has the power to change history, so is e-mail a medium beautifully suited to the exchange of thoughts and ideas (with attachments). The real answer to the problem is stopping colleagues sending irrelevant e-mails, making a sensible folders structure and diverting nonsense away from you. Oh and putting spammers into actual wooden stocks so we can throw actual old Dictaphones at them, heavy ones, with pointy bits and hope it hurts.