Alternatives to sending electronic mail; alternatives to receiving electronic mail

The weekend is a low email diet, but somehow that's difficult to do without explaining myself a little bit. Here's some thoughts as to how I might do things the next time that I work through the world of weekend time, how I can get some more effective communications rather than just more frequent.

Short asynchronous private message. A Twitter direct message works nicely for this, as does an SMS message. Email is better for short messages when you keep your subject and text short enough that the reader can see it all in their preview window.

Short asynchronous public message. Twitter and Facebook both do a credible job of public messaging, though it all depends on what you mean by public. Email to a mailing list is reasonably public, sometimes, though sometimes people believe that it's private and get surprised by email leaking. My favorite public format is the blog post, but I think that's a sign of age; so few people use weblogs the way that I do that I feel like I'm from another planet. 

Short synchronous private messages. A rapid burst of SMS messages works neatly, and is how this usually works for me when doing last-minute schedule coordination by text message. Email is never synchronous, though it seems that way at times, and you don't have anything like guaranteed delivery.

Short synchronous public message. If I had to do this I'd say IRC, except I hate that system most of the time. A twitter hash tag is very similar to IRC. I'm told that LiveJournal deals well with this use case, for situations where you want real-time tracking of comments across multiple forums. I can't think of an email application where this fits.

Long asynchronous private message. This is one of the things that electronic mail can do well, and that most other online messaging systems do worse. I see a way to handle the world to reduce these by taking the positive versions of these and sending them out on paper, e.g. as postcards. If you can get documents out of long messages and into some kind of version control system or wiki, you can avoid the path of version skew as everyone shovels weirdly-named drafts at each other.

Long asynchronous public message. You're looking at it; my blog is where I need to be writing more when it's time to put something into the world that might have use in the indefinite future.


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